Album Review: Eric Lau – Makin’ Sound

Eric Lau – Makin’ Sound
Kilawatt Music: 2010

Under the broad spectrum of beats, and beat makers for that matter, there are countless sub-genres. Trip-hop; glitch-hop; boom-bap; wonky; jazzy; funky; soulful; downtempo; IDM; broken beat. I think you get the point. Therefore when a producer releases an instrumental album or beat tape, it’s always an interesting necessity to figure out which pool of beat makers he or she belongs to, and what influences led him or her there.

Often, however, the answer is not so simple – and this is a generally good thing. When producers can mix up their genres and provide a unique palette of sounds, the outcome generally benefits from an eclectic, and at times challenging, result. That said, this is not the case with British producer Eric Lau’s latest project, Makin’ Sound. Yet the album actually benefits from its lack of genre-hopping.

Some people might be initially thrown off by the remarkably calming “Some Time”, which nods to the remarkable trip-hop scene in the U.K. But make no mistake – these are soul instrumentals through and through. If the Marvin Gaye samples weren’t enough to tip you off, many tracks on Makin’ Sound actually fall right in line with the contemporary brand of electric neo-soul popularized by the likes of J*Davey, Sa-Ra, Muhsinah and Vikter Duplaix. Lasers dart through the background of the aptly-titled “Warp”, while much of the rest of the album is driven by its electronic basslines, some less flagrant than others.

Lau takes it upon himself to keep this album focused. This is an interesting choice as he runs the risk of producing an album that loses momentum due to repetition, especially considering Lau’s minimalist approach (this certainly isn’t an album that overwhelms the listener with dense layers). Still, Lau’s decision was smart. The progressions from one track to the next are logical and provide a much-needed continuity from start to finish. Furthermore, he manages to bring in a variety of instruments – both organic and synthetic – to build his beats. This keeps the entire affair lively and engaging, even during its calmest moments (did I mention it’s also pleasantly mellow?).

Makin’ Sound is by no means groundbreaking. It is an instrumental soul album, and a very good one at that. It borrows heavily from musicians of the past. Yet despite its sonic familiarity, Makin’ Sound possesses immense replay value. In fact, it is here that the album reveals its true merit; there are subtle details tucked away neatly within the fabric of the tracks that make repeat listens all the more enjoyable. Yes, Eric Lau can do many things musically, but here he focuses on one thing and executes very well.

★★★★☆
4 out of 5

2 thoughts on “Album Review: Eric Lau – Makin’ Sound

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  1. home run is dope!

  2. Why is it that Zach always reviews all the good albums? anyway love this record, mellow beats from first to last and still keeps it interesting. def one of the finer beat tapes this year

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