"Is this a mic stand or an easel?"
Sach Illpages delivers his latest offering, fiDELITY (available on cassette and blue/white vinyl through HIT+RUN Records), a very unique addition to his lengthy catalogue. As evident from the Blue Notes inspired cover art, this record is even more jazz-infused than his past work, this time around recruiting a band: J. Sumbi on bass, Anacron on sax, Kiefer Hyder on drums, and DJ E-Spinfiniti (DJ ESP) on the turntables and additional percussion, with Sach providing vocals and orchestrating through his MPC. fiDELITY follows the closing of Sach's "lo-fi era", and serves to elevate his signature sound, the impetus of which was getting his hands on a 24 track recorder, courtesy of Giovanni Marks aka Subtitle. "It wasn't an album intially," Sach explained to me. "I just had the machine and I wanted to utilize a lot of the tracks. So I started thinking, 'What do I have around the house that I can add on to a beat?' I had a shaker, a harmonica, a guitar, a couple other instruments, little things I started to play on there after I made the beat. Then I'd take it to Kiefer and have him play the drums on it. After the first one or two of those, I started really knockin' 'em out and that's really when fiDELITY began."
|photo by Kiefer Hyder|
Aside from a short spoken word piece from Meen Green and some brief words from Koko, all vocals are handled by Sach, who delivers his trademark poetic, stream of consciousness rhymes, peppered with boasts of lyrical prowess. The aural pictures painted by Sach on the album's opener, "Over the Under", are examples of a master at his craft. "Wise Buds Being Broken" is an ode to good green, featuring some smooth sax vibes from Anacron and laid back verses from Ill Pages: "Then the truth is spoken/ sent the smoke swirling/ now picture between my fingers something I crafted/ passed it/ reclined, then ashed it." Sach has shown many times in the past an ability to craft some of hip-hop's most sincere lyrical love letters and "Wish Up" follows in this tradition. On "Six Sides" Sach waxes poetic about the importance of thinking outside the box musically, a very appropriate statement. The album closes with "Cha Cha (With Sach at the Lounge)", a very smooth offering, feeling like a spiritual successor to "One Night at the Nappy", from the essential Seven Days to Engineer tape, but taken to another level conceptually.
|photo by Kiefer Kyder|
While, with fiDELITY, Sach has taken a new approach, working with a band, it was ultimately his own creative vision. "He had his basic framework, or ideas, for most of the tracks and would ask me for certain rhythms, directing me around my kit as far as what sounds he wanted," described Kiefer, "but he also allowed me an ample amount of space to embellish his idea of things, as I felt fit. What you're hearing is live drums that are being sampled. Sach would sample my playing, loop it how he liked it and construct a beat." Sach elaborated on the process: "Sometimes I'd just have them play through all the way. Other times I would take right from the session, the kicks and snares, the rides, the highs or whatever and pop them into my beat. Sometimes I'd sample Kiefer's drums, play the beat on the MP and then have him play over it too, trying different combinations to see what worked."
While so many artists dilute their sound, rather than hone it, Sach stays true to the artform and this shines through, as always. Listening to this record, it feels like a keystone in Sach's career; in a sense, his past work has been leading up to it. It's a natural elevation of his sound that has the feel of a magnum opus, but it also feels like a new beginning, opening the doors for future experimentation and new horizons. "I think the songs have some type of potential," Sach explained. "Like 'Wise Buds Being Broken' I think will be around for a minute. I had a lot of joy in writing it and being totally wrapped up in the music, so I think that's another thing that helps showcase the whole thing. I approached it like I usually do. I just get inspired and start making songs, but the time taken, the tracking, the recording of it was what made the difference, as well as the collaboration of different people. So it's definitely another jump-off point, and I plan to take this a lot further."
Preceding the release of fiDELITY, Sach also dropped a 'best of' selection entitled Essential, also through HIT+RUN, on cassette and orange vinyl, so make sure to check those out as well, and stay tuned for Seven Days to Engineer 2, which will see Grand Daddy Sach taking all the knowledge gained since the first installment and channeling it into a familiar concept.