Crafting a seamless DJ mix is a tricky task, requiring the precision and finely tuned ear for beat matching and seamless transitions, not to mention the foresight to make transitions not only smoothly flowing, but clever as well. When done right, a mash-up mix requires not only similar skills, but a penchant for pranksterism and pop culture addiction as well. But to create an entirely sample-based album and make it a mesmerizing, self-contained work of stunning melodic layers takes another set of skills entirely and a unique vision. On debut album The Go Round, Dutch hip-hop producer Inf displays both the vision and the skills as he concocts a mesmerizing symphony of beats, breaks, hard-hitting basslines, hypnotic ambience and flashy samples ranging from jazz to soul to pop.
The Go Round packs a lot into its 30 minute span, resulting in a brief but spectacular instrumental hip-hop record that recalls DJ Shadow, Madlib and Rjd2 at their best. The title track, with its explosive horn attack, swirling strings and funky wah-wah guitar has all the badass flair of a ’70s detective show soundtrack, while “Reykjavik Blues” is a bit more mystical in its combination of billowing xylophone and Rhodes piano—absolutely gorgeous. The ultra-cool “Wasting Time” takes a similar approach, layering twinkly keyboards atop one another as a vocal sample ethereally intrudes with the line, “don’t waste your time.” The brief “Mystic Moods” lives up to its name with an exotic aura, as “Yes My Dear” is bathed in a 1970s polyester glow. “City Delights” struts with a reggae groove, and “The Boogie Man” is driven by a fantastic combination of flute and organ.
Some of the album’s brightest spots are in brief interludes, in which Inf allows his 45-second spots to shine as bright as his two-minute ones, and even invited some actors (with Prison Break credits apparently) to lend their voices. The actors, however, are merely in supporting roles, and if you’re not looking for them, you probably won’t notice their presence. Inf is the real star here, blending genres and sounds into one glorious stew of soul and style. Instrumental hip-hop albums this good seem a scarce commodity today, but thankfully The Go Round is here to once again raise the bar for abstract beatmakers.
Madlib – Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6
Rjd2 – Deadringer
DJ Shadow – Endtroducing
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.