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Domi & JD Beck
NOT TiGHT Alex Rigotti , August 2nd, 2022 06:49

Jazz prodigies team up with Thundercat, Anderson Paak., Busta Rhymes and Herbie Hancock for an album that isn't quite as wild as it could be, finds Alex Rigotti

The allure of a jazz prodigy is always irresistible. French keyboardist Domi Degalle, 22, and American drummer JD Beck, 18, are two of them. Since their YouTube debut three years ago, they’ve graduated from whimsical covers of MF Doom, Kendrick Lamar, and ‘Giant Steps’ (hilariously rebranded as ‘Giant Nuts’) to being the first signees of Anderson Paak.’s label, APESHIT INC. The astronomic ‘genius’ trajectory is enough to make anyone suspicious – after all, extraordinary musicianship doesn’t necessarily beget compelling songwriting (cough cough, Jacob Collier). But after patiently waiting multiple years, NOT TiGHT is a solid showcase of the pair’s considerable chemistry.

For the record, the duo are genuinely impressive, and that’s down to the long hours they’ve spent finessing their craft. Take ‘WHATUP’, which demonstrates how effortlessly the pair can musically converse without ego clashes. Beck’s breakneck drumming approaches Aphex Twin levels of insanity, minus the programming. Meanwhile, Degalle casually provides rapid-fire harmonic changes and riffs – all at a mind-boggling 160bpm. Along with ‘SNiFF’ and its title track, it’s easy to see why Degalle and Beck have been hailed as savants.

One of the biggest worries was whether NOT TiGHT would become another soulless, masturbatory portfolio. Fortunately, the pair have enough sense to provide palette cleansers, to varying degrees of interest. ‘SMiLE’ is a laidback, lo-fi-inspired track whose breezy sound belies its quiet time signature changes, oscillating between 4/4, 7/4, and 5/5. ‘DUKE’, on the other hand, is a sleepy, simple track that’s quickly forgotten amongst the tracklist.

The album’s highlights lie within the guest features that breathe life into the pair’s instrumentals, translating their zoomer humour and personality with more clarity. ‘BOWLiNG’, for instance, is a wholesome piece accompanied by the equally prodigious Thundercat, whilst Herbie Hancock’s vocoder croons on ‘MOON’ soar over their frenetic chord changes.

It’s ‘TAKE A CHANCE’, however, that’s easily the best track on the album. Anderson Paak. flows masterfully over a subtle 7/4 beat, painfully prodding the reasons behind his emotional barriers and self-destructive tendencies. It’s anchored by an emotional plea sung by Degalle and Beck: “Hold on, just let go of who I used to be / Right now, I need you to take a chance on me”. It’s a breathtaking exercise in empathy, though its appeal comes more from its guest.

NOT TiGHT just survives the suffocating hype that’s built up, though it’s not quite the innovative, game-changing project some may expect it to be. Degalle and JD Beck are talented enough to pull off their electrifying style, and they certainly have a lot of fun doing so. It’s a serviceable introduction to jazz for younger listeners. Next time round, more insanity wouldn’t go amiss.