Imagine an album by an artist named Evil Needle with the words “The Return of Dr. Evil” written across the bottom of the cover. Now imagine what the beats on such an album would sound like. Got it? Okay, well whatever you’re picturing is most likely wrong. Equilibrium is the third album from producer Evil Needle, and instead of producing diabolical, face-scrunching concoctions, we have a collection of largely laid-back downtempo hip-hop beats.
First impressions from the comic book inspired cover art could not have been more off. The soundtrack to future world takeover schemes are not on display here, rather the background noise to a high-end lounge in 2030 where the robot hostess seats you at your chrome table overlooking New York City with flying cars zipping by the window as you check your twitter to find Jay Electronica’s debut album has been pushed back another decade.
Most of the album treads in territory between downtempo and dusty boom-bap beats, updated with an array of glimmering and full-bodied synths. “Jazzolude 03” lays a skittering drum line over a smooth clap and soulful piano, while “Sky High” featuring Momothelocal has a similar drum pattern except with the head-nodding mixture of funky guitar and soaring synths.
Although Evil Needle is clearly aware of his strengths, he does veer from the path a few times on Equilibrium, to varying degrees of success. Notably “Unleashed” which turns up the energy incorporating sonic elements similar to The Glitch Mob, while fitting as a perfect curveball against a mostly relaxed project. Similar in intention, however not in success is “Hyperspeed” featuring Brod Brush, which takes pieces common in a lot of current rave-oriented dubstep, and stands as one of the few missteps throughout the whole project.
Evil Needle has carved out his own style with Equilibrium, and within his element he is comparable to, if not more successful than many of his peers. He even proves that he is capable of making captivating music when he’s doing something completely different. Let’s hope he likes the feeling outside of his comfort zone, because it will yield some fascinating results in the future.