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If the first thing I knew about Taylor McFerrin was the quote from his press release, I'd probably never have listened to his album in the first place, I never was much of a fan of the "Resolute prog-soul futurist" movement (by the way I'm fully aware this is a dickhead way to open a review). What I'm trying to say is this, ignore my words, ignore all words about Early Riser and just listen to the thing for yourself. Stop reading this now, and go stream the album. It's a 9/10 if that's what you care about.
The thing is, we don't value positive opinions do we? There is so much hyperbole being sprayed around our digital world, and positivity is misappropriated so much that it has been diluted past the point of our use, we're cynical of anything 'yes', so we skim through the words just looking for signposts to put us off, anything to filter the overwhelming amount of noise we encounter on the internet, any reason to click away.
Not a fan of electronic music? Click. Not a fan of music with heart? Click. Oh god, the drums aren't in 4/4...? Click.
Yet often the thing that is being described is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Often it's those inexplicable things that makes us return to a piece of music, the subjective way we experience sound that can't be categorised, or organised into a meritocratic system of better and worse. So when a reviewer tries to assert authoritative control, to determine factual worth over something completely fluid and subjective, they often lose both a reader and a listener. Which is something I'm not prepared to do with an album as good as Early Riser. I can't say categorically what this actually is. I can only determine how I interpret it and try to convey that.
For me this is music as motion, as stagnant pools of all thought flushed, as the bliss of nothingness extended, it is 42 minutes of arriving. The natural next step for electronic music, integrating the warmth of Soul and the musicianship of Jazz in a way that feels free of form but is actually densely controlled and structured, you don't notice how complex it is such is the level of skill on show.
It'd be easy for me to list some artists that have affected me in a similar way over the course of my life, what I feel are the cornerstones of the genre, but that just becomes a list of potential excuses not to listen to this album, and I want you to listen so I'm not going to do that. Instead I'll say this: many great musicians have created albums which floated into my life like driftwood to cling to, and the tide has transported me as is its will. In this case I can't decide if Early Riser is the driftwood, or if it's the tide - it is that good.
It's an album that you need to experience for yourself, to have it ease into your world and make a home, to feel its freedom, to visit and revisit again and again. In a short time it has become that album that I put on when I don't know what to listen to, the album I put on when I'm not sure I feel like listening to anything, it gently takes over whatever you happen to be doing so that the whole world seems to move at the same pace. Such is the flow of the album, defined by the way the vocalists float in and out, catching your attention for a brief instant, the whole piece moves as one, everything happening for a reason unknown to you until it's realised.
McFerrin is part of the Brainfeeder scene that Flying Lotus has steadily nurtured over the past few years, that features many super talented musicians who push the boundaries of their respective genres - it's just with this, you don't feel like anything is being pushed or tested, it sounds so natural, so honest, so free... I honestly can't believe you're still reading this when you could be streaming the album and enjoying your life.
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