I'm lucky enough to have been emailed this album by Uncommon Records, the label behind producer Nasa Asan and his latest beat tape 'Uncommon Color Combinations Vol. 2'. I'm trying to resist putting a u into 'color', but seeing as these guys are American I guess it's okay! If the name Nasa seems strangely familiar, it's because he's contributed to many hip hop records, the latest of which being Adam Warlock's 'Dark Weapons (from Mars)', which I reviewed yesterday. There are literally only a couple of things I frowned at here, which is a great relief after hearing that Warlock album and not enjoying it all that much. I don't know if this is trademark Nasa, but the stuttering beat is very off-putting. I want a continuous beat, and when it stops and starts not only does it grate, but for me it takes away from the sound. Bearing in mind that this is only on a few tracks, I could pretty much tolerate it. Another little flaw is the way songs here end. Some end way too abruptly, and others lazily fade out. Other than that though, this is an outstanding collection of beat heavy instrumentals. Ten tracks running for half an hour, pick it up here.
Kicking things off with 'Purple Suede Guitar Case Killer', a deep throbbing beat explodes with a wail before fading into the next track 'Transparency Personified with White Stripes'. The beat is similar, but snippets of vocals weave in and out throughout. Another fade-out (sigh) introduces 'Forest Greens', which would have been fantastic had the beat not stuttered. A folky, jazz infused sound at the very start smashes against a very nice little melody. High vocals are merged with the mixture of this track, but yeah, the strange and unnecessary stopping and starting feels forced and unnatural. I keep thinking, has my computer broken down or what!? Thinking about it, it is probably needed to break up the potentially repetitive track, but I personally could have done without it. 'Copper Blue' dives in and out of water, highlighted by tinkling wind-chimes and sampled female singing.
'Flesh Colored Lobe' is intersected periodically by cool melodies, but is relatively lacking compared to the next track, which is my favourite out of these ten. 'Precise Red Lights' crackles with the dust of an ancient record, with a beat-less section at the beginning bringing a greater air of class to the album. It is played once, then mixed and remixed throughout the remainder of the song. Electronic scratches whizz against the beat before a disappointingly abrupt ending marks the start of 'Breathing into the Cold Blue'. Subtle ringing and sandpaper like sounds detail the beat, upon which electric guitars are layered. The high notes that are repeated in 'Brown Paper Bag' run throughout, but in the middle and near the end, that cuts out and we're dealt a brilliant melody. This track is the one that suffers the most from abruptness, in my opinion. The notes just stop before the melody starts and the end is, like most of the songs here, lacking a proper finish. The last two tracks finish the album well enough. 'Echoes Turning Red Orange Yellow' is aggressive in its shouting vocals and 'Sunlight Meeting the Blackness of a Cave' has the most noticeable melody and structure. Unfortunately this half an hour is finished with a fade-out. I was half-heartedly hoping for an epic finish but yeah, another fade-out for me.
Overall, I love the experimentation and sounds Nasa incorporates within 'Uncommon Color Combinations Vol. 2', especially the compelling fusion of old and new on tracks like 'Precise Red Lights', which you can listen to below. Nasa has proven himself as one of the better beat masters out there recording music, but a few flaws hold this particular release back. Perhaps this is one of Nasa's traits, but I really don't enjoy the abrupt and lazy endings to his songs, or the pause and play effect he throws in once in a while. In the end though, this doesn't take away a great deal from the highly original and unique sound he's crafted for himself. Therefore I for one find this an album easy to recommend, especially for those wanting less vocal and more instrumentation from their hip hop. Check it out.
'Precise Red Lights'
'Precise Red Lights'