Earthtones & Concrete

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Walking a fine line between hip-hop and electronica, Take (aka Thomas Wilson), has impressed the Los Angeles scene with a series of excellent EPs, remixes, and innovative DJ sets. Now he's finally moved up to a full-length with his debut Earthtones & Concrete, an intricate set that's highly experimental, but thoroughly enjoyable. Take's music has always been difficult to categorize or qualify, and this album no less so, as Wilson embarks on a musical journey comprised of instrumentals, brief interludes, and a few vocal numbers spun across 18 tracks. The atmosphere is relaxed, although the rhythms are invariably off-kilter; on the spacy "Black Space & Tangerines" they virtually stutter. Elsewhere they pause to consider their effect, as with "Monopoly Money," whose funky bassline counterpoints the pretty organ line above. "Stepping Over Buildings" is even more down and dirty, pushing straight towards the dancefloor, but there's a splendid robotic feel to it all -- P-Funk puppet theater perhaps. In which case, "Slouched Over RMX" is the soundtrack for a hip, animatrix dinosaur sliding on down a swampy

electric avenue. "You High" boasts a rubber bassline worthy of Bootsy Collins, while the interlude "In Back" features a slick, techno sound that instantly recalls any techno club on the Med, you can even hear the waves splashing in the background. And Wilson loves to play with sounds and effects, from the police radio that broadcasts across "The Trouble with Libras" to the wah wah effect that unexpectedly erupts on "Tuesday Never Comes." That latter number is made up of so many sound fragments it's much like picking through broken glass. But Take is an expert at taking shards of sound and making them whole, and although the breaks are still apparent, that's deliberate, giving the set its slightly askew feel, even on the heavenly "Los Angeles Is Outside," the most lavish of set's tracks. Like LA itself, there's no true center to Take's sound, but still the city of angels solidifies around its fragmented neighborhoods, and diverse peoples and cultures, as Earthtones & Concretes folds around the beats and bass, samples and synths, vocals and raps. Chillout hip-hop for the discerning urban masses.

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