Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
Earlier this year, I reviewed 1700 Monkey Ninjas here on the Independent Spotlight and I featured his music on the Jukebox Podcast. His previous record was one of the more innovative efforts I’ve heard in the independent scene this past year, and his latest endeavor, ‘Le Cerveau,’ is a brilliant continuous of that excellence The album is free to stream on 1700’s website below, which I’ll link. Let’s talk about it.
Now, ‘Le Cerveau’ feels far more experimental and avant garde than previous material we’ve touched on by 1700 here on the Spotlight. He describes it as a raw sound that is designed with ‘intentional error in sound and method.’ At times, it’s a compelling effort of sampling at its best, something exhibited right out of the gate with the jazzy, bizarre ‘Temporal.’ I love the hypnotist sample backed by erratic jazz instrumentation blowing out of either side of the pan - it’s brilliantly odd and sets the stage for an equally peculiar experience.
‘Stem’ is an invasive tune, housing a massive variety of noise that it bombards you with quite heavily for the first minute. That isn’t the whole piece, however, and it continues to float around in mystical, electronic space for another minute of sparse composition. Finally, silence, and then a clapping crowd. At times like this, ‘Le Cerveau’ sounds a whole lot like the pinnacle final record of J. Dilla, ‘Donuts.’ ‘Donuts’ is arguably the finest excursion of sampling ever. Tracks like ‘Stem’ are reminiscent of it.
‘Parietal’ is far more accessible, continuing 1700 Monkey Ninja’s jaunt through a mixture of sampling and accentuating electronica. Unlike the majority of ‘Stem,’ though, ‘Parietal’ defines itself as a piece with a melody you can follow. Thus, it may behoove of some listeners to hop in with this track if the experience feels daunting in the first two songs. I’d argue that consumption of this kind of music takes a level of discipline, something that is definitely an acquired taste. Don’t immediately throw this music aside if it doesn’t suit your fancy right away. Give it time, and pieces like ‘Parietal’ are a good way to dip your toes deeper in that water.
‘Occipital’ isn’t too bizarre either, making it a nice extension of ‘Parietal.’ It feels a bit like an interlude into ‘Hippocampus,’ a slightly more fleshed out track. It’s worth noting that every piece of this album is short and concise - It’s an experimental EP that’s an interim project for 1700. I like this a lot, and again, this type of music is sometimes best consumed like this. Tying back to the ‘Donuts’ comparison, there isn’t a track on that album longer than two or three minutes tops. Many are much shorter. ‘Hippocampus’ harnesses all those oddities into a wonderfully unique experience, one that barely clocks in at two minutes.
‘Frontal’ sets its stage with a continuous church bell. The bell is the centerpiece of the track, acting as a rhythm section of sorts as 1700 dances about with eclectic, shimmering synthesizers. Toward the end of the piece, all of that subsides, or rather, seems to flatline into oblivion.
‘Cerebellum’ is probably the least interesting endeavor in the collection, though it does have its moments with the synthesized segments at the end of the song. If you haven’t picked up on the theme of the record, by the way, it’s different parts of your brain. I’d be intrigued to learn whether or not each song actually mimics the function of the section of the brain that is its namesake. I’m not versed enough, and quite frankly, didn’t pay enough attention in my psychiatry course, though, to assess that. ‘Amygdala’ does close the effort, however, in a suiting fashion - elegantly brief synthesized piano pieces croon it to closure.
I think the finest pursuits of ‘Le Cerveau’ are on the front end of the collection. In particular, the first three tracks are exceptionally good. The rest of the album remains intriguing, but I do feel that the experimental intrigue introduced on ‘Temporal’ is somewhat lost when you hit ‘Cerebellum’ and ‘Amygdala.’ Regardless, it’s a beautifully superb experience, one that is very much worth your time to delve into, especially since it’s free. So, check it out below and delve into the wonders of the mind of 1700 Monkey Ninjas.