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Saturday, December 28, 2013

[Best of 2013] AUDIBLE DOCTOR - "The Summer Tape"

Over the coming days, leading up the start of the new year, I intend to revisit and review some of the finest albums of 2013. As of now, they are in no particular order although the final three reviews will also reflect my top 3 albums of the past year... First out in this review series is The Audible Doctor's "The Summer Tape". Read on...

From late 2012 and all through 2013 The Audible Doctor quickly rose to one of my absolute favorite producers working today. While even some of my all time favorites have been caught slacking off lately, The Good Doctor just seems to be getting better and better with each song and project he releases. Just to mention some of his most oustanding work of the year, there were the several singles with Fredro Starr that managed to capture everything that made me fall in love with hip-hop in the first place, the majority of the many stand outs he produced for Neek The Exotic's "Hustle Don't Stop", the stellar instrumental album "Doctorin", overseen and co-signed by no lesser producer than the great Large Professor. 

Although I had heard many of Audible Doctor's productions before, I believe the first actual solo release that I heard from front-to-back was his EP "The Winter Tape", released in late 2012. Although it was only four tracks long and clocking in at a mere 12 minutes, I was in total awe by how the music captured the feeling of a cold, dark, snowy winter date and there were plenty of days during that winter that EP became the soundtrack to my train rides, looking out at the cold winterlandscape outside. The music was beautifully written and arranged - constantly hard and gritty, mostly based on samples and with a real steet-edge to it. Synths and keyboards, pumping drums and bass, and the ocassional chopped up vocal sample. As far as the rappers appearing on the EP they were all capable, but except for Has-Lo's joint there was no question that this was Audible Doctor's show - who right then and there proved to me that he was a true auteur producer.

I had high hopes we would get a new EP with each new season, and although the spring left me fiending the summer brought not only warm weather and beautiful days but also another seasons EP. Entitled "The Summer Tape", Mr. Audible here upped the ante by including twice as many tracks as its winter themed predecessesor, including a bonus track only available on the physical version of the record (which in true retro fashion is available on cassette only). What's most fantastic about "The Summer Tape" is that it is the exact opposite of "The Winter Tape" in that it evokes everything that is beautiful about the warmth and easieness about those long beautiful summer days throughout. The samples are a lot more soulful, with the use of horns, vocal samples, keys, and laid back grooves dominating and creating a musical enviroment that's the equivallent of feeling the sun shining on your face. To be able to create not only a feeling, but invoke the beauty of one of the year's season and stick to the script throughout the entire project speaks volumes on A.D.'s skills as a master of manipulating sounds and samples in creating entire worlds and images. While "The Winter Tape" presented a harsher, grittier and distinctly colder sound, this EP finds much of it warmth from the soul music of the '70s and the few key instruments mentioned above. 

The opening track "Wings Part 2" is full-blown soul hip-hop, with beautifully sung vocal hook by Francessca underlining the smooth layers of rhythm/bass combination and sparse use of strings. On here Audible Doctor makes an emcee apperance of his own which he does with finesse as his voice and cadence is just right for this smooth beat and manages to present several memorable lines. This is followed by "The Vibe", that was not only the first single from the project but is also one of the sickest songs on the EP. After a short piano introduction we enter a funky musical world with guitars, filtered bass/drums, horns and once again several vocal samples is weaved in to the music while MMG's Oddisee and Hassaan Mackey trade high quality bars. The Guilty Simpson vehicle "Get 'Em" (which also features a verse by A.D. himself) is another one of the albums strongest tracks; I'm not sure if we've heard Simpson over an Audible Doctor beat previously, but this track is ample proof of what an excellent union they form and I would love to hear an entire album between these two. The hard drums and equally gritty vocals provided by Guilty creates an interesting counterpoint with the lighter string and bass melody, punctured by the repeatitive female vocal and half-a-horn samples. A suprise comes from the second verse being performed by the Doc himself, who manages to hold his own without problem. I could go on and comment on every song but I wont, but simply stay at they are all on some heavy shit - Audible Doctor is presenting eight different takes on the same theme without ever getting repetitive. One main improvement over the first EP is the presence of some of the finest emcees around today, like the aforementioned Oddisee and Hasaan Mackey, to Guilty Simpson, Edo G, Chaundon, Kurious, and an incredible lyrical meeting between Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Homeboy Sandman. 

The two season themed EP:s (which I by the way strongly recommend listening to back-to-back as it works great as a short album) is the finest solo releaes yet from a hip-hop wizard who is rapidly growing into one of the best producers of our time. I would love, and do hope, to see future installments in this series, and if a "Spring Tape" and "Fall Tape" ever gets released, a 2xLP set of all material would undoubtedly get my money. Take a listen to a stream of the tape below, and reminisce of your finest summer moments of this past year.

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