Soundtrack for Sunrise, the debut from the now 21-year-old Los Angelean Gabriel Reyes-Whittaker, is a stand-out offering from the young broken-beat genre. Melding aspects of soul, hip-hop, IDM and down-tempo electronica, the style has slowly been gaining prominence among deejays in the lounge-hopping, jet-set crowd where “world” music is losing its grip.
Soundtrack for Sunrise initially hits in the same way that music did, too smooth and shiny to belong anywhere else than a top fashion boutique. But soon, the music becomes more than just a lifestyle receptacle. The vocals, from Joy Jones and Steve Spacek, among others, are unobtrusive and appropriate, while the music displays top-notch down-tempo production throughout. Where GB really becomes worthy of attention, however, is in his attention to current music styles. Like the Prefuse-influenced groups of the past few years, GB uses hip-hop constructs and styles to display his technique: think Nicolay’s work on the Foreign Exchange.
After broken-beat debut of Madlib under the name DJ Rels last year, it should be no surprise that there are strong similarities between that genre and hip-hop — far more, I might argue, than there are between the down-tempo style and the deep house and nu-jazz with which it can so often be lumped together. It’s not that the record does not have a strong dance aesthetic: many tracks evoke a similar feeling to Herbert’s Bodily Functions. But GB’s work is far less structured and far more beat-heavy.
Like most great hip-hop instrumental work, the album is primarily a drum record, with flourishes of vocals and synths peppered throughout. It’s a modest offering, however, content to merely entertain rather than revolutionize, though that seems to be where this genre is unfortunately stuck. Broken beat has yet to produce its breakthrough masterpiece, the work that proves its individuality and its importance. Although Soundtrack for Sunrise is not that work, GB has the talent to produce something of that magnitude.