Vinyl Vlog 372

Vinyl Vlog 372

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Sunday, 24 February 2019
COLUMN

Makaya McCraven
Universal Beings

(photo: turntablelab.com)

I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t get jazz. In a weird way, I’m sort of proud of it. The reason I’m so attracted to punk rock is because it’s a less heady kind of music. That’s not to say that I don’t know what I like. Maybe I don’t get jazz but I can appreciate Thelonious Monk’s Underground, Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool, and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme even if it’s only at the superficial level. As someone who hasn’t studied jazz or plays any instruments professionally I might never be able to understand these albums but I know I like them. Of course I’m unqualified to talk about jazz, but I want to tell you about albums I’m enjoying, so that’s why I’m writing about Universal Beings.

Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings is definitely a large dish to digest. There’s just a lot to absorb and unpack here. In the span of two LPs recorded live in different locations with different lineups, it goes all over the place. At times it sounds mellow, grounded, and familiar, other times it’s cosmic, psychedelic, and unconventional. And you’ll never be able to hear it coming mostly due to the consistently great recording throughout this compilation. McCraven is a drummer and it’s great to hear a jazz album where the drums aren’t just buried in the background, but front and center yet not overbearingly loud. There are a lot of instruments here but they blend together seamlessly, in a way that sounds cohesive, raw, and organic (probably due to the live nature of these performances). Universal Beings sounds like a jazz album but also like a hip hop album with beats that are remarkably straightforward, until McCraven goes on a wild journey with his fills and climactic moments. It’s really an outstanding listen. Another thing I appreciate about Universal Beings is that it’s actually able to grab my attention in certain moments instead of just playing over my head. I dare you not to drop what you’re doing during the apex of Prosperity’s Fear.

Universal Beings sounds like it’s keenly aware of its predecessors yet still manages to sounds fresh and new. It’s managed to shape itself into a unique listen instead of being completely derivative. That doesn’t just make it a good album, but also a cool album. And what would be cooler than the vinyl edition? This is a double LP housed in beautiful gatefold and an obi strip for a nice touch. There’s a certain appeal to having this vinyl record in a collection where it will definitely be a highlight. At least you’ll seem like a scholar for having it there.

Universal Beings is not just a great album. It’s also a cool album with a wide appeal. Highly recommended.

Get it from International Anthem.

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