Born and raised in the culturally rich environs of San Francisco, the now Brooklyn-based artist born James Harmon Stack cut his musical teeth as a jazz drummer, but it wasn't until he entered the world of solo production at the age of 16 that he found the freedom necessary to write and record how he wanted.
Following time spent in New Orleans, James moved to New York in summer of 2012, and started the slow process of sketching, refining, and developing the diverse tracks that would make up his captivating LP. In every corner of Tell Me I Belong, you can hear an artist who equally reveres classic jazz musicians like John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, experimental pioneers like Steve Reich, Detroit techno greats Omar-S and Robert Hood, and contemporary boundary pushers Arca, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Actress. Recommended for fans of: Burial, Jamie XX, Nosaj Thing, Shlohmo, Kingdom
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Tempted by a gorgeous soundclip on some website or other I was pretty excited to hear this record although it took until track three for my ears to really prick.
It opens swith some sweet synth that would fitted perfectly with the 36 album I’ve just been listening to. I’m less keen on the scattered drum machine and vocal of ‘Run’ and spent my time waiting for a melody that never arrived. ‘Below’ though is the first moment where the album lives up to expectations with some garagey two step beats joined by a vocal sample and some gorgeous drifting synths. This is what I’m talking abaaaaart. Like a Burial on happy pills the track utilises a simple three note synth pattern adding some gorgeous sounds along the way. Truly great. ‘Reassuring’ the track I heard earlier - nice simple piano notes are joined by slo-mo vocal sample on some lovely clipped downtronica which will appeal to fans of the early vocal-less James Blake stuff. This San Francisco producer has a background as a jazz drummer before turning his attention to the electronic world and the instrumental jazzy loveliness of the likes of Flying Lotus and Taylor McFerrin are in evidence particularlyon the cuts towards the tail end of side one.
There’s a couple of harder edged tunes on the B side that I’m not feeling quite so much, ‘Without’ edges towards Disclosure territory, with the dreaded autotune in evidence, closer ‘Wake’ stripping everything back to bring back the haunting Burial moments of the A side back into view. The album is a mixed bag I feel, a handul of killer tracks are littered with some off piste experiments that just don’t hold up to the better moments. A frustrating but promising first effort.
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