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Yesterday’s New Quintet: Yesterday’s Universe

Yesterday’s Universe (Stones Throw) by Yesterday’s New Quintet, an experimental/jazz collective headed by underground uber-producer Madlib, is a record that offers both a musical glimpse into the future and also a glance into the past. With this album, Madlib has compiled appealing insturmental tracks by the various artists and groups that work together under the Yesterday’s New Quintet moniker, resulting in an exciting mish-mash of experimental, free-form and acid jazz topped off with a Hip-Hop sensibility. The tracks on this album take the listener through a sonic tour of Madlib’s leftfield taste in music; as each track is slightly stranger than the other, however the common thread that holds the album together is eccentricity. The Young Jazz Rebels’ “Slave Riot” sounds like a Mad Max post-apocalyptic rendition of a Medeski, Martin and Wood jam session. With the off kilter drumming, menacing bass and sci-fi sound effects, this tune gives you an idea of what jazz could sound like in the year 2050.  The Jazzistics “Martin, Marcus and Malcolm” provides a more traditional flow that would not be out of place being played in the background at your local Starbucks or martini lounge. Another track that has an old, throwback feel similar to vintage John Coltrane (Madlib namedrops him frequently) is “Umoja (Unity)” by The Jahari Massamba Unit. The track has a relaxed, airy vibe that is created with light drumming and breezy saxophones bouncing off one another. The track leaves a smile on your face, plain and simple.  The only track on the album that at a first listen, would make one realize that Madlib was actually involved in this project is “Sunny C (California)” by Ahmad Miller. The track would fit perfectly onto the forthcoming Madvillian project as you can almost hear Doom spitting over the blunted beat. If you are looking for to expand your musical tastes and take a break from the mundane commercial rap currently flooding the market, then give “Yesterday’s Universe” a quick listen. Madlib (as the head of Yesterday’s New Quintet) puts together an album that simultaneously gives a brief jazz history lesson and also a peek of what may lay ahead in this exciting musical form. This album may not be for every rap or music fan (much like a lot of the music released on the Stones Throw label); but at the very least Yesterday’s Universe will open a door wide open for you. It’s up to you however, if you want to step through and explore.

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