Artist: Adrian Younge
Album: Something About April II
Label: Linear Labs
Quality: FLAC (tracks)
Sittin’ By the Radio (feat. Loren Oden)
Winter Is Here (feat. Karolina)
Sandrine (feat. Loren Oden)
Step Beyond (feat. Laetitia Sadier & Bilal)
Memories of War (feat. Laetitia Sadier)
Psalms (feat. Loren Oden)
Magic Music (feat. Raphael Saadiq)
Ready to Love (feat. Loren Oden & Laetitia Sadier)
La Ballade (feat. Laetitia Sadier & Bilal)
Hands of God (feat. Karolina & Laetitia Sadier)
Hear My Love (feat. Karolina & Loren Oden)
The multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Adrian Younge has devoted himself to loving recreations of soul through the lens of a hardcore hip-hop fan. On Something About April II, a sequel to his heavily sampled first April album, Younge emerges as someone more interested in creating new classics than new samples.
For most of his career as an artist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and band leader, Adrian Younge has devoted himself to a particular brand of soul, heavily indebted to the blaxploitation sounds of the early ’70s, starting with his soundtrack to 2009’s Black Dynamite—a theatrically-released spoof of the genre. While the movie was a sendup of the tropes of all things superfly and jive, the soundtrack was an earnest homage, full of wah-wah’s, the vibes and echoes of Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, James Brown, and 24-Carat Black. His next effort, 2011’s Something About April (presented by his band, Venice Dawn) was also a soundtrack. Though it was full of psychedelic, trippy funk, doo-wop, and rhapsodic horns, it also called in the talents of the Funk Brothers’ guitarist Dennis Coffey and Italian cinematic funkateers Calibro 35, and incorporated lessons learned from studying Ennio Morricone, resulting in a project that was more tender and nuanced. But the film—about a love affair between a young interracial couple in the ’60s—did not exist, and the album brought to the fore Younge’s “extreme obsession” (his own words) with the soundtrack format.
Something About April II represents a return to this love for Younge, who masterminded two audio stories of Shaolin soul fronted by Ghostface Killah (Twelve Reasons to Die and its sequel), as well as projects with Souls of Mischief and the Delfonics in recent years. Where A**drian Younge Presents the Delfonics showcased what Younge was capable of as a producer when aided by strong songwriters, April II highlights his accomplishment on his own terms. For all of his leanings on history and reverence for the musical past, Younge has always been a child of hip-hop. The first April record was crafted by someone clearly in love with breakbeats and seemed to aspire to become new sources for crate diggers. (Tellingly, that album was used as source material twice on Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail—”Picasso Baby” and “Heaven”—and Younge’s compositions provided the samples for DJ Premier’s and Royce da 5’9″‘s PRhyme album.) But on Something About April II, Younge emerges as someone more interested in creating new classics than new samples.
As always, the music here leans heavily on a roughly five-year slice of Black soul from ’68-’73 with Younge helming a Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes piano, vibraphone, and the Selene, a one-of-one hi-tech lo-fi Mellotron keyboard of his own creation. But the songs here are more fully formed than anything he’s done on his own. “Sandrine,” featuring frequent vocal collaborator Loren Oden, is breezy, with acoustic guitar and a lyrical confidence unseen in Younge’s earlier work. “Let’s treasure every moment that we share/ Cherish what we have for all time,” Oden sings, stretching out and deepening the last two words into a small riff that sounds like it belongs in another song, but fits perfectly. A pair of duets by Laetitia Sadier (of Stereolab) and Bilal—”Step Beyond” and “La Ballade”—benefit from Sadier’s cool phrasing, placed atop deep bass grooves that are smart enough to play the background and strong enough to disappear when they’re not needed. When Younge revisits blaxploitation aesthetics—”Winter Is Here,” with Israeli singer/songwriter Karolina; “Magic Music” featuring Raphael Saadiq; Karolina and Sadier’s “Hands of God”—it’s with an obeisance that dares to push things outward into soaring vocals and complex arrangements, making everything sound familiar and new.
by kris ex