Boomkat Product Review:
Slauson Malone lands on Warp with a streamlined set that carries through on some of the ideas he presented on his exceptional first two albums. Taking inspiration from Wendy Carlos and the seemingly endless pain of heartbreak, he tangles prog with jazz, dub reggae, hip-hop, neo-classical experimentation, ambient music and indie pop. RIYL Animal Collective, L'Rain, Basil Kirchin, Jai Paul.
Based in Los Angeles, multi-disciplinary artist Jasper Marsalis soaks up some of the city's slanted sunshine on 'EXCELSIOR', an erratic, ambitious album that polishes some of the rough edges off his earlier, coarser gear. Marsalis comes from a long line of celebrated jazz players, but while jazz is present in the air around the album, it's obscured by a voracious hunger for cultural interconnection. On 'No! (Geiger Dub)', for example, he slaps a reduxed version of the Sleng Teng riddim over a silky smooth '50s pop croon and harpsichord prangs, and lead single 'New Joy' sounds like a mid-point between Slint, Animal Collective and Earl Sweatshirt. Marsalis's musical literacy is his sharpest weapon, and just as the OG prog heads tried to figure out the overlapping points between jazz, classical music, folk and rock 'n roll, he does the same with a P2P/streaming-era mindset.
From track to track, it's impossible to predict where 'EXCELSIOR' might go; at the beginning, the touted Wendy Carlos influences are hard to track, but as soon as we hit 'Fission for Drums, Piano & Voice' it becomes completely clear. Here, Marsalis winds terrifying, pitch-bent strings and electro-acoustic piano vamps around a ghostly voice, signaling 'The Shining', but not too directly. Meanwhile, on 'I Hear A New World', he drives his own chipmunked vocals into the kind of ornate harpsichord jangles that you'd expect to hear on one of Trunk's dusty library finds. 'Voyager' is weirder still, shimmering from childlike analog synth, electric piano and thumb piano twangs into low-slung, concrète funk. On 'Divider', the Wendy Carlos sound is presented in full 16:9, with brassy Moog blasts underpinning Marsalis's Quasimoto-isms, and when we reach 'Decades, Castle Romeo', he curves jazz-faded emo emotionality into exotica orchestrals.
At times gloriously confusing and at others peculiarly harmonious, 'EXCELSIOR' is a daring fusion of ideas, attitudes and emotions that reads like a diary written in illuminated lettering. The extravagant ornamentation is part of the appeal.