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Minus & MRDolly - Broken Hearts Make Broken Beats (Jazzego, 2021)

In his latest outing, Portuguese Hip Hop producer Hugo Oliveira combines his two aliases together within a simmering cauldron of sublimity, where jazz laden beats intersect with inspired keyboard work alongside two stunning remixes from Max Graef and Pedro.

We talk a lot about Jazz and its many facets here at Endless Grooves, and in many ways its long reaching influence is always worthy of highlighting, particularly when musicians continue to integrate its iconic foundations within their works. Jazz has always remained as a cornerstone of contemporary music, its shadow long reaching from its origins in the early 20th century through to the moment when it crossed over into other genres around the mid point, and from that moment onwards everyone and everything seemed to attempt to combine the genre with their own musical undertaken. Sensibilities and formalities within music were constantly broken down during the 20th century, as new movements came and went that pushed the boundaries of understanding forward either as a challenge to the norm or a deconstructing, and it could be very much argued that Jazz was the first genre to truly challenge the norms of recorded music as we knew it. Founded and continually pioneered by musicians from the African American community, Jazz would become so well versed around the world that incredible scenes would shine forth all over that paired the genre with locally created genres, and from that point onwards Jazz was forever bound to the collectivised musical consciousness, as a medium of free expression and as a tool to make real magic happen. Jazz has remained a near ever present at the forefront of music as a result, with every up and coming generation keeping it's fire very much burning as they look to combine it's endless capabilities with their own music, and this has helped to foster new scenes, spaces and places as a result. It's no surprise that Jazz still maintains a heavy influence over the contemporary scene, and with all the other interconnectivity's that persist within music these days, there are a plethora of strains to sink your teeth into when you want to experience how music gets continually pushed onwards and upwards. The amount of styles is enormous, ranging from the more traditional feel through to the housey tones, or the Hip Hop side of things, through to the hybrid style of fusions that continue to elaborate themselves via the many streams of electronic music that persist during the present day, with all of these streams indicating that the hunger to integrate Jazz into sounds is incredibly strong. We remain blessed to see the genre flourishing all over, with so many producers and musicians throwing their hat in the ring to showcase their own interpretations of how the genre might be represented, and with all these differing strands the sky remains the limit for the genre and it's ever present influence. The horns, the drums, the keys, and the feel, all of it comes together in so many ways, just like Jazz itself, and it's the endless cycles of reinvention that come together to forge these ever engaging interpretations, with the factors colliding and subsiding in the most intriguing ways imaginable. Be it to dance, to ponder, or to just provide you with music to help life pass you by, Jazz remains a key conduit to the crossroads that collide all over within our shared musical sphere, and for all that it has offered already, there's obviously still more that can be bought forth, and that remains the essence of it all, and we for one couldn't be happier with that.

These kind of ideals are very much present on the excellent new Minus and MRDolly record, 'Broken Hearts Make Broken Beats', which lands via Portuguese label Jazzego, which remains just the latest statement from producer Hugo Oliveira. Throughout his career, Oliveira has been largely focused on Hip Hop productions, with the music he released containing a huge slice of instrumentalism and depth, as plenty of dense layers would unravel from within to provide the listener with a very expansive yet concise experience. The range of styles that are found within his works speak of a world being built that draws from many places for inspiration, with the journey that we go on within his music speaking to us from differing frequencies within the genre's history, with the end product being presented in a highly polished contemporary shine. As a style, it helps to broaden the horizons just that little bit more, in that plenty of other features and elements could easily slot into his sound as time goes by, with plenty of hints provided within his earlier works of the direction in which he was heading. Either with a rapper or by itself, the music swerved and dipped with a dynamism that remains reserved for the most accomplished of producers, with plenty of riffs, melodies and drum loops living long in the memory after the record has stopped playing, as we drift from one kind of head nodding to the next, content in the knowledge that the soul has been fed some very good food indeed. The first record to highlight from his discography is 'Árvores, Pássaros E Almofadas', which landed in 2014 on the 6º Sentido imprint, the first of two full lengths released that year. The music found within is bold, smooth and filled with ingenious grooves, with horns aplenty and tonnes of space being afforded to the various rappers who feature on the record, and you get the sense from the rhythm that this kind of style was going to feature frequently on later releases. 4 years would pass before his next full length, 2018's 'Man With A Plan', and this record saw Oliveira focus solely on the instrumentals. The samples were drawn largely from soul and jazz references, and the source material shines through beautifully throughout this exceptional record, with rhythmic frequencies and the melodic layers on top all working effortlessly together within a sea of exquisite tones. Oliveira may have a slightly smaller discography than others, but the records he has release speak volumes of his vision and his technique, with many of his tracks sounding so much larger than the parameters they find themselves within, and this ability only comes along when you know just when to hit the sweet spots within tunes and when to allow them to fall away. The jazz influences that run through much of his music always find a way to push themselves to the surface, and it is this pairing of hip hop beats with Jazzy elements that really set the stage for his latest release, 'Broken Hearts Make Broken Beats', which takes the initial pairing and runs with it into the realms of jazz fusion and its ability to be paired with more dance leaning rhythms. From the get go the foundations which Oliveira set down for himself feel like they have multiplied into a new realm, a additional world that contains much of his previous works and simply elongates it outwards in so many directions, as we are treated to the fullest spectrum of how Jazz operates within the modern era. The music is filled with groove, feeling and meaning, with plenty of time given over to considering how the varying layers converge and multiply, as we become ensnared in the overtures of it all, our souls and minds chiming along to the rhythmic masterclass that swirls around us with each passing second. It's a record that draws your focus almost immediately, and with two excellent and very different remixes from Max Graef and Pedro to boot, this world is one that you will want to get to know, and on that note, lets dive right into this wee gem of a contemporary Jazz leaning record.....

