“Are you the proprietor of this joint?” I mustered, swaggering into the offices of Chicago’s Hefty Records. “Why sir, yes, I am,” answered label boss John Hughes III resoundingly. He slung onto a nearby table the result of many labors: his latest album as Slicker, a melange of 21st-century electro-R&B, grimy Afro-funk and warped jazz-etronics that provides a great overview to the mutant blend of diverse but complementary sounds that his label cultivates.
Ghanaian vocalist Dan Boadi, L’Altra’s Lindsay Anderson, and emcees Phat Kat and Elzhi contribute vocal performances, swirling together with appearances from all-around hep-cat and sax blower Phil Ranelin and bop legend Wendell Harrison. This compound of sundry ingredients blends tastefully to form an intoxicating brew, one that presents the eclectic musical heritage of Hughes’s hometown through a unique electronica-influenced lens.
Despite the thick African influence and an infatuation with multiculturalism, the results resemble nothing of the imperialistic plundering of Graceland. A closer reference point is DJ/Rupture’s fantastic genre-blending mix CDs, minus Rapture’s severity. Hughes’s vivid constructions use a background in experimental beat-crafting, but his normally dense layering and arrhythmic inclinations are smoothed out, making space for the vocalists and collaborators.
We have seen this tendency of IDM producers before, sometimes after toiling thanklessly near the bottom of a dark stinky hole with all their avant-garde inclinations to reach back with a more “simple” approach at song-craft. But We All Have a Plan sidesteps the tendency toward silliness and flippancy that other lap-toppers’s pop aspirations have fallen folly to; it cruises on the strength of the vocal contributors and Hughes’s surprisingly sensitive hand at melody.