Promising to take you through “a journey of mashed up grooves and eclectic sounds”, the Belgians don’t dither when it comes to displaying their musical wares. With virtuoso performances across the board and a real sense of attention to detail, the group’s blend of jazz, funk, hip-hop and electronic elements provides the listener with a very modern, fresh sound.
STUFF. starts out with the eery opener, Event Horizon. This bleak soundscape conjures up images of a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Something which the accompanying video – a still time-lapse of a dreary industrial backdrop – further suggests.
In fact, the synth-laden, electronic ambience of Event Horizon is somewhat reminiscent of eighties sci-fi films, such as Bladerunner or The Thing, with the track bearing something of a likeness to Ennio Morricone’s score for the 1982 John Carpenter film.
Follow-up, Skywalker, is much less doom-and-gloom. Seemingly, the farther one travels from the opening track, the less it seems to make sense, with the rest of the album proving more upbeat and groove-ridden. Skywalker itself starts out with a repetitive harmonic motif, courtesy of the bass player, with atmospheric synth sounds adorning it either side. The introduction of the drums creates some clever rhythmic interest in a section which is constantly layering in textures, constantly building until… And there it is! At 1:38 we have the hook: an infectiously catchy, memorable groove driven by bold synth and slap bass tones. A more embellished, more dynamic reprisal of this section rounds the track off in style before we’re dropped into Tahtam.
Tahtam throws us into jazzier waters, with a lush, rich harmony in the more dynamic sections, providing the basis for some great fluttering synth-bass trade-offs. One might draw comparisons with more funkier jazz exponents, such as Herbie Hancock, if you listen closely. Set against this is a more ambient contrasting section, which allows some brief reprieve before delving back into the more attacking groove section.
Speaking of attacking grooves, the bold and emphatic slap bass running through Sifa offers a neat timbral contrast to the sweeping, beeping synthetic sounds running alongside it. The overall effect is quite powerful when the electronic elements begin to rain down within the mix accompanied by some impressive displays from the drummer, which only serve to enhance the brief, beautiful chaos.
At 3:17, the bassist, who has served the song so diligently up to this point, treats us to a solo display of his instrumental prowess before being joined by some harp-like tones, helping this number to blissfully segue into the equally blissful Caves.
Not intent on letting you get too comfortable, however, STUFF. follow up with Ahfreaq. Characterised by an unsettling rhythm, scattered delay sounds and a forthright bassline, Ahfreaq has something of a dub vibe to it – another influence for the mixing pot.
Following on, Java could be described as ‘classically hip-hop’ drumwise, with the track initially sounding like the perfect backdrop for an MC. The ensuing synths and sporadic electronic noises suggest a different course, however, as we veer into thicker textures with some tasty drumming interspersed. There’s a calm within this storm, though: a breathy oasis of bells and pads leading towards the outro and serving as the lay-up for the penultimate Walking Headz.
Walking Headz is a masterclass in groove and serves as another showpiece for the bassist, whose tone and technique have impressed throughout the album. Indeed, the band as a whole truly show off their high-level musicianship on this track with some excellent displays.
The closer, R – Over, seems to make sense of the opener, returning to that dark, soundtrack-esque sound: the accompanying bookend to Event Horizon and the perfect relaxed closer to an impressive debut album.
In a word, STUFF. is that great mix of muso inventiveness, excellent musicianship and sharp attention to detail. If you like something a little avant garde, then you’ll really enjoy this.
STUFF. are also set to re-release their self-titled debut album on September 18th, via buteo buteo. Catch them in action if you can on their european tour with dates in Bristol (Aug 21), Northamptonshire (Aug 29) and London (Sep 13).