Monday, 9 June 2014

Album of the Week #25: Gramatik

Artist: Gramatik
Album: Beatz & Pieces Vol. 1
Year: 2011
Label: Pretty Lights Music

Gramatik's sample-laden music has been a guaranteed party starter for six years now, but the 2011 record Beatz & Pieces Vol. 1 is surely the pinnacle of his impressive discography.

Melding elements of funk, jazz, hip-hop into a cohesive body of work, Gramatik's instrumental music is DJ Shadow-esque in its execution and J Dilla-esque in its imagination. Though musically it is influenced by the likes of jazz and funk, in truth the samples called upon are from even further reaching corners of the globe and across huge swathes of time. A quick glance at his WhoSampled page reveals the above to be true - there are pinches of swing, soul, rock 'n' roll and more that are chopped, sliced and distorted before being thrown into this bubbling melting pot of styles and genres. It all makes for an intricately constructed set of songs from an artist who clearly has a rich and varied taste in music, but importantly Gramatik's talent is such that it all comes together to form a unique record that's great fun to listen to.

Repeated vocal hooks, scratchy funk samples and hip-hop drum beats tend to be the cornerstones of Beatz and Pieces, something which is evident as soon as the beat to album opener 'DreamBIG' kicks in. 'So Much For Love' is a joyful clash of sampled vocals and piano riffs that creates a dancefloor-filler that you won't find populating the airwaves of Radio One. The tracks here are wearing darkened shades, bopping their heads and smoking cigars whilst you long to be as fucking cool as them.

Gramatik expands upon his sound a little with the likes of 'Good Evening Mr. Hitchcock' and 'The Drink Is Called Rakja'. The former throws in sweeping strings and flickering keys for a lush body of orchestral sound, whilst the latter's electro-swing sound is the most frenetic affair on the record. Both are heavily-layered, masterfully-crafted bodies of work, which is symbolic of the whole album. Yet when Gramatik strips it back to the bare bones - if you could call it that - in 'Like You Do', the result is an effortlessly hip slice of instrumental funk-hop that is the standout moment of the record. Considering the competition it has, that's some achievement in this myriad of party-starting tracks that are, well, just. so. bloody. good.

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