Wednesday 5 July 2023

'Giant Stops' by Minus & MRDolly

'Giant Stops' marks the new release from the boundless talents of Hugo Oliveira, perhaps better known under his guise, Minus & MRDolly.

Throughout Oliveira's ever expanding catalogue of music releases, the Portugese producer and multi-instrumentalist has consistently plucked from a deep well of inspiration citing golden era hip-hop, sampling culture and jazz luminaries as focal points for his own projects over the years.  The glorious Pete Rock and Large Professor-inspired 'Man With A Plan' (2018) or the more eclectic and varied sounds of 'Broken Hearts Make Broken Beats' (2021) rank as two excellent examples of the versatility becoming synonymous with the name Minus & MRDolly.

For his latest offering, Oliveira - once again brandishing his heart on his sleeve - uses 'Giant Stops' as a means to examine the increasing impact that technology has on each of our lives as our inevitable reliance on it continues to permeate through to the facets of our day to day in fairly concerning ways.  The burgeoning ablities of AI within the arts seem to be geared towards the ultimate goal which is to create art... without the need for an actual artist.  Films now can capture the mannerisms, look and feel of actors since deceased, concerts revolving around holographic depictions of icons continue to grow in demand, while popular music is slowly starting to introduce AI-penned songs amongst its chart-toppers.

As a project, these are themes that weigh heavily throughout 'Giant Stops' as a variety of the album's ten tracks wrestle with such concepts in imaginative ways.  Even the album's compelling artwork strives to demonstrate the battle between the warring ideologies.  'Compteur de Tierces', 'Neon Green Grass' and 'Cimento Cosmos' serve as great examples of compositions born of live instrumentation that tease this general sense of electronic and digital foreboding that make for a riveting listen.  

The fantastic near eight-minute album centrepiece that is 'A Queda' runs the gamut of great production, awesome solos and an excellent vocal contribution from Luca Argel who ties the whole song together beautifully.  Conversely, another superb album highlight comes in the form of 'Entretanto' (featuring brilliant guest vocalist Meta_) which clocks in at just under three minutes and leaves you wishing it lasted for another three.  

Under the Minus & MRDolly moniker, Hugo Oliveira continually creates impassioned pieces of music that either pay homage to his heroes or serve as a statement of musical intent; 'Giant Stops' manages to achieve both tasks with the album title itself a derivative of the revered John Coltrane record 'Giant Steps' (1960).  Maybe the parallels drawn with Coltrane's record come down to both 'Giant Steps' and 'Giant Stops' both being unveiled at milestone moments for their respective careers, maybe it's down to the ambitious scope that each release sought to tackle, or maybe it is to serve as the statement that that the giant creative steps that art has sought to inspire within others now faces severe threat with the burgeoning technological advances.  Time will tell whether AI could ever deliver a masterpiece of the stature of a Coltrane recording but thanks to continued pioneering efforts of artists like Minus & MRDolly, we'll still find the joy in taking our own steps along unbeaten paths.

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