Samurai Shin – The Prelude – EP Review
As I’d have expected, the crew behind the Samurai Shin music and comic-book are cracking the bat hard for a home-run once again, back with a brand-new combination of art & music with The Prelude EP and a new chapter of the story to go with it. This whole project impressed me the first time around with the Samurai Shin Original Soundtrack and issue #1…and I had every reason to assume they’d be just as imaginative, creative and skilled as the last time around. I have to admit – this all surpassed expectations; I think the storyline & narrative that runs through their new issue #1.5 takes us even further into the story through another really solid part of the overall tale – and straight-up, the music on The Prelude EP is damn near perfection from beginning to end. Really impressive cuts on this record – smoother-than-smooth in so many cases…there’s a really good balance of chilled-out, hypnotic tunes with savage rhymes and rap tracks that add levity to the instrumental tunes to give everyone something to listen to. Wildly appealing stuff…I’ll stick to the music first and then get into the new comic a bit…gotta go with my strengths to at least start this out, know what I mean?
So…as I mentioned…ALL the artists on this record are seriously crushing it. As many of them appear multiple-times…I’m gonna go through this album by the artist to comment on what I’ve heard, which is different than the order of the songs on The Prelude EP, so just keep that in mind. I will say this before I scramble my thoughts all around here…the order of The Prelude EP is exactly how it should be listened to…I’m just trying to organize this all in a way that makes sense to my brain to write it – but the point being, the official lineup of tunes from front to back is seriously impressive and plays flawlessly. There. You’ve been told what’s up. Movin’ on…
The Prelude EP opens up with another quick glimpse of the story through “Intro – Frustrations” and then immediately shifts its gears to the first of three times we’ll get to hear the extremely talented Keem The Cipher on the smoother-than-smooth opening electro jam called “Lost.” The bright piano-sample, crisp snap of the snare and wild production values have this track starting the new EP off in a spectacular direction…it’s absolutely the kind of song I could let loop all day long in the background and just let the music spinnnnnnnnnnnnn, you dig? Keem The Cipher gets The Prelude EP its first big checkmark in the win-column with “Lost” with an electro-melody that has extraordinary texture & soul to it – loved this tune; he’ll also go on to score more big points later on in the record with “Searching.” Dude definitely knows how to put a killer beat together with a chill vibe; “Searching was every bit as extraordinary as “Lost” – maybe even a little more exotic in flavor. In a way, it actually really reminds me of some of the music on like…Stereolab’s Margerine Eclipse album…really warm tones and a smart use of a vocal-sample in the mix of the music leading the melody…impressive production & editing once again…it’s seriously all there. Keem The Cipher makes one last appearance in the track that immediately follows, “Love Or War,” with Metaphor The Great on the mic. The music from Keem is every bit as smooth, clear and crisp as we’ve already come to expect…with an added hazy vibe thrown into the overall sound, warping it up just enough to really make it a perfect match for the extreme personality that Metaphor The Great brings to “Love Or War.” This dude is a noteworthy wordsmith – you can absolutely hear that from the way that the vocal hook of the chorus of “Love Or War” is constructed lyrically – Metaphor The Great bounces off the beat with precision and tremendous rhythm in his every move on the mic.
Kuro Silence makes the first of three appearances on track number three, “Just Life Goes On” – which comes through like an impressive modern attempt at something truly old-school. It’s sounds like an old 70’s or 80’s TV-show theme-song…I dig that kind of stuff big time. Reminds of me Lemon Jelly when I hear things like this…and I love Lemon Jelly; immediately, Kuro Silence and the vibrant low-end bass tones and bright electro-synth sounds work amazingly alongside the beat. At only a minute long, KS does what’s needed to be done and we move on; the next appearance made comes two tracks later, on “Some Days” featuring rap from Torae. Musically killer…almost heads towards like…a subtle version of a Dr. Dre style beat here…just jazzy enough through the beat for Torae to light up the mic. Two voices here…so I’m assuming that Kuro Silence has got a hold of the mic as well. I’ll say this…the hook comes through with serious energy that sparks with intensity…that brings one element of power in “Some Days,” and that other voice provides a steadier, smooth approach that weaves itself right into the music. It all sounds great to me – that much I can tell you for sure; lyrically, they get right into the samurai themes and concepts, which obviously adds a huge amount of support to the comic if you’re reading along at the same time as listening, as intended. Kuro Silence returns once more on the eighth cut of the record with “Blue Clouded Thoughts” back to showcasing the dude’s instrumental game. I really dig a lot of what I’ve heard from Kuro Silence…there’s an underlying like…love for jazz or respect for classical music that exists in this artist…the result is a really modern sound with like, old-school heart – especially on “Blue Clouded Thoughts.” A great electro-jazz dose of the ultra-smooth, it flows about as easy as music can right into your ears.
