RJD2, the moniker of Philadelphia-based musician Ramble Krohn, is set to release his tenth studio album on March 25th. His first album was released in 2002. Now, 14 years later, he is giving us a solidly soulful, psychedelic funk record. I first saw him live at a party in Austin, Texas a few years back. He carried with him a few crates of vinyl, and spun a groovy collection of resonance. His visuals were simple, but constructed an atmosphere of tripped-out sixties flower-power.
“Dame Fortune” introduces itself with a track called “A Portal Inward”. Portentously foreboding synthesizers create an aesthetic evoking a tech-noir science fiction soundtrack. A subtle bass pushes the stamina, and is accompanied by striking piano keys. The ambience accelerates with building inclination. A sudden clashing of noise strikes the track. Cymbals shatter and guitar chords slam in a style reminiscent of the escalating momentum in Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”. The second track quickly shifts the energy into a blast of electric rythym and bass. Lyrics announce that “sometimes you need to know, it’s your turn to run.” The album continues with a humming backing chorus, and features soulful musings from Jordan Brown. He speaks of pain, fear and frustration in a chaotic world. A Hammond organ advances over sampled hip hop accents into a joyfully smooth rejoice. Any ominous prognostication leads into a surprising outburst of elation. Guitar riffs echo within a kaleidoscopic chamber of reverberation.
The scene culminates into a turning point with the declaration that “a new theory had to be born”. The vibes are heavier, everything is amplified, and harsh percussive sounds infiltrate the record. You’re in a warehouse, it’s the 90s, and your pill just hit you.
After this deviation, the familiarity of the first half of the album returns. Son Little is featured, expressing ideas on the mundanity of 9 to 5 life, of strangers on a train—side by side, and “diamonds flashing all in my eyes”. Simple and tame piano unravels in an instrumental with ambient synthesized noises and strings. Pulsating vibes thump through your bloodstream.
Nearing the end of the record, “Up In The Clouds” features Blueprint rapping of death and an alcohol induced car crash. He tells us the story of a man who picks up the pieces of his life. Nobody expects him to walk again, yet today he takes his first steps. Ultimately, the album ends with “A Portal Outwards”.
This is a fully realized and coherent instalment from RJD2, and fans of his work will not be disappointed. At parts it feels redundant, and a few of the songs could have been omitted for this reason. Everything considered, this a far-out funk record that transports you through RJD2’s portal, and pushes you outwards in the finale.
By Eric Stevens