2013 has been a banner year for free music. Two of my favorite projects this year, Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, and Killer Mike and El-P’s Run the Jewels, were both given away as free downloads proving that it doesn’t take a huge marketing push and a “real album” for music to be taken seriously. I don’t think it will be long before labels like “mixtape rapper” are no longer used to disparage artists that put out amazing things for free but don’t deliver on albums that are put out at retail. Free music is becoming a way of life.
Brian Altano’s new instrumental album Misanthrope is another example of free music that’s much better than most of what was released this year. You may remember Altano from his 2011 album Robotobots (which I also loved) and it’s clear that everything good about that album is better on Misanthrope. Altano seamlessly juggles multiple genres in creating Misanthrope with drum beats inspired by Wu-Tang and other 80’s and 90’s hip-hop acts, some trip-hop-esque synth work, some jazzy piano riffs, a ton of science-fiction samples and so much more to create a type of sound that I’m not sure I’ve heard before. The production across the board is inventive and seamless. On my first listen I found myself four tracks into the album before I noticed a change. It’s an easy project to get lost in and at 35-minutes it feels right to listen to it front-to-back multiple times.
What I loved most about Robotobots (and thus am completely enamored with on Misanthrope) is Altano’s ability to create atmosphere. Altano has stated that his vision for Misanthrope was to be music for the modern worker trying to break out in an overstimulated world. There is a constant sense of stimulation with new layers being added to each track and even as I felt relaxed listening to the music my brain was constantly racing trying to keep up with everything that was being built to create each song. Even the narrative created by the dialogue samples seeks to serve the overall vision of the album. Nothing seems out of place. It’s a wonderfully built album with so much to discover and I’m still finding new pieces to love each time I hear it.
The standout section of Misanthrope, though I could point to any track and give you an essay on why it’s the best, is a three-song chunk near the end that features the guitar work of Thomas Rakowitz in addition to Altano’s production. (“One A.M.,” “Silver Shank” and “If You Need Me I’m Gone”) The collaboration had an unusual beginning. Rakowitz and Altano met through the Facebook fan group for Altano’s (excellent) podcast “The Comedy Button.” The tracks that the two share the stage on work for multiple reasons, the first being that Rakowitz is simply an excellent guitarist. His solo on “Silver Shank” is one of the coolest licks that I’ve heard this year. The second is that it adds another instrument for Altano to play with and create around. It’s a dimension that wasn’t on Robotobots and is different even from the rest of Misanthrope. He manages to take such a dissimilar element and instrument and make it fit into the sound of the rest of the project while still allowing it to remain unique. That takes talent, and I desperately hope the two of them will keep working together in the future.
I’ve been excited for Misanthrope since it was announced and it more than lived up to my expectations. It’s a great album to work to or to have on in the background but it equally shines (if not more so) when you give it your full attention. If you’re looking for something different, something creative, something exciting, this is the album for you. You can hear the single, “One A.M.” featuring Thomas Rakowitz below and you can download the album FOR FREE at misanthropealbum.com If you want to support this album financially, it’s also available on iTunes, the Amazon mp3 store, and Spotify.