The Further Side by Black Nile
This is a smoothly sounding, underproduced, and experimental jazz fusion record, heavily analog but with some electronic elements. It’s also largely instrumental and very easy on the ears.
The performances are very honest and keep your ears engaged even in some of the more repetitive instrumental tracks. It’s all pretty rough and most of it feels off the cuff and unfinished.
The Further Side is one of two releases from Black Nile available on Tidal and the group is a happy discovery. I get analog Flying Lotus vibes. The two brothers behind the name have been jamming together forever.
There are no rules here, with some tracks being fully analog and others mixing in synths or drum loops. The timing is lazy and songs lack structure – it’s almost as if the artists were drunk. A lot of the interest comes from overuse of delays and it’s not apparent how deliberate a lot of the sound design is. But like an abstract painting that questions than answers, it can be fun.
The worst criticism I have of the whole album as a concept, is a lack of meaning. That extends to the music, which has a corresponding lack of purpose driving it forward. It sounds and feels like a bit of fun, especially compared with the pair’s previous album which contains a lot more structure.
To give you an idea of how some of the tracks sound..
Sunset Drive doesn’t amount to much more than an idea, but sets up listening expectations well. We know we’re going to hear something very rough, underproduced and experimental.
Things pick up with Gumbo, First Serving which is more musical but loosely structured. Whatever musical structure exists here seems to be a carrier medium for a layers improvisational performance that don’t seem to take particular notice. It’s good though.
Second Serving features piano and trumpet diffing over a a soulful bass impro and slow brushy jazzy drum loop. It’s very pleasant listening.
fUzzy EyE is a warm blanket of sound including a lusciously delayed flute and softly chirping synths that drone on until about a third of the way through when equally luscious chords and falsetto kick in.
Inglewood starts with a bit of comic relief and moves into a very under produced hip hop track over lo-fi jazzy synth chords. It’s interesting despite some muddled production, that might be a kind of comment on the genre, seeing as how the rest of the album has far more soundstage, but doesn’t last too long.
Crenshaw is a collaboration with rapper TRU. It’s about as close as the album comes to having a voice that says more than ‘we are people who love screwing around with instruments and sound.’
Some notes on album’s sound design as a whole.
My ears would have liked to hear more texturing in the sounds – it’s all very smooth. A little interest in the top end would have really made these recording something special, but maybe that’s not what this album is all about. Sometimes, you just might want smooth.
It’s just that the level of interest in the instrumentation is already inviting a more detailed level of listening, which could be broadened with something happening in the highs, even if it was a little crackle on the bass lines. Some tracks are brighter and some are darker.
If you like raw and experimental jazz fusion you’ll definitely enjoy listening to this. I kind of feel it doesn’t deliver on a promise it seems to be making, that could have been kept with a little more variety and movement in the tracks themselves. Still, it paints a great picture and I could see myself enjoying this while painting, for example, to lubricate the creativity with a little smoothness and soul.