A delightfully scuzzy horn line dances around a hi-hat shuffle in “Scumlord.” “There’s something dirty about the horn sample,” Blockhead explains while discussing the track’s title. “It reminds you of oil-slicked streets in an alley. I wanted to embrace that feeling.”
It’s a producer’s dream: Being given access to a vast library of material to construct something completely new and exciting out of all of it—and when Blockhead’s at the controls, the results are a listener’s paradise, too. The New York City-based hip-hop production legend’s latest album, Luminous Rubble, is also the fifth release in the London-based label Def Pressé’s KPM Crate Diggers series, which hands the keys to the KPM Library’s storied collection—home to over 70 years of music and sound designs made for television, film, and radio—to some of the best behind the boards. The results are like witnessing a kid unleashed in a candy shop, as Blockhead unleashes his boundless creative mind on the KPM Library’s limitless potential—pure inspiration and joy, for your listening pleasure.
Luminous Rubble is the latest missive in a particularly busy period for underground hip-hop veteran Tony Simon, who’s spent the last decades lending his considerable talents to work from artists like Armand Hammer, billy woods, Murs, and Open Mike Eagle; in 2021, he released the critically acclaimed collab LP Garbology with rap legend and longtime collaborator Aesop Rock, just last year he unleashed his twelfth solo album, The Aux. Luminous Rubble had its origins in a chance meeting after a Hamburg show between Simon and a KPM rep, who explained the Crate Diggers conceit to him.
“For me, as a producer who uses samples, there’s nothing better than free rein,” Simon recalls. “I was like, ‘Are there any rules?’ And he said, ‘Just make whatever you want.’ That was so exciting for me. I don’t get that on my own releases, but in this case every sample is cleared and it’s all good.”
As is the case with many sample excavators, Simon already had a deep history with what the KPM library had to offer him as well—to the point where, while digging through the crates in the making of Luminous Rubble, he even came across records he’d sampled from in the past. “Their vault is the one I’m most familiar with,” he says with a laugh. “Back when I used to go record shopping a lot, I would pretty much buy any KPM record on sight. They were always a huge find at record stores. So to be able to tap into these records with no limitations was really nice.”
“The challenge for me was trying to boil down what I wanted to do,” Simon continues while discussing the genesis of Luminous Rubble, which came together over the course of 2022. “I thought about making an album of super-long songs, but it would’ve been a whole different undertaking. So I just went with what I knew, because it’s a foolproof approach to me.” Of course, Simon’s track record as Blockhead meant that the familiar path was tried and true—but as Luminous Rubble’s ten tracks prove, it’s foolish to assume that would mean any laurel-resting on his part.
“My music is always very quirky and melody-driven,” Simon states while talking about how he stretched his creative wings in the studio. “I took chances more than usual when it came to samples and how I used them for foundation.” Indeed, Luminous Rubble finds Simon using the KPM library’s vastness to craft new and engagingly twisted beat-driven shapes; “Dork Crystal” radiates a sinister ominousness, with streaks of strings rubbing against stabbing guitar chords, while a delightfully scuzzy horn line dances around a hi-hat shuffle in “Scumlord.” “There’s something dirty about the horn sample,” Simon explains while discussing the track’s title. “It reminds you of oil-slicked streets in an alley. I wanted to embrace that feeling.”
Glittering bells and a woozy gait to “Serious About My Fitness” makes the tune sound as if you’re sweating it out on the Stairmaster (in a good way), while there’s a distinct thousand-karat shine to “Oh You Fancy,” which nearly resembles a glitzed-out haunted house in its gilded spookiness. “It just sounds like royalty,” Simon exclaims, before going into greater detail about how the creative parameters of the Crate Diggers series proved its own inspiration.
“I’ve always appreciated working within limitations,” he says. “Having no boundaries can be overwhelming when it comes to the creative process. Working with these samples forced me to find middle ground in cases where I’d typically just walk away and look elsewhere.” After hearing Luminous Rubble, you’ll be happy he stuck around.
For more info and releases in thsi series, please follow – defpresse.bandcamp.com