Metaform
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
August 11th, 2008 | 24 replies | 12,837 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The SECOND best instrumental hip hop / trip hop album of 2008.

Metaform - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

For me, 2008 has been a year of dipping my quill deep into instrumental hip hop ink. About three months ago, having been disappointed with the highly regarded hip hop releases of the year (Why?, The Roots, Lil Wayne) as well as some new releases by old favorites (Immortal Technique, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien) I decided to go on an epic quest for good, new hip hop. The result was a treasure trove of instrumental hip hop and trip hop. Ayatollah's Louder, Blue Sky Black Death's Late Night Cinema, and Flying Lotus' Los Angeles have kept me happy. Possibly the best of the new music I've discovered is Metaform's Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, a 19-track, 45-minute journey through eclectic blends of soul, jazz, r&b, trip hop, hip hop, and electronica.

Metaform, like most sprawling, sample-centric instrumental hip hop albums is the product of one man with a deep sense of hip hop's musical family tree who is willing to spend countless hours in his studio working out the minute details of each track. As wikipedia editorializes it, "[h]e spent five years in deep isolation from friends and family while recordind the intrumental opus, [Standing on the Shoulders of Giant]." The "one man" in this equation is Justice Aaron, whose own personal history seems to point to the diverse sensibility required to create such a pastiche of sounds. He has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and most recently Tokyo, and his style, while not necessarily globetrotting, certainly has an all-encompassing feel to its influences, which suits Aaron's telling moniker, Metaform.

The actual mixture comes across as a more downtempo and trip hop rendition of ideas developed by RJD2. The brassy pomp of the chorus on "Ghostwriter" would be slowed down and made more soulful and pensive on Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. The opening track of the album "Rock It Number Nine" perfectly encompasses this sound. Despite the stacatto trumpet samples, the track's backbone is a languid collection of congas, bongos, a drum set, and a legato xylophone melody. The smooth groove is luxuriously detailed with vocal samples and little electronic breaks that add an edge to the otherwise chill track. "Barbie Doll," despite its tranced-out opening, moves into a sludgy drum beat with a distorted, synthesized bass in the background. As the song progresses string and horn samples are added to the mix. The slick guitar riffs of the track "Crush" immediately recall the verses to RJD2's "Ghostwriter" and the standard hip hop beat underneath enthuses that vibe, though on top of that, vocals, flute, and saxophone seriously morph the vibe, making the track more slinky and seductive.

However, this album is not just one big, syrupy collection of trip hop. There is quite a bit of variety. "Pch" is a slightly dubbed funk track, replete with funk breaks, saxophone fills, wah-wah guitar, and some programmed breakbeats, making this sound like a Venetian Snares track more than a DJ Shadow one. Similarly, "Brick and Mortar" lets the synth and beat run wild, creating a bombastic electronica track on top of the hip hop backbone. The final track on the album, "Love and Loss" is a bubbling, but soft synth track that would fit in fine on M83's Dead Cities... LP. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants is not vaudeville in its variety, as all of the tracks are cohesive, but I also get the feeling that Metaform was reluctant to just pump out trip hop jams for 45-minutes, resulting in an album that wonderfully balances homogeneity and heterogeneity.

Where the album loses points is in the songwriting department. The songs are highly detailed and the production values are nearly flawless. All of the melodies and beats interweave elegantly. All of the tracks are very catchy, yet also challenging. However, the album as a whole feels flat. The song lengths are all hovering around the 2-4 minute mark, excepting a few interlude tracks, resulting in an album that feel like a collection of songs rather than an aesthetic journey. That, coupled with the fact that those actual songs are just wonderful refinements of existing ideas in hip hop rather than experimental or new ideas, makes the album feel like it doesn't fully realize its potential. Aaron is talented producer with awesome taste, but when held up against epic grooves by the likes of DJ Shadow or more recently, Blue Sky Black Death, his style feels like it isn't aspiring for more than optimizing the RJD2 model, which is more a shame than anything else.

Ultimately, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants both succeeds and fails for the reasons implied by the album title; Metaform is producing music that is at or above that of the giants of the genre, but he is not yet a pillar of the genre himself. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants is certainly a top-shelf hip hop album and deserves the respect it's been getting, but Metaform still has a way to go before he trumps Endtroducing.



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user ratings (51)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
timbo8
August 11th 2008



618 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice review. I gotta get this, it sounds amazing

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 11th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

FYI: http://worshipandtributemedia.blogspot.com/2008/08/instrumental-hip-hop-double-feature.html

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
August 11th 2008



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed with this almost entirely. Let's team up more often.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 11th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Haha, for sure dude. Starsky and Hutch review two NSDM albums.

P13
August 11th 2008



1327 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I am currently enjoying Blue Sky Black Death's new album, so I shall download this

P13
August 12th 2008



1327 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

and yes, it doesn't disappoint

PatchworkNeurology
August 12th 2008



352 Comments


Definatly digging this way more than Blue Sky Black Death.

Rocksolid.

As The Roots Undo
August 13th 2008



1 Comments


hmmm

InsertTacosHere
August 13th 2008



153 Comments


This is a great review. I can't wait to hear it.

mariovulto
August 13th 2008



4 Comments


Finally someone who really appreciates and understands hip hop.
Try Bonobo, Amon Tobin and Morcheeba.. You might enjoy!
Please let me know when you find more albuns like this. I'm also always looking for new artists.

Mario

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 14th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ya I know Bonobo and Amon Tobin. Haven't heard Morcheeba. Will check it out.

chickenfish
August 14th 2008



1008 Comments


So, is there any 'Trip-Hop' that isn't good?

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 14th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Prolyphic / Reanimator is pretty bad I think.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2008



15693 Comments


Mezzanine

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2008



6073 Comments


Prolyphic / Reanimator

whatThis Message Edited On 08.14.08

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 14th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ya I never really liked Massive Attack. P/R I think is more or less trite, overly epic trip hop.

P13
August 16th 2008



1327 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

need.. more.. trip hop

Iai
Emeritus
August 16th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Morcheeba are not good.

P13
August 17th 2008



1327 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i feel like a conformist but i completely agree with the ratings

chickenfish
August 24th 2008



1008 Comments


This album is so sweet to listen too. I love hearing it on drives, when the car is completely silent.
Being blazed helps as well.



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