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Makaya McCraven|Universal Beings E&F Sides

Universal Beings E&F Sides

Makaya McCraven

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An album of cutting-room-floor leftovers would typically be a dicey proposition, but when the album is by Makaya McCraven, the concept is much more appealing. Conceived as an "addendum" to the drummer/producer’s acclaimed, groundbreaking 2018 album Universal Beings and serving as a soundtrack to a half-hour documentary film about the making of that album, Universal Beings E&F Sides is far from the typical "odds and sods" follow-up one may be accustomed to seeing after a breakthrough release. Constructed from music recorded but not used on the 2018 release, E&F Sides necessarily echoes its predecessor in tone, but takes a somewhat more scattershot approach. Kicking off with an explicitly live vibe, it’s clear that McCraven wants to capture the active interplay of the improvisation-heavy recording sessions that he chops up to yield his final compositions. In one scene from the Universal Beings short film, McCraven sits behind his compact drum kit and laughs about his process; he just wants to "make it sound like it seems like we know what we’re doing" during these free-flowing musical conversations between like-minded artists. To him, "starting with chaos," recording it all, then organizing it into coherent composition later, allows him to not worry about missing any magic. And with such a strong roster of collaborators—Nubya Garcia, Shabaka Hutchings, Ashley Henry, Kamaal Williams, and others appear on the sessions, though the only instrument to appear on all the tracks is McCraven’s drum kit—it’s clear that plenty of magic could be missed. Which makes E&F Sides such a compelling release, as it utilizes so many different group formats. The forceful drum solo that opens "Beat Science" refocuses into a rock-solid groove helmed by Dezron Douglas’s double bass and highlighted by the delicate harp melodies of Brandee Younger; even more simple is the throbbing "Isms," which is just McCraven alongside Junius Paul’s liquid-sounding double bass. By contrast, the heart of the album is a rollicking triptych of full-band pieces featuring Shabaka Hutchings that illustrates the wisdom of McCraven’s improv-now-figure-it-out-later approach with one track ("Kings and Queens") locking into several different themes and vibes with a sublime blend of technical skill and raw emotion. Any one of these sessions could have yielded a fascinating album on its own, and the quality of the work on E&F Sides makes one confident that a G-Z Sides series would continue to yield rewarding results. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz

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Universal Beings E&F Sides

Makaya McCraven

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1
Everybody Cool
00:04:36

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

2
Half Steppin'
00:03:40

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

3
Mak Attack
00:02:09

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

4
The Hunt
00:02:29

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

5
Beat Science
00:03:55

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

6
Dadada
00:02:06

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

7
Isms
00:03:15

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

8
Traveling Space
00:01:27

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

9
Kings and Queens
00:04:40

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

10
The Loneliness
00:03:22

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

11
Her Name
00:03:13

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

12
Universal Beings Pt. 2
00:02:07

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

13
Butterss Fly
00:03:19

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

14
The Way Home
00:02:59

Makaya McCraven, Composer, Lyricist, Producer, MainArtist - International Anthem LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 International Anthem 2020 International Anthem LLC

Album Description

An album of cutting-room-floor leftovers would typically be a dicey proposition, but when the album is by Makaya McCraven, the concept is much more appealing. Conceived as an "addendum" to the drummer/producer’s acclaimed, groundbreaking 2018 album Universal Beings and serving as a soundtrack to a half-hour documentary film about the making of that album, Universal Beings E&F Sides is far from the typical "odds and sods" follow-up one may be accustomed to seeing after a breakthrough release. Constructed from music recorded but not used on the 2018 release, E&F Sides necessarily echoes its predecessor in tone, but takes a somewhat more scattershot approach. Kicking off with an explicitly live vibe, it’s clear that McCraven wants to capture the active interplay of the improvisation-heavy recording sessions that he chops up to yield his final compositions. In one scene from the Universal Beings short film, McCraven sits behind his compact drum kit and laughs about his process; he just wants to "make it sound like it seems like we know what we’re doing" during these free-flowing musical conversations between like-minded artists. To him, "starting with chaos," recording it all, then organizing it into coherent composition later, allows him to not worry about missing any magic. And with such a strong roster of collaborators—Nubya Garcia, Shabaka Hutchings, Ashley Henry, Kamaal Williams, and others appear on the sessions, though the only instrument to appear on all the tracks is McCraven’s drum kit—it’s clear that plenty of magic could be missed. Which makes E&F Sides such a compelling release, as it utilizes so many different group formats. The forceful drum solo that opens "Beat Science" refocuses into a rock-solid groove helmed by Dezron Douglas’s double bass and highlighted by the delicate harp melodies of Brandee Younger; even more simple is the throbbing "Isms," which is just McCraven alongside Junius Paul’s liquid-sounding double bass. By contrast, the heart of the album is a rollicking triptych of full-band pieces featuring Shabaka Hutchings that illustrates the wisdom of McCraven’s improv-now-figure-it-out-later approach with one track ("Kings and Queens") locking into several different themes and vibes with a sublime blend of technical skill and raw emotion. Any one of these sessions could have yielded a fascinating album on its own, and the quality of the work on E&F Sides makes one confident that a G-Z Sides series would continue to yield rewarding results. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz

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