By: Daniel Hodgman
Eoin Nordman and Taylor Cunningham call themselves Mumbai, a duo with much more on their plate than a lot of artists in their prime. Grappling an arsenal full of sounds, from all spectrum’s of this world, Mumbai dishes a hip-hop hybrid of sorts that insists we all must accept change. From ukelele introductions, intricately spit bars and well-placed samples, to melodic trombone and trumpet breakdowns, Heart / Break In Lo Fi is a swelling mass of diverse mastery rarely played these days. This record makes us think, not only about ourselves and how we perceive every facet of life, but about the future. With the numerous guest contributions and variety of instrumental input, this record shows us that coming together as one isn’t a farfetched goal, and by the sound of this record, it’s actually pretty damn fun.
“An Ode to Small Things” opens the album with a light acoustic echo and some click-clacking sample-driven rhythm. By the 20 second mark, Nordman introduces us to his approach as an MC. “All I’ve wanted isn’t wanting what I want,” he preaches, “and so I’m haunted by confronting my own loving.” It’s almost as if this is the background story to the record’s own individual identity, and when he continues to go on saying, “the dreams unattainable, fuck Imma attain it though,” a sweltering horn breakdown takes over, driving this track into the beam of light that is found all throughout the rest of this album.
Following is “Annie”, an instrumental track with two identities. The sheer force of the first-half of “Annie” is intimidating, as it pulsates and pounds with sprayed instrumental screams and a low-booming bass kick. The second-half starts out completely subdued compared to the first, but it’s just as moving. The bass kick is still there, but Caribbean keys and a slow-jaunting horn solo dominate the melody. A sample is thrown in there, and for some reason it doesn’t seem like a “just for kicks” sort of addition. “Love fades,” the sample cries, “God that’s a depressing thing.” Near the back-end of “Annie”, both identities play simultaneously, almost as if they’re racing each other to the finish, and the last thing we hear is a clear transition into “Khala”.
The magic of “Khala” is that it firmly sets the tone for the rest of the record. “An Ode to Small Things” and “Annie” are grandiose in their own right, but it isn’t until “Khala” where we start to hear the worldly sounds of this record as a complete take. Running parallel with Nordman’s verses is a dish of sounds: chiming and rattling percussion, finger-picked guitar riffs, rummaging horns, tumbling bass, a sun-soaked melody and an incredible chorus are thrown masterfully together, and if “Khala” was a basketball player, it’d have the ability to play all five positions on the floor.
“Khala come back in, Khala come back in, Khala come back to me,” the chorus croons, “Khala I miss you, Khala I, I need you drastically.” This exuberance hits, and it’s soothing, but what I find most exciting is how recognizable it is after first listen. There are only a handful of choruses in new music out there that have explosive replay value, and “Khala” is one of them.
Heart / Break in Lo Fi builds off its own originality, and through 15 tracks, it’s hard to pin-point a specific characteristic to explain the record as a whole. “The Illusion” twinkles like something from Blu and Exile, as it incorporates a pleasantness and certain hotel lobby piano feel. “Paloma Pt. 2” is confusing at first, as it sounds like a Beirut cut, showcasing Eastern European sounds, and then the breakbeat comes in to further fill the track. “We, the Drowned” is an anthem at its core, with a “march to the beat” feel with swift fills and a body-moving club track that Cunningham mixes stunningly. “The Womb” is tranquil, quietly finishing off the album, with samples that capture “the Mumbai” essence and a truthful rack of bars from Nordman.
The standout track, at least for me, is “I Want to Break Your Heart”. It subtly starts off with tender sounds and beautiful female vocalization. Eventually, the track zips up with added hand-clap percussion and bleeping background noise. It’s a mixture of soul and electro swells, it’s in-your-face personal and it’s a wonderfully crafted piece of art. Near the end, a lone distorted guitar stamps itself onto the track and spills its energy everywhere.
Heart / Break in Lo Fi is brilliant hip-hop, but to a certain extent, it simply uses hip-hop as a crutch to further its advancement into one of the more real experimental success stories of the year. It’s worldly down to its very core (I mean, just look at the name of the group), and the sounds on each and every track further backs this statement. Horns, guitars, vocal chords, samples, percussion leads, keys, varying influences and voices dominate this record from start to finish, and from the very get-go you can tell this is going to be a successful collaborative effort from everyone involved. What Mumbai shows us is that hip-hop continues to expand and grow as an art form by incorporating various sounds, influences, musical styles and ways of writing a song. Unlike other genres and art forms, hip-hop isn’t restricted, but ever-expanding. The most impressive thing Heart / Break in Lo Fi achieves is using each and every musical sound to its advantage, pinpointing each layer meticulously to perfection, all while furthering an always growing culture.
From the group’s Bandcamp. Everyone involved in this wonderful project:
Keith Wiley – Trombone
Shelby O’Brien, Katie Whitecar, Stephen and Brian Grimmer – vocals
Katrina ‘Storm’ -Vocals
Katie Friedman – Field Recording
Jordan Vale, Leif Gearhart-Hall – Trumpet, Alcohol, Parties
Aidan Cafferty – Bass, Tall
Slabo Slabosky – Rap, Fro’
Sean Merrilat – Soft Serve
Elaine Blackburn – Rap
Professor Megablown – Bar Dars
Tao Sun – Moral
Gus – Couch
Oshan – Spiritual Direction
Mad luv to our New Com family, Katie Friedman, KidEquip, Abogado, Def Rock tha Visionary, Deviator (aka Coyle), Big John, Neal Hamilton, RestrictEd, PBJ Ricecake, Jake, Zilla, Myles, A Lai (the Baller), Capital Green and their beautiful voices, Gene Baugh, Keith, Pam, Colby and Ashley Cunningham, Mr Nordman and J, Bob, Goeman, J. Wash, Kevin Carmody, the great Island Nation of Johnlandia, Atlas, Harrison Adair, Megan Jackson, Andy Havenstein, the entire staff of Woody’s for all the accidental free drinks.