Coming in at exactly 30 minutes long, SKYVUE from Texas-based beats producer WISDOM is a meditative journey. WISDOM uses thumping rhythms and spaced out, distant melodies to activate strong psychological currents within his listeners.
Speaking in superlatives can be dangerous, but WISDOM aka Alec may have some of the cleanest and most impactful percussion in the beats game right now. All the percussive elements are sampled from different sources but coated in the same lacquer so that each beat becomes a cohesive collage. One could spend the entire 30 minutes of the album, and some surely will, trying to pick apart that collage.
His kicks are round and muffled but forceful. They fall all over the mix seemingly at random, so while the head is steady rocking to a consistent cracking, rim-shot snare, the kick is moving around inside four bars unpredictably. The hi-hat samples are diversified both in their source and their velocity (i.e. loudness) to add that "human touch" to the drum beat. All his percussion is compressed masterfully so that it leaps out of the mix, nearly startling the listener on a couple occasions.
Some stand-out tracks from this release include "EARTHTONED", "LTD", "GIVE AND TAKE" and "SIESTA". With "EARTHTONED", Wisdom explores a unique tempo, while the rest of the album sticks to boom-bap. The bass line is composed of low-frequencies so seemingly bottomless that they're reminiscent of electronic music. Balancing this brilliantly is a melancholic piano sample that leverages not just the notes played but also their deep resonance.
The next cut "GIVE AND TAKE" brings the tempo back with quiet ferocity. Sampled woodwinds blow while a guitar lick ducks in and out of the mix. WISDOM relies on guitar samples for chromatic effect. They're rarely prominent, essentially they're in the pocket, but they add great color to the stereo image. "LTD" rocks at this same pace, and may be our favorite cut on SKYVUE. The sway of the percussion is simply irresistible, with the kick possessing a tangible bouncing-back effect. Here the melodic backing is at its most sparse, too, with a guitar lick taking the lead over a lush backdrop of pads.
WISDOM has been a favorite of The Rust Music for some time, and he was featured in our Lo-Fi Sundays column in early 2018 right after the release of his first album DINGE. We'd hoped the prodigal production and dreamlike essence cultivated on that release was no fluke. Indeed it was not. With this second release, WISDOM continues to flex superb production skills, combined with intelligent songwriting and that intangible creator's touch that can create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
One would be wise to keep their ears on this producer. Alec is young and still at university. His skills are only going to increase, but will they be matched by a parallel increase in passion? There's just one intelligible vocal sample on the whole album, and it closes the final track. "I just can't fucking learn, I'm too stupid, remember?" Whatever pathology is at play behind this music, the product is pure gold.