R&B music has taken more than a few interesting twists and turns over the past number of years. Sure the likes of Chris Brown may have been filling the public’s conscious with a more commercial take on the genre, but it has given us a few unique gems also. Frank Ocean’s 2012 release Channel Orange was acted as an ode to quality song writing and pitch defying vocals. John Legend has heavily remained in the public eye and most recently picked up an Oscar with Common for Best Original Song. However, there are always acts that will fall under the radar due to their more experimental nature than that of their peers, despite releasing undeniably good material. With THEESatisfaction’s abstract approach to making music & the fact that they are still relatively unknown, it can be expected that they could easily become one of those acts.
Making their first appearance on a Shabazz Palaces’ album, it was obvious that THEESatisfaction would take heavy influence from that group and that they were due to appear as guests on EarthEE also. However, there is enough character in Stas (emcee) & Cat (singer) for them to maintain their individual identity. The abstract production and vocal delivery from the two throughout establishes THEESatisfaction as the much needed injection of originality. They have a ying and yang quality, in that it is hard to imagine one without the other. Cat’s smooth, delicate singing would not be as compelling if it wasn’t in stark contrast to Stas’ rhymes, the title track being the best example of this.
The album does it’s best to explore some heavy subject matters, such as the “science of existence” and it successfully communicates and conveys a universal perspective through the course of the 13 tracks. These concepts are not just elaborated on lyrically but through the entire soundscape of the album. It manages to lull you into strange and unfamiliar territory that has all the erratic qualities of a lucid dream (‘Fetch/Catch’), while also introducing us to a much more dark & laidback sound (‘Blandland’) that is complimented by Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces.
EarthEE does glide into mediocre territory a few times (‘Universal Perspective’, ‘Post Black Anyway’) due to beats that sometimes don’t go anywhere and an overall sound that can be too scattered to enjoy. However, the good does heavily outweigh the bad, as even the lesser tracks feel like they require a second or third listen before you can deliver a concrete opinion. Whether it’s through their exploratory themes or off beat production, they are challenging the listener in every way they can with their brand of experimental R&B, and who could fault them for that.