Published Apr 19, 2010With two previous LPs consisting largely of the one-two beats-and-rhymes punch you'd expect from DJ/production duo Circle Research, the long-time Toronto hip-hop mainstays bank on round three to finally express the myriad musical influences they've heretofore only hinted at through remixes. New disc Gardiner Express is a cooled-out instrumental joyride through the warm and cosy world of analog sounds, as the two men lace each bass-driven beat with heavily synthesized melodies that bridge future sonics with hip-hop's early electro offshoots. Familiar classics are taken down alternative paths on cuts like "Look Of Love," "Got Your Money" and "Rock Creek Park," the latter's warbled keys and robotic vocals eclipsing the funky guitar and soulful harmonies of the original. Actual voices on the album serve as just another audio flavour in the mix, rather than for the progression of complete verses, and on hypnotic head-nodders like "Formulas and Functions," are pushed deep into the background. On the whole, each of the disc's varied moods find success in drawing you into the emotions they convey, from romantic space trip "With You" to reggae-inflected spine-twister "Stop?Look?Listen To Your Heart," with a host of captivating soundscapes filling out this impressive set of in-travel grooves.
What is the album's connection to the Gardiner Expressway?
Gil: For us, the Gardiner symbolized our youth ― coming downtown and being exposed to all of these new sounds, or going to check out the DJs. It's like the feeling you get when you're riding down the Gardiner and the anticipation and the excitement of going to the party.
Nik: It was never a preconceived notion that we were going to do an album that sounds like this. But after, when we were listening to all the tracks after they were done, it was like, "I feel like I'm in a car, on a summer night, and we're going downtown." When we were younger, we were into hip-hop, obviously, and electro funk. Those would be the type of songs we'd be listening to when we were heading downtown, and those are the styles that we're doing right now.
Why are the vocals pushed so far back on cuts like "Formulas and Functions"?
Gil: What happened was Maylee Todd actually wrote a full song to that beat, and you're gonna hear it after the release of this album when we put out a remix EP with vocalists over these instrumentals. But the reason that we took out her verses was because we liked the fact that the vocals that we kept were more atmospheric and in the background. It's one of the reasons why we didn't have any guest appearances on this album: we wanted to showcase Nik and Gil. A lot of times a producer has an album and he'll have 17 rappers [on it], and it tends to overshadow the actual artist. So, for that reason, we consciously didn't use any of our friends. (Urbnet)