Back with another blind taste test today, where one of our writers challenges another to write a review of an album they have never heard before, after just one listen. Here goes James, risking his love for Quantic’s Apricot Morning to the fickle taste of Nick (the most miserable of bastards). James makes his case…
So what is a Quantic? It’s the work of one guy, Will Holland. Producer, DJ, all round musician, band leader, a huge back catalogue. I own more music by Quantic, and Quantic Soul Orchestra in another guise, than by any other artist.
I’ve posted about this album twice recently. Once in my lockdown CD challenge (aka the longest twitter thread of all time), and I said it was an almost perfect album – the terrible rapping on ‘Primate Boogaloo’ is the only thing that lets it down.
The other time was on Facebook with one of those 10 influential album things. I struggled to find an album that would account for a whole area of my music taste, until I remembered this one.
It’s electronic, it’s jazzy, it’s latin tinged, it’s an album for a sunny day – my summertime playlist is mostly this album, and a few other Quantic tracks. I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t be a go-to for you based on that description, but I hope it’s something you can enjoy.
This is the third blind taste test I’ve done, and the first thing that strikes me is that this album sounds a good deal (on this very first listen) like my first one: Tom’s pick of The Avalanches’ Since I left you. Both are built from a lot of short samples, although I can see that Quantic leans more on played instruments too.
There’s also this album’s energy. They both share a relaxed but solidly danceable beat, and (again, like I said about the Avalanches) if I was someone who literally ever danced, I would guess either album could be a good place to start.
James is right to imply though things like saying it’s “music to dance to” is no recommendation for me. It’s about as useful as… I don’t know… telling a picky bastard that they should like an album because it’s popular. Luckily, I notice some other stuff in here that I can sink my teeth into.
The opening trumpets on second track “Transatlantic” is a good example. They sound like they have been gated (or at least that the ends of each note has been cut off). This is a small but significant thing for me, because it demonstrates that Quantic are interested in both playing music and manipulating it, which is much more intriguing to me than playing alone.
I hear lots of other examples of this kind of considered process in the rest of this first listen. The layering of many of the tracks also suggests how far down the rabbit hole Quantic can go to at points, like on “Brand New Watusi”. In that case the song is busy and energetic enough to carry me along in the journey.
Other points in the album feel like they work less well though – where the sample looping is on the short side, so things can sound repetitive, like on “Blackstone Rock”. After this bump in the road, “Sweet Calling” gives me a taste of Massive Attack, which is easily the best track up to this point on my first listen. But then another step up, to the moody and massive bass part of “Trouble from the river”, sitting underneath steamy synth parts alternating with dark dual saxophones. A great track I will certainly come back to.
The album’s last track (“Off the beaten track”) is a bit too cacophonous for my liking, but by the end of this first listen of the album as a whole, I’m impressed by more stuff that I’m disappointed by, and there is enough there that I’ll be back for a second.
Words by James Spearing and Nick Parker.