Sound Surroundings is, at a glance, easy to pigeon hole. Released on Germany’s jazz rap-oriented Project: Mooncircle, home of projects by John Robinson and CYNE, it’s not an album whose sound will surprise or shock you you. It is what one might expect a Project: Mooncircle, German producer album to sound like. However, under the surface there’s a little more to the record than that. The group’s name, Q4, stands for QuadraphoniQuartet, and it informs just about everything they do on the production tip. As the cover art implies, Sound Surroundings is certainly one of the year’s first headphone albums. There are a lot of details hidden in the pockets of this music that reward a big headphone budget, and when the details are lacking the main elements shine. The fidelity and sample chops here are definitely appealing.
Unfortunately, like all producer albums the MCs leave a little if not a lot to be desired. One thing’s for sure, they add to the diversity of the album. Terryman does a reasonable impression of DJ Dusk on “Goin’ Down” and Curra Suarez provides a pretty dope cut that blends Mediterranean and Latin sensibilities with “Oscuros Angeles”, but BLS’ voice is a natural progression of Aesop Rock that takes too much effort to get into. PAX, on the other hand, is someone I’d just as soon not pay any attention to as pay barely any attention at all. I think it’s going to be no secret to those that cop this joint that the vocals are easily this album’s low point, and it’s ultimately a little confusing why they’re even here. They give Sound Surroundings a bit of a conscious purpose, but they still feel like vocals for the sake of vocals. I’m not sure why the group felt the need to have vocalists on these tracks, honestly.
Not with the Deadringer-inspired “One of These Days” following a great “Intro”, or the dub experiment “Trouble With Me” closing out the setlist. No, this is definitely an album I would have preferred to hear an instrumental cut of. I think the Quadraphonic stuff is a little overrated, but really, what group obsessed with their own so-called unique production techniques doesn’t give off that vibe? Haterade aside I do really enjoy the first three tracks and the last three, but what lies in the middle is too dull and milquetoast for me to truly get behind. Q4 have a future in international jazz rap production if they can keep cranking out stuff like “Intro” and “Split Personality”. It will be interesting to see if they can harness their few unique qualities in the future and churn out a more entertaining album than Sound Surroundings. For now, though, Q4 qualifies as little more than a blogger-download curiosity.