Tiptoeing along with cinematic flourish and blunted swagger, Al Valient's debut EP is smart, subtle, and shifty. A native of El Salvador, Valient is something of a nomadic producer who's worked in Germany and Central America but currently calls Miami home. For the past couple of years, he's been a fixture of Internet radio stations the Womb and the Crib, where his mixing skills were flaunted online way before they were on wax. Five Worldwide is his official coming-out on local label FNOM.
The album's five tracks span a range of styles, showing Valient's versatility behind the MPC 2000, the digital sampler/sequencer that's his sole music-making machine. Low-key instrumentals like "Most They Fall" and "Driven" pulse with looming drama, sonic snapshots that yield overall sensations of color and vibe and more than head-noddable hooks. Dutch MC Pete Philly weighs in with infectious bombast on "Put My Shhh..." in Five's most bump-friendly track, his accented rasp falling somewhere between Method Man and Lyrics Born. The other vocal track, "Sounds n' Stylz," is a midtempo battle number skipping on a funky guitar line and crackling break. The album's bonus track (I guess Six Worldwide didn't sound right) is also a highlight, a pass-the-mic session done over elegant piano samples, recorded live in a Hamburg studio. If there's a language barrier here, it's trampled by a bevy of witty MCs that come out swinging in English and Spanish, the perfect mirror to Valient's own international ethos.
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Al Valient is doing a live, in-store show at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at Uncle Sam's Music, 4580 N. University Dr., Lauderhill. The show is free. Call 954-742-2466.