Gramatik Pleases with Epigram [Music Review]
Written by Ariana Assaf
Ladies and gentleman, today is a good day. The sun is out, and so is Gramatik’s highly anticipated album Epigram. It doesn’t get much better than basking in the warmth of UV rays and hot fire tunes, and whether or not you’re getting your dose of vitamin D today, I can assure you my fabulously funky friend has something to warm you up.
Epigram moves from an intro (“Tempus Illusio”) that makes me feel I’m being guided into the depths of some eerie underworld sanctuary by the ghost of Gramatik’s past straight into his wonderfully jazzy style perfectly exemplified by “Satoshi Nakamoto”. In a positively bangin marriage of hip hop and dance music, Gramatik collaborated with Brooklyn-based rapper/producer Adrian Lau on this track that already has 11,000 listens on Soundcloud.
That’s right, the entire album including “Satoshi Nakamoto” is available for free on sites like Soundcloud, and as a download. It can also be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music, or purchased on iTunes and Beatport. Gramatik’s mantra “freeing music by making music free” comes largely from his experience growing up in a working-class family and being unable to afford expensive albums, let alone music-making software. In an interview with .Mic, Gramatik explains that building a fan base by releasing music for free online is what led him to make money by performing.
His label Lowtemp (on which Epigram was released) operates on the same idea. “It’s about exposing your music to as many people as possible as quickly as possible, so you can build a following, start touring, become financially independent and finally be able to fully focus on your art,” Gramatik told .Mic about Lowtemp’s lack of contracts or exclusivity requirements. As the label’s roster of artists continues to grow, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this philosophy of simply acting as a platform for the kinds of artists it believes in is working. Check out the silky smooth vibes of Russ Liquid (featured on Epigram) or Freddy Todd’s EP—released on All Good Records, the label of frequent Gramatik collaborator and funk master in his own right, Griz—and you’ll see what we mean.
But back to praise for Epigram: it only gets more brilliantly frantic as the album goes on…I may or may not have peeled myself off my living room floor (basking made possible by big bay windows) to freak out to “War Of The Currents.” It’s the kind of song that makes me miss sweating it out with a crowd of fellow Gramatik fans aka please get back from Europe already mister aka I need to dance aka oh my god.
Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, the uber-sensual tones of “Native Son” came through my laptop speakers, and I had the sudden urge to lay in bed naked and smoke a joint. The single debuted at last year’s Coachella with vocal collaborators Raekwon (of Wu-Tang Clan) and Orlando Napier, and has been stuck in the heads and hearts of listeners ever since. Surely I’m not alone in being thrilled that it can now be found in the context of Epigram as a whole.
The rest of the album plays with a huge spectrum of sounds, from subdued piano and violin tones on “Room 3327” to more badass creepiness on “Eat Liver!” featuring Slovenian underground group Laibach. Hip hop influences shine through again on “Back To The Future” with ProbCause (who’s remix of Louis The Child’s/K. Flay’s “It’s Strange” is practically breaking the internet), and the album twinkles out beautifully with “Corporate Demons” and “Anima Mundi”. Gramatik has done it again, and I have no doubt his future endeavors will continue to be equally as life-improving as Epigram.