REVIEW FROM PITCHFORK MEDIA:
The sound of Minneapolis hip-hop is a study in contrasting production styles. There's ANT as veteran Rhymesayers superproducer, Heiruspecs as the Roots-analogue live band, Doomtree as the sprawling backpacker/punk collective, and dozens of crews plying everything from bring-88-back classicism to glossy electro. An up-and-coming producer specializing in an RJD2-style blend of keyboards and breaks wouldn't be considered an anomaly in this environment, but he might not stick out, either.
Not that Mike Swoop's relative (and likely temporary) underexposure holds back his ambition. New Love, his self-released debut, has a distinct stylistic focus-- cratedigger-friendly 1970s soul jazz. Swoop makes up for his lack in envelope-pushing with a fine-tuned ear for classic downtempo atmosphere. You can gauge the album's musical sensibilities by picking out some of the more recognizable samples-- flourishes drawn from Fantastic Plastic Machine's psychedelic lounge synths on "Fiend", the same slick Gato Barbieri jazz-funk that Devin the Dude's "She Useta Be" mined on "Artisan", or a skank rhythm sourced from Steely Dan's foray into reggae on "Spread It Thin".
But those are mostly foundations rather than the main focus of Swoop's productions. The album's persona of relaxed intensity truly thrives where his own contributions come in. Swoop builds on vinyl-sourced samples with his own multi-tracked percussion, bass, and keyboards, which form a seamless rapport with the music he takes both loops and inspiration from. The vibraphone-tinged "Up Late" recalls Roy Ayers at his Ubiquity-era peak, while "Gain" and "On My Mind" split the difference between Marvin Gaye's more lavish productions and the underground soul and fusion artists who followed. Even then, it's not a fastidious recreation of a faded, decades-old atmosphere; clean-cut tracks like the subtly Afrobeat-indebted "No Go Die!" and the cotton-candy Bernie Worrell-isms of "No Room" still have the shine of the new on them.
It's compelling stuff, the kind of thing old Native Tongues fans would do themselves a favor to listen to-- and that goes double for the tracks that actually feature rapping. The artists responsible for two of the Twin Cities' best hip-hop albums of 2009 provide their own highlights, with Big Quarters' evocative daily-grind verses on "Fiend" and Toki Wright's psychological struggle between defeatism and survival lending gravity to the blunted sizzle of "Let It Go". And Kavorkian & Allpurpose, the MCs from Swoop's Diametrix crew, sound haunting over the shimmering guitars of "Where Do We Go?", a complementary study in late-night anxiety that proves Swoop can find the ideal beat to draw out a rapper's unique qualities. If there are more instrumental jams where this came from, Mike Swoop will have a deep, devoted following in Minneapolis for years to come. If there's a dedicated, full-length producer/MC teamup in his future, even better.
— Nate Patrin, April 6, 2010
released 02 February 2010