Lewis Parker

Masquerades & Silhouettes

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It takes a certain something to subtitle one's debut album as the first in a sequence ("The Ancients Series One"), but Lewis Parker, on his first full-length, did have that something, resulting in a brief and quite creative listen. The connection with Massive Attack via their Melankolic label can be heard here and there sonically, something his collaborations with Alpha further intensify. But Parker is his own self-producer and a pretty good one at that, infusing the slow, moody atmospheres with both sharp energy and his own assured presence. His flow is initially a bit curious, almost a slight stutter here and there -- it's not liquid smooth, but it's not hesitant either, with an ear to capture silences as much as his words. He doesn't attempt to hide his accent either, making Masquerades & Silhouettes another in the series of hip-hop albums that show that it's truly a worldwide music. Roots in dub and toasting are equally apparent -- check the use of echo on "A Thousand Fragments" or the use of crackly radio samples throughout the album. Parker's ear for cultural references touches on everything from old '50s pop songs to Star Wars (just about every other song makes some sort of reference to the Force and Jedi Knights). Nearly all the songs use some sort of swirling, treated string or piano sample set against the beats and low-keyboard tones, and the air of musical restraint mixed with Parker's upfront vocals, while not a new gambit by any means, comes across well. One of the best examples is the concluding "101 Pianos," with a solitary keyboard part floating through the mix like a lost signal. If Masquerades & Silhouettes is ultimately a product of its decade, it's an enjoyable one nonetheless.

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