As One

Out of the Darkness

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Since the late 2001 release of 21st Century Soul, Kirk Degiorgio has been more active than most realize. He scattered a handful of productions under his own name on New Religion, put together a third Soul of Science compilation with Ian O'Brien, and assembled a hard-to-find mix album for Keep Diggin'. His sixth As One album was initially set to be titled Into the Darkness, but a number of personal developments -- the most important being the birth of his first child -- led to a change of spirit. Consequently, Out of the Darkness includes none of the blue-faced breakbeat workouts that were streaked across his previous two albums. While it's instantly apparent that all of this is the work of Degiorgio and no one else, each and every track rides in on a beam of sunlight. This uniformity in mood is offset by Degiorgio's broadest range of production approaches yet. Ambient techno, broken beat, fusion, soul jazz, softcore R&B, and even hip-hop are struck upon. All are weaved into one another with little perceptible effort, and the producer's ambitions never get the best of the results. The smartest move Degiorgio makes is in creating more backdrops for vocalists. Jinadu, who is also present on one of the two spectacular vocal tracks off 21st Century Soul, catalyzes "Hope," a mood-setting opener that swings between an intricately shaped 9/8 time signature and a spring-boarding four-four. Paul Randolph contributes to a sublime interpretation of Weldon Irvine and Don Blackman's "I Love You," as well as the starry slow jam "I'm Down." On "Shed Dem," a laid-back track with swirling Rhodes, Cathy Batistessa's voice falls between that of Janet Jackson and Minnie Riperton at both vocalists' most blissed-out. Most surprising of all is that, on one of the two tracks featuring MC Lacks, Degiorgio and associate Thomas O'Grady cast a streamlined funk backing that's reminiscent of cuts on the early N.W.A and Above the Law songs that feature live musicians (this is a good thing). A couple heart-melting ambient tracks? Check. A handful of other instrumentals that stomp, stutter, and swoon? Check. Anything missing? No. It's ironic that Degiorgio, a producer who is regularly dismissed off-hand for being past-reliant, continues to evolve and innovate.

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