Guts - Eternal

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2016-08-02

GUTS has been toiling away in obscurity for nearly a decade now, releasing a series of jazzy instrumental albums that are somewhere between Nightmares on Wax and Fatboy Slim. On his most recent set, Eternal, the instrumentals make way for a lot more rap vocals, transforming the work into something more akin to old school hip hop.

He still includes some straight instrumental tracks, like the gorgeous 'Desintoxication', with its 70s smooth jazz vibe like something out of a sun-dappled Peanuts movie, and the funky fun of 'Dance, Love & Die', which rumbles along with joyous abandon, showing an impressive range of styles. And of course the opener, 'Opening', would fit well at the beginning of a Quentin Tarantino movie.

But the focus here is definitely on the numerous guest vocalists, primarily Leron Thomas and Tanya Morgan, as can be seen by the fact they're all named right on the album cover. 'Take Me Back' is solid, with the pair taking turns rapping over loads of horns, piano and bass. It's followed by the similar but jazzier and weaker 'All or Nothing', where singer Lorine Chia joins in for some almost off-key choruses. 'Give You Up' takes things into funk territory, with soulful singing by Thomas, which once again doesn't quite sound right. The music itself is great, with stabbing guitars, vibrating bass, and lots of flaring keys, but the vocals definitely take something away from the experience, which feels very 'Electric Avenue' otherwise.

'Rest of My Life' is a bit more serious, with a heavy vibe from the excellent piano work flowing beneath the bass and drums, although again the singing isn't quite right. There's also a bit of an far east flavor with the plucked strings. 'Peaceful Life' is probably the track where Chia's vocals are at their strongest, probably because she is finally able to let loose and command the song from start to finish, rather than function in a weakly supporting role, giving the song a very mellow, Zero 7 vibe. 'Nowhere to Go' is even better, with its swinging bass and swirling keys, and more of eastern flourishes. And 'Incomplete' sounds much like Gnarls Barkley, with Thomas doing a passable CeeLo Green impression. 'Kiss My Converse', meanwhile, is an awesome piece of bouncy hip-hop in the style of Ozumatli.

A lot of the vocals are reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest or Digable Planets, and they in fact directly allude to Q-Tip in one song. Still, the vocals are only slightly more hit than miss, while the music itself it impeccable. Trimming more of the former and focusing more on the latter would have made this a better set, but overall, it's still pretty solid, especially for fans of that weird nexus of funky jazzy instrumentation that only a few artists are pulling off these days.

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