Album Review: Future Brown - Future Brown

Album Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra

Calling Brooklyn dance outfit Future Brown's debut LP an album is almost depressing. Future Brown is less of an album and more of a flawless collection of singles curated in the most listenable form possible for maximum sonic impact. There is no slow middle section. There's no one track you'll pass on considering for your party playlist this weekend. There's no big lead single that the group is banking on selling to coast in some filler on the second half. There's also no track that doesn't merit a significant amount of background explanation as to what makes it incredibly unique and meaningful on this record. From their list of features to the ordering of the eclectic mixture of dance styles accounted for here, there's no half-assed step on Future Brown. This record is unfair to other producers, but for us listeners and radio people, there isn't a thing to complain about. Creating a seamless, phenomenally unique conglomeration of dance and electronic styles including grime, dub, trap, house, Moombahton, Reggaeton, and hip-hop, Future Brown envelop the future of the dance scene. There is no line on the horizon for this group. You'll be hearing this name a lot from here on out.

From the outset, Future Brown hits you with a ferocious verse from Tink, the woman of the moment who collaborated with Sleigh Bells last year and gets her own excellent Fader cover story this month. This is Future Brown's second collaboration with Tink after the group's 2014 single "Wanna Party". Thus, Tink provides the bookends for Future Brown, opening it up like a bomb with "Room 302" and bringing it home with a victory lap of "Wanna Party". The former is actually the better of the two tracks - "Room 302" shows off a more dynamic character range for Tink over a spacious, infectious chime-driven bass beat. Here, Future Brown are all about the boom. Hi-hats are a backseat priority to the sensuality of the easy, reverb heavy bass and snare combo here. Here it's a no brainer that a full collaboration between Tink and Future Brown would be a dream, but for the moment, we're not complaining. Their two offerings together on this record are pretty close to unbeatable.

"Talkin Bandz" sees Future Brown starting to enter truly fearless territory. Here Chicago's DJ Victoriouz and Shawnna team up over a grime-influnced bass track that crosses oceans in terms of influences. But somehow, Future Brown make the combination of Chicago hip-hop and grime happen in spectacular form, genre-bending and morphing to make a party track unlike any other. Similar things happen on "Big Homie", which borrows Chicago's Sicko Mobb for a hard-hitting banger that plays into Chicago hip-hop while maintaining a sonic uniqueness that you could only paint as Future Brown's signature.

With the next two tracks, Chicago fades into the distance as Future Brown heads south. "No Apology" takes a Moombahton vibe with Major Lazer collaborator Timberlee before we get to one of the best tracks on the record with "Vernáculo". The track is reggaeton at heart and in delivery, but there is so much more going on that it's hard to put into useful words. Future Brown's choice of wave synthesizer here versus the driving chimes is so perfect - it removes the genre time stamp and expands the track into an electronic tapestry. In fact, the wave synths in the background are playing almost an entirely different track throughout "Vernáculo" - it's brilliant. Meanwhile, Mad Decent's Maluca takes the vocals for a sexy, commanding anthem. This is the vernacular of Future Brown: a dance, a scandal, and a world apart from their competition.

The criminally underrated Kelela pops up on "Dangerzone", a down tempo R&B groover that gives you time to breathe while still keeping energy up on the dance floor. "Speng" brings Riko Dan of the legendary Roll Deep on for the grimiest track on the record. The track hits hard, especially after the chilled out nature of "Dangerzone", but with only 36 minutes to play with, Future Brown don't have much room to delay. Another truly magic moment of fusion like "Talkin Bandz" happens on "Killing Time", where members of Chicago's Chop Squad show up on a complex track that does wonders for all involved parties.

"MVP" is probably the third in line for best track on Future Brown. The two guests here are equally noteworthy in entirely different arenas. New Orleans rapper 3D Na'Tee throws down two of her most ferocious verses on this track, proving that the contract issues of the last few years haven't stunted her delivery in the slightest. Meanwhile, Harlem's voice on the rise Tim Vocals mans the chorus with style and grace. Fresh off of collaborations with Baauer and the like, Tim Vocals finds himself in good company on Future Brown right behind some of the best upcoming acts on the scene. The two work effortlessly over a bass-heavy, ambient track that shows off Future Brown's brilliant dynamic of sounds both loud and quiet. There's no moment on this track where you can nail every sound down to the ground, and yet, there's no moment where the mix becomes overly crowded or even busy. It's some kind of crazy magic I have no desire to understand - I just want my speakers to play louder.

My only gripe with this record is that the group decided to exclude their phenomenal grime track "World's Mine", featuring Prince Rapid and Dirty Danger (of Ruff Sqwad), from the full length record. Yes, Prince Rapid and Dirty Danger appear on the included (and totally wonderful) "Asbestos", and yes, the track was previously released with "Wanna Party" as a double A-side and is widely available, but there is more than enough room on the full length for this track. After all, the draw of Future Brown is that they refuse to contain themselves to dominating any single dance genre. "World's Mine" absolutely in every way is one of the best grime revival tracks of the last couple years, and with it, Future Brown can toss grime onto their pile of genre conquests. But hey, that's a small complaint with what other action there is on Future Brown. They probably excluded it as a safety precaution. With this impossibly good debut record, Future Brown can truly say it: the world is theirs.

Future Brown is out on Warp this week. Cop it at Bleep and get the group's excellent Future Brown Mix Vol. 1 on CD (free download at their Soundcloud). Keep an eye on the group's Facebook in case they announce west coast dates. This will be one you don't want to miss.

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