If there is one thing I don't like, it's copycats. You know, those artists who claim to make original music but actually just rip off other artists music. This is also why I don't like bands who only play covers. I'll always have more respect for bands or artists who play their own music, even when it sucks. It just gives a certain value of authenticity to those artists. What I can appreciate however, is artists where you can see a clear influence from other artists but who insert their own style into it, and add their own touch to it. And so, we come to Jerboa
Jerboa is a little known hiphop/triphop/whatever-producer hailing from Sint Niklaas, Belgium. He started of as a turntablist but soon turned towards beat-making. The music this man creates on his first full length album Music For My Instruments
shows a definitive similarity to the music of such artists as DJ Shadow and RJD2, seeing as most of it is instrumental. What makes Jerboa worth checking out however, is the fact that he doesn't rip off the style of named artists. Yes, he is also big on sampling, and oh yes, he also has a very profound love for breakbeats, but the difference lies in the fact that he also involves several other musicians in creating the music. This gives his music a certain organic feel. Not every track features as much instrumentation as others. Some are almost completely sampled, others are almost completely composed. This makes the album extremely varied.
Music for my Instruments
starts of with a small intro, called Preface
, dominated by a sweet breakbeat and vocal samples from some French dude who tells us about music. These vocal samples return throughout the album in the interludes, giving the album some sort of a concept: a lesson in music, but we must not take this too seriously, most of those vocal samples are meant to give the album some sort of a loose, witty feel.
After Preface we get the first standout track on the album, The Scramble
, which samples bagpipes playing amazing grace. Soon, this sample disappears however and a heavy, low piano loop comes in. The piano is definitely the backbone for the song as it dominates the entire song. Other samples come in and out (the bagpipes return now and then too), making fans of Endtroducing feeling home immediately. My sole problem with this track is the snare sound which sounds pretty damn awful. The rest of the track makes up for this however.
The Scramble is followed by Au Cinéma
which is without a doubt the absolute highlight of the album. It's over 6 minutes long, but it doesn't get boring at any time. The backbone for this song is an interesting guitar loop and a heavy breakbeat. We get some scratching, some non-sampled guitar playing and a whole lot of different samples throughout the song.
So far, we haven't however heard anything really original in this genre. Both The Scramble and Au Cinéma are songs that could have been made by DJ Shadow, Blockhead and other instrumental hiphop-artists. When it gets really interesting on this album is when Jerboa does something completely different. And that's what White Windows
is. There's two big things here that differentiate it from the two former tracks. Firstly, it has non-sampled vocals provided by a certain guy who calls himself 'Bassman', who has an extremely low voice, he doesn't really sing and he doesn't really rap, I'd say it's spoken word but with very special attention for the rhythm and the music. The music is the second difference from the two former tracks. It's not hiphop, not triphop, it's not funk, nor soul, nor jazz, which you could expect from such an artist. No, White Windows is straight up rock, and it gets quite heavy in the choruses. Soaring guitars and a drum break that is so aggressive but yet so controlled you'd think it's Danny Carey behind the drumset, dominate throughout the chorus. The verses are more laid back, with some vibraphone playing and truly outstanding bass playing (courtesy of Bert Weijters) and Bassman's vocals. White Windows is without a doubt the most original and interesting song on the album.
As you can see, I've been doing a track by track review up till now. I'm gonna abandon that now. Why, you ask? Well, because after White Windows the album loses a bit of speed. The songs get more laid back and relaxed and unfortunately, the high bar Jerboa sets for himself on the first three songs is not kept up. There are no bad songs, but none of them reach the level of the first three tracks. Some songs are however worth mentioning from this block. Signs (Extended Version)
is not an extremely interesting track beatwise, but it features some great, imaginary rapping by Omni. Steady Hand
is notable for the fact that it is indeed a steady track, up until somewhere near the end where suddenly a furious breakbeat kicks in and the song gets almost blown to the tempo of White Windows. Blue Avenue
then, is an interesting track because it features extensive soloing by a bunch of instruments (saxophone, bongos, bass, guitar and lastly rhodes) over an extremely chill, laid back type of beat. Blue Avenue is a venture into the wonderful world of jazz, much like Jerboa's split-EP with DJ Lefto Eardrums the EP
which is also worth checking out but possibly even more impossible to find outside of Belgium. Flying Moods
is a bit similar, but it';s more of a venture into funk, mainly cause of the extremely funky breakbeat and electric piano providing the backbeat for the song. As I already said however, none of the other songs are bad and none of them go below 3.5/5 for me.
Jerboa must have decided to both begin and close his album with his best works. The last two tracks are actually two parts of one track. Drink 'n Drive (pt.1 & 2)
are both very energetic and up-tempo. As you can expect, the tracks are quite similar, but that shouldn't bother, since both of them are so damn dope. Pt. 1 is more driven by electronic sounds, while pt. 2 is more organic sounding (although it still has a whole bunch of electronic sounds in it). Part 2 is definitely the better of the two, it features my favourite drum break on the whole album (that says a lot, Jerboa can rival DJ Shadow breakbeat-wise). Apart from that, Pt.2 also sports a beautiful melody and has some outstanding bass-playing in the later part of the song.
Unfortunately, Jerboa decided to add one more track on both vinyl and cd versions. I don't know about the vinyl version, but the extra track on the cd version messes up the entire ending of the album. It's basically a reprise of all the main themes in the album, but slightly remixed by DJ Lefto. While not being a bad track at all, it just ruins the flow of the album a bit. Luckily, it's at the end, so you can just push stop after Drink 'n Drive Pt. 2 if you'd want to.
So there we have it. Music for my Instruments
is the first full-length outing by Jerboa, and it doesn't disappoint. It's a highly original album in the genre and yet is not too strange to not appeal to slightly more commercial minded listeners. It has bits of everything for everyone, and while lots of albums that change styles between songs give a kinda incoherent feel, this one doesn't. No track follows another one up too strangely and each track has it's own strong points. Not even White Windows seems out of place, it even feels perfectly in place. It's however not a second Endtroducing, nor is it Deadringer Pt. 2. The overall sound seems a bit too humble and it doesn't hit as hard as those albums do. And yet, if this is only the beginning of Jerboa's career I can see him doing big things in the future.
Link (you can download a few shortened versions of the tracks from the album on here, as well as some tracks which aren't on this album):