Journeyman hip-hop producer Blockhead is best known for providing the beats for some of Aesop Rock's finest moments on wax.
Journeyman hip-hop producer Blockhead is best known for providing the beats for some of Aesop Rock's finest moments on wax. However, beyond his work on such groundbreaking Aesop fables as 2000's "Float" and his indelible 2001 Def Jux debut "Labor Days," the Manhattan-based soundbomber has yet to impress.
Sure, his 2003 comedy album, "Party Fun Action Committee," had some hearty laughs, albeit if you were a music industry insider. And yeah, his 2004 instrumental solo debut for intrepid Canadian abstract groove theorists Ninja Tune, "Music by Cavelight," is great bedtime music, but a little too sleepy for much else.
You would think for a follow-up, the man who previously showed such a range of sonic emotions would spread his composer wings with more imagination than he does on "Downtown Science." Especially considering the thematic arc of this 12-track song cycle, which apparently serves as somewhat of a love letter to the city he grew up in. Though Block tries to grab you with a wash of rhythmic waves and rolls in the same way his contemporaries like DJ Shadow, Diplo and RJD2 do, this album is hardly on par with "Deadringer" or "The Private Press."
But to its credit, "Science" does have its moments, namely the cop show funk of "Stop Motion Traffic," easily one of his finest beats to date. However, any momentum for an end-to-end burner is quelled by unnecessary forays into gay disco ("The Art of Walking") and bad hair metal power chords ("Good Block Bad Block"). The album comes back around towards the end with such smooth, wintry passages as "The First Snowfall" and the gorgeous closer "Long Walk Home," but it's not enough to save it from becoming lost in your stacks. - Ron Hart