“You could find the Abstract listening to hip-hop / My pops used to say, it reminded him of be-bop”. So went the opening lines from A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 LP, The Low End Theory. Jump forward to 2017, and a hip-hop record will probably remind very few people of jazz music, although the genres are more closely knit than ever. At this Tralfmadorian fulcrum point in our musical evolution, it’s not always clear who is borrowing from who, where one movement ends and the other begins.
Hence we have albums like Zach Saginaw’s aka Shigeto’s The New Monday, apparently an audio melting pot of rap, jazz, house, techno, and R&B (track no2: 'Barry White'), amongst others. The electronic producer has returned to Detroit, and whilst he might previously have been filed under music criticism kennings like glitch-hop, post-dubstep and ambient-techo, Saginaw emerges on his 4th studio album with a sound that seems to nod to pretty much every landmark in the city’s venerable musical timeline. It’s a record that ultimately triumphs as often as it falls short of its ambition, in some moments it impresses whilst in others it is somewhat underwhelming.
The standout tracks on the record are the most jazz-inflected; whereas jazz-rap once meant placing samples of jazz instrumentation over a hip-hop beat, opening and closing tracks 'Detroit Part II' and 'When We Low' sound as close to a DJ leading a band in Baker's Keyboard Lounge, or vice versa, as you’re going to get. But The New Monday also features Shigeto’s first collaborations with vocalists on a solo record, and whereas the more instrumental and lyrically sparse tracks will hold you from beginning to end, some of the guest raps are sampled and replayed to the point of making them a little mundane.
Nonetheless, amidst the decay and colossal wrecks of other cities half-sunk to relics of their pop music legends, this LP is a more than worthy living monument to the transcendent creative spirit of modern day Detroit, and it undoubtedly stands as Shigeto’s boldest endeavour to date.