Each month, Overlooked Gems gives the low-down on a selection of underrated albums from the last month that slipped through the cracks. So let’s embark on October’s deep-dive as we cut through the white noise and welcome some unsung masterpieces into your melodic universe.
Rival Self – Rival Self
Hailing from England’s south coast, multifaceted DJ, producer, turntablist, and cassette looper Rival Self has been a fixture in hip-hop since the mid-’90s. Now he presents his self-titled solo debut, a riveting, labyrinthine journey through sound.
Drawing inspiration from the realm of psychedelia and jazz, Rival Self weaves a rich sonic tapestry through vibrant beats and eclectic rhythms. It’s an album that embarks on a meticulous exploration of hard drums and arcane samples, weaving tapestries as captivating and immersive as DJ Shadow’s early masterpieces. Highly recommended for fans of DJ Muggs, Gaslamp Killer, Mr. Dibbs, etc.
Dan Hastie & Terin Ector – Crows Height
With a roll call of crate-digging luminaries such as JJ Whitefield of the Poets of Rhythm and the multifaceted J-Zone, Madlib’s Music Library Series has dropped an album just about every month in 2023 and pays homage to classic “music library” releases, invoking hallowed record label titans like Italy’s Sermi and the UK’s DeWolfe.
Dan Hastie and Terin Ector of the funk-infused collective Orgone step into the limelight for this month’s addition to the series, dropping a collection of pure gold for purveyors of vintage funk, soul and breaks.
Lilblackkids – Planet Of The Blues: Part Two
As soon as your ears venture into the lush sonic landscape of Lilblackkids’ sophomore EP, Planet Of The Blues: Part Two, you realize you’re not just passively listening. No, you’re experiencing a transcendental journey through a patchwork of genres, epochs, and aesthetics. Consisting of luminary producer Georgia Anne Muldrow and wordsmith extraordinaire Keith Rice, as Lilblackkids the duo craft, sing, spit, and mix their tunes, ensuring the quality of their interstellar product remains stellar.
These brilliant compositions intertwine on a cosmic scale, offering a glimpse at the future with both fresh sounds and a narrative depth that dances through every note.
Ibrahim Hesnawi – The Father of Libyan Reggae (Habibi Funk 024)
Meet Ibrahim “The Father of Libyan Reggae” Hesnawi, an artist whose music marries reggae’s riveting charm with the complexities of Libya’s traditional music. Part of what makes Hesnawi stand tall amongst the music mavericks is his effortless synthesis of seemingly contrasting worlds. He doesn’t just straddle genres with grace; he morphs them into a harmonious yet chaotic symphony, as if they were always meant to be intertwined.
While the pillars of Jamaican reggae ground his compositions, it’s the interwoven accents of funk, jazz, and disco that gives Hesnawi’s work a vibrant multidimensionality. It’s akin to a colorful mosaic, where each piece has its unique shape and hue yet fits seamlessly together to present a composition larger than the sum of its parts.
Brainorchestra – Proglodyte Vol. 2
Prolific New Jersey rapper/producer Brainorchestra presents a captivating collection of instrumentals, tapping into his deep vinyl collection to craft a sonically diverse series that stretches the boundless landscape of prog- and psych-rock, among other resonant echoes from music histories across the globe.
Listening to Proglodyte Vol. 2 is like thumbing through a dusty stack of vinyl in a tucked-away record store, except Brainorchestra is your personal tour guide. He doesn’t merely shuffle tracks, he unfolds a vibrant panorama of soundscapes, connecting hemispheres and decades, genres and ethos.
Kai Meara – Lost a number, found a king
Drawing inspiration from the entrancing flow of free-form grooves and the ethereal echoes of imaginary soundtracks, London beatmaker Kai Meara effortlessly blurs the lines between hip-hop, ambient, experimental electronica, and beyond.
His latest offering, Lost a number, found a king, catapults his vast sonic exploration to dizzying new heights. A compilation that encompasses a myriad of dynamic, head-popping beat snippets concocted throughout 2023, each track embodies an irresistible appeal that makes it impossible not to bob your head.
Download the album for free over at Kai Meara’s Bandcamp page.
Butcher Brown – Solar Music
Carving their own path since 2009, Richmond, Virginia’s own Butcher Brown has been championing the effortless union of hip-hop and jazz with gusto. Their latest album, Solar Music, magnifies the glory of this musical marriage.
Though the amalgamation of hip-hop and jazz may already be widely accepted in music circles, Butcher Brown proves there’s an untapped universe of creative potential in this fusion. Through 17 tracks, the band encapsulates the essence of hip-hop’s pulsating vibes while flaunting their prodigious instrumental chops and bringing some choice guests along for the ride, including rappers Nappy Nina, Pink Siifu and Richmond’s Michael Millions.
Kojaque – PHANTOM OF THE AFTERS
Threading a DIY path and moving deftly across mediums from music videos to music, Irish rapper and producer Kojaque’s insightful commentary on modern society blends with a raw, soul-baring honesty that’s always struck a chord with listeners.
Now, Kojaque returns with PHANTOM OF THE AFTERS, a breezy album that threads bouncy hip-hop with more soulful/R&B-leaning numbers. Lending some transatlantic flair, New York’s astute wordsmith Wiki and enchanting songstress Biig Piig lend features that help round out a great listen.
CARRTOONS – Saturday Night
Launching his latest solo venture under moniker Carrtoons, multi-talented instrumentalist Ben Carr’s new album, Saturday Morning curates the perfect combination of vintage soul served over hip-hop and R&B-inflected beats. Inviting a host of guest vocalists into the heart of the mix, Carr’s musical explorations color Saturday Mornings with a vibrance inspired by an eclectic bunch of his revered musical maestros – from Stevie Wonder’s soulful swagger and Madlib’s experimental beats to Thundercat’s fusion groove.
These sources of inspiration are far from hidden within the grooves of the album. Instead, each track is a musical whirlwind, echoing with the unmissable nuances of Carr’s artistic influences.