Having previously released critically acclaimed hip hop albums from the Visioneers, DJ Vadim, J Dilla and Pete Rock, BBE Music will soon release what’s sure to be one of the best hip hop albums of 2013…The Last Skeptik’s Thanks For Trying. It’ll be released by BBE Music on 6th May 2013. However, Thanks For Trying is no ordinary hip hop album. Far from it. Instead it’s a much more sophisticated and complex album of pioneering hip hop. 

While other hip hop producers refer to their music as old school, The Last Skeptik’s music is very much of the Nu School of hip hop. Rather than relying on what are usually, a hip hop producer’s best friend, beats, samples and synths, The Last Skeptik is joined by what seems like a musical cast of thousands. That’s not to say The Last Skeptik has forsaken beats, samples and synths. Not at all. He’s augmented them with a talented team of musicians. They provide the accompaniment to The Last Skeptik as fifteen tracks of orchestral and cinematic music unfold on Thanks For Trying. As the fifteen tracks that comprise Thanks For Trying unfold, you realize that The Last Skeptik has come a long way since his debut single in 2004.

It was back in 2004 that The Last Skeptik released his debut single Wordsearch on the Netgroove label. With The Last Skeptik laying down the beats, Wordsearch featured Squared with cuts by Jazz T and Dr. Zygote. Later in 2004, as Skeptik, he contributed a rap to a compilation Deprogrammed Productions Presents…”Friends Of The Family.” Little did The Last Skeptik realize it, but this was the start of what would be a successful career. This was a long way from when a young Last Skeptik skipped school to make his own beats.

Throughout his nine year career The Last Skeptik has collaborated with many artists. During 2005, The Last Skeptik was involved in two collaborations. There was his collaboration with Conflix on the Think Twice E.P, whichI  was released on the Filthy Habits label. His other collaboration was Kashmere featuring The Last Skeptik and Diversion Tactics’ E.P. This six-track E.P. was released on Boot Records. Two years later, The Last Skeptik would collaborate on what was his debut album.

Over the next two years, The Last Skeptik wasn’t just establishing a reputation as a talented producer. He was also the go-to-guy for anyone looking for a DJ, MC and remixer. Then in 2007, The Last Skeptik collaborated with Verb T on The Broken Window. While The Broken Window was Verb T’s fourth album, it was The Last Skeptik’s debut album. Released on the Silent Soundz label, The Broken Window was well received. So too was Satisfied, a single from The Broken WIndow. The Last Skeptik’s reputation and fan-base grow. Things were looking good for The Last Skeptik.

Between 2008 and 2010, The Last Skeptik continued working as a songwriter, producer, remixer and DJ. During this period Conspicuous, The Streets, Daniel Meariweather, Brad Strut, David’s Lyre, Loudmouth Melvin and Marina and The Diamonds were among the artists remixed by The Last Skeptik. Twelve of the fourteen tracks that featured on The Last Skeptik Presents Same Day Different Sh*t compilation were written and remixed by The Last Skeptik. The fourteen tracks eclectic tracks that comprised The Last Skeptik Presents Same Day Different Sh*t resulted in a genre-sprawling album, one that demonstrated just how innovative a producer The Last Skeptik was fast becoming.

Two years after the genre defying The Last Skeptik Presents Same Day Different Sh*t, The Last Skeptik hooked up with rapper Rewd Adams. The result was the critically acclaimed How Not To Make A Living. Released in 2012, not only did it receive widespread radio play, but further enhanced and reinforced The Last Skeptik’s reputation as a groundbreaking producer. Now a year after the success of  How Not To Make A Living, The Last Skeptik’s has somehow, found time to produce his sophomore album Thanks For Trying.

Since the release of How Not To Make A Living, The Last Skeptik has been busier than ever. He has a residency at London’s premier hip hop night Livin’ Proof and has spent time touring the US. The Last Skeptik also has spent time writing, remixing and producing artists. This includes being commissioned by major labels to produce musical luminaries like Kate Nash and Gorillaz. Given how busy The Last Skeptik has been, it’s hard to believe he’s found time to record his sophomore album Thanks For Trying, which will be released on BBE Music on 6th May 2013.

Joining The Last Skeptik for his sophomore album Thanks For Trying, are what seems like a musical cast of thousands. Legendary British hip hop star Jhest, who previously, has released five influential albums, including 2002s The Return Of The Drifter and 2003s Falling Down. Since then, Jhest has influenced a generation of British hip hop artists. So, it’s something of a coup having Jhest feature on Lullaby. Another guest artist is Gavin Fitzjohn, a saxophonist, trumpeter and arranger. He’s previously toured extensively with Paolo Nutini. So the addition of such talented personnel will ensure that The Last Skeptik’s Thanks For Trying, joins the list of critically acclaimed albums BBE Music have released in the past few years. Will that be the case though?

It doesn’t take long before you realize that Thanks For Trying is a very special album. From the opening bars of Those Ones, the word eclectic springs to mind. A fusion of musical influences and genres melt into one. There’s everything from The Beatles circa Abbey Road, lush orchestral strings, a laid-back,  jazz-tinged flute and the soundtrack to a sixties spy thriller. If you close your eyes, pictures unfold before your eyes. The Last Skeptik and his cast of equally talented musicians use their musical palette’s full potential to seamlessly paint these pictures.

