Japhy Ryder | If The Haves Are Willing
Album review by John Powell
Plaudit, please, for this Burlington batch, for somehow defining “Instrumental Hip Hop”. No vocals necessary on If the Haves Are Willing, as it survives on forward moving instrumentation and laid back grooves. Their use of horns, drums, and guitar often sound jazzy, but the bass is heavy in the mix and adds a dub quality.
“Das Gutt” sounds extracted from some sci-fi cowboy flick. It’s generated by a strange acoustic guitar lick and is accentuated by an almost mariachi horn provided by Will Andrews. Zack DuPont comes in out of nowhere with a Pink Floydian guitar sputter. It definitely gives off a dusty highway feel.
Next, “Ain’t That a B” alters from a muddy contemporary jazz section with a sample of a crowd talking laid beneath it, and a funky jaunt loaded with guitar and synth. At only 2:20, it’s a curious second song, and isn’t allowed enough time to develop into anything. It could be the intro to a Showtime sitcom, but is no mind-blowing work of art.
The prized possession is the third track, “Can’t Do It”, a marvelous surfer ballad, laced with the sound of waves washing up on sand, interwoven with a tight high hat and snare beat. Patrick Orminston’s bass is colorful. The guitar shimmers. The trumpet rolls like a fourth glass of wine. Add in handclaps, a guitar solo Antonio Banderas could strip to, and you have a truly, robust, sensual song.
“Grinder” is another achievement. Built around a funky rhythm meant for strutting, DuPont’s restrained guitar patter is delicious. Jason Thime lays on the crash cymbals and heavy kick. Slowly growing, “Grinder” lands on a husky-sounding trumpet and a whirring synth. It gets in you and you want to hit replay again and again…
The album closer, “Set Self Sail”, is a slick post-rock anthem, building ever so gradually over a fast paced drum groove. Thime really gets to show off here- not that he pounds his kit, but rather adds flourishes worth noting. The synth plays a big role, and layers of guitar and horns create even more atmosphere.
I don’t want to forget the added percussion, most noticeably tambourine, from Joshua Pfeil and Matt Deluca. Light in the mix, their touches add character to these grooves, and engage the ear with interspersed weirdness.
Smartly, If the Haves Are Willing has only nine tracks and is only 30 minutes long. Purely instrumental, and relying heavily on slurred horn lines, the album can get tiring as it is. Any longer and its listeners could potentially get bored.
Granted, this album isn’t for cranking on your iPod while you jog. It’s background music, or getting stoned music. It’s for indie film soundtracks and, depending on the people, baby-making music. Certainly, the album has its intricate musical choices, but Japhy Ryder succeed in what they set out to do, which is creating mood through minimalism, sonic exploration, and to prove that “Instrumental Hip Hop” is not only real, but versatile.
Still, the group can’t keep this angle up for their next album. They’ll have to find more avenues to explore, which is something they can do; they’re more than capable.
So, when you put If the Haves Are Willing on, know what you’re getting into and you won’t be disappointed. I highly recommend If the Haves Are Willing to anyone with a new, sleek car, preferably black, associated with champagne, high heels, and big cigars. It’s pimping music. For six white boys from Vermont to pull this off is a wonder and treat. Not many local bands are doing what they’re doing with so much charisma.