Rafiq is one of the most unique and grooviest motherfuckers I’ve heard in a while. He’s a member of the band Son Lux but that barely scratches the surface. He’s also worked with Vijay Iyer, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Moses Sumney, Lorde, Sufjan Stevens and a fuckton of others. His sound ranges into multiple genres, styles, and feelings. If you see his name attached to a project, it’s synonymous with openness, newness, experimentation, and a general badassery. Breaking English is his 3rd solo album, the others being Yes it Will (2012) and Strata (2012).
You’ll often see him behind a guitar, but this doesn’t mean he’s just a guitarist. He’s jazz trained on the twang stick but don’t expect the diddily diddily diddilies of an Iron Maiden song or the anti-groove often thought of when it comes to jazz. This is not a jazz guitarist solo album. This shit is beat heavy. It’s thick. It’s dense. It’s got that experimentation of Aphex, but the beat drops in with the thick juiciness of a Justice album. The groove is as luscious as a Daft Punk beat laced with a bunch of whapow! and hot damn. But, behind all of this, there is an intimacy in this album. It ends, surprisingly, with an acoustic guitar track full of sentimentality, nostalgia, and as always with Rafiq, experimentation. There are beautiful moments that almost feel post-rock-ish. As with anything Rafiq pulls out, it’s hard to describe in the terms of genre, but sweet-hot-fuck-of-Donald-Duck it is ever good.
I started sculpting “Hoods Up” in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s senseless killing and the subsequent smear campaign against him: the systematic dehumanization of a young black teenager walking home in a hoodie. As I worked away at the song, escalating current events began to add layers of meaning to it. The white hoods from our country’s past kept coming out of the woodwork, reminding us of the horrifying influence they continue to exert in the present.
This is an instrumental album. The textures on this album are unbelievable. They scratch and slide, break and bend, cut and heal. The track “Before Our Eyes” seems to have taken the most avant-garde ideas on Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief and shot them into outer-fucking-space. The title track is a funk filled experimental orgy that gets you grooving and flying in a space car. In short, this shit will make you want to move your trunk, shake that ass, reflect on past choices, call your mom and apologize, and pick up some Wittgenstein. It’s going to be a strange day, motherfuckers.