Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Why hip-hop duo Art of Fresh aren’t bigger in Toronto is a real head-scratcher. Juno-winning producer Bryam “Slakah the Beatchild” Joseph, after all, has helmed many a track for the likes of Justin Nozuka, Divine Brown, and Drake. And MC Duane “Defy The Odds” Gibson has his own modest claim to fame: oh, nothing really, just the Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle rap, like, ever (eight hours and forty-five minutes, no less).
It’s all good, though; on their sophomore LP, When The Night Comes In (out today via Northstarr), these Sarnia mic vandals uncloak a new strategy to make them blow: sound as unique as possible by mixing a bunch of disparate-ass shit together. So they take some boom-bap beats and toss them in a Magic Bullet with some jazzy chords and the sketchiest electro house sounds this side of Comfort Zone. Weird, right? You know what’s weirder? It actually sounds good.
Fat, juicy analogue synths and vocoded hooks melt over four-on-the-floor rhythms while D.O. and Slakah trade witty, ‘90s backpack rap–informed sixteens about good times (“Alive”), actualized dreams (“Where I Go”), and fly apparel (“Good Shoes,” featuring Melanie Durant). Really, by comparison to their 2007 debut Back To Earth, the duo’s M.O. has basically remained unchanged: create chilled out, danceable, soul-infused hip-hop tunes with wide-ranging appeal. Except, this time, they’ve stretched it even wider; some moments sound downright Daft Punk–y (“Electrodisfunktions”), while elsewhere, homeboys even throw some bossa nova into the mix (“Baila”)!
Of course, they also take a break from the whole hepped-up-on-goofballs-at-some-after-hours-lounge-in-Ibiza vibe to employ more straightforward hip-hop arrangements; “Scenario pt 1” nods to Q-Tip with its funky breakbeats and calmly descending jazz guitar chords, while the woozy drums and gnarly spacecraft synths of “Illamental” (streaming above) sound akin to The Roots’ “Get Busy.” Listen to the latter track long enough and you’ll strike deep-album gold: a gut-busting sample of the “How Can She Slap?” meme!
Might When The Night Comes In earn Art of Fresh a Polaris nod next year? These dudes sound so laid back they probably don’t give a dang. Big ups to them for melding an unflappably cool and shockingly cohesive disc out of such divergent elements. It’s like the aural equivalent of chocolate-covered bacon. Or lobster poutine. Or Bilk. You get the idea.