Echoes From The Soul is what happens when a monster bass player/studio wizard has an empty sonic canvas to work with – and basically no one to answer to but himself. Alific is Brendan Dane and Brendan Dane is Alific: songwriter, engineer, producer, arranger, and player of the majority of the instruments you hear on Echoes From The Soul. Sometimes one-man projects can end up being showcases for the artist’s talent, but feel sterile as hell – not so with Alific. The key is Dane’s powerful rhythmic sense, which lies at the heart of each of Echoes From the Soul ’s 14 cuts. What he risks losing by not having the organic vibe of a full band pumping it out in the studio is totally flattened and buried by his ability to produce a killer core pulse and then apply layers that complement rather than smother.
Take the title song, which rumbles to life with one of Dane’s wompfunk bass lines before the drums of Dubsmith (that would be Todd Smith, a constant rhythm presence throughout the album) and a cool little section punches their way in. The main voice early on is the breathy flute of guest Mateo Monk, dubbed to shapeshifter perfection; the blast of the sax at the 2:50 mark is the wildest tar pit roar you’re going to hear without climbing into a time machine; and when the track decides it’s time to go, it dances into the mists and vaporizes in the coolest of ways. Plenty to dig into – and never too much: that’s Alific’s style and it makes for a solid listen.
Hang on as “Madness” morphs from deep-beat clubbiness to a flat-out midnight run with the windows down, feeling something like a jammed-out “L.A. Woman” as Frank Mitchell Jr.’s sax takes the wheel. When Lenny Kurlou mans the mic for “My Destiny”, the mood takes a swing into the poppier side of things, while “Fat Drops” and “Lucid Eyes” are what good smoke sounds like.
Stick Figure sits in for “Under Arrest”, which never breaks clear of its lazy skank no matter how tension-filled the going gets. There are plenty of lazy-lidded sun-baked smiles in “Up To Me”, “Feet To The Breeze”, and “The Cost”; “Vibe Slinger” is a cool mix of back porch dobro, massive beats, and dubbed-out horns; and Alific’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” (featuring Haile Supreme on vocals) makes an already-sweet song even sweeter by just-right applications of reggae vibe. The fact of the matter is, “Live Up” may belong to Alific, but it has Mr. Wonder’s smile all over it.
“Midnight Of The Loon” is the perfect album closer – it’s easy to imagine the credits rolling over the fathoms-deep drums ‘n’ bass, upfront keys, and surreal loon samples (take it from one who often goes to sleep hearing the real thing – they don’t need much manipulation to sound other-worldly). If Echoes From The Soul was a movie, you’d sit until the lights came up, not wanting to miss a moment.
Lucky for us, all we have to do is hit “repeat.”
Brian Robbins sits on the back porch over at www.brian-robbins.com.