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Andre 3000 - New Blue Sun REVIEW

by Pierre Chammas

Big Boi, left, and Andre 3000 of Outkast perform during the Firefly Music Festival on June 21, 2014, in Dover, Delaware. Outkast released its debut album, “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik," in 1994. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Firefly Music Festival/TNS)

We live in the year that Andre 3000 released an avant-garde jazz record.

I am writing this preemptively to the release of the record to manage my excitement. While not as notorious as his pen game, the OutKast star is known for his spiritual and artistic endeavors, such as sketching and flute performances across the globe. That is to say, his debut record “New Blue Sun” has zero rapping or vocals for that matter. I found this to be a disappointment until I considered the greater possibilities. Andre supposedly previewed a couple of songs to Tyler The Creator and Frank Ocean, Tyler describing the ambiance as “chasing butterflies in a field.” The anticipation is high, especially with any news regarding an industry titan such as Andre 3000. As for general feedback, a biased response with high appraisal from the public is to be expected. Personally, viewing only the titles of songs and interviews, I have no clue what to expect. Might as well begin with my initial thought: is it any good or a sin amongst jazz?

On the first approach, the cover art for “New Blue Sun” is gorgeous. It depicts Andre sporting a neon green, sleeved shirt, looking through a telescope of some sorts in broad daylight. Andre’s introspective style seems to allude to contemporary hippie culture, aside from being aesthetically pleasing. While I did prefer the simplistic, black and white illustration of the cover, I cannot help but enjoy the rich and vibrant original photo.

Now onto the record: Just about 87 minutes in length, this record does drag a bit. Though it is clear Andre reached out to jazz professionals for his debut so as to not disappoint. But do not be mistaken—despite its label, this is an ambient record. Our introduction “I swear, I Really Wanted To…” is 12 minutes of wood instrument opera, switching it up with intervals of clashing sounds such as lush water movements and maracas. This track is quite gorgeous and I could picture a setting of me painting to it. It transitions smoothly into our next ensemble “The Slang Word…” which works more with electronic organs, perhaps with Aphex Twin and such influence. The chirping electronic flute adds much needed personality onto the track, as there is only so much that can be done with the genre of ambience.

Track 3, “That Night in Hawaii..” puts our wind instruments down a key, with some bass drums behind it. Our aesthetic created by the low register and song title is meant to detail a midnight safari adventure. I should note that the track titles are an interesting approach as they are all extremely long in length with the use of allusion in most. The full title of this track is “That Night in Hawaii When I Turned Into a Panther and Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control … Sh¥t was Wild.” The parallel that can be made between turning into a monster versus turning into one in the bedroom and how this correlates into sexual undertones in the ambience is actually quite impressive. A level of depth from Andre I only expected from his rapping.

“New Blue Sun” loses traction in its midsection as the track lengths get shorter. I mention this because there me not be enough time for Andre to let his ideas fully pan out. “Ninety Three ‘Til Infinity And Beyoncé” feels like lost ideas and I pull nearly nothing out of the listen. As well as this, ideas are reused allowing boredom to enter the experience. Contrary to that belief though, “Ants To You, Gods To Who” is short and sweet. It reminds me of sitting next to a creek in solitude, just letting the sounds follow you. Next time I casually find myself in that scenario, I’ll be sure to put this track on.

A contender for the most intriguing listen comes out of “BuyPoloDisorder’s Daughter…” as it is definitely the most experimental. Random sizzles and clicks take control at different areas, rather in front of the airy depths of the silent drums. The introduction of whaling synths in the 2-minute mark seal the experience shut. “Ghandi, Dalai Lama…” is another example of strong experimentation, thought the avant-grade flutes and beating synths is more representative of a modernized Mingus cut. It is my favorite track because of this. Jumping the gun to the final track, with a whopping 17 minutes in length, “Dreams Once Buried…” is a gorgeous behemoth of light noises. Around the 12-minute mark is when the track’s tension releases, reverb is amped and an array of cymbals and synths take the floor. This track in particular could be reminiscent of Sigur Rós, and that is the highest compliment. Mingus, Sigur Rós, and Aphex Twin are all clear inspirations for the record, not being bad ones at that.

One thing I’d like to point out is that the reason I brought up his hobbies, in the beginning, is because it proves this is a passion project; he could sell seven figures if he just released a quick rap album. That being said, we all would’ve preferred a rap record. I am feeling a solid 70 out of 100 on this record. It’s entertaining to see this come from such a magnificent artist, but I would be lying if I said he was playing with his strengths. Being one of the greatest rappers of all time, it's difficult to be better at anything else. Nevertheless, there’s nothing really wrong with it and the passion makes it emotional—man can play the flute.

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