Growing up in a very musically diversified family, I spent my childhood exposed to practically every musical genre from rap to rock to reggae to classical. Our living room radio locked down on the classical radio station (by my mother’s request), and at first I wanted nothing to do with it. As time went on I started to appreciate what was flowing not only through the airwaves, but through time. Building up a deep appreciation for many types of music, I quickly weeded through what I liked and what I didn’t. Some of those well informed opinions have stuck with me until this day. I am not only a person who is fascinated by beats and rhythms, but one who gets off on a well-written lyric, which only means that as I popped the new Yesterday’s New Quintet CD into my player I went in with nothing less than an open mind.
This album, a collaboration of 10 instrumental groups brought together, started out quite promising. The first track teases with impassioned, soulful beats, yet the luster of this album fades quickly. Panning into the second track, the funk soon plummeted into a mediocre plain of elevator muzak.
The fact that Yesterday’s New Quintet has been broken up, and a schizophrenic array of musical styles is squished together on this baffling compilation, explains the inconsistency of this album. There is not one main idea that would merely tie all of these tracks together. Run by well-respected hip-hop producer Karriem Riggins, Yesterday’s Universe had everything going for it, but is ultimately nothing short of a mix of poorly produced chaos.
To give you an abstract of what to expect from Yesterday’s Universe, imagine this: we move from the elevator music mentioned before to a mass movement of minor chords and a muffled woman screaming. The latter track is appropriately named “Slave Riot,” which, in and of itself, would pass as abstract art, but then leads into an attempt to conjure the spirits of the Indian world with badly placed sitars and a jazz backdrop. And that is just within the first four tracks. Throughout this 15-track mess we endure ’70s porn music-style in “Street Talkin’,” dogs, birds, and rain in “Cold Nights and Rainy Days,” and we can’t forget an 11 minute and 53 second `Vibes from the Tribe,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
I have come across some really great instrumental music lately—Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium just to name a couple. Yet Yesterday’s Universe falls short. While there’s certainly a wide range of sounds at hand, Madlib’s delivery of this compilation was an ill-advised move.
Jazzanova – In Between
DJ Shadow – Preemptive Strike
Ornette Coleman – Ornette!