Album Review: The Other Side of Tomorrow, The Slakadeliqs (independent, 2011)

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In the convoluted world of hip-hop and so-called ‘electronic’ music, it is increasingly common to find fragments of releases, EPs, singles, and remixes without an album to anchor the musical flotilla.  I’ve come to accept this as a new model for musical production that aligns with how we consume music, in 0.99 cent segments of our choosing.

But here is an honest-to-God Album. A thoughtful, thematically consistent, largely acoustic, and musically rich album. The Slakadeliqs are described as the alter ego of Slakah the Beatchild, who collaborates on and produces electronic music, fusing a jazz, funk, and hip-hop sound.

However, this album is a departure from that world. It is more Simon and Garfunkel than beats and samples. The dominance of the acoustic guitar on this album is almost a statement…a rebellion against the programmed beats that form the usual sinew of Slakah’s body of work. Almost every track is a triumph of purebred songwriting. It isn’t exaggeration that I invoke Simon and Garfunkel. This is the real thing.

This is not to say that the influence of electronic music is absent. To the contrary, one of the things that makes this album special is how it blends acoustic with electronic, without sounding contrived or gimmicky. But the heart of it belongs to a songwriter, not a producer.

“Call Me Your Friend” and “Dear Lucy” have an almost psychedelic influence, borrowing some sound elements from seventies folk rock. Indeed, the closest comparison I can draw is with some of Lenny Kravitz’  work from the 90’s. But that’s not quite right because this is better than anything Lenny Kravitz ever did, by far.

Like the albums of old, this too has a balance of up and down tempo tunes. “Defective” is the latter, arranged simply with a flute and guitar, alternating with some soft drum machine and subtle  synth. He even sneaks in a sitar but doesn’t overdo it. On the other side of the spectrum, “Nine 2  Five” is a wicked pop song. It could have been an MJ or Stevie Wonder chart-topper.

I could go on. There are no weak tracks here. But I’ll spare you the time reading so you can get on to listening. Get this album, the whole thing.

(Credit to Jason Palma of CIUT 89.5fm’s Higher Ground Radio for introducing me to this album)

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