Deepblak’s Chief Alchemist AYBEE will release his fourth full-length studio album, The Odyssey, in November 2016. As befitting its grand title, this newest long-player finds him concerned with personal journeys: both the personal one that has brought him to this point – living in Berlin, 15 years since founding Deepblak in his native Oakland – and the one that beckons for him personally and creatively in future: AYBEE sees himself as being halfway up a mountain, looking back on where he has come from, and to where he will be headed next – both concepts play a profound role in the emotional textures of the album, which in true Deepblak fashion draws from jazz, deep house, techno, hip hop, blues, experimentation, cinema, space, time and infinity.
The Odyssey represents a change-up for AYBEE in several ways, forged from a desire to keep expectations at bay and throw something of a curveball for those who felt they had him pegged: “a good pitcher always keeps you off balance”. This newest work saw him deliberately limit his sound palette in a creative exercise that challenged him to create a full body of work from a small pre-selected library of sonic elements. While this was restricting in some aspects, the approach to – as he puts it – “throw the ingredients in a basket and cook with it later” gave him more freedom to focus on atmosphere and groove instead of putting hours into trying out different options – “otherwise I’d still be in the studio now trying to work out which hi-hat to use on the third track!”
While the resulting collection of tracks, bound together in sounds used yet disparate in their applications of them, may represent a more accessible AYBEE album than those prior, it still contains within it the DNA of his work with Deepblak Rhythm Czar, Afrikan Sciences – most notably in their improvised, one-take album length Miles Davis homage ‘Sketches of Space‘. That 2014 LP was closely followed by another collaboration, with Jerome Sydenham and Ron Trent as S.A.T., released on the former’s Ibadan Records and pursuing a more techno-driven sound to the polyrhythmic jazz experimentation of ‘Sketches’. Elements of both styles can be found in The Odyssey, as it moves through tempos and styles, yet the approach he has taken regarding the sounds used ensures it will forever be a unique work in his discography – quite literally nothing in his work before or since will sound like this record.
The Odyssey’s artwork is by the artist Grzegorz Redko (www.grzegorzredko.com), whose animations of the cover art will be released online ahead of the album release, lending another dimension to AYBEE’s latest statement of artistic intent, with many more still to come as he keeps climbing that mountain.