Let me say this, if there’s a Juno for “Best Instrumental Hip Hop Album with a Name That Kind of Sounds Like a Word But Isn’t Actually a Word, I Don’t Think”, Vancouver-based producer mikedecline would be a two-time winner by now. I loved his last album, Umbrellatons and after being through it a few times, it’s safe to say that I like his new one, Calmmunicate just as much.
In discussing Mike’s last album, I lamented the seeming dearth of the kind of “real” hip hop instrumental albums that used to be more prevalent at the start of the 00′s, but if Mr. mikedecline keeps pumping out this kind of material every 6 months or so, that problem shall be solved for me. I have to assume that today’s digital delivery systems has caused some shrinking of musical attention spans, so it may be a challenge to get people interested in an album with zero live vocals, but for me there isn’t really a lull in Calmmunicate’s entire 30 minutes. Decline is constantly phasing sound in and out, while vocal snippets and scratches (from returning collaborator K-Rec) are added throughout to give the songs texture.
Here’s the thing I like about mikedecline’s work, he seems to have a tremendous ear for melody, and everything he does seems to have a real musicality and groove to it. This is evident right out of the gate on Calmmunicate, with opener “People Words” setting your head to nodding right out of the gate with kickdrums, strings, pitched-up vocal snippets and subtle cuts from K-Rec. “Stan Mikita (You’re Still my Brother)” also stood out, with its familiar, stark percussion, funky, rhodes-like organ stabs, soul samples and KRS’ “I’M DREAMIN’” (from the awesome I Can’t Wake Up) plugged in at the start, I’ve gone back to it a few times. But Decline knows how to keep your attention even when he slows it down, with “Beat Smoke” a prime example of that. It has a hypnotic, dreamy quality that is contrasted with gritty cuts of Inspectah Deck’s “working hard may help you maintain” line from “C.R.E.A.M.”, an unlikely pairing that works very well.
Once again, mikedecline and Phonographique are bringing you this album as a “pay what you can” download, which comes with the songs as separate mp3′s as well as one full mix, so you’ll certainly get you money’s worth. And it’s 30 minutes of fantastic music, so what do you have to lose? Nothing, so get on it.