J Dilla – Donuts
One of the greatest producers of modern music, and possibly the most influential in hip-hop ever, especially since his untimely passing in 2006. I know I’m far from alone in having this one on loop often at home, but it always sets such a perfect tone, and the way he weaves slivers of chopped samples in with wildly-pitched whole song sections to create new and unheard-of neck-snapping beats and soulful atmospheres will never be bettered.
Khruangbin – The Universe Smiles Upon You
Damn these guys are cool. I’ve seen them perform in several different cities around the world while touring, and quickly realized that they bless each audience with a little geographic love, highlighting some funk history of their respective hometowns/countries. This debut album of theirs is a perfect example of why everyone who sees or hears them becomes dedicated fans. Warm, smoky, trippy, funky af, modern psychedelic soul vibes at their best.
John Coltrane – Giant Steps
The legendary A Love Supreme would probably be an actual Earth time-capsule or desert-island pick for myself and many others, but Trane’s Giant Steps tends to get more rotations in my home for the original recording of “Naima” alone, which is quite possibly my favorite composition in any genre of music. The rest of the cuts are nice as well, the improv-heavy classic title track, the descending modal movements in Spirals etc., but the loving tribute song to his then wife is just so perfectly simple yet not, uplifting yet melancholy, strong yet fragile af, like love itself. There are bonus alt takes on the digi versions too.
Herbie Hancock – Headhunters
This one’s kind of another tough call, because I’ve inherited and dig so many Herbie albums. But between geeking out on the dope cover art as a little kid, his funky use of synth bass lines, Harvey Mason’s impossibly loose-yet-tight drum work, and all the players in fine form laying it down like they’ve played together forever, this one takes it. They way “Chameleon” morphs halfway in has always been inspiring and there have been crazy extra plays and rewinds for crew beatbox choirs to the intro of “Watermelon Man” over the years as well.
The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
This album was an absolute game-changer, for my own perception of musical possibilities and for the concept of a hip-hop debut album in general. I also love their sophomore joint Labcabin for many other reasons including the slick early Dilla productions, but Bizarre Ride always blew my mind the most. These cats seemed to come out of nowhere with the most fun and inventive style imaginable at the time. I’m pretty sure that over the years at home between getting ready for school, work, gigs, or parties, this LP has clocked more play counts than almost any other.
The Other People Place – Lifestyles of The Laptop Cafe
Plenty of high-praise has been said of the late great Underground Resistance soldier James Stinson, and while I agree and get down with anything he’s touched or is Drexciya-related, this mellower more melodic side of his inimitable production style always hits the spot the most for me. Add in the “Sorrow And A Cup Of Joe” single in as a cherry and we’re damn near electro soul perfection.
Tortoise – TNT
I was introduced to Tortoise in the very fertile, genre-hopping era of the late-90s. When this album dropped our motliest of crews rolled out to the show: hip-hop heads, rock kids, skaters, techno DJs, we were all mesmerized by the versatile level of playing and expressive instrumental vibes. Loaded with crazy musicianship and nods to the masters, this is one of those beautiful examples that relieves any remorse for not really sticking with traditional training, because bands like that are out there handling it. And then some.
Stereolab – Dots And Loops
Another unique indie band from this period, I was hipped to Stereolab a little later in the game and so this was my first album purchase of theirs. I quickly snapped up most of the back catalog that preceded it, especially after catching a few of their incredibly on-point shows. But Dots And Loops flows from start to finish with such smooth and solid form and consistency, merging so many styles and influences into their own unique musical language. Perfect play for any time or task at home.
Arthur Verocai – S/T
Brazilian music has always had place in my heart since my father was a huge fan and patron of the greats and often played their music at home when I was growing up. But this one is extra special to me, and it wasn’t until I was much older and better understood arrangement and contrast elements that I could fully appreciate why. Last weekend I had the immense honor of seeing the legend perform this album twice with a 20-piece orchestra on stage with him. On Father’s Day no less. A memory that will never fade and only rock-solidified the love I have for both.
ATCQ – Low End Theory
I can trace back to the exact moment that I knew I wanted to be more involved in music production: right after the first time hearing the opening bass sample that kicks off Buggin Out, and Phife says “Yo!” with the snare hit on the four, before launching into his immortal “Microphone check.. ” verse. Back in my cassette days the rewind button was broken on many-a Walkman to take that moment in as often as possible. I have much love for all Tribe albums before and after this one, but it just meant more to me at such a young formative stage that I go back to it again and again, to give thanks if nothing else.
Dave Aju – Love In Zero Gravity (Circus Company)
This San Francisco DJ/producer is a master sampler, groove innovator and jazz influenced artist who has been with this label for ten years. In that time, he has turned out plenty of timeless LPs and EPs that have earned him a deserving reputation as a truly cultured craftsman. Just in time for the warm summer months ahead, these pieces are fit for maximum daytime, nighttime, and after-hours pleasure respectively. The releas kicks off with title track ‘Love In Zero Gravity’, one of those raw undefinable Dave Aju grooves, loaded with soul and unique musicality. It builds in bass-heavy intensity, bright epic bursts and ecstatic waves like we’ve never heard from him before. Next up the voodoo stylings continue on ‘Aubergine Dream’ but in a much deeper mode, where ultra-sweaty basement funk collides with the darkest shades of purple imaginable, all laced-up with otherworldly lysergic lines. Finally, ‘Gatadu’ rounds things out with pure class, a bouncing robust house cut done-up with generous helpings of live percussion, rich textures, and Aju’s velvety vox – the perfect recipe to keep dancing long into Sunday’s sun rays, all miles and sing-a-long vibes for the real heads and lovers.
Dave Aju – Love In Zero Gravity (Circus Company) Release: July 5th 2019 Cat No: CCS110 Format: vinyl, digital