Detroit producer Dakim returns as one of his alter egos Saffron with another release on his long time label Leaving Records entitled Reishi, a record that covers a lot of melodic ground with an array of experimental beats but never loses its cohesive feel.
Each track melts into the next as fresh soundscapes are revealed like waking dreams and many unique atmospheres are explored. The only constants are the deeply saturated 808s and some truly head nodding bass workouts. The opening track “Saffron” sets the tone of this record immediately with rhythmic vocal cuts and huge kick drum blasts that are as inviting as they are disorienting. The synth work on this track is nearly cinematic and adds a great ominous vibe as it progresses. After the opener you are immediately transported to the world of “Mana” with jazzy flourishes on the live kit, hand percussion and a fantastic slow stand-up bass line providing a killer groove to bump to. You can almost see the smoke in the air with the hazy feel of this track and the low mixed vocal pads that give it a great ethereal vibe.
The next track “Gumiho” features a superb melodic bass line to serve as the foundation for some more experimental chiming chords and a slowly filtering synth pad atmosphere. It’s an extremely laid back tune but still has some excellent groove built into it. This track and a variety of others on this release demand repeated listens to let the ideas wash over the listener. They can have some truly avant-garde moments but are always rooted in a head nodding groove to keep the flow going smoothly. These deep bass lines and heavy percussion allow Saffron to freely explore some improvisation and to express unique ideas into his art of making beats. Another standout track that offers unique ideas is the tense “Host Body” that begins with a hair raising airy synth lead and static bursts among the crackling cinematic beat. This track is eerie but really showcases a fresh style with its ominous undertones. The forward thinking “Mtulazaji—Spirit Bomb” follows this track with some low mumbled bass thumping and an unusual off kilter time signature that finds its way towards the end as crisp hi hats arrive to inject some swing to the beat.
One of the strongest offerings on this release is the string laden “Penobscot” which stands out from the rest of this record with a more uplifting arrangement and some great energy. Another cinematic beat with some killer bass drops, but this track has a different feel than some of the darker experiments prior and arrives at the perfect point to effortlessly change the tone of the record. This might be the most polished track but still retains the excellent raw inspired improvisational feeling of the whole release. “Hollow” follows with a deep 808 beat built around falling water samples and a sparse harp arrangement. This track is also a highlight and is the perfect tune to arrive before the closing track, the glacial space anthem “Stimga Style”. The final track offers another great synth string arrangement to add to the warped samples and sound design that create the drifting cavernous atmosphere. The last reverse string hits are a great punctuation mark at the end of this experimental beat journey and will make you want to start the record over for another listen.
This is a strong heady release from Dakim and it allows him to explore a variety of different moods that offer the listener a truly unique listening experience. Each track is a different dreamscape to get lost in and the listener will find new sonic rewards each time they put this on with some headphones. This record isn’t for the casual hip hop listener but for the serious music fan who prefers to have their gems revealed over time and for those whose ears are seeking to be challenged by new ideas in beat focused music. Over the 12 tracks, Saffron is able to explore forward thinking beats that also reference and respect the past to create a cohesive and rewarding listen.