Apollo Brown Thirty Eight

Apollo Brown Thirty Eight
7
The latest from Apollo Brown — his first instrumental project since 2011's Clouds — tackles a funked-up blaxploitation aesthetic, to strong results. The Michigan-raised producer is careful not to position this as mere beat tape: the 20-track effort carries an inference to the smoky, gritty sound of '70s soul while updating it with modernized production and hip-hop soul sensibilities.

"Thirty Eight (intro)" sets the cinematic stage with heavy Isaac Hayes guitar-fuelled influences and hits the ground running with the head-nodding "Cellophane" and sample-driven, mellowed out "Learn The Meaning." The driving vocal clip in "Shotguns in Hell" gets grating after a while, but the brassy swing of "The Warning" makes up for it.

Overall, Apollo Brown is a producer who gets better each time out. Thirty Eight is an instrumental soul/funk/hip-hop project that has to be absorbed as a whole to get the full sonic experience. (Mello Music Group)