Monday 23 September 2013


"Like all of nature's creatures, the child must one day go exploring by himself," one of the many samples taken from Jacob 2-2's brand new LP, called Herbivore, gives you a good insight into how the album sounds - to a certain degree, anyway. Herbivore is all about that wonder we all had as children, how amazing the world seemed, how small details of things existing in the world fascinated us, how exploration and adventure lay at the end of each newly discovered suburban road, each new park visited, each new videogame played.

Something somewhere said something about Jacob 2-2's music, something about the inspiration behind it. I think it was about classic 80s sci-fi movies for children, saying how they'd all start in some kid's bedroom somewhere before going on some crazy adventure. That's another theme. Not just actual childhood itself, but the imagined childhood of children in the different media we consumed in our younger years - the magical places where who we wished to be with all our hearts. And it's amazing how this heart-warming feeling transcends above the not-necessarily-heart-warming landscape of hefty beats that Jacob 2-2 throws around with rather a lot of skill.

I've written about just one of these songs before, 'Milo De Venus', a song that reeks of homely, close-to-the-heart nostalgia with a fidgety glitch-hoppin' beat, but now it seems quite a challenge to cover all of them comprehensively without being too waffly. Well, the next logical step is to bop over to 'Empire Plaza'; it contains the ticking of architecture, the glitter of industry, straight-talking beats - schizoid hi-hats and brief coughs of snares - that Jacob 2-2 has used to illustrate Empire Plaza, Albany, with its equally straight-talking brutalist buildings. Did you also hear the slowed-down sample of the opening chords of Tears For Fears' 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World'?

'Platforms' also contains another fantastic example of Jacob 2-2's beatsmithing razzmatazz, with its intricate beat bleeding a swaggeringly slow yet frantic hip hop style into the song's magical melodies; looping, chopped-up vocal samples in the second half are expertly executed and conjure a computerised, adventuresome otherworld - wishful thinking for a childlike mind. Likewise - swaggering, stumbling, half-dancing-half-sashaying onwards - laid-back bass and lickety-split beats give the mesmerising 'Red Heather, Yellow Heather' some attitudinal oomph. This is contrasted with the childhood-recalling sample of those read-a-long cassette books, "Turn the page when you hear the chimes…" The title refers to the tonguetwister constructed by varied sampled voices in the song: "red leather, yellow leather".

Jacob 2-2 animated this video himself as a trailer for the album - cool huh?

In the art of makin' beats the hip hop way, sampling does indeed play a massive part. Huge. So it's not surprising, but still damn cool, that Herbivore is packed full of delicious samples. Cut up bits of 90s-esque sounds hold up UK trackmaker Pogflipper's nostalgia-driven rap in 'Sunrises'. 'Lower 3rds' begins with the sample "In 1978…" and ends with the sample "…when teenage boys forget about girls" - between these two blasts the adventurous kinds of sounds that invaded people's heads when videogames first arrived on the scene. Dinosaurs were an obsession when I was younger - I am sure it was the same with a lot of people, seemingly including Jacob 2-2 himself, who in 'Struck Out / Foliage' samples archive footage of a man talking about the way the dinosaur world worked. This is only in the second part of the song, 'Foliage'; the first half, 'Struck Out', deals with the bummed-out feeling of losing in a game, namely being struck out in baseball, samples of "Hit it!" and "Here I go…!" giving the sense of a baseball field in soft focus, plush with rose-tinted memories. In near-heartbreaking opener, '2LTL', there's a child's sampled voice saying, "Boy, I'm too little for everything…" The song has, in its whirling synths and raining bleeps, the wild determination of a child who does want to do everything, despite their age, size, or lack of comprehension.

Feelings and images pop up out of everywhere: in title track 'Herbivore' there is leaf-eating innocence in its friendly bassline and glittering showers of synth (the carnivores can have their sharp teeth and mean looks, but triceratops, stegosaurus, brachiosaurus - they were pretty cool). 'Construxon Time Again' sounds like what scientific discoveries should be unveiled to - the soundtrack of progress - somebody demonstrating an email being sent for the first time; the slow, touching euphoria of 'Baby Duckbill'; the industrious bassline of 'So Long, Solaris' with its wondrous synths gives way to a vision of loss with lamenting strings (possibly a nod to the acquiring by IBM of Sun Microsystem's Unix operating system, Solaris. Possibly not); 'Rm W1' is a hypnotic dose of spaced-out echoing synths, an ambient journey into an adventure-movie-induced dream; 'Snow Brite' is like watching the frozen outdoors in winter from your window; 'Asphyxiation' - the majesty of a single human floating gracefully through space, without a space suit, but still marvelling at the grandeur of everything. There's such a lot that sparks the imagination.

Two contrasting tracks end this delightful album; whilst 'Quarantine Kid' exudes that listless feeling that went with being stuck indoors as a child, 'The Light Shines' sounds like the freedom of the summer holidays and the glory of playing outside in the sun. I think I've said enough. What more can I say? The exploration of the sometimes downright magical nature of childhood, all the entertainment and adventure and wonder and unanswerable questions, is something that I've never heard before - certainly not to the occasionally harsh nature of the hip hop-flavoured beats that underpin each floating synth, each retro sound. It is the clashing of a half-imagined world and one that is rooted in reality - yet in both there is discovery and ingenuity. So nostalgic. So nice.

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