In the opening seconds of Plantlife's sophomore album, The Time Traveller, producer and musician Jack Splash boasts incredulously, "Yeah, I was there when it all happened/ I made the whole planet rock with Afrika Bam." He continues to map a history of the modern popular beat and claims to have been present at every major event -- from telling John Lennon to leave the Beatles to smoking and making The Chronic with Dr. Dre. What gives this young upstart, who obviously had no role in any of these historic events, the right to make these claims? Better still, why would he even stake a claim on such well-traversed and mined territory?
Splash's approach here is representative of the current synthetic approach to music. Casting a wide search field, held together by the broadest possible theme (here arguably "funky," "sexy" and "good"), he wades through the ocean of modern masters and emerges bathed in a thin layer of influences that drip off of him with every step. The effect reflects on his pitched-up and altered voice in the opening monologue by suggesting that each influence will be filtered and treated in a de-contextualized and heretofore impossible manner.
"Sun Shines Through Your Love" pulls together California low-rider soul (think Faze-O, Maze, and any of those groups from the '70s with some geometric form on its cover) with a twisted There's a Riot Goin' On falsetto. "Sumthin' About Her" quickly turns its heel toward Rick James' factory of sticky icky while "Freee!" cools the proceedings down with a freaknik Sun Ra leftover. This salvo is intentionally bizarre and flailing -- a frank statement that this is not your mamma's and daddy's funk.
Splash previsouly explored many of these concepts in the first Plantlife album, The Return of Jack Splash. While that album was technically a group effort, with Panda One, Splash's kaleidoscopic tastes were already in full view. Now, free to explore his vision individually, Splash releases the reins to find multiple ways into your headspace. Unlike his comparatively tame yet distinctly nostalgic production for mainstream stars like Alicia Keys ("Teenage Love Affair" and "Wreckless Love") and Raheem DeVaughn ("Mo' Better") -- where he evokes a single mode or style -- Splash uses his own album to systematically pile styles upon styles.
The Time Traveller's principle flaw is its lack of an original message. Seemingly stuck in a James-ian party-all-the-time mode, Splash pulls together disparate sounds together a series of familiar ideas: good/bad times with your man/woman, in your whip, on the streets . . . . Like much of today's synthetic approaches, Splash reaches broadly, but his process is more substantive than his content. Note to self: No need to take everything from the past.
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