Posthumous albums can be a difficult thing to judge. Some are used as an opportunity to compile unreleased and often unrelated scraps of material that had long since been abandoned, while others might be the culmination of a project that was already destined to see the light of day. The latter naturally tend to make for more cohesive bodies of work, but they may still be faced with the obvious drawback of eventually being finished by everyone but the artist themselves – potentially leading to new ideas and sounds that are far removed from what was originally intended. Spiritual State doesn’t appear to fall into either of these categories, which is no mean feat given that its release comes nearly two years on from Nujabes’ death.
Fans of the late Japanese producer will notice that the formula here is similar to that of his earlier work: the previous studio albums were a gratifying mixture of Hip-Hop and Jazz that never seemed to stray entirely into either genre, and Spiritual State certainly carries on in this tradition. The familiar cast of Uyama Hiroto, Cise Starr, Pase Rock and Substantial help to achieve the fusion, but as with Metaphorical Music and Modal Soul, much of the content is handled by Nujabes himself.
Perhaps what sets this apart from its predecessors, then, is that it manages to be tinged with sadness while alluringly beautiful at the same time. Even if Hyde-Out Productions have purposefully selected the more wistful tracks from an unused back catalogue, nothing about the album feels contrived, and it is a measure of Nujabes’ talent that his style has not been compromised in order to create something so unwittingly mournful. It’s hard to imagine how themes of transience and mortality could be evoked with more elegance than on the title track or ‘Island’, yet neither song feels exaggerated when compared to what the man had put out before.
Dejecting as it may be to think that Spiritual State can’t point us towards what’s to come from such a gifted individual (even if moments like ‘City Lights’, ‘Yes’ and ‘Waiting For The Clouds’ give a good indication of what an album put together in better circumstances may have sounded like), this is both a fitting musical eulogy and worthy addition to a short but none the less accomplished discography.
4 out of 5
Stream “Color of Autumn” below.