With releases from the likes of Lewis Parker, Cappo, Simiah and Mr Brown, King Underground have become one of my favourite labels in Uk Hip Hop as late, their varied roster held together by a classic, soulful, akai sound with melody galore and a heavy nod to the jazz cats. A UK label with an eye for overseas talent, their latest release, in my opinion, simply takes the biscuit. A collaboration between Norwegian producer Fredfades and his fellow countryman Ivan Ave, it’s a modern classic of a hip hop record, it’s seventeen tracks led by the keen eye for detail in Ivan’s lyrics for the first half and then treated like Madlib’s Medicine Show projects for the second instrumental half as Fredfades smoothly merges instrumentals, samples and cuts, easing you out of the mellow record. A duo made for each other, Ivan was given free reign over Fredfades’ vast archive of instrumentals, picking out whatever spoke to him, and the natural way the project came together really comes out in the easy, relaxed nature of it’s final product.
Fredfades’ beats are sublime throughout. Produced on a mixture of his Emu SP-1200 and Akai MPC 2000XL samplers, they retain a consistent vibe through their slick warmth, soulful vocal samples and cushioning bass lines weaving in and out of lazy drums for a sound that’s hard not to sink back into. The melodic string plucks of Still, added to beautifully by it’s female vocal hums, particularly stand out, while Breathe (One) is also incredibly immersive in it’s deep layers, the cuts in the intro having the rare quality of not being attention seeking but instead simply leading nicely into the blissful chords and background ambience. Meanwhile, the skipping drums and synths of Mirrors and the funky bass guitar of Breathe (Two) provide a more bouncing, smiling sound, although still relaxed in nature.
An ideal accompaniment to the atmosphere Fredfades creates, Ivan Ave’s lyrics play like novels, scripting the scene of every day life around him with an effortlessly relatable attention to detail and a poetic touch that transports you right to the scene. Even when stepping back to kick more traditional rap swagger, lines such as “They talk marshmallows while we set bonfires up” show his unique approach to wordsmithery, something even more apparent when he moves onto deeper topics such as love on Honey Dip. His careless slur furthers the feeling of contemplation in his lyrics, their introspection met equally by their outward gazing hunger for the details of life around him, for a finely crafted sound that merges a natural flow with effortless charisma and style.
One of the freshest duo sounds I’ve heard in a while, this release really took me by suprise and deserves not to be slept on. Their Norwegian backgrounds seemingly allow them to bring a new slant on Hip Hop, perhaps with a bit more distance and perspective on it, and Fredfades has mastered and pieced it together it to perfection, ushering you steadily through the ups and downs of the release, his instrumental B Side coming in almost unnoticed as you zone out into it’s atmosphere. He steadily gets slightly more experimental and free with his beats here, really flexing his sound as hes given free reign of the speakers, but it’s in the first half alongside Ivan’s vocals that the release really brings something new to the table. My personal favourite release to land in the inbox recently, this one gets the full BC endorsement. Listen below and go grab it from King Underground in either vinyl or digital format.
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