According to the blurb: “A concerto takes an audience on a journey in multiple movements through contrast between instruments. Only achieved by those who have mastered their craft.”
Amp Live has mastered his craft of programming producing and arranging through a decade plus catalogue with Zumbi – as the acclaimed hip hop group Zion I and stellar remix and solo work.
“Headphone Concerto” is Amp Live’s long-awaited solo UK début album and first via LA-based Plug Research.
And he has recruited a bunch of the most talented musicians around – to help make a dream come alive – a hip-hop concerto.
This carefully crafted album draws on his childhood – playing drums in a Black Baptist Church- and hanging out with the local skaters listening to New Wave in the Texan suburbs.
He spent his formative college years in jam sessions that later informed his high-energy live shows. Early days in the Bay area cultivated a passion for experimental electronic music that crept into his hip-hop before it was trendy; Even allowing the producer to remix several tracks from Radiohead’s seventh album In Rainbows.
We listened to the Headphone Concerto (out 4th August on Plug Research Records) :-
The intro “Amore” starts with spikes of ice and a warm cello – then we slide smoothly into “Last Wall” feat rapper ‘Eligh‘ and producer ‘Grouch‘.
This starts with a splendid silver band that sound like they’re hooting their hearts out in the park.
We are told that L.O.V.E. is the “key” (as if we would ever forget a thing like that.)
After a few squeegee-man synths, the bass gets going. And the rhythm trundles along like a brushwood shopping trolley.
The inhale – exhale parts on the “Last Wall” will really wake up your frontal bones!
Talk about headphone dramatics…
This track will make your eyeballs slip!
Then we come to witch-crafty arch-handed cross-over skills of those para-cellists from Dirty Cello on the track “Flight In G Minor”.
Led by Rebecca Roudman, this San Francisco Bay area string outfit can generate so much tense and pleasurable Gypsy buzz that they could re-ignite a hydro-cracker.
“Signs” is a bit snooty. Coughing and cuffing. But it is sweet and robust. And it contains the most dirty sounding eastern violin you will ever have heard.
Then “Run Back” presents the musical collective ‘San Tiimbre‘ (with vocalist Natasha Adorlee and producer Julia Lewis.)
This track incorporates lots of clucks and warmish plucks. Natasha’s voice scrambles along like dust particles – caught in the club-light atmosphere.
Imagine the theme from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (Composed by John Barry) played on a ricketty ragtime piano. Because that’s how you approach “Penny Nickel Dime” (Featuring Anya and Prof.)
This is the single from this bounteous album. And it’s all about being consumed by greed and the hunt for the green-back.
‘The Formula’ features Seattle based artist Sol. This is standard hip-hop fayre – but still retains a mystical element and an aristocratic vibe. So it deserves to be here – in such highfalutin company.
And finally we come to the conclusion – “Hustle 360” (Featuring jazz vocalist Povi Tamu.)
At this point – we are presented with a riddle. Was all this some sort of illustrious cryptic charade? Nothing more than a fantasy guessing game ?
Was all this grandiose, regency-style, posturing actually truthbearing and honourable?
Who knows? Maybe it was all just hustle.
But you will have to admit it – “Headphone Concerto” is monumental in its ambition and swagger.
You can feel that each bit of this huge piece work is soaked in sweat. And rife with talent.
You’d be a proper fool if you missed out on it!
@neilmach © 2014