Review ·

Recognized as a pillar in Chicago's free-jazz scene and for many accomplished bass-player outings, Josh Abrams (member of Town and Country and contributor to recordings for the Roots and Will Oldham) performs just as competently as Reminder, his newly christened beatmaker alias. Continuum, Reminder's debut full-length for Scott Herren's Eastern Developments label, is a restrained cluster of down-tempo, jazzy beats and acid-washed instrumental hip-hop. For every slow mash of string loops and organ blitzes, there's an equally boisterous crack at a party beat on Continuum, but neither end of the album's spectrum boasts much reason for the neighbors to call the cops.


The standouts here aren't explosive cross-fader jams, buzzing with the left-field entrance of some off-kilter Middle Eastern vibe. Though there are such unpredictable stretches, Abrams's magic is often birthed in the unadvertised subtlety of a smooth soul swing, as in "On Rooftops" or closer "Dri," with warm keys, string loops and the charm of a poorly lit table in the corner of a restaurant. This drowsy pace anchors the first third of Continuum, and Abrams's introductory numbers are far more subtle than a few of their rambunctious counterparts. The brick-shithouse bass and wind-chime clinks in "Of Light" fall just before "Tranqui" delivers on its moniker in an unsteady percussive tumble of brass, woodwinds and some harp. This one trips somewhat like the remix he did for Mia Doi Todd on this year's La Ninja: Amor and Other Dreams of Manzanita. "Leave What You Came With" is just as open-ended, but its shuffling jazz base is shaken a bit by a somewhat disruptive guest vocal spot from Chicago's Thaione Davis.


To some, Abrams's pieces might run together in dry tempo sameness. Continuum does lack a little, casting a beam on the "room-to-grow" department that generally sidelines a debut album. Though nothing on Continuum resonates with the thud and crash that generally thickens the gathering drunkards at a block party or on a front porch, the strength of Abrams's first outing as a beatmaker is his penchant for highlighting the thrill of "the now." Amid the quivering drum patterns that chase each other in both channels of "Now I Disappear" is an engaging arrangement of brass and woodwind loops. Like most of Continuum, "Now I Disappear" seems poised to burst at any moment and doesn't. Instead, it's quaking throughout the whole track, but it does so elegantly enough so there's no need for specific room-rattling peaks and fireworks. They've been there all along.



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