By: Ali Van Houten
Earlier this month, Manhattan-based hip-hop producer Tony Simon released his sixth solo album under the moniker Blockhead. After years of producing for high-cred rappers like Aesop Rock, Blockhead now stands firmly on his own having released a slew of albums on legendary UK label Ninja Tune. His latest, Bells and Whistles, is notably his first self-released project. The album features Blockhead’s signature instrumental hip-hop, stacking laidback beats interwoven with worldly instrumentals and samples from bygone eras. While certain tracks such as ”Sacrificial Santa” get a bit more in the vein of standard hip-hop, Blockhead’s style is such a unique blend that you never know quite what to expect.
Blockhead kicks things off on “Kaput” with a sample declaring that “summertime is over.” And while summer may technically be over as we head into the dark days of winter, this album is enough to make you relive the good times and maybe even create some more.
“On the Back of a Golden Dolphin” initiates the listener into an ethereal world of kick drums and swirling synths, which is carried over onto the next track, the dreamy but slightly darker “You’ll Get Over It.”
The eastern flair of the fourth track, “Beach Blanket Blood Bath,” kicks it up a notch with a rollicking beat set over an almost Middle-Eastern soundscape of twangy rhythms and hypnotic vocals.
“The Everything Song” is all over the place, true to its title. This one cools things off with an old-school soul sound before transitioning into a collection of distinctive but equally grooving styles, including a subtle stand-up bass line and an interesting, seemingly breakbeat-influenced piano section overlaid with horns for those who desire even more variety.
Meanwhile, “Hallways” drops into the realm of bass before segueing into an alien melody that builds up to a surprising but not unwelcome violin breakdown. Even “Desirebulation,” which starts off with a fairly aggressive drum beat, keeps things moving with a funky bass line and some jazz flute mixed in there, as well.
The album is littered with jazzy piano and brass samples from start to finish, but updated with hip-hop beats that will keep your head nodding the whole way through. Despite the title, Bells and Whistles doesn’t clock you over the head with its eclectic mixture of sounds so much as it delivers them to you in style.
Bells & Whistles is currently only available in a digital format, with plans for a vinyl release in early 2015. You can check it out for yourself on Bandcamp, iTunes and a variety of other sites before you invest in supporting a real artist who is dedicated to putting out quality music on his own terms.
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