Raw Poetic: Laminated Skies (Def Pressé) - review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, October 2nd, 2022  

Raw Poetic

Laminated Skies

Def Pressé

Mar 17, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Washington, D.C.-based hip-hop artist Raw Poetic’s (Jason Moore) debut album comes on Def Pressè, a London-based label with a French sounding name. In furtherance of dichotomies, Laminated Skies, in spite of its atmospheric title, is awash in watery tones and images. Add to that an artist whose pedigree was established in an earlier D.C. hip-hop scene, but sings as often as he raps, and one might conclude that Laminated Skies might be overrun with contrasts. Contrasts, yes, but overrun, hardly. Having been literally schooled on 2020’s self-released and overlooked, Ocean Bridges, by his legendary uncle Archie Shepp, Moore here finds a way to incorporate all manner of live instrumentation and manufactured beats as smoothly as he transitions from the spoken word to the sung.

Backed by long time friend and collaborator Damu the Fudgemunk (Earl Davis) on drums, percussion, and old school scratching, Moore fleshes out Laminated Skies further with the addition of Luke Stuart (bass) and Patrick Fritz (guitar). The album may open on something more akin to hip-hop’s classic era of the ’80s and ’90s (“Open Skies”), but Damu’s drum work quickly announces that there is something more fluid at play here. Two tracks later, the album fully hits its stride on the three-song suite of “Ralph Ellison,” “Guide,” and the definitively titled “Intertwined.” A lazily flowing synth line introduces “Ralph Ellison,” and continues to wend and morph its way through to the closing strains of the sandpapery beats of “Intertwined.” “Guide” serves as the album’s blueprint as each instrument enters into the track’s easy going flow with a sly aside to Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back as it goes.

Lyrically, Moore points more to active encouragement than a passive hope. The album was in part inspired by Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and on the track named for the author, Moore highlights Black struggles. Ellison ended up disenchanted with his time enrolled at the historically Black Tuskegee University in the 1930s, where he felt as isolated as he did in society at large. “Can it be that I belong nowhere,” Moore questions, but follows with the more inspiring, “nothing ever vanished in thin air,” as synths swirl and the taps of Damu’s cymbals spatter around him.

The latter half of the album benefits from an extended improvisational piece “Hey Autumn Pt. 1/When Autumn Replied Pt. 2,” that begins tightly composed, but as Moore transitions freely between singing and extended rapped passages, his collaborators go off on a flight of their own. The closer, “Cadillac,” is an openhearted love song that looks equally to the past and the future through trials, hopes, and dreams. Colored with a steady beat and a dream-woven tangle of electric guitar and synths, it shows another approach to Moore’s seamless patchwork design. Having spent a lifetime in and around music, Laminated Skies is a perfect introduction to Moore’s ability to bring disparate parts into harmony. But also a good jumping off point to backtrack to his and Damu’s earlier work. (www.rawpoetic.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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