Brock Berrigan: Point Pleasant
Chillhop Records

If self-deprecation has a name, it might be Brock Berrigan. This New York homeboy describes himself as a “beatmaker, music enthusiast, multi-instrumentalist, sample hunter, town drunk.” Don't underestimate the man's talent, though: Point Pleasant is as artful an example of instrumental hip-hop as it comes, and the rewards accruing from this limited-edition vinyl set are plentiful. Apparently he'd been a Chillhop mainstay for four years before this full-length's 2017 release, and it sounds as fresh today as it did when it first appeared.

Created over a seven-month period of “solitude, dedication, exploring sounds, and debauchery,” the release features fourteen cuts, all of them firmly rooted in the genre yet drawing into their orbit a number of different styles, R&B, blues, funk, jazz, and gospel among them. An earworm of the first rank, “The Look” embellishes its low-end bump with artfully stitched vocal fragments from Burt Bacharach and Hal David's “The Look of Love,” Berrigan boosting the cut's tasty vibe with a horns-enhanced swing. Consider the title track as an example of his prowess as a sound designer, the skill he has for enhancing an arrangement with strings, horns, keyboards and all manner of delicious sweetener. With what sounds like the hypnotic chanting of an African choir at the center, the beatmaker builds up a warm pulse from softly shimmering strings, a fretless bass figure, and handclaps mixed so low they're almost subliminal. It all comes together beautifully in this five-minute ride, but it's hardly the only remarkable moment of the release.

Elsewhere, tenor sax and electric guitars deepen the blues feel in “Joy She Brings” as a gospel-tinged choir provides the church vibe. Wah-wah guitar and strings make “Baxter” something of a ‘70s homage to Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra, Deodato, and Isaac Hayes, while syrupy strings and vibes respectively place “Owl Farm” and “Smoke Break” within the Easy listening lounge. Though it's the label's name, Chillhop's actually a good word for capturing Berrigan's style, given the soothing effect induced by a representative beatmaking exercise such as “Crossing Paths.” His intent with the album was to “hit the soul and instill some feel-good audio intoxication into the world,” and the evidence convincingly shows the goal was met.

February 2018