Zavala, the producer-half of Dark Time Sunshine alongside emcee Onry Ozzborn, follows up the release of their second LP from last year with its instrumental version. For fans of the Chicagoan beat composers unorthodox approach to Hip-Hop, it’s an absolute feast for the ears.
Slightly more-so than Vessels before it, ANXstrumentals sounds futuristic. This isn’t like the new-wave of westcoast-FlyLo-minimalism though. Instead, think Jean-Jacques Perrer but put through a meat grinder. These sounds reminiscent of cult classic Sci-Fi movies and serials like Lost In Space and The Twilight Zone are sampled (maybe), destroyed and programmed to maximum psychedelic potency. Like Perrer, Zavala grabs a wealth of accompanying styles before doing so; jazz, rock, electronica and even classical are all genres that influence the compositions on this album. If, like me, you’ve ever heard a micro-second of a pop song on the radio that is actually good, only for it to regress to the uninspired mean of the majority of pop music, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the moments on the album where Zavala forays into the more “popular” sound and maintains musical integrity. Tracks like ‘Overlordian’ and ‘Look What The Cat Did’ are examples of these grander pieces on the album; their high-concept sound could easily occupy a popular radio playlist and not make me want to change frequencies.
Yet it’s skeletal structure of dense, cavernous drums is unmistakably Hip-Hop. ‘Rock Off’, with it’s simple and mean break beat, could easily get circles forming, whereas album highlight ‘Prairie Dog Day’ is perhaps one more suited for the introspective head-nodder, at least before it flies off the hinges at the end. Moments like this can either be really fun, or really off-putting, depending on how diverse a listening experience you’re willing to accept. But for all of ANXstrumentals 16-bit bridges and frenetic outro’s, there are as many sobering down-tempo tracks such as ‘Look Forward’ and the poignant ‘Never Cry Wolf’ to keep things balanced.
Although it’s 67-minute runtime might deter some, this is a great, kaleidoscopic, instrumental album bursting at the seems with many rich sounds. I imagine any fan of music would find something to like about ANXstrumentals, not just the Hip-Hop heads.