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Transformations/Illuminations

Transformations/Illuminations

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Transformations/Illuminations

Not long after he collaborated with Aceyalone on the West Coast hip-hop classic A Book of Human Language (1998), Matthew “Mumbles” Fowler disappeared from music and took a spiritual journey to India. Anyone hoping that he brought some presents back with him should be pleased with Transformations/Illuminations, Mumbles’ first album of original music under his own name since 1998. Indian violins, sitars, flutes and tablas pull a beaded curtain over Mumbles’ spooky boom bap, sounding not so different than his work on the instrumental hip-hop project S.E.V.A. in 2005.

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These newer elements in Mumbles’ production style are mostly cosmetic — his spare, head-nodding creations still inhabit the same darkly spiritual places they used to. But if Transformations/Illuminations suffers a bit because it consistently plumbs the exact same vibe, its wealth of guest appearances challenge Mumbles in new ways. “Courage Under Fire” reunites him with Aceyalone, and its low drone and hissing high-hat match the tension in Acey’s voice as he meditates on courage and dignity. Down-tempo singer Tracy McMillan coos breathily all over “Here You Are,” and Mumbles frames it capably with a simple acoustic-guitar sample reminiscent of RJD2’s “Ghostwriter.” And closer “Prema’s Dilemma” brings in Mumbles’ father and two uncles (known for their work with Frank Zappa) on flute and brass, bringing out the latent jazz sensibility in Mumbles’ work.

 

DJ Marvski and Cut Chemist’s scratches on “Rise ’99” and “Rise Reprise” don’t work as well — that sort of turntablism feels too modern for Mumbles’ beats, which sound like ancient treasures taken from a dusty old attic that hasn’t been accessed for a hundred years. Call it the curse of being one of the most distinctive hip-hop producers around that Mumbles is best when he’s alone behind the boards. But by placing instrumental tracks alongside a variety of vocal collaborations (jazz singer Flora Purim and L.A. poet Kamau Daaood also contribute), Transformations/Illuminations shows that Mumbles is more than just an expert sonic craftsman. He’s a good listener too, as attuned to the outside world as he is to the spirituality that drives him to look ever inward.

 

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Artist: http://www.myspace.com/mumbles2007

Label: http://www.soundincolor.com/

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<p class="MsoNormal" ><span >Perennially bearded Etan Rosenbloom digs being the go-to guy for metal reviews for the skinny-pants and cool glasses-wearing Prefixmag readership. It wasn’t always that way though – before discovering the glory of the riff, Etan geeked out to the Beatles and a cappella madrigals, and briefly fell under the sway of his father’s avant-garde jazz collection. He is unrepentant about his complete Frank Zappa discography, very repentant about his complete Phish discography (a sign of a simpler time), and very stoked about his complete Death discography. When not writing about Satan’s minions via various online music periodicals, including his own blog <a href="http://www.cerebralmetalhead.com">CerebralMetalhead.com</a>, Etan works as a double executive assistant at ASCAP. Current interests: weight loss, warming up to the buyers at Amoeba to try and get more trade credit, avoiding business tax fees, losing umbrellas, and attracting women that are in to raw foods despite his own goat-like food philosophy. </span><span ></span></p>

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