Published Aug 05, 2014Amp Live, the production half of Bay Area duo Zion I, has organized his latest like a classic music piece with three movements, each meant to be played as one piece. As a concept, it's bold and ambitious, but also arbitrary and unnecessary. The connections shared by the songs in each movement are rather tenuous; my guess is that the first is love, the second is dancing, and the third is filled with hip hop cliches such as money and the hustle?
Regardless, Amp Live uses the opportunity to showcase his talents in creating the music for a varied selection of songs, primarily R&B and hip hop but also a bit of dubstep, chiptune and club jams, with both vocal and instrumental tracks in the mix. While a few guests make appearances rapping, singing or playing an instrument, the highlight here is obviously the production, and Amp Live comes through with some heat. The music is multi-layered and nuanced, mixing boom bap drums, synth, video game music and the wobble bass of dubstep with classical instruments, especially the cello. (In fact, one of the best tunes, "Flight in G Minor," heavily features the playing of Dirty Cello.)
Other highlights include the groovy "Penny Nickel Dime," with Anya's jazzy singing and a rap verse from Prof, the minimal "The Formula," with superb battle raps from Sol, and horn-heavy dubstep instrumental "Brass Knuckles." While Headphone Concerto does feature a varied mix so that any fan of beat-orientated music should find something to like, it doesn't result in a very cohesive album. Too bad, since Amp Live's production is still pretty amazing. (Plug Research)