An Ode to Brainfeeder
They caught my attention at The Epic, blew my mind with The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam and Chinese Nu Yr, and changed my religion at Kneedelus. Founded in 2008 under the direction of god-amongst-men, Flying Lotus, Brainfeeder Records has grown into a Mecca for Jazz, Hip Hop, and electronic music lovers alike and its wide array of musical artists has led to an absolutely earth-shattering year of releases in 2015. By utilizing the characteristics of many contrasting genres, the label has achieved a sound aesthetic like no other that both bleeds modernism and pays homage to Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and the rest of musical fusion’s past.
Tides have been changing this year. The addition of Thundercat’s virtuosic bass work and Robert Glasper’s brilliant orchestration to Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly has exposed the mainstream audience to Hip-Hop/Jazz fusion. Meanwhile, Chance the Rapper simply will not tour without his high school friend/instrumental partner in crime Donnie Trumpet and the one and only David Bowie has caught wind of all this activity and released an epic single, Blackstar, featuring the Saxophone prowess of Donny McCaslin and high intensity jazz drumming of Mark Guiliana. The 90s discographies of The Roots and Tribe Called Quest display the obvious tendency for jazz and popular music to be intertwined, however, it is also valid to say that jazz has held a much more prominent role in the worlds of hip hop and rock this year, which may lead to more genre bending collaboration in the future.
This “Jazz trend” in the commercial music world has been epitomized by Brainfeeder. Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, Thundercat’s The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam, and Kneebody’s collaboration album with Daedelus are three examples of Jazz music taking strides into the realm of fusion while somehow maintaining some sense of accessibility. The Epic can only be described using that one word; Epic. The three hour manifesto seamlessly blends classic elements of Latin-American jazz and straight ahead swing with more progressive elements such as complex meter and scales while somehow still leaving room for catchy vocal hooks. Through the inclusion of all these elements the album has payed tribute to the past, advanced the genre into more progressive territory, and preserved appeal to the less experienced jazz crowd. This mentality is brought to every jazz related album on the label thus resulting in some of the most important jazz music of the year.
Brainfeeder’s glorious execution of jazz fusion is made even more impressive by their grasp of other experimental genres. Not only does the label emphasize the advancement of older genres into new territory, it also supports the idea of entirely new, futuristic explorations. Iglooghost’s ep, Chinese Nu Yr, is a prime example of progressive electronic music that has achieved an entirely forward thinking sound aesthetic. It is important to note that Iglooghost is only 18 years old. Despite his young age, Iglooghost has achieved a very mature sound that screams futurism and truly sounds like nothing else in the world. Chinese Nu Yr does not come with the same level of accessibility as some of the other artists on the label, but the difference between this music and that of Kamasi Washington shows just how many boundaries the label has broken down.
Contrast is possibly the most important aspect of any musical endeavor, therefore record labels themselves should produce enough contrasting albums to fully explore the palate of their listeners. It would be rare for a single record label to incorporate all of the musicians of Brainfeeder, never mind the amount of cross-collaboration the label has encouraged. All of the masterfully produced and creatively composed music of Brainfeeder’s 2015 catalogue has resulted in a truly spectacular collection of contemporary music that will be absolutely be seen as prolific for years to come. Continue reading