In June of 2018, Reso unveiled his dusty alter ego, Maru, switch-hitting between his usual low-end driven music and a foray into faded beats and lo-fi chord progressions. Combining forces with Slug Wife, the first official Maru release was Whack Lack Vol. 2. It was a gratuitous dive into the head-nod headspace, and a change of pace for long-time fans of Reso’s catalog. This time, he’s self-released a sophomore Maru LP of dewey bumps and aqueous frequencies, affectionately entitled Small Sips.
With a total of nine full compositions and a single interlude, Small Sips features a wide array of flavors, blends, and topical variations of lo-fi hip-hop. It’s compositionally rich from start to finish, showcasing extensive arrangements and a spot-on cadence on each and every song. The engineering across the album is particularly alluring, and given Reso’s enduring tenure as a veteran producer, not at all surprising. It provides a degree of fidelity that is often an afterthought for a genre that is focused on all things raw and unpolished in music.
“Lay Off the Sauce” opens the album with a sensual cruise through mottled chords and reverberant breaks. There’s a distinctly dreamy quality to the chord phrasing throughout the song, with each note relationship bending between harmonic and dissonant. Detuned synthesizers populate the melody, endlessly drifting to and from that harmony and dissonance. Like a casual smoker’s cough, the song is puzzling and familiar all at once.
Channeling hazy jazz and a libidinous attitude, “Maple Sizzurp” is a stereophonic bump in every way. Washy chords fill the horizontal stereo space, soaking the listener in phased-out minor and harmonic phrases. The percussion echoes across that same space like a drum kit in the subway; hollow, spacious, and with just the right amount of fade. The distinct view of urban skylines and haphazard crosswalks takes a hold of the mind as the song goes from end to end, showcasing the storytelling and emotional depth that is Small Sips’ strongest asset.
“Donbury Island” winds down Small Sips to a satisfying finish, lowering the tempo and lowering the energy output in tandem. The track is a gentle composition, with pulsing synthesis slowly easing in and out of the mix. There’s a droning, ambient quality to the sound design filling the melody. It’s all carefully wrapped in a blanket of analog dust, with white noise filling in every pore and edge left open in the arrangement of the tune. There’s no real point of tension, it’s just a quaint float through Maru’s aural universe.
Given Reso’s extensive history with filthy bass music, there is a heightened appreciation for the Maru project. It’s not a dumping ground for small bumps and half-baked productions that don’t fit a motif; It’s a full immersion into a different songwriting philosophy. Small Sips is a detail-oriented exploration of soothing tones and broken-beat serenades, all carefully mingled and balanced to a striking clarity. We’re unsure when the next Maru machinations will find their way into the public realm, but there’s more than enough material to keep us satiated in the meantime.