sir Was - Digging a Tunnel

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:6 Release Date:2017-03-10

I came at Digging a Tunnel, the new album from sir Was, expecting it to be somewhere in the neighborhood of Prefuse 73 or even Meat Beat Manifesto: something with hard electronics smoothed down with some hip hop flavoring. So I was surprised to discover that the set has more in common with the mellow grooves of Naytronix's 2015 release, Mr. Divine. While there are some electronic and hip hop influences, the album has more of a soft hippie, almost psych feel in a lot of places. Which isn't to say I'm disappointed. In fact, I'm mostly pleased with the content here.

'In the Midst of It All', the lead track, is a real highlight, and showcases the most prominent sounds well: muted guitar, hazy vocals, and relaxed beats. The chorus has a solid hook too, making the tune stay with you long after it's over. 'A Minor Life' has vocals that bring to mind the melancholy musings of The Flaming Lips circa Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, layered with clacking beats and a lot of windy wood. Near the end even some bagpipes get scrambled into the mix.

The title track follows, a slow-paced piece of psych R&B. 'Bomping' goes for a jazzy approach, but the harmonica gives it something of a country-fried feeling. 'Revoke' rides a grumpy piano, and 'Interconnected' marches along on a fun rhythm section. After stumbling around for a while on uneven percussion, 'Leave It Here' resolves itself into easily the most beautiful track in the set, with a glittering jewel of a synth melody lazily rolling through the last half of the song.

The shtick does wear a bit thin in places. 'Falcon' feels like a total rehash of 'Digging a Tunnel', and 'Heaven is Here' is just too diffuse and disincarnate to bother with.

This isn't the kind of album that's going to knock your socks off. It's most appropriate for a lazy afternoon while relaxing or reading. It's rarely intrusive, and slips into the background for the most part. The least interesting parts sneak under the radar when you're not paying attention, but the weaknesses become more apparent with mindful listening. This isn't going to make any best of lists, but it's pretty decent if you're in the market for some chillout music that's not being played in a club.

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