In case you missed it, El Michael's Affair, a band made up of musicians from other New York soul revival outfits like the Mighty Imperials and The Dap Kings, has been putting in time as the Wu Tang Clan's live backing band. In person, they are fantastic, and it really adds to the energy of the show and allows for some back and forth between emcees and musicians. On the heels of this foray into the world of Wu Tang, El Michael has decided to record an album of Wu Tang instrumentals. The results are mixed, as would any instrumental album that was not originally planned as an instrumental. Some tracks have enough going on that you don't miss the vocals, others seem a little flat and incomplete without vocals. The album does have Kung Fu movie interludes, which I'm kind of on the fence about. On the one hand, it obviously tips the album more toward the Wu Tang aesthetic. On the other, it takes away from the organic experience of the album. At this point, I'm not really sure which way I'm leaning, as far as preference goes. Which brings me to the point of how one might listen to this album. One way is to appreciate the Wu Tang aesthetic, the production that RZA has been laying down as a foundation to the group's sound. In that regard, you really get a sense of how RZA effectively creates laid-back pieces of music that somehow are urgently moving forward. The music manages to be both soulful and haunting. Another way to listen to this album is as a straight forward instrumental funk/R&B album. In that sense, one of the first things that will hit you is how tight the band is. They are able to find deep grooves on every track they play on, giving the album a warmth and soulfulness that is not easy to achieve amongst a large ensemble. While some tracks don't give them much room to work with, such as the opener, “Duel of the Iron Mics,” when they get a song that has some movement to it, such as “Uzi (Pinky Ring),” they can really get cooking. It's an interesting album, to say the least. On repeated listens, it certainly does grow on you, and I certainly believe this will stay in rotation for a while.
|Title:||El Michael's Affair - Enter the 37th Chamber|