Along with Blockhead, RJD2 is arguably among the very few that can rightfully claim the title of “Hip Hop composer.” Aaron Livingston, who has collaborated with The Roots and Hezekiah, has a distinctive, soulful, and gritty voice. Of course, any RJD2 project is cause for excitement, particularly when he pairs with a voice as distinctive as Livingston’s to form Icebird—but does The Abandoned Lullaby sound as good as it looks on paper? “Charmed Life” sets things off with an ever-evolving soundscape for Livingston’s smooth crooning. Dubious keys transform into funky synths, disappearing and reappearing suddenly throughout the track.
As shaky as his output was in the years since he first set hip hop orthodoxy aside, writing RJD2 off as a total loss seems premature. The Third Hand's dippy bedroom-pop flopped in the way that only abrupt stylistic detours can, but when he honed that lite-funk sound on last year's decent-enough follow-up The Colossus, he seemed on his way toward actually taking it into appealing places. Factor in this year's oddball side project as the Insane Warrior, the 1980s horror soundtrack/electro-prog/library music pastiche We Are the Doorways, and he's already put out a couple of solid pieces of work in the last few years that retain his adventurous nature without letting the burden of his early rep stifle him.
The Abandoned Lullaby, despite production from RJD2, is not a rap album, or anything close to it. Of course, anyone who's even partially followed RJD2's career knows that he's long departed from the instrumental hip-hop production he made his name on. After the release of his second album, 2004's Since We Last Spoke, Mr. Krohn began exploring the melodic side of indie rock, using first his own voice (2007's The Third Hand) and then the voices of others (2010's The Colossus).
Despite spearheading electronic label Night Slugs, James Connolly has always stated he wants his debut to honour his influences - or, in other words, be a Nineties night. It worked with Zomby on 2008’s Where Were U In ’92?, and that record painted itself into a corner with rave hardware. L-Vis 1990 tries the same thing with house music, Connolly engineering each of his 15 tracks into the genre’s most worldly edges.
RJD2 (born Ramble John Krohn) has been making instrumental underground hip-hop albums since 2001, after serving as DJ and producer for such underground hip-hop artists as Megahertz and Copywrite. Aaron Livingston is a fast-rising Philadelphia-based R&B-flavored vocalist, best known for singing the hook on “Guns Are Drawn” by The Roots (from their 2004 album The Tipping Point). Having previously collaborated on “Crumbs Off the Table”, the disco-flavored track from RJD2’s 2010 album, The Colossus, the pair have embarked on a full-length album together under the name Icebird.
RJD2 is known for his grooving, usually wordless musical explorations; Aaron Livingston is known for his work with Philly-based band The Mean. When you put them together, you get… some fairly standard remix material. The Abandoned Lullaby mashes up electronic and crunk with some interesting results, but while the pairing is initially fresh, after a while the music begins to sound like what plenty of other DJs do live.