SZA/Jon Batiste/The Weeknd collaborators drop an R&B gem on Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings
Ipecac Recordings might not be the first label one thinks of when looking for a great R&B record (unless it’s from Mike Patton, of course). But the duo known as King Garbage is out to change that.
The pair, consisting of producers Zach Cooper and Vic Dimotsis, have worked with a slew of big names including The Weeknd and SZA, even garnering Grammy nominations for their work with Jon Batiste and Leon Bridges.
Heavy Metal Greasy Love follows up their 2017 debut Make It Sweat. Both capture a sultry late-night vibe but filter their output through an off-kilter sensibility. The album possesses a level of unpredictability that wouldn’t have flown on a more mainstream release. Rather, the album expands on the original template of the genre, experimenting with various sounds, instrumental techniques and overall ambiance. Overall, they create a spacious sound that somehow remains intimate. It’s as if the music is playing inside of a car, but that car is driving across a desert with stars spread out on the horizon.
Artist: King Garbage
Album: Heavy Metal Greasy Love
Label: Ipecac Recordings
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
The opening combo of “Checkmate” and “Let Em Talk” lays the record’s vibe out in all its glory. The lead voice is recorded with little to no reverb, as if the singer is crooning right into the listener’s ear while the horns sound like they are being played through an old boombox. “Let Em Talk” allows both the lead vocal and the backups to open up. Yet King Garbage puts equal emphasis on the instrumentation. The horn lines weave in and out expertly with the vocals, and an almost metal bass line appears and disappears throughout the tune, gaining prominence in the track’s closing moments.
As one might expect from an album created by two producers, post-production techniques are an important element of the sound. While they seem to draw inspiration from both dub and the kind of techniques employed by Ted Macero on Miles Davis’s electric records, King Garbage create their own sound palette on Heavy Metal Greasy Love. Often they mix some elements of the sound with modern production values while other elements are covered in a thick layer of audio dust, nodding back to earlier music eras. This is exemplified on “Snow”. The drums are crisp and clean as anything on the radio today, but the horns sound like they were sampled off some recently unearthed piece of vinyl no one has played since the late sixties.
Things become even more unpredictable on the song “Monster Truck”. Once again, the piano and drums sound well-recorded while the rest of the instrumentation floats like a ghost in the background. In some transitions, the cymbal work becomes almost cacophonous yet always regains the groove at just the right moment. And then three-quarters of the way through, a voice emerges in the background, spitting a couple of lines of lyrics in a black metal shriek. And let’s not forget to mention that lyrically the song is about one’s girlfriend driving a monster truck. For all its strangeness, “Monster Truck” never seems to lose sight of what makes a great r&b song. It is full of great melodies and grooves and will get stuck in your head for days.
It’s doubtful that King Garbage will garner the same kind of Grammy attention that their work with more recognizable artists has, but Heavy Metal Greasy Love is every bit as good. This feels like an outlet for Cooper and Dimotsis to play with some of their wilder ideas and to add more of a personal stamp on the material. This freedom never comes across as indulgent though, despite its idiosyncrasies, it is a wonderfully listenable album.
One can only hope that the quality of Heavy Metal Greasy Love will allow them to bring their more creative ideas into more mainstream contexts.