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Album Review

After the unqualified critical, chart, sales, and Grammy successes of the Robert Glasper Experiment's two Black Radio albums, remixes, and singles, the need to explore was requisite. ArtScience is a reflection of the qualities and musical interests that brought this band together. Their seamless meld of contemporary jazz, hip-hop, neo-soul, pop, and rock has influenced a host of artists following in their wake. This album marks a new modus operandi: it's the first time the band has written and produced collectively. (Even the two covers here were arranged by the unit.) It's also a first in that there are no guest vocal cameos. The set was recorded in New Orleans over two weeks apart from the endless touring and hustling solo careers of its members. While press materials advertise this as a "free" RGE album, its sounds are completely rooted in the group's signature. "This Is Not Fear" spends the first minute and a half engaged in aggressive post-bop improvisation; it shapeshifts into a hip-hop rhythm with sampled member introductions. The jazz angle is tight; one wishes this aspect of the track would have developed further. Glasper takes the vocal on the slippery "Thinkin' About You," the first of several songs about relationships here. He's not the best singer, but the dreamy neo-soul cum jazz groove more than compensates. "Day to Day" is smooth postmodern disco with a bumping bassline by Derrick Hodge. "No One Like You," at over nine minutes, is the Glasper Experiment at their most expansive, melding their various individual strengths in crisscrossing several genres. Benjamin's excellent sopraono saxophone solo is icing on the cake. The arrangement of Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" is closer to Quincy Jones' 1978 pop-soul version; it's not as lush, but Glasper delivers a gorgeous Rhodes solo. "Find You," with its skittering meld of EDM, funk, and prog rock, is classic Derrick Hodge — it could easily have appeared on his The Second. He takes the lead vocal while guest Mike Severson adds a smoking guitar break amid a labyrinth of changes. The band gets back on the jazz tip for "In My Mind," containing a shifting harmonic center and knotty syncopation driven by Mark Colenburg's breaks. "Hurry Slowly' balances Steely Dan's intricate, infectious melodic sensibilities with spacy indie pop. "Written in Stone" (also with Severson) weaves together Bowie-esque pop, new wave, and spacy funk. The set closes with a thoroughly reimagined (and not tongue-in-cheek) neo-soul read of Human League's "Human," executed in grand RGE style with stacked production layers and taut, snapping hip-hop breaks by Colenburg. ArtScience is an excellent step forward. The range of material covers an expansive creative terrain—often mirroring the experimental directions the band pursues live—without sacrificing accessibility. While it's another example of RGE's particular brand musical synthesis or "fusion," it presents a new framework for future exploration and discovery.

Customer Reviews

This is our fault………..

As a true fan for well over a decade or more it's very obvious that Glasper has descended deep into a self induced decline. This album however is our fault (the fans). We should have offered more transparent criticism of Black Radio 1; when he started to go left. I have no problem with a good experiment, however when a concoctions does not work, you throw it out. Black Radio 2 was the warning shot across the bow but a few jams manipulated us into pacification.

If you look at the last two albums he has more than two dozen guests that have a major industry presence and their own unique style. Melding that all together at once has created…..well this….a mess. Dont believe me? Listen to his discography prior to BR1. RGE needs to stop placating to the masses in an attempt to win over their approval . This means, LESS singing and MORE Jamming. Scratch that….this means STOP singing and START jamming (again).

Excited

RGE is one of my all time favorite bands. There are plenty of jazz artists that remain faithful to straight ahead jazz, which is a GREAT thing. However, I think the fact that newer jazz artists are exploring and experimenting with the sound is something that should be applauded. Those who are strictly straight ahead will most likely remain that way. And those that want to expand and grow, in terms of how they present their sound, have every right to do so. I'm excited to hear this new work from RGE!

Not this time

I was so excited about his new album that I purchased it without even previewing it....big mistake. This was nothing like I expected! What is that? Auto-tune?! Missed the mark on this one. I still LOVE Black Radio 1 & 2. This will get VERY little play though.

Biography

Formed: 2007

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s, '10s

A quartet centered around jazz pianist Robert Glasper, the Robert Glasper Experiment originally featured bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Chris Dave (from the pianist's acoustic trio), and Casey Benjamin on saxes and vocoder. They made their debut on one half of Glasper's two-disc Double Booked for Blue Note in 2009. While the first half featured Glasper's acoustic trio, the Experiment contrasted on the other, incorporating elements of neo-soul, hip-hop, and jazz-funk into their sound. The Experiment...
Full Bio