Shin-Ski has a deep history within hip-hop. The Japanese producer has handled various projects including Shinsight Trio (with rapper Insight). He is most well known for a heavily jazz-influenced production style, and this is no different on his newest instrumental album, Planetarium. The opening track, “Fomalhaut”, plays around with clever keyboards laid over a smooth boom-bap beat, topped off with a hook of triumphant trumpets (pardon the alliteration). This track provides a solid foundation for the rest of the album as the next few tracks unfold in a similar fashion – relaxed, atmospheric beats, at times laced with synthesized keys that float just above the underlying track. However, the extreme calm sense of the album is soon – perhaps too soon – broken up by “Pryocon”, a high energy trumpet-infused track fit for a car chase or karate scene, which on its own is a great track, but with the way it plays out with the rest of the album, especially the surrounding tracks, seems remarkably out of place.
About mid-way through the album, Shin-Ski introduces more vocal samples into the hooks of the songs. “Polaris” is a terrific example of his ability to tackle various genres in one song, as he incorporates jazz, electronica, hip-hop, and a hint of glitch all into one gorgeous piece. However, perhaps the finest example of Shin-Ski’s mellow jazz approach comes on “Rigel”, which has him once again playing around with piano loops and an ultra-smooth saxophone bit.
The laid back vibe once again carries out the rest of the album with marvelous instrumentation, nicely blending samples with the jazz elements as well as the synths. Planetarium seems to be a fitting title for this album, being that the majority of the tracks could easily leave one just drifting somewhere in outer space. However, as well as the songs work individually, the album plays out without a definite central focus. There is never a clear path as to where Shin-Ski is going, and for that the composition of the album as a whole suffers some.