For childhood friends, finding a balance while working with one another can sometimes turn into a beautiful thing. Brooklyn’s The Still Brothers seem to know that pretty well. They began working on material back in 2019 and were fruitful with the “Wake Up” / “The Deep” single. The duo admittedly finds inspiration through subway preachers, jazz funerals, and of course, Hip-Hop. The soothing a-side is a collaboration with Brazilian singer Marina B who takes its funky rhythm to make it her own. The backing organ and guitar notes allow her to simply flow right over it all. This is without a doubt, fire discovered. For “The Deep,” The Still Brothers take us all to church, with a preacher hollering from the pulpit. The gospel of The Still Brothers is alive and well here, although it’s reminiscent of P.E./Stephen Stills “He Got Game” because lets face it, if Chuck D wasn’t a political advocate/emcee, we could have probably found him in front of a congregation himself. But “The Deep” stands on its own merit though.
There’s a wide array of production wizardry in the world and I understand how much of it gets missed most of the time. We’ve seen the rise of artists like RJD2, Factor Chandelier, Zavala (DTS), and the list can go on. Within a musical landscape that’s ripe and overly abundant filled with produce holding material in hand, some are bound to be missed. That’s not the case today.
Another stab, another go at it, Cincy beatmaker Juan Cosby as he returns with a new release in Quantum Foam, which follows up 2019’s Immortal Jellyfish. This time around, things are just a bit different. The album thrives on his beats and there is a definitive uniqueness to the sounds he manipulates to piece together from track to track. While Quantum Foam may contain instrumentals, the album is filled with an array of vocalists/musicians as well.
The spacey instrumental “VValtz” opens Quantum Foam with plinking keyboard notes and washes before an array of drums and and horns manifest their way through this psychedelic journey to Mars. But Elon Musk is nowhere to be found thankfully. Here, Cosby seems to act like a master conductor as a saxophone moves to the forefront to engage all that will listen. This is brilliance. With “Pink Moors” horns can be found again on this pop gem, embellished by wind instruments as well. The rhythm is infectiously gratifying and the breathy isn’t missing one thing. For “Sun Soft,” Cosby plays with watery notes and vocalist/emcee Audley is nothing short of spectacular. He’s a Hip-Hop artist turned singer and here we get the best of both sides. His vocal runs are fittingly overlayed on beats, dubbing over multiple times for some remarkable harmonies. Rewind that please! Again and again, thanks.
While there are a number of artists that mill around the album, there is a number that truly shines. Eyenine is featured on a couple of tracks here, first on “Stray” along with Farout, and later on “Life Is A Beach” with Dope KNife. But one at a time, please. On the hypnotic “Stray” Farout holds his own but it’s Eyenine who shines strongly. The Cincinnati emcee’s high-pitched delivery is something we may have heard before but there’s that hint of greatness, rhyming quickly but audibly. On the sludgy drawl of “…Beach” we hear it again but collects his thoughts carefully. With four albums under his own proverbial belt, we can only hope to hear more from Eyenine. On the introspective “Photosynthesis” we have Spoken Nerd & Sole trading barbs with one another. Cosby’s spacey, watery keys once again permeate through this one and I find comfort in both Spoken Nerd & Sole’s lyrics that seem to revolve around trust & lies and delivered poignantly. Feelings are flipped over with Happy Tooth on “Known As Ghosts.” While Happy Tooth borders on melancholy with a side of self-deprecation, Cosby’s beat is uplifting. The bouncy bassline and drumbeat lead it.
I do need to stress, there are a number of tracks that don’t disappoint but that’s not to say this release could have used some editing and possibly even, a delete button. I’m not sure where Cosby and Margaret Darling were going here but the track borders on the mundane. Darling attempts to match the notes Cosby delivers and it just seems to land into a monotone territory and falls flat. But there’s redemption in “Inhale the Light” featuring everyone’s favorite Texan Chris Conde, who makes the track his very own tossing in metaphor over metaphor with the occasional simile. He stops, he stirs, he picks back up again as Cosby meshes more saxophone with those same keyboard washes from earlier. The two work like a couple of street hustlers here and I think I was just finessed out of my wallet! There are more instrumentals here like the powerful “Orchiiids” and the title track that throws my life into disarray. Where does it end? Where does it begin? They’re amazing pieces of work that defy description or genre.
Although Quantum Of Foam had one or even maybe two false starts, the album in its entirety doesn’t disappoint. There’s so much to take in musically, you’d be hard-pressed where to even begin.