Review Summary: With ethereal mixtures of jazz instrumentations and electronic elements, Taylor McFerrin creates a masterful and luscious soundscape.
Based in Brooklyn, New York and under the Brainfeeder label, Taylor McFerrin infuses two types of music on "Early Riser" to create calming and captivating compositions. With a musical style that implements both jazz and electronic instruments, one might attribute the sound to the likes of Flying Lotus and similar groups. However, Taylor here centers his focus more on the rich and luscious qualities of both aspects of jazz and electronic music rather than experimentation. Throughout this auditorial adventure, you'll hear a variety of spliced in jazz instrumentations such as percussions, bass, and keys mixed and harmonized with spacey electronic renditions in which Taylor uses to form an alluring soundscape. As the record opens with a variety of ambient sounds on the song "Postpartum", the listener will immediately be enveloped in the musical atmosphere. The minimal keyboard notes, percussion, and background vocals ease the listener as provides context as to what the record holds. The track that follows, "Degrees of Light", is probably the best example of the aforementioned infusion of the two genres as the synthesized elements are in near perfect harmony with the claps and percussive instruments. Despite the first couple of tracks being focused more on instrumentals, a handful of spacey vocal appearances from the likes of Nai Palm, Emily King, and his Taylor's father Bobby McFerrin appear later on this record as well. Originally, Taylor himself intended to sing on the entire record, but later decisions made him decide against it. If the decision was for better or worse, regardless, the appropriately placed guest vocals on tracks such as the lyrically engaging "The Antidote" and the heartfelt "Place In My Heart" effectively complemented the relaxed nature of the accompanying music.
Despite most of the songs on the record possessing a stylistically tranquil theme, you'll also hear some small little ditties in between tracks under the energetic "4 am" and the atmospheric "Blind Aesthetics". As short as these musical interludes may appear, they change up the pace and ultimately liven up the record in terms of the peaceful theme its encompassing. Heading into the latter half of the record, we start to hear more guest vocal performances on tracks like "Decisions" where the theme of the record truly takes off with its exuberant electronic beats intertwined with the background ambiance and pleasant vocals. It's also worth mentioning the usage of ambiance on the track "Invisible/Visible" where the multitude of vocals provided by Bobby McFerrin add to the ambiance of the track as the following keys and strings fittingly conclude the song. Capping off the album is the track "PLS DNT LSTN" with a finale that begins foreboding then leads into a hard-hitting jazz performance that ties the bow on the album's theme. As a whole, while implementing ambient electronic elements with jazz, Taylor manages to bring forth a stunningly adept debut record. The progressing inclusions of instruments per song differentiate how each song stands out from one another on a structural level and gradually lures the listener into its atmospheric realms. As the record manages a relaxing musical theme, though, Taylor adds some flair to the mix with the usage of echoing vocals complemented by well-composed jazz instrumentations and ambient synthesized sounds to provide more than just relaxation, but a dreamy experience. With a soundscape that's both easy on the ears and enthralling, Taylor nails every together to form a masterfully crafted jazz/electronic infused record.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Standout Tracks: Degrees of Light, The Antidote, Decisions, Place In My Heart