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Main | Kllo: 'Backwater' »
Sunday
Dec102017

DJ Earl & Nick Hook: '50 Backwoods'

50 Backwoods is more than just a title, it's a glimpse at what it took to make this record.  Nick Hook and DJ Earl joined forces in Hook's Brooklyn studio to craft a record that simply couldn't happen any other way.  The influence of the late DJ Rashad is felt throughout the world of music, but this record is one that lives and breathes that vibrant, energetic sound.  Completed in the span of a week, this dedicated duo gives to the world an album of limitless positive energy.

The album opens with 'Calculate', and immediately it's clear this album is something special.  It's opening message is one of presence.  It's quite evident that Nick and Earl employed this technique in making the album, but they are also inviting their listeners to be present.  This idea goes beyond just the experience of listening to the album, as that thought will linger long after the record ends.  Where it begins with hazy synthesizers, and the emphasis on feeling over thinking, and how the concept of division forms itself in our everyday thoughts.  It's also one of a few tracks that feature DJ Earl on vocals.

Putting an innovative footwork producer in the studio with a multi-instrumentalist/synth wizard is like combining chemical elements.  There are parts that sound like clearly like what we've come to know and love from Hook and Earl, and yet there are many parts that feel like an improbable yet beautiful reaction to that combination of influences, skills, and two unique visions.  'I'm Smokin' features Jacks on vocals, and instantly evokes dancehall vibes, and shows the versatility of this record.  It's a club smash that follows an introspective, meditative track, and no one else could do it like this.

'Energy' is a calm, confident one, and it follows 'I'm Smokin' perfectly.  It opens with the line 'I'm trying to get my mind right...' something that a great many of us can relate to.  The song embraces an effort that can seem impossible, and yet grows all the more important in our unpredictable era.  The tempo is laidback in comparision to DJ Earl's footwork tunes, but the feeling is very much present.  It plays like a mantra one could embrace during the calm before the storm.

With 'Hook Chop' the duo bring Wiki into the studio, and the beat is reminiscent of classic hip hop in more ways than one.  The tune bridges the gap between generations of rappers and producers by combining musical elements from the golden age, as well as the present and future.  Wiki thrives on this one, as few rappers could.  That chill sound is followed by 'We The People' with Melo-X on the mic.  Backed by unpredictable percussion Melo-X speaks of God, a presence found through our connections to one another.  The track is one of the wildest we've heard in a long time, with evolving effects on Melo-X' voice and the music behind his powerful voice.

'Mood Right Now' opens with a synthesizer, a cough, some delay, and Nick Hook's beautifully simple guitar playing.  It's one of the singles from the album, and it's also become iconic of the unbridled creativity, and positivity you'll find on this album.  While it doesn't feel like "happy" music, this record possesses a balanced optimism that it's creators have captured and shared with each and everyone of us.  'Mood Right Now' may have become a meme, a frequent Instagram caption, and yet few can say they share that mood so honestly as DJ Earl and Nick Hook on this song.

50 Backwoods winds down with 'Liberate' and 'Alice', and after your first complete, focused listen you'll want to keep this 27 minute record on repeat.  As Henri Matisse said 'Creativity takes courage...', and with that in mind this effort by DJ Earl and Nick Hook is heroic.  Listen closely to 'Liberate' and 'We The People' and see what we mean, turn up 'Mood Right Now' or 'Calculate' and you'll be able to feel that by putting this out there, DJ Earl and Nick Hook have helped to show you the way to a better and brighter day...

You just have to let them.

50 Backwoods is out now on Fool's Gold Records

DJ Earl:

Nick Hook: