Precise sampling, smooth jazzy interludes and effervescent beats meet in the intelligent and harmonious way that has come to be expected from Satellite Syndicate’s BSTFRND in his fourth album, Neuromelanin.
Pioneered by producer, multi-media and hip hop artist Jefferson Harris, the 12-track album’s cerebral themes begin at the title, which refers to a polymer pigment found in certain neurons of the brain.
Neuromelanin is more plentiful in the human brain than in any other species, and while high concentrations of neuromelanin can be found in the neurotransmitters responsible for joy (dopamine) and the fight-or-flight response (epinephrine and norepinephrine), the exact science of what neuromelanin does has yet to be pinned down.
Chemically or musically, Neuromelanin is an anomaly as a whole.
“Neuromelanin has the most energy of any type of material, it has a lot of fantastic qualities that can seem too good to be true,” Harris said. “Everyone, not just Black people, everyone has melanin. The album is an exploration of relationships and connections that I’ve had with people and this earth…It’s important to remain in touch with that, that every living thing on this planet is connected.”
The tone of Neuromelanin, which the RVA beatmaker dropped last month, is set with an audio sample of American civil rights activist Dick Gregory saying, “what’s the number one lie we tell you kids today? We say the number one problem confronting America today is the problem of air pollution…the number one problem confronting America today is the problem of moral pollution.”
The background audio builds in the track “Ginkgo Tree” before fading into the gritty snare and sweet vocal loops of “Windowsills”. “Kundalini Awakening” features fellow Mutant Academy member Fly Anakin and is peppered with the rounded smack of hand drums, while the dreamy track “Sirius B” (named after a piece of astronomical lore from the Dogon people of Mali) is all loose muscles, repeating the phrase “I take my time.”
The two also collaborated on the project Yo’ Mama Boyfrnd earlier this year.
Harris took his time with Neuromelanin, the first album released by BSTFRND in a little over a year, and the result is a thoughtful collection of songs that further strengthen the narrative flare of Harris’s musical career.
Harris will continue to flex his creative muscles this year while producing the next Soluh! LP, planning future tours and working on another LP for BSTFRND, an indication that he is overflowing with ideas that will further buoy his ideo-musical ascension.