Within the first few bracing seconds of GB Interprets His Contemporaries, the acronym that forms Gabriel Reyes-Whittaker's 'GB' monikeriGifted & Blessedlbegins to make non-egotistical sense. Little Dragon's original "After the Rain" was a quirk-pop/R&B duet between Yukimi Nagano's soulful vocals and a honking tuba, yet here GB redraws Nagano as a female automaton. Her voice bounces between left and right channels in staccato reverb, saturating the arrangement and achieving the kind of seductive/aloof tone not heard since Aaliyah, while spectral chords and a plotted metallic beat circle her like a Spirograph.
The influence of Sa-Ra Creative Partnership's wonky future-soul is clear on GB Interprets. But where the magic for Sa-Ra lies in frayed edges and loose, organic arrangements that are one stiff breeze away from structural collapse, GB's fetishises the technological, and is occupied with laser-cut lines and glacial pockets of digital reverb, all spit-shined like chrome.
Sci-fi beats infiltrate throughout, as FlyLo is stripped of his analog murkiness and low-end distortion in favour of thundering synthesized handclaps on "Riot," and Muhsinah's sumptuous alt-soul vocals on "Always" are alternately pitch-shifted into unrecognizability or flung out into the digital ether, when not battling a swollen digital bassline. The '80s-inspired robo-funk of A Race Of Angels' "Main Attraction" retains its retro-futurism, but GB suspends it in mid-air with an absent bassline, buried percussion and lone finger clicks.
The curio of GB Interprets is the closer, his take on The Beach Boys' "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times." My advice: Skip forward, and listen to it first. Diffuse the novelty factor. It's a noble effort, but isolating a typically dense Brian Wilson vocal arrangement to sit atop an ambient synth progression is the EP's sole exercise in foot-shooting, as the Boys' harmonic changes gradually overwhelm and clash with GB's sound bed.
Reyes-Whittaker has already helped to shape what is hip-hop's most forward-looking electronic subgenre. Beach Boys aside, this EP and its manipulations of space, depth perception, soulful warmth and mechanical iciness, will only serve to raise that bar higher.
Tue / 2 Feb 2010
A1 GB Interprets Little Dragon ï¿½ After the Rain
A2 GB Interprets Exile ï¿½ Radio Medley
A3 GB Interprets Flying Lotus ï¿½ Riot
B1 GB Interprets Muhsinah ï¿½ Always
B2 GB Interprets A Race of Angels ï¿½ The Main Attraction
B3 GB Interprets the Beach Boys ï¿½ I Just Wasnï¿½t Made for These Times