Revelling in the past is all very well and good but the best music, or at least the most original, seems to be made as people move things forward. It’s evolution, it’s forward-thinking, it is the way the world turns. Miles Casella is the sound of the world turning and music moving into pastures new. Yes, you can break the song apart and find very recognisable musical building blocks being used, but it is what they are used to build which is the real charm.
Over a lazy and sultry trip-hop groove he hangs soulful vibes, cool jazz, sensual saxophones and wonderfully affected vocals. Hey Fine beats with a hip-hop heart but it also evokes a timeless blues bar jam, and a strange blend of cocktail lounge sophistication and urban street smarts. But I guess that is how the whole scene rolls forward and you can run a thread through blues, jazz and soul that eventually takes you to hip-hop and then beyond as that in turn has evolved into its own offshoots and sub-genres But they all come from the underground, form honest expression, from the heart, which is why blending them together seems such a natural thing to do. So natural that it is amazing that no one has managed to weave them together this brilliantly before. Then again, there always has to be someone who gets there first!
There does seem to be a change in the urban genres of late, hip-hop, rap and R&B seems to be struggling to write its next chapter and whilst you have to admire anyone who tries to find new musical ground to conquer, thread new ideas and styles together, most of these musical experiments seem to have been the sonic equivalent of dropping a hand grenade into the middle of the listener’s expectations and then trying to rearrange the debris into new and pleasing shapes. Sure, you really shake things, and then some, but you also find that the result is normally, well…a total disaster. But all these terrible chimeric creations and monstrous genre-splicing acts merely to highlight just how right Miles Casella gets it.
And even though there is a wonderful familiarity to the song, Hey Fine does feel like a first, a bold step forward, a post-genre style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations, ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop should be about. Maybe we should stop using genres, labels, pigeon-holes altogether, after all it really is lazy journalists, like myself, who employ them to make our lives easier, after all Miles Casella clearly isn’t worried about genres and their narrow demarcations and maybe that is a lesson to all of us.