For all you “Mad Men” fans out there, the AMC show’s jazzy, seemingly James Bond-inspired theme song by the name of “A Beautiful Mine” is an example of RJD2’s ability to create a perfectly eclectic mix of instrumental sounds. With his first album release in nearly three years, RJD2 and his “More Is Than Isn’t,” out Tuesday, once again creates a refreshingly unheard sound, peppered with funky hip-hop, electric sounds and interesting cameos.
Ever since RJD2’s 2002 debut album, “Deadringer,” 37-year-old Ramble John Krohn has been a prominent artist known for his ability to push the boundaries of instrumental music. The artist is also recognized for trying on all different facets of music, whether it be ‘70s pop, old school hip-hop, soul, disco, smooth jazz or anything in between. The list goes on. For the first time, Krohn said in a press release that his newest album, “More Is Than Isn’t,” is the first album of his to “revel in a relative lack of vocals.”
The 16-track album features vocal guests Phonte Coleman and Aaron Livingston, whom RJ collaborated with on his own label, RJ’s Electrical Connections, as well as rappers Blueprint, P. Blackk, STS and Khari Mateen. It’s obvious that RJ put a good amount of thought into the albums’ overall flow, as the listening experience interchanges between instrumentally complex, slow build-up songs to variously styled, featured artist pieces.
For example, “Love and Go,” featuring Aaron Livingston, who has a distinctively John Legend-like voice, is a smooth track with sporadic insertions of bubbly and electric dub sounds, bass and drums. Followed by the solely instrumental “Descended From Myth,” which transitions from a brass wind, marching band-style introduction that is slowly interlaced with an array of electronic snippets, the experience of listening to the album’s natural progressions from one song to the next is wonderfully balanced.
If you’re familiar with RJD2, however, you know that the artist is not one to stick to any kind of formula, giving reason to tracks like “Dirty Hands,” that seem to completely stray away from any sort of understandable concept or grasp to be had of the album. This track is surprising in its twinkly sound, occasional classical aspects and soft, introverted lyrics. Reminiscent of the Carpenters, “Dirty Hands” could easily be the background music to chronicle a silly, psychedelic experience in a movie scene.
Rap cameos, found in tracks “Bathwater,” “See You Leave” and “Blueprint,” are interesting additions; lyrics like “I’m about to yolo all over the damn stage” don’t necessarily scream RJD2. While these tracks may be an interesting adjustment for old school RJ fans to make, RJ does not fail to pull them off with a certain edge and, of course, some serious musical class.
Three tracks off “More Is Than Isn’t” really encompass the artist’s instrumental abilities. “Suite 1,” two and three, perfectly placed at the beginning, middle and end of the album, magically pull everything together and are great little reminders of RJD2’s real intent, to provide an album that really speaks for itself – but, as the artist said, “revels” in its lack of actual words.
RJD2 has really tied all of his ventures together this project, combining his previous disc jockey experience with his current producing and artistic talents. “More Is Than Isn’t” most definitely has more to it, and it’s worth a listen.
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