Various Artists - Only for the Mind Stone Long [Tha Blue Herb - 2005]It’s always very nice to hear from good friends after a long period with no news. They tell you everything is fine with them, maybe that they have had a baby or something. After quite a while, Ill-Bosstino from everyone’s favourite Japanese hiphop act Tha Blue Herb gave me such news with the new compilation of his label.
Primarily set up to release Boss and beatmaster ONO’s projects, Tha Blue Herb Recordings have since then expanded, putting out CD’s of some of their Sapporo friends. This compilation is coming six years after the first one, Only for the mindstrong.
The first track makes for a nice intro. Naohito Uchiyama is making a sort of deep house influenced electro, quite ambient actually, with a lot of melody. This is way better than what I’ve heard of his album, although still rather pedestrian for my tastes. The quality is there though.
Up next is a brand new Tha Blue Herb’s cut, Road of the Underground. Since their ground breaking Sell our soul (and I mean it, this is a massive album), TBH have not revolutionized their own sound. It’s normal, since they are probably well aware that they have something very special and unique in their hands. The sound is still there: off-kilter beats, fragments of melodies taken from traditional instruments, lots of little sounds in the background, and, a new thing: strings. This is not as hard-hitting as some of their previous songs were, but it’s still excellent. And of course, you still get Boss’ flow: self-confident, strong, very original, he is definitely a master of his art.
The pleasure never ends, since after TBH, we get Shuren the Fire. Check our review archive; he is behind one of the best albums of 2003. First, Shuren gives us a voice only track, serving as an introduction to his new song, More Radio. The magic is still there: heavily jazz inflicted hiphop, nonchalant flow. Of course, the samples used will be familiar, but Shuren is still a class act.
Back to instrumentals with ONO’s Primal Walk. In the line of his monstrous Six month at outside stairs album (browse our archive), the track is a very thick mix of quasi-industrial hiphop beats with a lot of things going on in the background, as well as a heavy use of accelerated hi-hat sounds, and some more straightforward processing. .
This one is followed by a new version of Chie no wa (classic TBH track, numerous different versions). You can really hear that Boss’ side-project Herbest Moon as an influence on his work in TBH: the chaotic side of the music is less prominent, the beats are a little more straightforward, and while remaining hiphop, it’s dub and deep house flavoured, especially because of the keyboards.
After Chie no wa, Shuren is back with an instrumental track, really enjoyable, but there is not much to say about it: blue-note jazz with hand claps and percussions. Good stuff. I was very interested in hearing more Jun-Gold stuff, so it’s good that he contributes one track to this compilation. Last I heard of him, he was doing a mix of hiphop à la ONO and of dark electronic music, reminding me of some stuff off Ulver’s Perdition City (for real). Things have not changed much, but you should forget the electronic stuff and think instead of progressive house. Up next is a second contribution by Naohito Uchiyama, this time reminding me of Oval, maybe more focused on rhythms, very good track. Following up is Herbest Moon in typical house fashion. House is not my favourite music, but Herbest Moon’s take on the genre is original enough to keep me interested.
Then, Tha Blue Herb are back with Roads of the Underground (yeah I know, only one “s” differentiates it from their first track on this comp…). It’s a sort of anthem to the post-party depression, it really sounds melancholic, like when at six o’clock you know you have to get home and the fun is over. But then there is hope of all the things coming up the road…
And good things are indeed coming since Tha Blue Herb are currently hard at work on a new album. Those who know them will consider this comp as a nice appetizer –as well as maybe an introduction to the other acts. Others can see this as a good presentation of an interesting label in constant evolution. François Monti