SHUFFLER 0066: BEATS AND HUMAN LANGUAGE
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Mumbles – “Vision” from Book of Human Beats (2005 Sound in Color)
It would be tempting to call Book of Human Beats the instrumental version of the 1998 Mumbles-produced Aceyalone record, A Book of Human Language. Indeed, much of what’s on the internet regarding Beats pretty much describes it as such. It’s easy enough to see why — Aceyalone, the bohemian West Coast rapper from Project Blowed and the Freestyle Fellowship (among other efforts) finds the perfect canvas for his spoken-word/free jazz/hip-hop approach in Mumbles’ beats. And as MC/producer relationships tend to go, Ace is pretty much the star.
But there were seven intervening years between the release of Language and Beats, and in that time there was enough tinkering to make Beats its own animal. For instance, while Aceyalone has a song called “The Vision” that clocks in at 1:56, the Mumbles version, called “Vision,” is 3:54. That extra two minutes — twice the “original” — is a lot of time to stretch out in. So much so that, to my ear, the beats are completely different. Even so, both are super chill exemplars of the best that jazzy bohemian/alternative/whatever hip-hop had to offer in the nineties. Mumbles’ beats could be called a West Coast response to Digable Planets, though that’s probably reductive and gives too much credence to the artificial West Coast/East Coast divide that the media loved so much in those days. More constructive, perhaps is this: if these records came out today they’d likely be on Stones Throw.
So, Beats is an instrumental version of an Aceyalone record, sure, but it’s also completely different, its own piece of art that stands on its own merit. One review states that “A Book of Human Beats doesn’t work as an instrumental hip-hop record, if only because Acey’s absence is so conspicuous,” which I think misses the point entirely. Listeners who go into Beats with Aceyalone in mind will likely be perplexed, sure, but the key as I see it is to go into this album valuing each track as one of Mumbles’ own unique creations. Approached this way, it won’t take long for the upright bass in “Visions” to transport listeners to a far more tranquil and utopian land.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Mumbles comes from musical stock. This from the Sound in Color website:
“Mumbles developed an ear for jazz and hip-hop music from an early age. His father, Steve Fowler, a professional flute and sax player, along with uncles Bruce, Tom, Walt, and Ed formed a musical legacy spanning from the early 70’s with the band, the Fowler Brothers. They played with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Bobby McFerrin, Linda Rondstadt, Ray Charles, Diana Ross, James Taylor and Brian Setzer, to name just a few.”
Friends: As sometimes happens here at the Shuffler, the YouTubes can’t keep up with our eclectic tastes, and so I am unable to provide video for you to check out this song/s. In an effort to accomodate those of you who are eager to listen, however, I’ve provided a link below for the Mumbles track. It is at rdio.com, and will require a free log-in. Since that’s kind of annoying, I’ve also provided (via YouTube) the full Aceyalone album. “The Vision” begins at 39:00. Enjoy.