I’m so happy to being see this today, the very talented producer and composer from Burlington, Vermont has been nominated with his beautiful album KOAN as one of the years best.
Taken directly from the official article:
Sometime in the ’00s “boom bap” became a pejorative similar to “backpack,” a shorthand for an older style of rap production that some considered simplistic and/or regressive. Vermont producer Es-K has debunked this misconception on dozens of beat tapes and in his work with rappers like Steele of Smif-N-Wessun. His album Koan uses the dry, concussive drums of his earlier work as the bedrock for open, downtempo beats of piano-driven jazz (“Stopwatch”), synth-heavy modern funk (“Moonlit”), ambient and electronic atmospherics (“Beachfront”), and more. Koan isn’t a riddle so much as it is the answer to the question, “What does a great boom bap album sound like in 2018?”
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His own thoughts about the release, taken from the article we released when the album dropped written by Niko Fox:
In Zen Buddhism, the term koan denotes an enigmatic riddle, story or saying used to challenge the thinking and faith of students. Used primarily during meditation exercises, koans are used to provoke self-growth and a deeper understanding of the world’s universal truths. For Burlington-based producer Es-K, these paradoxical sayings reflect the conflict he feels when creating in the moment while thinking forward to his long-term musical projects and goals. And so it felt only natural that he name his latest solo project after them.
Es-K’s Koan is mature boom-bap at its most refined. Sleek Rhodes keyboards, unquantized, skittering hi-hats, and filtered sample chops weave their way in and out of each beat, creating a hazy, mindful mood that doesn’t let up throughout the whole project. That’s not to say that Koan is without its moments of raw excitement, though.
One such moment comes when Es-K works in a sample of Redman‘s rowdy 1994 anthem “Can’t Wait” into the coda of “Hiveminded,” amplifying the track’s energy and serving as a reminder that none of Redman’s many references to “buddah”throughout his career have ever been about Buddhism. Some of the album’s other highlights include the warped “Sevenuvum” and closer “Stopwatch,” where Es-K’s crisp production eventually breaks down into a bluesy, freewheeling solo by guest keyboardist Danny Whitney.
And unlike many chillhop producers who focus primarily on instrumental music, Es-K is also well-versed in working with vocalists. He’s closely affiliated with Smif-n-Wessun’s General Steele — who he released a collaborative album with back in 2016. Their project — the polished-yet-overlooked Building Bridges — is a case study in aging gracefully in the music industry, while updating a classic sound for the present.
We caught up with Es-K recently to discuss the evolution of his latest project, his origins as a producer, and his extensive production work with General Steele. Get lost in Koan and get to know him!
Thank you so much for the support everyone!