This 9-track debut is the brainchild of Chicago musician and producer Will Miller and released on the incredibly hip and innovative International Anthem record label, also based in Chicago. Here, Miller assembles an extensive line-up of players to contribute to the project but the core group consists of Lane Beckstrom on bass, Irvin Pierce on saxophone, Akenya Seymour playing keys and on vocals, both Peter Manheim and Jeremy Cunningham on drums with Miller himself playing trumpet and synthesisers.
The album begins with the appropriately titled, ‘Intro’, with its gorgeous female harmonies and lush, sweeping string parts which support to introduce the rest of the forthcoming album and its sonic temperament. ‘Resavoir’ initially delves into what could be described as modern fusion with its guitar-like improvisational runs (played via synths) and stimulating saxophone licks, before it diverts and embraces an almost drone influenced second half with coastal soundscapes and loose synthesiser pads. A personal favourite, ‘Taking Flight’, features the omnipresent Brandee Younger on harp, combined with melodic flute and horns during the chorus and a double-time drum pattern making this one of the few DJ friendly pieces of the set.
The atmospheric ‘Plantasy’ is a piano and horn lead but percussion-less composition filled with dynamics but with a loose arrangement. It possesses a cinematic quality reminiscent of many contemporary film score composers. ‘Clouds’ at 1’11” may be influenced by Steve Reich and his seminal ‘Clapping Music’ composition from 1972, which then segues perfectly into ‘Woah’ which also features hand claps as its foundation, before the synth textures and other melodic elements are introduced. ‘Illusion’ is another drum-less piece and continues with the film music framework that most of the album also encapsulates.
‘Escalator’ includes the rap-come-poetic vocals of Sen Morimoto for this quite bouncy dance floor number, which reminds one of the more club-based compositions emerging out of the young UK jazz scene. Here, Morimoto recounts waking up “…Wednesday on another planet with a different language”, over a driving Afro-beat groove. Final track, ‘LML’, reminds this writer of early Little Dragon, with its sparse downtempo instrumentation and slightly quirky vocals from Akenya Seymour who graciously exalts, ‘I love my life and it’s not over’, during its short 2’25” duration.
As per other releases on International Anthem, much of the production happens during the post-recording stage with various editing, overdubbing and multi-tracking techniques applied. This allows producer Will Miller additional opportunities to experiment with the recorded material in a more sample-based context, which is also present in Miller’s other role as a contributor to many contemporary hip hop recordings, such as those by artists including A$AP Rocky and Lil Wayne.
This debut by Miller is extremely creative and reinforces the growing musical climate for inventiveness and innovation, although, this is a very easy listen and not heavily experimental by its nature. Nonetheless, some of the ideas and themes presented deviate from many modern jazz-based recordings, including its more ‘cut and paste’ aesthetic, although, it still maintains an organic musical environment throughout. Highly recommended.