- Byron The Aquarius isn't a household name, but you may have heard his lucid keys on Flying Lotus's "Roberta Flack." (He also once had a development deal producing for Eminem.) Now, the 27-year-old musician, born Byron Blaylock, finds himself in a milieu that includes his co-producer Kai Alcé, Kyle Hall, K15 out of London and GE-OLOGY, a New York artist also signed to Theo Parrish's Sound Signature label. On his new record, High Life, Blaylock goes beyond his peers, working with heady, jazz-fusion dance music that will interest fans of Roy Ayers as much as, say, Omar-S.
The High Life EP might be the most virtuosic house record you'll hear this year. In a recent interview, Blaylock laid out his MO: "I felt like I wanted to give house music a different flavor, originality, and some live instrumentation." Opener "Aquarian Voyage" stays true to the mission statement. The track starts with a standard house beat and a catchy D-to-F bassline, kicking into high gear once Blaylock's keys come in with complex, Bill Evans-style sevenths. It sets the stage for the star of the show, an acrobatic synth that evokes disco legend Patrick Adams. The musicianship on "Aquarian Voyage" is head-spinning, yet the basic feel remains light and optimistic.
On the B-side, "Run Sa" clearly references the cosmic jazz visionary. Appropriately, Alcé and Blaylock pick up a live drummer, Dmitri Walker, and swap out the bass synth for a plucked upright. This cut is a vamp rather than a fully fleshed-out idea, and though it was likely jammed out fast, it's more musically proficient than most dance records. It's performed live, but the drumming is tight—an adventurous DJ could conceivably mix with the record. "I think nowadays that's what music is missing: live frequencies," Blaylock also said. Indeed, these tracks stand out in a sea of quantized four-bar loops.
A Aquarian Voyage
B Run Sa (Live Drums by Dmitri Walker)