Up first comes 'Salame', and this one begins with the electrifying percussion and chordal arrangement to get us going. The tempo is lively as hell, foreshadowing all that is going to flow next, and as we are greeted with a vocal sample introducing iconic Detroit Deejay Electrifin' Mojo, we get the sense of what is going to greet us as we move through the gears, and this occurs very much so as the kicks come into full view. The groove then emerges in its totality, with plenty of gorgeous simmering tonal work kissing the skies up above, as saxaphone gently floats in the breeze as we rapidly move between differing song structures, with so many interchangable layers moving in and out of the picture. The vocal samples help to guide the transitions between these varying audial spaces, directing the instruments to pick up steam or take a back seat, and as a meandering flow it's pretty magnificent to get deeply entrenched within. It's electrified Jazz fusion at it's most refined, its most tight knit and its most compact, releasing so much energy within a just over 3 minute window, and as a album opener you really couldn't ask for much more. Glorious. 'The Break' arrives next, and this one starts off with some swinging drum work to get us moving and grooving. The spaces between the varying drumming elements are quickly occupied by all manner of soft tones and notes, with the lightest of melodic sequences moving in and out of the mid section with a wonderful elegance, and before long the piano line arrives to really transport the senses above and beyond to exciting new spaces indeed. The whistle like key line adds solidness and focus into the mix, helping to guide us through the varying layers that once again switch places with such rapidity, with the climax of sorts coming towards the end of track as the breakdown comes into view. There's time for one final build up, and its just as magnificent as the the first time we experience it. Wonderful stuff. Up next comes 'A Thousand Miles', which features Mary Raisekings on vocals, and this one opens up the floor right in front of us. The chords kick start the melody, as Raisekings begins her sequence, her voice gently exploring at first before landing into the narrative as the drums come into view, and when everything begins to channel itself we really get taken along for a ride. The combination of the vocals with the groove is gorgeous, floating along with an effortlessness that simmers along with a highly refined feel, particularly within the bass line that has this wonderful rising feel to it. The momentum is characterised once more by the intermingling of layers that drift in and out of view, flickering between deep densities and gentle key lines that permeate through the top ends of the cut, all of it operates so effectively within the space between our ears, as the biggest of grins starts to appear on our faces. Superb stuff.

Up next comes the Max Graef remix of 'The Break', and the tones become slightly more House leaning on this one. The drums are suitably groovy but slightly toned back from a rhythmic point of view, and the extended intro allows us loads of time to slot ourselves within the momentum, and we achieve liftoff as the keys come into view. The pads and their texture only add to the allure of looking out over a highly enticing vista, with the world around us feeling very full and breezy, and before long the bass line emerges to give the ensemble that Jazzy edge which came through so strong on the original. The track rolls onwards, content to keep its eyes focused on the bar coming up next, but this overall picture allow us to step back to see all the little variations which make up the background, as sequences move in and out of time to provide those little moments of intrigue that keep us very much hooked. The melodic elements move away for a moment to provide the drums space to breath once more, but the keys certainly aren't far behind, as we drift once again across the clouds, forever dreaming of the places we imagine in our minds, but only now they seem a little bit closer. What an incredible re-imagining of the original, in pretty much every single way. To wrap things up, we have the Pedro remix of the same track, and this one starts off with some very similar tones to the previous cut. The expanse in which we are dropped into feels so vast, as an oceanful of keys and layers present themselves to us, lapping and washing over each other as tempo gets thrown out the window for pure unadulterated melody, with all the textures available to really carry us away. Then, out of the haze comes the rhythm, which almost gallops towards us from afar, setting the pace as the keys reduce themselves to a disappearing chord before merging into a rhythmical chordal arrangement which aligns itself very well indeed with the drums. The vocals drift across the top end of the track, helping to propel the track into new phases of being as little lines come into place across the board, as the world becomes more and more built up as time passes by, with all manner of elements throwing themselves into the ensemble. The drums then push through around the 3 minute mark, providing some space from the melodics, but their presence is greatly missed, so they arrive soon after, and here Pedro gets very clever with the varying textures that he applies into the mix, with simmering frequencies intermingled with solidness to great effect. It's a fitting end to an record never short of ideas, be it the explosive nature of the original pieces or the mind bending alternative cuts, it's a piece of music that certainly asks politely to be re-listened to over and over again, because you never know what kind of magic you'll have missed out on when going through it the first time.

Jazz is pretty much infinite, and it probably always will be, and a big part of its star continuing to rise higher and higher - and higher - is the imaginative ways which contemporary producers look to integrate it into their music, and in the present day we are absolutely blessed with an abundance of musicians doing their thing to keep the genre alive and kicking. Building upon much of his earlier work as a Hip Hop producer, Hugo Oliveira has really upped the stakes on this record, where he combines his clear adoration for Jazz and Soulful melodies and internalises it within three excellent grooves, all of which are pushed onwards by dazzling performances from the musicians involved. Not only that, but the record becomes complete with two brilliant remixes, which help to further the essences of the original cuts and push them out into the outer realms, thus creating a soundscape that has two feet on the ground and heads very much in the clouds. It's an impressive step forward for Oliveira, and we cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.

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