From here on in, looks like everyone else appears just the one time to lend their talents to The Prelude – but every moment certainly counts! Rewinding back a bit to the fourth cut, Xia-Dawn takes us on a real journey of texture and sound with “Like Water.” One of the densest grooves and thickest cuts on the EP, the low-end on this track is absolutely killer and the melody that floats atop of that seriously impressive, dank & dark sound is definitely fluid, flowing and moving “Like Water.” Really great use of texture & tone, it really feels like Xia-Dawn takes us on a journey through this song…a hypnotic, tripped out journey perhaps, but an adventure all the same.
Chill$quad picks up where Kuro Silence ends off, bringing the atmosphere & groove to “The One Switch,” produced by DP. “The One Switch” almost certainly refers to “The One Switch” that occurs in the middle of this cut to send it in a completely different direction than from where it began. For only two-minutes and fourteen-seconds long – there’s actually quite a lot of ambition in this tune; it starts with a real low-down beat, bright overtones of a sample on top…and then right after a quick breakdown and vocal-sample, transitions to an even brighter mix of what sounds nearly like opera and a beat-machine combined. Chill$quad has impressively found two-halves of the whole here that both have serious strengths…you wouldn’t see this one coming from where it started; nor would you think it made any sense if you were to hear how this song works aloud or read about like here in a review – but it really, really does work. Loved the beginning, loved the ending even more…at least I think…close call!
One of my favorite moments comes second from last on the record in the shortest jam on The Prelude EP at less than a minute long on Nodfather’s “Old Memories.” Everything from the ticking metronomic beat to the stunning piano sample in the background…I mean, “Old Memories” is the perfect title; for a moment you really lose yourself in this track…definitely another cut from this record that I could eat by the bowlful or leave on repeat all day long…it’s pure perfection in under a minute. Nodfather gets the seal of approval from me…might be the tiniest most isolated & intimate tune on the record, but man is it exquisite – this is a real gem on The Prelude EP.
“Old Memories” also provides one last quick moment of instrumental clarity before the thoughts from Core Demonstration are poured into the mic on the final track “Two Katanas” on a cut produced by Lupin The Beatsmith. As you’ll read in issue #1.5 of Samurai Shin, “Two Katanas” is a central part of the storyline this time around…even having a couple references in throughout the lyrics that fit in thematically gives this final cut the edge when it comes to ‘fitting’ along with the storyline of their new comic. Plus –these emcees GOT BARS. Right now I seem to be really into character and confidence on the mic lately…you get tons of that here. Dig the first verse and the boldness to the sound & pace in the vocals, love the tone of the second set of vocals and the insane roll through the lyrics he goes on…real skills and talent on display here. Sounds like one final set of vocals brings it home in the last verse…great energy on the mic to make for a memorable ending to The Prelude EP while the music keeps revolving in that now-familiar electro-jazz style that seems to have worked so well throughout this record.
Or to sum it all up in a single sentence – I’m a really big fan of what the Samurai Shin crew brings to the table of both music and art. The new issue, #1.5 has been out officially since July 3rd this year and if you dig comics, I fully recommend checking out what these guys do. The artwork is always incredibly on point, the storyline really developed and added to the origin-story of this entire project and was compelling to read…and they’re really damn good at setting up the next chapter in a way that’ll make you want to continue reading. Most importantly, from the pens to paper to the studio & the mics – the entire world of Samurai Shin is one that incorporates heart, passion and what has to be a shitload of insanely hard work – so do the right thing and check these guys out!
Issue #1.5 follows the story of Keith Masaru as he begins to grow from a boy into a man. You trip through memories of the story of his father and the way he first learned to fight…first learned to hold “Two Katanas” – you feel me? It details the intensity of his training, the strength of the bonds of family…and ultimately, eventually reveals a plotline that is bursting with gripping emotion that is certain to fuel the storyline for many issues to follow. Obviously, I don’t want to give TOO much away here…so I’ll wrap this part up in saying that I think they’ve really set themselves up strongly for a successful series here – issue #1.5 takes the entire storyline into much deeper terrain and establishes the motivations for many of the characters, especially Keith. The quality is as intense as the storyline itself…everything about this project is done as professionally, creatively and consistently as you could ever hope to experience. The issue is solid, the soundtrack is ballin’ – definitely another job extremely well done and another solid addition to the growing legacy & legend of Samurai Shin.
I’ll be playing a cut or two from this record for you to hear on the next episode of the SBS Podcast…which should be out later today. As to which ones I’ll choose…who knows…could be a couple sleepless nights just trying to decide – this all came out so well in every possible aspect from the art to the audio. Anyhow…stay tuned on that – until then – head over to the official site of Samurai Shin at: http://www.samuraishincomics.wordpress.com and check it all out for yourself! Find the album direct for yourself and get The Prelude EP for free at: https://payhip.com/b/Qrh0