What an absolute delight this is. Fresh off the back of my complaining about how there’s no sounds piquing my interest anymore comes this debut record from a man with serious musical heritage that knows how to use it. Taylor McFerrin, son of Bobby ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ McFerrin, is about to launch his unique hybrid sound on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. But I just can’t get past ‘The Antidote’, which arrives three tracks in and completely wipes the floor with the competition as well as the frown I’ve had on my face for the last few weeks. It’s not just smart, it’s also really wonderful to listen to. On a record that diverges wildly between jazz, electronica, hip-hop and whatever else, ‘The Antidote’ is perhaps more straight-ahead but no less invigorating.
The bed here is a sort of ambient, downtempo groove that constructs an almost bossa nova feel from simulated live instruments. It begins by alternating between two rich, multi-layered chords, building on all the little rhythmic and harmonic quirks that shows off McFerrin’s production side. The percussion shines, the synths shimmer and the harmonies seep in and yawn out across the bar. You can hear the bass and the quick hi-hat ‘shoops’ mix together to create their own new texture. The beat is felt, rather than implied. And all across that sonic bed, which sheds and adds instruments like a snake with its skin, comes the stunning voice of Nai Palm.
Nai is not an unknown entity here, she’s also the voice of Hiatus Kaiyote, a band brother Z has been championing for years. Known for her unique journeys into the more whack corners of the neo-soul spectrum, Palm’s melodies are breathy, beautiful and completely unconstrained. Sometimes direct, sometimes meandering, they paint a vivid picture that shifts and moves in tandem with the music. Listening to her sing is hearing what you imagine freedom from it all, work, life, responsibility, expectation, really sounds like. McFerrin’s key selling point is that rather than stayingthe same while his muse meanders, he delves into new territory as well. This is as far from traditional electronica as you’ll get, and yet it’s strangely natural and comfortable. He even sneaks some funky syncopated riffs in there at the end with that over-wah’d guitar. Enjoy this with good headphones, because there’s sunshine beaming out from left and right. By the end, Nai’s gone into scat mode and the track’s all the better for it.
Taylor McFerrin – ‘The Antidote’ (ft. Nai Palm)