In From My Father, his second full-length, L.A. instrumental hip-hop artist Trebles and Blues samples musicians who are far more obscure than the likes of The Stylistics and Natasha Bedingfield, whose cuts he chopped up in the jazzy 2011 gem The Blue Note. This time, Trebles has turned to his father’s collection of ’70s and ’80s Korean folk records–which, as folk music, are more synthy and symphonic than Pete Seeger-y–to craft a concept album about his South Korean immigrant parents and the eight-year separation they endured after his father was deported back to Korea (for reasons Trebles hasn’t really specified to the press) and forced to never set foot in America ever again.
It’s less an angry-sounding and politically charged narrative about the American dream getting shattered and more like a love story about his parents overcoming physical obstacles (Dad was short-statured, Mom wasn’t attracted to short guys) and later, deportation-related and economic obstacles to be together.
This kind of dramatic, trying-to-overcome-barriers material can turn kitschy or sappy. Think unintentional laugh riots like “Accidental Racist” or any of the family photo slideshow videotapes that a lot of my Filipino parents’ friends would subject their party guests to back in the ’80s and were often soundtracked with ballads by Whitney Houston and Surface or, ugh, any non-Sid Vicious version of “My Way” (let’s face it, yo: Vicious recorded the only take on “My Way” that’s worth a damn). But fortunately, From My Father, an instrumental work as effective and beautifully crafted as The Blue Note, is neither of those things. The album’s lack of words (aside from loops of Korean vocals during tracks like “Clear the Fog,” “Until We Meet Again,” “Leave Everything Behind” and “Homeward Bounce,” which I don’t understand because I don’t speak Korean) and the ill beats Trebles constructed around his dad’s records, especially during the title track and “The Triumph,” are what keep From My Father from collapsing into a sentimental mess.