By Summer Li
Dennis J was a precocious child, tracing his musical talents back to the 2nd grade. By the 4th grade, he and his friends had already formed a band and by the 8th, Dennis was writing his own stuff. Fast track a decade or so, the small boy finds himself signed to Pretty Lights Music under the moniker Gramatik.
Gramatik’s PLM debut, Beatz and Pieces Vol. 1, demonstrates the power of music and the endless possibilities of expression through sound. This new release is an interplay of chopped vintage samples with modern beats, unconstrained by neither genre nor decade. Tracks such as “While I Was Playin’ Fair” open with soulful vocals and jazzy piano segments only to cut immediately into heavy bass and looping techniques.
Rather than relying on words to tell a story, the Slovenian producer splices and giltches vocal lines to an abstraction. Vocals are crafted and morphed through mixing techniques to emulate instrumentation. In “Like You Do,” a woman’s voice is sped up and looped into a baby’s babble, yet the incoherence complements the rest of the music so well that it illustrates the real story of music making.
Standout tracks on the album include “Good Evening Mr. Hitchcock” with a big beat and cunning melody that hearkens back to the darkness of 40’s film noir and “The Drink Is Called Rakija,” a festive, gypsy-influenced track that juxtaposes folksy singing with the harsh male aggression of modern hip hop: “All my high school teachers can suck m---”… you get the idea.
Even though Gramatik takes elements from disparate places, he masterfully combines the bits and pieces into a cohesive whole that reflects his devotion to hip-hop and his blossoming sound. Gramatik is a commendable addition to the label, whose oeuvre is similar to that of Pretty Lights, himself. When do we get to hear Vol. 2?
Grab the free download of Beatz and Pieces Vol. 1 at Pretty Lights Music. (http://www.prettylightsmusic.com/therecordlabel).
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