Brian Josephs died five times listening to Run The Jewels 2. Tweet him your condolences.
The Stuyvesants, a production duo consisting of Bed Stuy’s Allan Cole (Algorythm) and Darien Birks (Flwrpt), make instrumental albums full of soul and funk samples. According to their Facebook, they connected “under a moniker that would pay homage to the ’70s.” While the producers did limit themselves a bit with their aspirations, they use a wide palette. That being said, their usage is sometimes too minimalistic, the loops too recognizable. Really, they’re somewhere between curators and ’90s boom-bap traditionalists.
The projects also have a loose sonic theme. The Finer Things Vol. 1 & 2 are the sound of some uptown dance floor shuffling — probably with somebody’s uncle dressed in a white suit and alligator shoes watching quietly from a corner. Refined adds a bit more soul into the mix. The stray nipple on Fine’s album cover is pretty blunt about the project’s sensual aura.
Fine forgoes hornfare or any sort of cacophony for track-by-track mellifluence. It’s a bit monotonous, not a project that makes your ears perk up when it comes up shuffle. In other words, you have to be in the mood. Don’t play this as you question your existence in rush hour traffic. Play it after you get home.
There’s a general airiness on Fine, whether it’s in the glassy-eyed soul in “Come to Me” or spectral blitz of “Last Night.” “Low Key’s” subdued bass line and breathy clacks also entices. “Two Step” — the following track and highlight — is an exercise in space; twang-effected guitars and heartbeat-like percussion soothes souls into quiescence. There aren’t any singular failures on Fine, but “When Times Are Good” strikes as noticeably middling.
Fine isn’t perfect, but it works as a side trip from a duo with a playful occupation with the past. There’s stagnation here, though, and I’d hope it isn’t because of reverence. One of the dope things about hip-hop is how it pulls sounds out of their temporal and cultural context for this toolshed stacked with possibilities. As producers, The Stuyvesants ought to feel free to do what they please with that toolshed. The same goes with the listener’s relationship with Fine — fuck or dance. Whatever. It’s on you.