Album Reviews: Back to One by Ming + FSBalancing precariously between hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass and acid jazz, New York’s Ming + FS are a high-wire act for sure, so you have expect them to fall down every once in awhile. But you also wish they wouldn’t do it quite as often as they do on their latest effort, Back to One.
The problem isn’t the music itself, a thick stew of restless beats, jazzy keyboards and funk hooks blended together with considerable skill. But it’s as if Ming + FS’s work as composers for television commercials has shortened their attention span down to 30 second increments. Tracks change moods and tempos too often and too abruptly, never settling into a single cohesive groove. Sometimes this mercurial streak works to their advantage, as on “Fish Eyes,” with its hypnotic mix of snake charmer drone and skittering breakbeats. But too often, it leads to tracks that are so schizophrenic they leave only a lasting impression of chaos.
The other problem here is guest rapper Napoleon Solo, who appears on six of the album’s 11 tracks and sounds on most of them like he showed up for another project. Standard issue b-boy boasting like the raps on “Slang Verbs” and “Skills and Grace” just ends up distracting from Ming + FS’s innovative, offbeat production work. Only Solo’s work on the title track, a clever riff on jacks, hopscotch, jumprope and other children’s counting games, really stands out. - Andy Hermann
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