Pillbox

Gramatik delivers on long-awaited album

During his live performances, Gramatik teams up with a guitarist to give his shows a uniquely human feel compared to other electronic/hip-hop acts. (credit: Courtesy of messycupcakes via Flickr) During his live performances, Gramatik teams up with a guitarist to give his shows a uniquely human feel compared to other electronic/hip-hop acts. (credit: Courtesy of messycupcakes via Flickr)

A year is a long time to keep anyone waiting, let alone a rabid fan base hungry for a promised new album. Now, after multiple vague seasonal deadlines, bluestep artist Gramatik’s new album, The Age of Reason is finally here and delivers on the implicit promises made during the long delay. Bluestep is a combination of American blues and dubstep with extensive hip-hop, jazz, and swing influence as well.

The Age of Reason is very indicative of the new sound Gramatik has been exploring over his past few releases, especially 2012’s #digitalfreedom. The album opener and collaboration with ESKOBARS, “Brave Men,” features Gramatik’s biggest drop, with a bottom that goes right through the floor. While not indicative of the whole album’s sound — it certainly stands out due to its heaviness — it nonetheless makes a statement with its opening placement. This is Gramatik’s sound now: Like it or listen to something else.

Despite the move away from natural sounding samples to a more dub-inspired sound, there are many great things to be found in Gramatik’s new direction. The biggest benefit has to be the increased prominence of guitar-playing. Live, Gramatik teams up with a guitarist, and the addition gives his performances a human energy that is often lacking in electronic acts.

On “Torture,” the stomping track that Gramatik has been opening up his live performances with since the summer festival circuit, collaborator Eric Krasno channels the ghosts of every blues guitarist who ever worked their fingers to the bone searching for that one perfect riff. Not to be outdone, the drums on Gramatik’s backing track sound more like they’re out of a metal, rather than an electronic hip-hop, song, and punch right in the gut.

Other tracks that stand out include the funky “Obviously,” a collaboration with Exmag and male pop-vocal duo Cherub, and the jazzy-yet-heavy “You Don’t Understand.” “Pardon My French” has an extremely danceable and disco-like feel to it, which is interesting to hear coming from the artist who helped make a name for himself by creating a blissful hip-hop remix of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Stairway to Heaven.”

The Age of Reason’s best moment comes at the very end with the groovy “It’s Just a Ride.” Featuring a calm duel of synthesizers and guitar in the beginning, the song then shifts into a rough guitar riff before finally dropping into a steady beat that incorporates all the previous elements of the song instead of exploding them off into a wall of bass. While his full-on remix of Bassnectar’s “Dubuasca” — a track Gramatik played live to great acclaim this past summer — was blocked from being released, “It’s Just a Ride” uses many components of it, especially the wispy and ethereal vocals in the background.

Being a strong and outspoken supporter of net neutrality and open-access to information, Gramatik releases all of his music online for free — often using Facebook and Twitter to share the link to his entire discography on torrent website The Pirate Bay. His songs can be found for download in many places on the net, including his website gramatik.net as well as thissongissick.com and bittorrent.com.