After much anticipation, Michal Menert‘s third studio album is finally here. Spanning 15 tracks of electrosoul goodness, Space Jazz couldn’t have been more appropriately titled. The album marks a turning point in the career of this Colorado beat-smith; while it has solid backbone of sounds that match his existing work, it is also a bevy of new genre blends and musical exploration. Best of all, it was released just in time to nurse us out of the haze of 4/20.
Michal Menert has released Space Jazz via Super Best Records and it is available as a name-your-price download on his Bandcamp page. Our track-by-track album review is below, read on past the jump to get an idea of what awaits you.
‘Lightyears Apart’ serves as the album’s intro and immediately engulfs the listener in a warm glow, sending tingles down your spine as somber cello & violin melodies resonate over crisp percussion. The vibe here is nostalgic, a fusion of the modern and the music of bygone age; Menert and his collaborators kept things simple and soulful, starting things off with a gentle touch.
The funk levels are cranked up a notch as we transition into ‘The Moon Bounce’. Bright, brassy horn lines echo over subtle midrange growls and groovy sample cuts, making the track feel undeniably epic. It’s as if we’ve comfortably reached our cruising altitude and all that’s left is to prepare for the jump to hyperspace.
Imagine looking out the window of your spaceship and seeing our little blue and green planet shrink into the distance, the stars glimmering and glittering around it. ‘High Orbit’ channels that feeling into a sonic expression; utilizing rich textures, an emotion-laden vocal sample, and expert synth-work from Break Science‘s Borahm Lee, the music conveys a sense of ponderousness and longing.
The shift from ‘High Orbit’ to ‘Low Orbit’ feels as you’d expect it to: 100% natural. The evolution of the vibe from one song to the next is completely on point, enhancing the progression of the album. Picking up where the previous track left off, ‘Low Orbit’ quickly builds into slightly more uptempo number featuring the sultry vocals of KEEPLOVE? and a crunchy, synth-fueled breakdown. Buckle up, folks, we’re expecting some turbulence.
Turbulence is natural, though, as we’re entering the atmosphere of a new planet: ‘Planet Tomorrow’. Co-production with ellow electro-soul creator, Manic Focus, sets the stage for a straight up venomous flow from Jubee. This tune truly highlights Menert’s ability to draw influence from multiple genres; the fusion of soul & hip-hop is definitely a specialty of his.
‘Wormhole’ is bit on the weirder, more experimental side of the album. Offbeat drums and wonky bass lines pulse under ambient tones and seemingly random cuts and sound effects. It definitely made us feel like we’d just been sucked into a different dimension.
Michal himself had some choice words to say about this particular number:
Another World was a track I started shortly after Dreaming Of A Bigger Life. I came across a video where Colby Buckler joined me during a vip secret set the first year of Electric forest. The vibe was good, and reminiscent of my previous work, but having a space vibe I searched my archives and brought it back to life, inviting Colby to revitalize his spontaneous live additions to the forgotten piece. Will Glazier added a trumpet solo and horn section arrangement and it became a fitting late addition to Space Jazz.
This track is pure fun and feel-good vibes. Vibrantly plucked cello notes and a healthy dose of bass form the canvas for RA the Rugged Man to spit his lyrical artwork upon. It’s certainly a stand out track, but it feels slightly out of place with the more space-influenced tracks; the arrangement makes for more of a tropical sound.
‘Moon Light’ drops us back into that comfortable, cosmic groove that Space Jazz has been developing up until this point. The focus is on soulful, deep, & emotional composition, and putting it all together was quite the endeavor:
Moonlight was an interesting process, because it stemmed from the snare vibrating from the wurlitzer piano’s speaker. We decide to mic the snare rather than the speaker, and we got a really great gritty tone that filled in the songs atmosphere. JK Soul brought the powerful bridge, which originally had throbbing synths and a great intensity, but I wanted to tone it down with a more organic arrangement, and Matt Van den Heuvel sent the guitar tracks in the last hours of mixing, which tied it all together.
The vibe ‘Moon Light’ set is continued in ‘Shadow of Your Heart’. However, where the previous tune was more focused on soul, the hip-hop side of things is much more emphasized here. C1 lends a supremely smooth vocal flow to the mix, which then progresses to a more sample-based second half.
‘Everything Shines’ is the gateway to the last few tracks of the album; as such, this tune is especially entrancing. We’ve found the gin joint at the end of the universe and their soundtrack is Space Jazz. Sit back and let this blend of funk & RnB soothe even your slightest worries.
This is an aptly named tune, as it feels like the sonic representation of a sunrise: warm, bright, and uplifting. When asked what went into creating it, Michal had this to say:
New Dawn is one of the many songs that started with a sample off vinyl, which coincidentally was out of pitch a bit, but there were so many layers placed on it by the time we realized so we kept it in between actual notes. This happens often in records, and it’s fun realizing you tuned a whole song to a note that’s not really there. Rather than adjusting the individual waves, a tedious process that can yield imperfect transposition, Marcelo tuned his bass to the song when recording.
As we near the end of our cosmic journey, another detour into the realms of wild and weird is thrown into our path. An eclectic fusion of Latin jazz and unconventional bass music production, ‘Asteroids’ comes and goes in a bumpy flash; divert power to the shields!
KEEPLOVE? and C1 both make their second appearances of the album on ‘Sweet Remorse’. A melding of jazz, blues, and hip-hop, the track is filled with raw emotion.
We’ve reached the end of our cosmic journey. Menert finishes off the album with an insanely talented crew of collaborators, including Dominic Lalli from Big Gigantic providing his seductive saxophone brilliance. Space Jazz closes much like it opened, gently and soulfully. The vibe is distinctly different, however, in the sense that ‘Jettison’ has a definite outro sound to it; we could easily imagine it playing as a star-crossed couple blasted off into the sunset, leaving the world they knew behind them.
Overall, Michal Menert‘s new album is a solid piece of work; extremely cohesive, stellar production, and thick vibes worthy of an electrosoul icon like himself. We tip our hats, sir.
And one more thing! If you’re a Bay Area resident looking to catch a live performance from Menert (trust us, they’re fantastic), then don’t miss your chance to catch him at Hawthorn in San Francisco next month! Local bass slingers Tech Minds & Kenz will be opening the night with their own blend of low-end poetry.