Apollo Brown Cloud

While coming up as a producer with "Detroit" stamped firmly on your resume is a sure-fire way to get noticed, carving a niche is a necessity in avoiding the quick fadeout. Crate-digging instrumentalist Apollo Brown has certainly done that with his latest opus, the free-floating Cloud. Kicking things off with a theatrical rendition of Bacharach's idealistic "Lost Horizon," Brown attempts to soundtrack the world its lyrics describe, crafting pensive, yet spirited, sample-heavy head-nodders filled with emotion-tugging strings, drifting flutes and moody clarinets. The classic cinematic tones that resonate from cuts like "Heirloom" and the nicely chopped "Drinking Life" are the norm on the record, while memories of DJ Shadow and Dilla emerge on "Human Existence" and "Tao Te Ching," respectively. If there is one noticeable chink in Brown's armour, it's in his intentionally simplified beats, which, unfortunately, latch onto one puzzlingly entry-level pattern for the majority of this journey, though that's not quite enough to overshadow all there is to hear and feel along the ride. (Mello Music Group)