The Blue Note was a terrific 2011 debut album from L.A. instrumental hip-hop artist Trebles and Blues, and I was equally impressed by last year’s From My Father, in which Trebles flipped songs from his Korean father’s collection of ’70s and ’80s Korean folk albums. For the way-too-short When Life Was Simpler, Trebles joins forces with No Alias, another Asian American L.A. producer, for an album of instrumentals about the search for “moments in which we find simplicity in this ever-complex world.” I’m not as familiar with No Alias, but his 2011 album On to the Next Chapter is worth a listen, especially the track “Way of the Erhu,” which, of course, samples the titular instrument.
Their instrumentals, whether when they’re on their own or together as Days of Contrast, have a soulful and epic (but without being overly portentous) vibe that’s reminiscent of great L.A. soul albums like Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man soundtrack. Like any other skilled instrumental hip-hop artist, Trebles and No Alias ought to be scoring films and bringing more musical diversity to the film music world. I’m tired of film and TV composers biting Hans Zimmer’s style. Be your own man or woman, Mr. or Ms. Composer Who’s Heard the Inception Trailer Music Too Many Times (an instrumental that, by the way, wasn’t even composed by Zimmer).
The highlights of When Life Was Simpler include “The First Finale,” in which the piano work channels the international nighttime vibe of The Blue Note, and the tuneful first single, “Read All About It.” Where did Trebles and No Alias find the track they sampled in “Read All About It”? I can’t track it down anywhere. It’s clearly a ’70s soul record from Europe. I get mildly frustrated whenever I can’t locate the sample source, but I’m also impressed because the beatmakers opted for something really obscure instead of a sample source that’s easily identifiable, and Days of Contrast opted here for an obscure source. Here’s to more moments of getting stumped by Days of Contrast.
Stream or purchase When Life Was Simpler below.