Hearing producers step into their own is always intriguing, and often produces some truly beautiful music. As XL’s Richard Russell finally leads the work on his Everything Is Recorded project, he creates a beautiful mélange of electronics, orchestral pop and R&B that sums up modern music powerfully. Bringing along friends like Sampha, Ibeyi, Kamasi Washington, Syd and even Peter Gabriel among others this album, while definitely more of a collection than cohesive record, is one that will really surprise you.
Using a patchwork of speeches and ambient tones, Russell sets the tone for the album on the message-heavy “Intro.” Though particularly on the nose, the more open sounds of the track keep it from sound more pretentious than pensive. “Close But Not Quite” slides back and forth on its bright bass notes, with glistening vocals soaring over top of it. The delicate dance of piano and drums switches to booming strings and horns in the chorus with an energy that is utterly triumphant.
The pounding percussion kicks into overdrive on the mantra-like “She Said” as raspy screams guide a deep rhythm forward. In its harsh synth bass tones, the song sets the bass for its loud percussion and saxophone hooks to really drive make a lively and explosive sound. “Wet Looking Road” mixes its glitch-laden sample with a fast and vicious rap, creating an oppressive sound that doesn’t let up. Though the sound here is definitely overpowering, the track doesn’t really step beyond it to feel constantly intriguing.
“Mountains of Gold” creates a dark and psychedelic energy out of its reggae bass, setting the stage for an R&B fusion that pushes boundaries. The constant rotation of sounds and styles on the track is constantly invigorating and surprising, though some listeners may not click with all of it. The sublime drum sound mixing sets “Show Love” apart from the rest of the record, giving it a unique punch that translates to its vocals. It does fall into the album’s trap of sound over variety however, meaning it may grow old fast for some.
Through cinematic flutes and string arrangements, “Echoes In The Bone (Interlude)” creates a worrying sense of tension, building on the speeches that open the record to make it feel like something has gone awry. “Bloodshot Red Eyes” is one of the most interesting tracks on the album as it takes parts of familiar R&B and produces it like no one would ever imagine. This crossroads of sound results in a futuristic R&B fusion that stands unique and majestic.
“Cane” rides its beat with a calm coolness that makes it all the more intoxicating as it loops, and makes its vocals feel like an expression of its steady groove. As speeches permeate the music for once in the album, there’s a poetry to how the rounds of “Rise Up” echo off each other. The relaxing loop of “Purify (Interlude)” is just as heartwarming as it is warped, as the electronic currents and distortion on the song attempts to say something within its warmth.
There’s such a distinct punch that is absent from the rest of the record on “Be My Friend” especially as each refrain hits its high notes. The familiar bass hooks call to club sounds within an EDM-laced soul track, and create a lovely contrast that matches the emotional dissonance of the track. The most emotionally aggressive hits come on album closer “Everything Is Recorded” as Sampha belts his heart out over Owen Pallett’s arrangements. Though it’s a bit of a harsh ending to the album, it’s so raw that you’ll feel devastated either way.
Words by Owen Maxwell