What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole; It’s body brevity, and wit it’s soul.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Long established as one of the premier producers in electronic music, Gramatik has unveiled an ambitious slab of an EP, Epigram, which just dropped on his imprint LowTemp Music. The record finds him deftly employing a variety of styles, approaches and influences into a homogeneous stew of easily accessible music, yet simultaneously treading the cutting edge of what’s possible in his ever-expanding creative landscape.
Conceptually, Epigram gives the listener quick, laser-focused ideas; each song takes its own personality and artistic statement directly to the consciousness. So while the diverse genre-bending menu may seem overzealous and scatterbrained, it’s actually quite intentionally a broad landscape of trees tall and short, powerful statements shouted and whispered. From where I listen, an artist’s evolution should ask that those receiving the art to open their minds to the unfamiliar, whilst at once delivering a performance that satiates those tastes that made us arrive at this record to begin with.
Denis Jasarevic calls Brooklyn home, and the borough’s artistic swagger is embodied and emboldened in his visionary art. It’s never been more apparent than on Epigram; the myriad of detours and poignant themes, the subtle flourishes that inform the Gramatik post-dubstep revolution. Hip-hop is in the house with the accoutrements of modern electronic music, there are elements of disco, blues, techno, Eastern European cinematic themes, among a kaleidoscope of others. Because of the integrity behind the art, most of this music never feels forced or on-the-nose.
The Slovenian-born Jasarevic is an eclectic and interesting cat. He’s not afraid to profess his love and admiration for Nikolai Tesla, who has inspired his worldview for most of his life. He’s unafraid to mix blues guitar riffage with dramatic orchestral arrangements culled from Game of Thrones samples. On Epigram, Gramatik professes allegiance to his roots with a focused array of bass music strains, dripping in dubstep womp and frenzied 808 programming. Yet the album opens with “Tempus Illusio”, loosely translated as an illusion of time. The passage is a not-so-subtle heads-up that Jasarevic will not be shackled by electronic music’s long-established dividing lines, or BPMs. Gramatik is delivering an epigram, a series of short and effective statements, that along with his insight, his personality, and intention, will convey the sentiments of a progressive artistic endeavor that simply cannot be constrained by any kind of conventions.
After the tranquil introduction, golden-era drums and are met with crunkalogic brass bass grooves, “Satoki Nakamoto” (featuring Adrian Lau and ProbCause) announces that boom-bap is in the building. The opener brings the noise and the bump with authority; as a standalone hip-hop track, it’s a straight heater, and this is clearly Gramitik’s strongest suit. “Native Son” finds Wu-Tang Clan’s resident chef Raekwon dropping gravely, quirky and sharp verbal darts; we feel right at home. Leo Napier brings an R&B steez to the mix that has Gramatik mixing in choice Rhodes and hollow-body guitar. Understated soul grooves are bubbling with his snapping, focused percussion elements. “Native Son” (Prequel) drops innocently, and it’s a smooth pop song. This is an undeniably funky session, yet at no sacrifice to Gramatik’s vision or identity; these tempos and vibes suit him marvelously.
When Russ Liquid shows up, and shows out, to close the record on “Anima Mundi,” the colors, synths, sonics and groove are downright celestial. I would be interested in a full-album collaboration between Denis and Russ, on the strength of this magnificent final song. This type of promise and evolution may have once been hard to imagine pre-The Age of Reason, but with Epigram, Gramatik has completely transitioned into a genre-defying artist. The future was already bright for Jasarevic and the LowTemp crew, now you might call it blinding.
Listen to the full Epigram album below: