Review Summary: Overlooked compilation album from NujabesModal Soul Classics
is a compilation album attributed to the late lo-fi hip-hop pioneer Nujabes. The fourteen tracks on this album, all by different artists, were compiled and mastered by Nujabes via his record label Hydeout Productions. Released in 2008, three years after Nujabes' second album Modal Soul
, this compilation represents the music that inspired Nujabes during the conception of his own album, of which this album's namesake was drawn. Similar to Nujabes' Hydeout Productions Collections
, Modal Soul Classics
is composed of unrelated songs that share a prevailing lo-fi and jazzy aesthetic.
A breakdown of the album by predominant genres (feel free to dispute any of these classifications) sees 3 jazz (To Impress the Empress
), 1 jazz-rock (Vem Para Ficar
), 2 electronic pop-rock (A Dream Goes on Forever
), 5 instrumental/new-age hip-hop (Atoll Moao
, Winter Lane
, Blue Asia
), 2 rap songs (Under the Hood
, Sound Network
), and 1 long spoken-word poetry track (Children
). Anyone who is familiar with Nujabes' music knows that these genres define his own work, and hearing individual songs of each genre, especially ones that influenced Nujabes directly, makes it feel as if one is listening to the building blocks that constructed the artist's legacy. This is not to understate the value of each song on the album though; in fact, every track on Modal Soul Classics
is strong in its own right, and tells a story of its own.
If I felt I could condense it into an appropriate length – which I do not – I would write a review describing each individual track, and how every single one of them lead me to further inquiring about the artist(s) behind these tracks, which lead me even further to delving into full albums and even discographies by these artists. Nujabes loved not only creating music, but listening to it as well; and with the pedestal that he was always shy about acquiring during his lifetime, he used Modal Soul Classics
to share his findings with as many fellow music-lovers as he could. Modal Soul Classics
was Nujabes' bag of seeds, which he distributed and allowed to bloom through his listeners via our curiosity to discover new music.
The title "Modal Soul
" has been discussed since Nujabes released his second album, and to spare everyone an explanation of the common word "soul", I share a definition of the less common word "modal", as follows: "modal – adj. – Relating to mode or form as opposed to substance" (Dictionary.com). Modal Soul
is a modular album in its own right (as well as a soulful one), but I feel that Modal Soul Classics
arguably works the title better. If I'm equating "substance" from the definition to plot or cohesion, this compilation album, as a compilation album, lacks both, while Modal Soul
, a properly streamlined LP, ironically contains both. This is not to undermine Modal Soul Classics
as jumbled, but rather, I see it as Nujabes fully realizing the meaning of his own phrase "modal soul". He did decide to keep it in the title after all, instead of naming it literally anything else.
Nujabes never faltered in terms of quality with his music, whether he was creating it, producing it, or compiling it. Modal Soul Classics
has become overlooked in his discography over the years, in favor of his three studio albums (including the one posthumous), his Hydeout Productions Collections
, and even his work for the Samurai Champloo anime. But Modal Soul Classics
upholds the consistency of his body of work, and fans of Nujabes are doing themselves a disservice by dismissing this album when they find out that the music here is not his own. Even that statement doesn't seem true though, as the spirit of Nujabes lives and breathes through these classics as if he had never left us.