The word “underrated” is not actually “underrated.” It’s actually overused as a short-hand to subtly inform you why you’re wrong about an artist who deserves better. But in an increasingly a-critical landscape, the more underrated word is “overlooked.” That’s the danger for any independent artist on an independent label, who can’t rely on a major to land them on the right playlist or help procure the right streaming promotion.
This is the palpable fear of a record like self-titled Karavan project, one of the best and yes, most overlooked instrumental records of the year. The pairing of Belgian jazz and hip-hop fusionist Lefto and the forever inscrutable and excellent, Free the Robots, is a blistering hypnotic work of psychedelic beat music. Released by the great LA imprint New Los, the Karavan project conjures the far-flung imagination and distant outposts that you’d expect from two globetrotters with an engineer’s precision and an exotic arsenal in their digital crates.
In a Beat scene that needs singular beat records to keep the tradition moving forward, this is one of the finest you’ll hear all year — stamped with the natural eccentricity of LA, idiosyncratic sounds plucked from dusty bins in record stores you can’t pronounce, and the comforting familiarity of grimy hip-hop.
In other of their official release party tonight in LA (just look at the flyer below — that lineup is savage), Lefto crafted this sensational mix for POW. In his words:
“I played a bit of everything on this mix, from the original sample of Kendrick Lamar’s “Feel”, some Nasimoto which is a nice project mixing Nas’ acappellas with Quasimoto productions, as well as some fresh international productions from South Africa by Escapism Refuge and a French cat Kuna Maze. I also added some nostalgia with Group Home… as well as an intro and outro from Karavan tracks. Hope you’ll like it, it’s a healthy trip into my influences.”