Review Summary: upbeat, downbeat, everything in betweenThe 5th Exotic
, Will Holland's debut album, is vibrant and visual; it delivers a solid body of work blending jazz, funk, hip-hop, and soul influences. Regardless of diversity in influences, it stays grounded because of Holland's uncanny ability to consistently form interesting drum loops, which brand songs on The 5th Exotic
his own, as well as keep them jointly tuned to each other. Holland's mastery is particularly exemplary considering The 5th Exotic
's modest beginnings: his bedroom and laptop. Low-key production notwithstanding, Holland sets this album apart from other contemporary break-beat, chill-out, and trip-hop albums by seamlessly combining electronica with vivid, almost human qualities through acoustic instruments, electronic instruments and well-positioned samples. His fusion of organic and inorganic, unprocessed and processed, synthetic and non-synthetic emits clever contrast.
However, if there's anywhere The 5th Exotic
misses, it's inflexibility, often repeating structural forms. Holland takes the album similar places with homologous attributes and personalities. Even so, he varies them slightly with changes in emphasis, either intensifying or muting certain elements. The drum beats, turned up and toned down, allow for good variety. In “Life in the Rain,” drums seem enhanced by sprawling synths. Similarly, dark “Long Road Ahead,” features heavy drums and sub-bass that feel bigger amidst a calmer surrounding. In contrast, drums fall back on “The 5th Exotic” and groovy “Common Knowledge,” playing in an essential but muted capacity; rather than carry tracks, they complement, letting vocal samples, sax, brass, guitar and assorted synthetic material attain their bright spots.
Although The 5th Exotic
consistently delivers musically interesting work, it has two stand-out tracks that soar beyond. After the mellow, intriguing introduction to “Infinite Regression,” the song grows with strong, resounding arpeggios that repeat themselves with simplicity but compelling vibrancy. Then, the highlight of the album, “Time is the Enemy,” has unanticipated distortion that cuts through crisp piano, creating terrific contrast, which keeps on impressing as clean melodies repeat and eventually transition into uncharted levels.
All in all, although really captivating and self-examining moments of this album sporadically appear, The 5th Exotic
maintains great quality throughout. It gradually changes from upbeat, controlled chaos in the beginning to hypnotic and trippy to a brooding, but satisfying finish; an appreciated end to a cleverly executed listen.
Recommended Tracks: "Time is the Enemy," "The Picture Inside," "Infinite Regression," "In the Key of Blue"