Fiji: Peering Into the Darkness
The Content (L)abel

Many of the customary instrumental hip-hop boxes are checked on Peering Into The Darkness—not that that comes as a huge surprise, considering that the imprint on which it appears is Dday One's. Vinyl crackle, loping beats, acoustic bass lines, percussive accents, woodwinds, strings, and samples all surface in plentiful amounts on Evgeniy Litke's debut Fiji album, which, it turns out, Dday One executive-produced. But if there's some degree of familiarity to the album's content, that doesn't make it any less pleasurable a listen. Litke, who hails from Orenburg, situated on the River Ural and geographically located on the boundary of Europe and Asia, has fashioned twelve diverse variations on the genre that hold up individually while also satisfying as a cohesive whole.

Par for the instrumental hip-hop course, samples add a wide range of colour to the material; by way of illustration, “Between the Place, Between the Time” inaugurates the album on a deeply atmospheric note by pairing exotic wooden flute figures with a lilting downtempo groove, and even though it boasts one of the deepest head-nodding beats one could possibly imagine, “Less Light” would be a whole lot less interesting without that micro-sample of (what sounds like) a muted Miles accenting its crawling pulse. In blending acoustic bass, plinking piano, and thick crackle so seductively, “Depth Contemplation” could function as a template for all aspiring instrumental hip-hop producers.

The album occasionally veers away from beats-driven productions for dreamy settings that speak to Litke's command of sound design and track construction. Though a crisp beat does surface during the second half of “Inevitable Trajectory,” the track ultimately impresses most of all for its lovely marriage of harp and piano melodies. That said, there's also no denying Litke can fashion a seriously potent groove when it's called for—look no further for proof than the title track's whip-crack pulse or the booming snare-and-kick drum patterns that lend “Wading Through the Swamp of Sorrow” such heft.

It's mesmerizing stuff, and what makes it even better is that Litke brings a composer's sensibility to the material; beats figure prominently, of course, but these polished productions impress as something considerably more than a-dime-a-dozen beat exercises. One of the tracks might be titled “Sketch,” but Peering Into The Darkness sounds like anything but a work-in-progress.

May 2017