Uncle Tony's Coloring Book, Blockhead, 2007
I first heard of Blockhead when I was looking through the song names and producers on Aesop Rock's album, Float. A series of interludes named breakfast, lunch and dinner with Blockead are spread throughout Float. At that time, I didn't take the initiative to look him up. When I heard Aesop's other album, Labor Days, I noticed Blockhead produced a couple tracks, so it sparked my curiosity and I looked him up.
Blockhead produced tracks for several artists, (Aesop Rock, Mac Lethal, Slug, MURS). One similarity between Blockhead and several artists from Def Jux, is that they all can explore darker sounds and excel. Especially in Music by Cavelight (2004), the violins and other strings mixed with the urban beats and mix of piano and obscure samples (probably from old movies) create an impressive, consistent and dark collection of instrumental tracks. This was a surprise to me because he consistently works with creative and talented emcees and then when you buy one of his albums, no lyrics. I have seen albums released by hip hop producers go in both directions (with or without lyrics). Some albums, like Wanna Buy a Monkey (Dan the Automator), The Grey Album (DJ Dangermouse) or The Magnificent City (RJD2) all are albums released by unique hip hop producers but they all have lyrics and are formatted similar to hip hop albums.
Music By Cavelight (2004), Downtown Science (2005) and Uncle Tony's Coloring Book (2007) all vary in feel, tempo and tone. Uncle Tony's Coloring Book is one of his more upbeat albums. In Uncle Tony's Coloring Book, the samples, strings, xylophone, guitar and beats all raise the mood like a very well edited and stylized trailer for an indie movie. His very lucid and urban albums set the mood like a soundtrack. I say "urban" because that's where his hip hop production shines through.
I work in an architecture/interior design office in NYC and the day can be filled with stressful phone calls from the site, emails and deadlines. There are times where we are in design mode, production mode and the majority of the time is filled with being able to creatively solve design problems to maintain the quality of our work while a project moves toward an actual building. Most firms, that I have worked for, have a studio feel which means that there are few walls and a lot of open space. We can play music outside our headphones, but it has to be "appropriate" for the various ages and tastes in the room (whether 3 or more people). Blockhead's first two albums were perfect for putting on in the office. Most people believe that classical music is the best music while studying, working, etc. And I know that there is research on this, but who has time for that? Uncle Tony's Coloring Book and all of Blockhead's albums are perfect for those that don't have the "sophistcated" ear for classical music. I hope everyone caught the "clever" use of quotations for sarcasm. But, if you work in an open setting, where the higher ups allow you to play music, if you own your own business and your office has a studio feel, or if you want music for your headphones at work; Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book is perfect for playing while you get something done. The only problem will be that it seems like the album is too short (13 tracks).
[audio:http://ra-nyc.com/boywithstick/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/01-blockhead-coloring_book-ftd.mp3|titles=Coloring Book, Uncle Tony's Coloring Book]