Beyoncé returns with the ambitious, cerebral, club-oriented set RENAISSANCE, deeply indebted to the sounds of bygone eras of house music; it resonates incredibly well paired with a superstar production team and B's magisterial vocal command.
'Renaissance' feels like fuel for the soul as it flirts between tight disco grooves and downtempo yet assertive future-house soundscapes. And along the way, bringing together contributors like Nigeria's budding star Tems, the famed Mike Dean, up and coming Jamaican-American rapper BEAM and - I'm not kidding - Grace Jones!! I'm That Girl kicks things off with an afrobeat instrumental coloured by warm drones and a mission statement for the record:
"BRING THAT BEAT IN, NOW I CAN BREATHE AGAIN."
With dense production courtesy of Chicago's iconic Honey Dijon, Alien Superstar is an immense piece of progressive house that sets alight the first leg of the record. Cuff It has a funky, post-disco groove with a tight bassline and excessively raunchy lyrics that really play to the songs strengths and creates a contagiously danceable atmosphere. Church Girl is a wonderful tribute to New Orleans bounce rhythms (Big Freedia kills it on Break my Soul also, a New Orleans legend) as B soars over thumping 808s and the grainy falsettos of the Clark Sisters, with an unmatched energy prescence (also "you baaaaaaad" is one of the year's best adlibs). Vigro's Groove might just be the hardest groove on the record with a chunky bassline, flanged guitars and heavenly harmonies from B. Its SOTY contender for sure. Thique is a wild multi-phased exploration of body image that might be one of her most abstract songs to-date with its pounding sub-bass and crazy synth-organ lines that come in around 2:15. One of the project's biggest surprise production appearances has gotta be A.G. Cook who contributes a wildly distorted sub on All Up In Your Mind. 'Renaissance' overall is a bold and provocative celebration of some of my personal favourite sounds in modern music, and every second of this thing is a moment in a different sense. But I suppose that's always expected from the endlessly talented artist who orchestrates it.
Fav Tracks: I'm That Girl, Cozy, Alien Superstar, Cuff It, Break My Soul, Church Girl, Plastic Off The Sofa, Virgo's Groove, Heated, All Up In Your Mind, America Has A Problem, Pure/Honey