Gramatik pushes electronic boundaries with ‘The Age of Reason’ (Album Review)
While there has been no shortage of Gramatik music as of late, the Pretty Lights Music member turned Lowtemp Records founder has finally released his full length LP on his new label imprint. In typical fashion amongst artists in the funk-infused electronic music genres, the Slovenian artists has released his album for free. Due to the live instrumentals implemented into his sets, the artist has no problem giving music away for free – Denis is amongst the rare breed of artists that can offer true excitement and differential product in his live performances, the studio music is simply a flex of musical muscle. What an impressive flex it is, though, as Gramatik brings a blend of familiar and modern sounds to his electric guitar driven soundtracks on The Age of Reason.
Bridging the two vastly separated sides of Denis’ production, the DJs latest offering draws clear connection between the artist’s older hip-hop driven instrumental tapes and his filthy dub-centered productions that capture just a touch of jazz. The Age of Reason, bringing 15 new productions to the table, offers up the best of Gramatik’s talent, drawing inspiration from every corner of his musical arsenal to create a complete product. Dodging electronic music’s typical criticisms, The Age of Reason is more than a simple collection of tracks and features that the artist slapped together; Gramatik offers an encompassing musical journey through his various styles with his newest album.
Starting the album in proper creeping form, “Brave Men,” which features vocal shots from the Eskobars, brings dark and ominous tones to introduce the listener to The Age of Reason. As he has come to implement in his live performances, an electric guitar steps to the forefront to grace the listener with jazz-influenced riffs that transports the production far away from the “EDM” undertones that some may associate with the festival headlining act. However, Gramatik proves his project will not lack the gritty synths that have previously graced his productions as the track’s vocal sample drops into a heavier dub chord progression. The artist wastes no time in expressing the dirtier side of his production arsenal as the project advances to the unheard “Torture” and the previously released “Bluestep,” both of which heighten the tempo of the album while increasing the presence of Gramatik’s grinding bass. The album reaches its fullest grime potential with the Illumntr collaboration entitled “Control Room Before You,” which stands out, in the best way, as the dose of intense dub and unique sounds that Denis has blessed us with in the past.
Wasting no time, “Pardon My French” takes the electronic-jazz transitional period and throws it to the wayside, bringing the best of Gramatik’s synth-inspired production to the forefront of the album’s musical landscape. The track continues as an upbeat and exciting production throughout, acting as the single brightest and most upbeat track on the album. However, Gramatik’s electronic production showcase does not stop with “Pardon My French” – Denis brings forth a space-inspired production with “You Don’t Understand,” where the darker feel of the producer’s work shows its face, but is counterbalanced with soulful up-pitched vocals.
The album finds its musical balance between genres once again with the Exmag and Gibbz featured “We Used To Dream.” The lower tempo song serves as a perfect transitional between the dirtier front of the album and the more beautifully jazz inspired backend. Beautiful harmonies from Gramatik’s vocalist of choice bring the track together and restore the album’s calmness. Production collective Exmag, lead by Denis himself, grace the album for the first time on “We Used to Dream,” before linking up with the listener once again on “Just Jammin’ NYC,” a vibe-enhancing track that appears to be too true to its name. Keeping the album airy, the jam undoubtedly impresses even the most critical of electronic music with incredible instrumental work and musicianship. The previously heard Exmag and Cherub collaboration entitled “Obviously” graces the album at the half way point, filling the previously instrumental-centric productions with vocals fit for the most extravagant of projects.
Gramatik steps back into the solo spotlight with “Prime Time,” a funk and electro-jazz inspired track that serves positive vibes as the album comes to its closing stretch. Once again providing a soloing electric guitar as the shining star of the track, “Prime Time” transports listeners back to older Gramatik productions that revolved more closely around the instrumental than production work. The album then folds on itself as “Get a Grip” brings Gibbz’s vocals back to The Age of Reason, creating the most positive track on the album. Acting as a practical culmination of Gramatik’s production styles, the track knocks the jazz tempo up a few notches, but encompasses the Lowtemp production style so well. Continuing the streak of smooth and uplifting productions, vocals from Orlando Napier land on top of incredible drum work and faint guitar influences on the final collaboration on the album, “Faraway.”
The end of the album showcases a complete package of Gramatik’s production talents in just a few closing tracks. Stealing attention, Gramatik strips features from the closing track to prove his own production value, ranging from the heavier “Expect Us,” which graces the listener with an ever-so-familiar tune under single shot vocal samples and Denis’ signature bass style. “No Turning Back,” perhaps a nod to the artist’s past, feels as if it was stripped out of Gramatik’s vault – in a great way. The track is reminiscent of the artist’s older hip-hop beats that Gramatik fans have begged for since his debut on PLM. The album comes to a complete close with the attention capturing “It’s Just A Ride,” a track that shifts from a jazz-funk style to a heavier electric guitar based riff before harping on the new level of intensity that the Slovenian producer brought forth on his latest masterpiece, The Age of Reason.
While we have waited a great deal of time for Gramatik’s full-length album, it was certainly worth it. Denis’ production style comes full circle in his latest project, showcasing styles from throughout his career, and bringing them together to finally find a signature Gramatik sound, which is omnipresent throughout the entirety of The Age of Reason. The project pushes the boundaries of the funk-jazz-electronic community on all ends, incorporating the most radical aspects of each individual genre to create an extrodinarily appealing Lowtemp sound. The Age of Reason, in an over-saturated electronic market, stands proud as an authentic and daring approach to the traditional, and it succeeds in the greatest ways.