Mike Clouds has a beat-infused Message for you
Since 2007’s Blown Speaker Project an album full of MCs, Mike Clouds’s solo work has consisted exclusively of instrumentals, the latest being this month’s Minimal Message, a 10-track ranging from the new-agey to the electronica to more traditional boom-bip hip-hop.
Clouds has always been something of a minimalist, and the project suits his talents. He can do a lot with a little. Just about every song here is based on two elements: a self-contained, repeating synth melody and a snare-driven beat. For flavor somewhere in the middle, he’ll introduce a springing coil of a sound, as on “The Atlantic,” or weave in something like a xylophone, as on “To Unite, To Remain.” The exception is the closing “Settlement,” which is even more spare, with just a thrumming keyboard paired with something like a high strings arrangement. No beat required.
And they are relatively brief. Clouds keeps everything here under four minutes, and many under three. The result is a sort of taster plate of sounds, many reminiscent of each other, some more spicy or crisp, like “A Day with Rain,” others more sweet and playful, like “Click-hop Is Where It’s At.”
He consistently keeps the beats mixed to the fore, making the songs’ melodies their foundational bases and the skitters and cycles of the snares and cymbals the focal points. It allows you to notice little things like his move from a six-beat cycle with a two-beat gap to an eight-beat cycle in “Driving with PC,” or the pop from reined-in menace to expansive beatscape in “Just Red.”
The result is an album you can focus on in the headphones or let play as a pleasant background. It won’t dominate your attention, but neither will it lose your interest.
MINIMAL MESSAGE | Released by Mike Clouds | on Milled Pavement Records |www.milledpavement.com
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