Black Jazz Consortium, Structure

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[Soul People Music]


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As “deep house” overtook “minimal” these past couple years as dance music’s catch-phrase du jour, a certain formula has become apparent. Slow down the tempo, loop a bass line, throw some jazzy pads on top, and add an intermittent sample of an African-American male voice saying “yeah.” Though there are some great tracks fitting the stereotype, it is hard not to crave some greater inventiveness. Fortunately, Fred P, a.k.a. Black Jazz Consortium, brings precisely this to his production work, of which 11 remarkable examples are collected on Structure. Throughout this CD, rhythms are complex, instrumental elements shift and alter themselves, and tracks otherwise develop over their durations.

“Deep Love” introduces the compilation with a seemingly simple three-note bass line, ethereal chords, and a beat. But listen closely — the hi-hat never sits still, constantly adopting new patterns, while the timbres flow and mutate. The experimental spirit of this work can be disarming –in fact, the unorthodox timing of chord changes on “Teapot Science” sounds downright frustrating on first listen. But this kind of risk mostly pays off; a similar technique on “I Want That” transforms a Robert Hood-esque stomper into a melancholy, unsettling exercise in atmospherics, with one of the few vocals on the disc exhaling the titular phrase. Similarly, “The Title” transforms a dubby bass line and wordless vocals with the introduction of harmony halfway through. An “improvised” conga part in the first half and a insinuating keyboard melody in the second maximize the track’s complexity.

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The non-repetitive aspects of Fred P’s work are effected in unusual, contemporary ways. The only “solo” on the disc, a keyboard on “Watching You Vogue,” is — to this listener anyway — more about atmosphere than melodic teleology, something like a blues guitarist adding punctuations to a riff or a vocal. A melody on “Living the Dream” seems to be locked in a race with the beat, falling behind, catching up, and taking the lead in a head-to-head showdown that commands attention. Even a DJ tool like “Tribal Dance,” a spare collection of percussive rhythm patterns and oceanic waves of synth-noise, invigorates in the unpredictable way its few elements combine and separate over seven minutes.

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Whether or not Fred P used analog instruments to produce these tracks, the sounds are gritty and raw, imparting a visceral punch to the glacial, flowing nature of his harmonic approach. On “Levels,” a seemingly random noise track sneaks in and out of the contours of an insistent beat under a cloud of poignant strings. The most “traditional” moment, a piano melody on “Something Old,” is propelled into the present by its relentless bass line. “What’s Up With the Love” — LWE’s chart-topper last month — sounds both glitchy and smooth, with a gorgeous vocal inquiry. “New Horizon,” from his EP of the same name, alternates lead instruments as though members of this imaginary Consortium are stepping up for solos. And yet, there are few sounds on Structure that sound like “real” instruments, save a couple piano parts, hand claps and aforementioned vocals. This is music that does not concern itself with the artificial genre splits engendered by music industry trends, seeing the emotion in techno and the futurism in house in a way partisans of either often miss.

Chris Hopcroft  on July 3, 2009 at 3:42 PM

This album is an absolute cast iron belter.

Scott  on July 6, 2009 at 7:38 AM

great album, been hammering this in recent mixes i’ve done.

ballyhoo  on July 7, 2009 at 12:16 PM

yup, several goodies on this album. i like the askew drum programming.

Slipdress  on July 9, 2009 at 5:51 AM

Is this only on CD? no mp3/vinyl?

littlewhiteearbuds  on July 9, 2009 at 8:10 AM

Yep, looks like CD only at the moment.

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