“Cinematic” is the operative cliche that will be thrown about to describe Wax Tailor’s sophomore effort, Hope and Sorrow, but sometimes cliches are cliches for good reason. The record feels tailor-made (pun unintended) to soundtrack a hip-hop tinged re-make of the drug-addled Jack the Ripper flick, From Hell. The kind of thing to throw on late at night, pipe in hand, exhaling and watching the smoke dissipate against the sound of the darting breaks, wispy flutes, funereal brass samples, and haunted-house strings.

Hope and Sorrow is the album that everyone wanted RJD2 to make, an album of brooding, stoned-slow trip-hop, replete with scratchy breakbeats, Poltergheist backing vocals and just enough rapped guest appearances to keep you from falling asleep into your laudanum.

As for Tailor himself, he is not actually a tailor who works in the medium of wax (shocking I know). In fact, he is a Frenchman named J.C. Le Saout, who wisely took on the haberdashery-related sobriquet, Wax Tailor, after realizing that being French and named J.C. is more likely to make people think you’re a member of N’ Sync and not one of the most prominent names in instrumental hip-hop. Hope and Sorrow is his second record following 2005’s acclaimed Tales of Forgotten Melodies, which was huge in France. Then again, the French also created the Maginot Line, forever casting doubt on their decision-making abilities.

Taxin’ It and Waxin’ It And Working It Around

But with their Wax worship, the French have got it correct, as the Parisian-based DJ/producer has created a smooth and narcotic audio-book of nods. The sound might not be the most original with Tailor heavily taking his cues from early Shadow, RJD2 and early 90s Bristol trip hop , but if you’re like me, you’re into that sort of stuff and find no problem with someone synthesizing some great influences into a new and eminently listenable collage of sound.

Perhaps album opener, “Once Upon a Past,” best epitomizes Tailor’s aesthetic. Starting with a Entroducing-esque bit of dialogue, it builds in layers, adding a sinister bassline, some smooth but hard-hitting drums, a few rising-from-the-graveyard vocal samples and rattling snares to punctuate a loop. Think “Overcome” from Tricky’s Maxinquaye meets “What does your Soul Look Like (Pt. 4) from Entroducing.

The only thing stopping this record from being a genre classic is the guest raps themselves. With nothing anywhere near the level of Copywrite’s “June” from Deadringer or Kool G. Rap’s “Guns Blazing” from Psyence Fiction, the vocals are mainly generic flows from a host of French MC’s I’ve never heard of (sadly, no MC Solaar). Yet the beats themselves are stunning grooves, the ideal soundtrack for that late night trip to the opium den. Indeed, Tailor’s exploration into the intersection of soul, jazz, electronic and hip-hop remains a consistently worthwhile listen and one certain to get more spins as the year progresses.

MP3: Wax Tailor-“Once Upon a Past”
MP3: Wax Tailor-“Sometimes”

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