The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Animals Have Feelings Oli Marlow , April 27th, 2016 06:46

I'd like to wager a quid or three that at some time in your life, an adult - be it a parent, a teacher or a ranking colleague - has stressed to you the importance of you being an individual. I'm not talking about doe-eyed new parents telling their kids that they're special (although that definitely counts, on some pre-emptive subconscious level at least), I'm talking here much more in everyday terms. Whether it's a friend telling you to "just do your thing" when you don't feel like joining them at the pub at that precise moment in time, or a teacher explaining the concept of self-control and decision making to your young and impressionable mind in junior school, we've all experienced those casual self empowering chats to some degree. And ultimately we're all agreed that being different to everyone else around you is a good thing. Right?

Well, Sam Baker is one of my favourite LA associated beat-making guys, for that exact reason. There is no one else out there that sounds quite like him. He's far out and he's heavy; his samples are twisted, and his drum patterns find the kind of space that you'd never have known was there before that snare fell all lazy on the offbeat. And when he actually established exactly what 'his sound' might be on Sam Baker's Album, he went and inverted his whole approach, making a completely different sounding batch of sideways slanted rap beats for his follow up, Wish You Were Here. But it's precisely that wonderfully reckless, rough and ready production style of his that has won him a whole heap of plaudits from profile guys like Flying Lotus, Benji B and Earl Sweatshirt as well as releases on respected labels like Brainfeeder, Leaving Records, Hyperdub and Stones Throw.

His early work with Flying Lotus as FLYamSAM and his solo Samiyam material that was collated on his Rap Beats Vol. 1 album quietly helped define the whole vibe of the sunshine baked, Low End Theory orbiting, LA beat scene so it's not really a surprise to learn of his blossoming relationship with the Californian powerhouse, Stones Throw (otherwise known as the label that gave the world Madlib and Jaylib and Madvillain and Quasimoto). Honestly it feels way too easy to note the kindred spirituality between Samiyam and Madlib. I mean, yes, they both seem to like working as sketch artists, flipping their source material to make quick thick drummed audio collages and they're also both pretty headstrong dudes; guys afforded the time to just do what they do and see where that self exploration takes them. But reaching for the Madlib comparison when you're talking about a kinda far out producer who smokes weed and leans on samples and his samplers to make music is just, well, it's just played the fuck out. That's what it is.

Simply put, Animals Have Feelings is another fantastic Samiyam record. And I say that to be purposefully difficult because a) I opened this review in the way that I did and b) because even though it's all new, it sounds like vintage Samiyam immediately. That loud, open snare on the title track that rings out for way too long? That's pure Samiyam. The sample flip on 'Dartgun'? Same thing. You can tell it's him right away. Same goes for the oversimplified piano glued on top of that coarse LFO bass on 'Gum Drop', and the quickfire beats on 'Pier 4', 'Smoke Break' and 'Ronald', which encapsulate his melodic touch perfectly. 'Calisthenics', 'Surprise' and 'Part 1' are a great example of his iconic, if a little ham-fisted drum work and the cuts with Earl Sweatshirt, Action Bronson and Jeremiah Jae; they're heaters that also show us that he has talented friends who can rap pretty good on top of his tracks too.

Yes, this new Samiyam record is a very welcome thing, mainly because as much as I love his music I didn't know I needed another Samiyam record until I got wind of it. And now that I've heard it, I want another one immediately. He probably doesn't know it, but this one should go down as a real celebration of this kind of wayward instrumental weirdo hip-hop. Animals Have Feelings is a wholly individual album packed full of Baker's sampling tricks, his love of raw EQing and the kind of swagger he's always demonstrated throughout his career. No-one else could have made this, and it's all the better for it.