Amhad Miller, Malik Flavors, Monk Hughes, Joe McDuffrey, Otis Jackson Jr. -- these are the listed members of Yesterday's New Quintet. Combining layer upon layer of Fender Rhodes, vibraphones, kalimba, electric bass, and a slew of drums, percussion, and sampled loops, Angles Without Edges is a startling debut LP of seamlessly blended hip-hop and jazz. Even better, none of the above-mentioned men even exist outside the mind of a man called Madlib.
The jazz-band front is apropos for Madlib. His work both as an MC and as masterstroke producer shows off thick constructions full of obscure and melodic jazz riffs. Unsatisfied with simply sampling, he started playing all of the instruments himself, save for the drums. Part homage to Innervisions-era Stevie Wonder, part weed-drenched head-nod-inducing beat science, Angles Without Edges not only sets a new standard for hip-hop and jazz production but also successfully creates a new synthesis between the two.
The first few spins may well seem underwhelming, but if the listener spends a few days in Madlib's green haze, the gems will begin to shine. Incredibly melodic yet as droney as any Sonic Youth release, the songs phase from one great mood swing to the next. "Julani" comes off like Duke Ellington on Ritalin, drumbeats tripping over each other to propel the next xylo-roll of triplets. A host of melodic Latin percussion comes out to freak on "Paladium," whereas "Uno Esta" kicks down an amazing disco beat that'd make Roots drummer Questlove drool with envy. Not only is Madlib able to stay on point during these 19 tracks but he continually ups the ante with each one, hitting his stride around the 15th song, "Sun Goddess," which makes for a wonderful waking chant on any morning. By the time the sad refrain of "Broken Dreams" has washed away, it's time to start the whole thing over.
Rumor has it that Madlib is now learning the drums, wanting to play absolutely everything on the next YNQ release. Whether that will affect the beautiful balance he has found between what's sampled and what's live on this record remains to be heard, but for now, he's created a genius instrumental work that will likely be lauded and sampled for years to come.