Release Date: Jan 12, 2010
Record label: Ninja Tune
For now, let's leave aside the question of what makes instrumental hip-hop "hip-hop. " (Samples? Breakbeats? A certain general texture or mood or variety of funkiness?) Instead of worrying about genre or categories, let's just focus on the quality of the music on Blockhead's third Ninja Tune release, which is close to jaw-dropping. It's not just the variety of source materials from which he draws, though that alone is pretty impressive: "It's Raining Clouds," the album's opening track, wanders from a cool downtempo mood to a sort of restrained drum'n'bass jitter by the end; "The Prettiest Sea Slug" swings indolently under an explicitly jazzy saxophone and piano; "Tricky Turtle" pairs an old-school funk vibe with splanky guitars, greasy horns, and a possibly African vocal sample; "Four Walls" critiques Auto-Tune abusers with a slow 6/8 groove and over the top vocoder effects.
Levity doesn’t come easily to Blockhead. After two albums in two years of dense, moody, dark instrumental hip-hop, Blockhead’s answer to those who would tell him to lighten up appeared in 2007, a limited edition release called Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book. Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book still sounded like Blockhead, but it sounded like a version of Blockhead that was actively trying to push a little happy into the still-dense mix.
An engrossing instrumental hip hop album to be admired. Sam Hesketh 2010 Anthony Simon, aka Blockhead, is a producer known well in underground hip hop circles. His debut album, Music By Cavelight, is a near-perfect example of how to make an instrumental hip hop album, ranked by some alongside the likes of RJD2's Deadringer and DJ Shadow's classic Entroducing, highlighting his ability to make minor chords and autumnal nuances seem like the perfect soundtrack for any occasion.