Available on: Brainfeeder LP
As the sole Brit signed to Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, Lapalux occupies an interesting place with the release of his debut LP Nostalchic. In a few short years Brainfeeder has come to symbolise a new breed of electronic producers, chipping away at and restructuring the sound palette of the Dilla legacy with elements of jazz, psychadelic rock, r’n’b slowjams and Neptunes-heyday rap against the wider thematic backdrop of the hazy, humid streets of Los Angeles. If the Brainfeeder sound can be translated into a feeling, it’s the tingling rush of sunshine that waves across your back on a summer day, as the clouds part and the sun drenches you in swathes of light and warmth. Some Brainfeeder related artists are woven into this fabric in tighter geographical and sonic ways than others but for the first Brit, Lapalux must tread a fine line. A label with such a well-curated and innovative roster begs the question: where will the new pupil fit amongst it all?
Listening to Nostalchic it’s apparent that what Lapalux understands well is that in order to look forward you often have to look back. The LP’s title is tongue in cheek yet apt. It calls on the role of the producer as excavator, sifting through and archiving sounds into emotive, non-linear movements whilst remaining original and stylish enough to merit their own, current space within the chronology of hip-hop. Whilst Nostalchic is Lapalux’s most full-bodied work to date, it’s also one of the finer examples of how the recent house-meets-r’n’b explosion can be executed with subtlety and finesse.
Framed with intro and outro loops, it’s fashioned as something of a mixtape, where moments are compiled with care by a knowing, introverted soul that devotes as much effort to the implied mood of the LP as the technical execution of the tracks themselves. First single ‘Guuurl’ sprinkles talkbox vocals onto a stuttering, downtempo piano melody which is then uplifted just a touch on ‘Flower’, where the keys are buoyed up by some wildly jittering percussion and a sensuous vocal loop that rises in delicate, smoky swirls.
Alongside the well-executed vocal sampling, recruiting three different singers helps Nostalchic remain consistently engaging. The cool tingles and drones of ‘Without You’ are given some real emotional gravitas by singer Kerry Latham; Astrid Williamson’s hook on ‘Dance’ is so fragile and searching that I’m almost scared to hear the answer; between the two is ‘Straight Over My Head’, one of the LP’s brightest moments. As glittering keys are skipped over by waves of finger-snap clicks and delicate vocal trigger samples, a brief interlude of distortion pulls back and thrusts every last sound into the foreground in that glorious, sun-lit rush of warmth that Brainfeeder does so damn well, confirming in the album’s latter movements why Lapalux is so well suited to his new home.