Then on Park Champ, bursts and swathes of drama unfold. It’s a tantalizing taste of what might have been. During just seventy seconds of music, The Last Skeptik sees how many musical influences he can cram in. Bursts of eighties rock, World Music, ambient and drum ‘n’ bass all merge into one. Frantic, compelling and captivating you’re scared you miss anything. All too quickly, Park Champ is over and Wig begins to unfold. It picks up the baton in terms of eclecticism. Drums pound, providing a strident heartbeat, while a moody backdrop of synths, rasping horns and percussion compete for your attention. Each play their in the track’s success. From their we head to The Best Part, an aptly titled track. Comprising samples, crispy beats and a proliferation of sweet, and sometimes sensual hooks, it’s not unlike what Nightmares On Wax were doing back in the nineties. It’s similarly complex and multilayered, but equally effective and hook-laden.

Enjambment has a much more understated sound, as it gradually begins to reveal its subtleties and charms. Crunchy beats join the unmistakable sound of a Rhodes, while a vocal floats in and out. Jazzy horns rasp while guitars chime and musical genres become one. Vintage hip hop, jazz and ambient music influence this laid-back, melodic and smokey sounding track.

Probably, the best track on Thanks For Trying is the irresistibly catchy and hook-laden Be There. Quite simply, it’s three of the most memorable minutes you’ll spend listening to music. The sweet vocal floats in and out, while everything else plays a supporting role and fits seamlessly into place. 

Pick Your Battles is very different from everything that’s gone before. It has an orchestral, cinematic sound. Dramatic and moody, the track only begins to reveal its secrets after two minutes. Thunderous drums add to the moody orchestral sound, which could be soundtrack to a surreal movie that’s yet to be made. Like Pick Your Battles, That Old has an orchestral sound. It’s combined with Eastern influences and hip hop drums. The result is a melancholy and wistful track, that’s also quite beautiful. Horseplay sees Eastern influences, buzzing synths, crispy drums and swathes of strings combining to give the track an orchestral sound. Somehow, this works. This is to the credit of The Last Skeptik. To this compelling combination of influences, a healthy supply of drama is added, resulting in a track with a real cinematic sound. Following in the footsteps of Horseplay is Ask Myself, which has a similar foreboding, moody and dramatic Eastern sound. The way the four previous tracks have been programmed its like listening to a movie soundtrack, one that’s enthralling and completely captivating.

Lullaby features guest artist Jehst, who lays down one of his trademark raps. This he does against a backdrop of bullets, scratches and ethereal backing vocals. It’s as if Thanks For Trying has been building up to this moment, when the album’s underlying drama would boil over. As Lullaby fades into the distance, it’s not unlike the moment when a violent storm subsides and normality returns. Here, normality means Hero Mask.

From the get-go Hero Mask has a real old school sound. With that comforting sound of crackling vinyl, drums crack, while stabs of keyboards join wistful strings and bursts of rasping horns. Taking its reference points as hip hop, jazz, classical and music the result is another genre sprawling track.

As Mission Failed unfolds, the sound is reminiscent of black and white films from the early days of cinema. Flamboyant flourishes of piano take centre-stage before gradually the melancholy strings, reverberating synths, crunchy drums and braying horns enter. It’s like a musical roller coaster, full of twists and turns, drama and surprises aplenty.

I Hate June has a really understated, subtle and melancholy sound. Just a lone acoustic is responsible for this. Here, less is more and with just the later addition of a keyboard, results in one of the highlights of Thanks For Trying. Closing Thanks For Trying is Well, Well. It has a similar sound to I Hate June. With just a meandering guitar joined by a melancholy strings and percussion the track’s understated sound is captivating. Gradually, The Last Skeptik adds crispy drums as the track combines Eastern European, jazz, hip hop and classical music with drama, beauty and latterly, vintage jazz. This seems a fitting way to close such an innovative, genre sprawling album.

Earlier, I boldly forecasted that The Last Skeptik’s Thanks For Trying would be one of the best hip hop albums of 2013. Not only do I stand by that statement, but think that when the lists of the best albums of 2013 are compiled, The Last Skeptik’s Thanks For Trying will be on it. Incorporating everything from hip hop, jazz, classical, rock, ambient and Eastern music, it truly is a genre sprawling album. Thanks For Trying is much more than a hip hop album. It’s a compelling, captivating album of eclectic music from one of the most inventive, influential and innovative producers of his generation. Filled with subtleties and surprises aplenty, the fifteen tracks that comprise Thanks For Trying is like an enthralling musical journey. So good is the music on Thanks For Trying, that your attention never wanders. If it did, you’d be scared you might miss something. That’s how good an album The Last Skeptik’s Thanks For Trying is.

Thanks For Trying is an album that once you’ve heard it, you never forget it.Quickly, its subtleties and charms get under your skin, weaving their way into your soul. It reminds you just why you love music, especially music as good as this. From the opening bars of Those Ones, right through to the closing notes of Well, Well, Thanks For Trying is a musical adventure through a multiplicity of musical genres. So good is this musical adventure, that once it’s over, you want to relive it and all its glories. With each listen, more of Thanks For Trying’s subtleties, charms and secrets reveal itself. This complex, multilayered cinematic, orchestral album has many subtleties, charms and secrets awaiting discovery. Luckily, you don’t long before you can discover the delights of The Last Skeptik’s Thanks For Trying. It’ll be released by BBE Music on 6th May 2013, when you too, can discover the glorious fusion of musical genres that is Thanks For Trying. Standout Tracks: Those Ones, The Best Part, Be There and Hero Mask.


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