Pursuit Grooves: Bess (What Rules, 2019)

December 22, 2019 at 7:49 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Pursuit Grooves: Bess

Vanese Smith’s latest is inspired by the life story of Bessie Coleman, the first Black American female pilot. All of the song titles reference her career as an aviator and stuntmaster, and the interludes are recreations of announcements related to her air shows. The theme is entirely appropriate for Pursuit Grooves’ music, which knows no boundaries and can often feel like it’s weightless and flying through air. She always has a fascinating way of assembling broken beat patterns and unconventional basslines, forming tracks that aren’t clearcut or full of straight lines and logical sequences. Here, her unpredictable compositions interpret the feelings of a brave soul determined to live her dreams and achieve what others may deem impossible. “Hair Raising” is incredibly tense: Can I do this? Will this be safe? But then “Lady Bird” is the sublime feeling of being free up in the air, far from any worries or naysayers. “Stand Firm On Wings”, the only lyrical tune, is a self-motivational ode, and tracks like “Cloud Pusher” and “Barnstorming” are where Smith takes flight and demonstrates her skills at creating dazzling, forward-thinking experimental bass tracks. “The French Connect” seems about 75% of the way to being a house track, but sort of teeters close to the edge, leaving out a few beats or a certain sense of swing. It’s definitely danceable, but it’ll keep you on your toes. Later, downtempo tracks like the birdsong-heavy “I’ll Be Fine” and “Yesterday Today Tomorrow” are reflections on past achievements and chances to relax and prepare for the next big flight.

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