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Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician - Wave Motion

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Artist: Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician

Album: Wave Motion

Label: Mush

Review date: Aug. 8, 2002

Isn’t this what a hip hop instrumental album should sound like? It’s all jazz memories, quietly self-aware, with a perfectly limited scope. Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician, the beat-smith (and part-time emcee) for Cincinnati’s Five Deez crew, has been criticized in certain circles for being too consistent in his production, too similar-sounding throughout. I, however, think he manages here to distill a sound, and so a mood, down to a subtly concentrated concoction, that increases in potency with each listen. So we begin: jazzy mellow vibes (early Tribe recollections, even as late as “Electric Relaxation”—this must be what they had in mind with that title) open into a melodically layered river in “Where?,” the perfect beginning I suppose, guitars over guitars over ambient hums, punctuated with 70s-era vocal samples that float…they just float. Music that begs you to cool out with an ice-cold beverage, Saturday afternoon sunshine in the window, girl by your side, but without the over-the-top pretensions of recent Automator/Prince Paul projects. “Feel the Void,” takes the chill yellow aura and adds a touch of blue; invites you a little deeper as you lounge inside your own head; lets the horns do the talking this time; something to snap your fingers to; moving in that smoky haze of 1960s Miles Davis (picture the half-empty club, just that ice-cold beverage transposed onto a sweaty evening).

Staccato snares wake you up the next morning on “Visual Music,” leading your head-nods like footsteps to the statement “my music is visual, and I have been doing my own thing, this thing began with truth, and truth does exist,” before letting you settle back on that couch, calling up your boys, and watching the sun reflect off the window, all understated drums and synthy horns. The tempo picks and the bass tones deepen on “Watch Out,” (an almost Fantasy Island-intro moment, sea planes, white suits and midgets included, I suppose), but back to your day, this is the “So Fresh So Clean” cut, the triple-s, as vocal samples battle for prominence, women “bah dah bah”-ing, men “watch out!”-ing and “that’s without a doubt”-ing their way across a simple confluence of horns and other lounge-sounds. So you’re freshly-dipped, but before your boys show up a David Lynch existential crisis throws things for a loop, and individual bass thumps clash against echoing single snares over a Twin Peaks ambient sample, maybe an ex-, maybe the sight of yourself in the mirror, maybe it’s the family on the answering machine… But no, that was only forty-five seconds, then thirty while the bass-line brings the chaos into focus, then the horns are back. It’s all smooth again, though the memories will remain in harsher-than-before change-ups throughout the appropriately-titled “For Stress.” Now it’s “1975,” and you’re headed uptown amongst friends, a short walk through a funky bass-driven beat that accentuates the jingles and the jangles of the city, randomness laughing at order or vice-versa. “Eyes” can peer at you from all angles, though I’d say of all the tracks this is the only one that seems to want to lose itself in the background—maybe the drums are too simple, maybe the piano sample is just too repetitive, who knows?—either way, it’s never annoying, so let this song fade to black as conversation in the park spins out the rest of Sunday afternoon. “Wet Secrets” reunites you with your girl—remember the one, with the sunshine and cold drink?—though the sun’s long since gone down, dinner’s over, and you’re back at her place for red wine in the hot tub amongst muted horns trading center stage with a perfect piano loop (an apology for “Eyes”?). As you “watch them try to figure out this funny sound” the drums are here one minute, gone the next, and “the sex is just immaculate, from the back I get” into “depths,” post-coital quietness in simple piano chords that hum into a warm violin that sings across a medley of choir-like “ahhs” and a quiet guitar lick as she nuzzles into your chest and the moon turns the ceiling blue.

Distorted synth-noise and beat-boxing echo the hung-over thoughts in your fuzzy head Monday morning for the first thirty seconds of your day as an “automated life machine,” but coffee makes it all better, and if the track has fewer change-ups than some of the others, well, that’s Monday at work for you; at least it isn’t stressed. “Surrection” is a first more than a repetition, Monday evening, can’t quite give up the weekend yet, everyone down at the pool hall for reminiscent laughter and Old Fashioneds, mostly drums with a few quiet horns. Finally, with “disgust,” you lay down to whiskey dreams amongst a short cymbal-heavy soundscape, another weekend perfectly captured in music. And I’ll say it again: Isn’t this what a hip hop instrumental album should sound like?

By Daniel Thomas-Glass

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