Tuesday, 6 December 2011
[Album Review] The Roots - Undun
Formed in 1987, The Roots are steeped in the lore of hip-hop's evolution across the decades, and in new album Undun - a concept record detailing the life of fictional character Redford Stephens - they manage to pack this history into just over half an hour's worth of eye-opening music.
Compared to the sample heavy mechanics of commercial chart rap, Undun is refreshingly minimalist - a far more outre, 'real' form. The backings of the LP are choppy, cut and paste creations tripping from cut and paste electronica to dubby bass, wallowing in echo.
The album's beginning moments are gently lulling, emphasising a softness that the vocal hooks slide into with effortless smoothness - everywhere is evidenced the richness, wealth and variety of the production. Combined with the engaged, timely lyrics, the concept of the record is breathed into reality on every track, whether it be the powerful piano chords of One Time or the sunny mid 90s California vibes of Kool On.
For those that are fans of the melodious nature of Drake or Kanye's hip-hop but fancy something more profoundly old-school, The Roots offer it aplenty. Every part of Undun is invested with eclecticism and as the album hits its stride mid-way, the beats positively burst from the speakers with their crispness.
The Other Side stands as a particular highlight, brandishing a big soulful hook and neat piano riffs. Indeed, the tinkling ivories are marked characteristic of the record as a whole, laying themselves across many of the tracks. I Remember also excels with a lush interspersion of female vocals and church-like choirs.
As The Roots 10th studio album, the experience of the collective is telling, as is the vast number of personnel involved here: forty-plus. Undun is a record of many things, an assortment of gathered pieces - again, all emphasised in its richness.
In the album's final moments it blasts through a destructive medley of orchestral 'movements' ranging from classical string refrains and avante garde piano - it's a beautifully moving finish to a record that offers contentment on so many levels.
Undun is available to download on iTunes now.