A typical Dutch summer morning: rain banging on the window, thunder, and lightning in the mere distance, I absorb my feelings about the bipolar climate by turning to the album ‘Transition’ by Greyheads. Subliminal techno beats, mixed with saxophone, electric guitar solos, and poetic lyricism, allow the precipitation to contribute as another instrument in this playground of noise.
The album is an eclectic mastery, each track are cousins to one another, being completely different in many ways, but sharing a common thread. The way in which it covers a range of different genres and emotions, whilst maintaining to stay within a single aesthetic, shows just how well executed this album is.
Admittedly never hearing of the band before, Greyheads is the perfect name for such a group. The hybridity of the tracks allows me to wander out of my own thoughts with a soft jazz instrumental and then drag me back to reality with an unstoppable hip-hop funk head-bopping tune. Therefore ‘Grey’, a fusion of black and white, is an apt title for a group that obscures the borders of a single genre.
The band's previous album ‘Homes’, gives us a small insight to the band, with the members coming from many different ‘Homes’ namely, Italy, Cyprus, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands. We can see how diversity is ingrained within the group from the very foundation. ‘Homes’ stuck more solidly to the ideology of electronic jazz, which is why the title ‘Transition’ is very telling in the direction this group wants to go. The album gives room for more hip-hop, funk tracks with the voices of Amazumi and Noa Lauryn layering onto the band's instrumental based predecessor.
In correspondence with the band’s drummer, and bandleader, Nello Biasini, we can really see how every aspect of this album was a more collective and joint effort than the first. He talks about the changes, challenges and choices that show the hardship that came with ‘Transition’.
Firstly, he tells us how he made an effort to, (in his words) ‘“Transition” to a different approach by involving the band in a more creative way’. He did this by only making sketches of the songs, creating a base for the rest of the group to splash their creativity on. This is why, perhaps, ‘Transition’ has a spontaneity and unpredictability that one can only gain from the fusion of multiple minds.
With a different line-up and fewer people than the first album, Biasini describes the challenges that also came with the album; redistributing parts, sacrificing ideas, and being forced to go in a different direction. Along with the conscious choice to focus on a more acoustic sound, these obstacles can be seen as one of the main actors in the band’s development.
Album artwork: Studio FAX
The 10 track album is split into 3 parts with interludes separating them. The first part consists of ‘Tryout’ ‘Aago’ and ‘Aago Pt. 2’.
‘Tryout’, can be seen as a preface for the rest of the album, it’s an instrumental track, which gives a nod to the band's first album. But with a harder more electronic sound around the 3-minute mark, we can witness, explicitly, the ‘Transition’ taking place. After listening to ‘Tryout’, you may think that the album will be pretty similar to the first, but ‘Aago’ defies this completely, with a drumming intro followed by the pounding voice of Amazumi, which emulates that of Little Simz, we are introduced to a confrontational and intense rhetoric. ‘Aago Pt. 2’ acts as an internal monologue for its confrontational forerunner, calming down the pace and including an invasive instrumental ‘Aago Pt. 2’ it allows the album to circle back round to its jazz roots.
We then have an interlude entitled ‘Chickpeas South Korea’. (I am longing to know the inspiration for the name). The track itself only lasts for 19 seconds, but gives the effect of being taken elsewhere, with a fast-paced Mario Kart-esque tune, you are taken to the next chapter of the album.
Starting with the track ‘The Big Maybe (Want to Love you)’, my personal favourite. This tune has a constant deep beat throughout, overlaying with an advertisement-like voiceover and a robotic choral ‘Want to Love you’, the Funkadelic undercurrent makes this an unstoppable head-bopper. Following this we have, ‘Johnny Panda’ a smooth and bluesy track which emanates eroticism. This tune is bound to get you in a groovy mood. ‘Deamons’ follows, the most successful track off the album featuring vocals from Noa Lauryn. The lyrics and music in this track act as allies, with the pace of the music being conscious of the context of the lyrics, you are completely absorbed in the song.
The next interlude ‘1104’, is again a disjointed piece of music that pushes you through a whirlwind, to be introduced to the last two tracks.
‘Tears’ and ‘Ode to Hip-Hop 2’ are both heavily guitar-based and the fade between the tracks is unrecognizable, welding the two into one. 'Tears' starts slow-paced, depicting that of a Santana track, but allows the Greyheads twist of a groovy jazz middle 8th.
Having a track titled 'Ode to Hip-hop 2', we see the value of Hip-Hop to this album. The last track is a continuation of the penultimate one, with an added guitar solo at the end.
Reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's Star-Spangled Banner, this last track can be seen as a patriotic ‘Thank-you’ to the land of Hip-Hop.
Tijmen de Nooy Photography
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