Here’s a happy little hip-hop rectangle for those with old cars or new decks. Greetings from Spring Break Tapes Vol. 1 is a breezy introduction to a new label, showcasing the work of 10 artists who love their roots – funk, soul, R & B – but are eager to let the 21st century drummer get wicked. This means samples and loops, deep bass, tinny snares, head-nodding rhythms. Who cares if the summer’s ending in the U.S.? These Stateside artists would be glad to hear their music blasting through the open windows of your late-nineties jalopy.
The cassette operates as a mix tape in the old fashioned way: it’s not mixed, but it’s a collection of like-minded tracks that segue smoothly. Wah-wahs and twinkles join filtered voice box and light dubstep on Sunclef’s closing track “The Lefts”, proving that while the song references an earlier time, it could not have been produced before now. The same is true throughout the album: Lazioh’s “Laz” may feature Casio-sounding organ tones and a drum machine, but its carousel-like rhythms and Omar Santana-esque edits are combined with unusual mid-song fades and splinters of sultry vox. Dr. Quandary’s “Varanasi” consistently trips over its own horn sample, allowing static remnants to spin around its grooves, forever entwined with its original partner. Elaquent’s “Sepia Tone” works wonders with a pair of string samples, sounding somewhat like early Aim and eventually descending into a sweet sitar and tabla duet. The latter three happen to be my personal favorites, but other readers will easily find their own. The joy is knowing that these selections are but a taste of things to come; Don Cash and Junior Pande, featured here, already have cassette releases on the label, with a second Junior Pande release to come. Fans of instrumental hip-hop who like their 70s blended with their 90s and 10s will find bountiful beats to bob to here. (Richard Allen)