by Cameron Seibold
Congi, an electronic duo hailing from Nottingham, England was originally an underground dubstep act. Now, they’ve moved into the realm of instrumental hip-hop, mixing their bass music roots with old-school beat-making. What happens on their latest album, “Nine Sessions”, is a mixture of old-school sampling and new-school production that creates a melancholic and noir vibe. The album is a concept piece that works in conjunction with a 32-page graphic novel designed by the collaborative magazine “Ink Soup”, produced mainly by students at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design. Each track on “Nine Sessions” coordinates with roughly three pages of the comic, each section designed by a different visual artist.
Congi does a great job setting the mood of a noir story line on Nine Sessions. “The Escapade” sets up the vibe, making no mixed messages of what style the Nottingham duo is attempting. The chopped and skewed piano notes float on top of a shuffling off kilter beat and heavy bass notes, and the main body is complimented by rhythmic blips of what sounds like a broken robot.
“About the 5th” features more intricate percussion and delay and a heavy Rhodes piano. The modulation of effects gives it a humanized element. The percussion pitches up and down, the delay bends backward and forward and the patchwork of sampled soul vocals really brings the mix together in perfect blend.
The fourth, “Hard Boiled”, is probably the most unique track. It takes more influence from low-key minimal electronic music than hip-hop, but it still fits in with the flow of the album. The repetitive rolling rhythm perfectly fits with the pitched-down rorschach test of syllables to create a short but sweet ear-worm of a joint.
On “Yo sun” Congi creates beautiful, ethereally processed flute sample layered on top of a slightly off pitch ambient pad. The clash works really well, and the track transitions back and forth from the warm ambient pad to a funky bassline, creating a very pleasant contrast in sound design.
Congi’s bass music background has an obvious influence in the way they make beats, particularly on the percussion and low-end. The percussion on each track is lush and layered, producing a more intricate sound than traditional old-school hip hop. The clashing of clean and polished production with the sampling of funk and soul makes a really refreshing style of hip-hop all its own. The low end is particularly sub-low as far as most hip-hop beats go, also showcasing their affinity for bass-driven music. Whereas most hip-hop beats favor some mid-range in their bass lines, some tracks on “Nine Sessions” are definitely honoring traditions of UK bass. They can’t escape their dance music roots, and it’s a good fit.
Their background is what makes Congi’s sound unique in the world of instrumental hip-hop. The transition from creating smooth, well-produced dubstep to creating an imaginative world of dark, layered instrumental beats exceeds expectations and pleases the ear.
Congi is perfect for fans of J-Dilla, Pete Rock, Burial and Mount Kimbie.