Glancing at the artwork for Steven Julien‘s (FKA Funkineven) ‘Bloodline’, one notices a Parental Advisory sticker towards the cover’s bottom. Without extensive knowledge of Julien‘s latest work, one might assume the deep house producer had joined forces with a Dizzee Rascal or Wiley for a track; however, the mini-album contains no features. Considering the work’s supplementary images seem wholly decent, it may be that Julien is commenting on the label’s meaninglessness — or, perhaps, reflecting tongue-in-cheek on white society’s marking of black men as inherent threats — by using the label. Alternatively, one may reach the following conclusion: the sticker, which also appears on ‘Fallen’, Julien‘s solo debut, warns listeners about the dirty beats contained within.
Following ‘Hunt’, a three-minute, Goosebumps-esque introduction complete with disarming bells and droning synths, ‘Roll Of The Dice’ unfurls as semi-distorted drum machines interweave to evoke Herbie Hancock‘s ‘Thrust’ (1974). With structures built around a TR-808, which Julien heavily features in homage to the machine’s inventor, the late Ikutaro Kakehashi, ‘Bloodline’ manages to offer compositions that feel denser than their constituent parts would suggest. The work’s titular piece exudes the sense a live drumline has collaborated with Julien while its rhythms draw upon the producer’s African and native Caribbean ancestors.
‘Apache’ clatters and pulsates while ‘Queen of Ungilsan‘, a seven-minute-long groove, would feel at home on a Laurel Halo release with its relatively complex arrangements and heady textures. ‘IDK’ plunges listeners into the collection’s most laid-back effort, its chill synths and danceable beats coalescing as the sonic background to some virtual rave sponsored by Nintendo’s Wii Sports 2018. (‘Temple Rd’ certainly enhances the image.) In the future, Julien‘s work would benefit from “retro” vocal samples or guest features, perhaps ultimately going the Madlib route and collaborating with an artist for an entire album. For now, Julien is enough.
Ultimately, ‘Bloodline’ is less of a mere tribute than an immaculate act of spiritual channeling. The work’s background enhances the listening experience, but one is left feeling as though Julian presents a draft version of something that could be greater. If ‘Bloodline’ were just twenty minutes longer, the release would offer a seductive glimpse into an alternate reality, or perhaps could have served as an essential cultural artifact. Regardless of these unfulfilled desires, Julien‘s latest effort proves a solid release that should appeal to new listeners.
The full tracklist is as follows:
2. Roll Of The Dice
5. Queen of Ungilsan
7. Temple Rd
‘Bloodline’ is out now via Apron Records.