I know that it simply isn’t possible, but when I listen to Casual Horns, Dog, I like to think that the charming dog on the front cover of the album is partially responsible for the content found within.
Wearing a shirt very similar to that of Rocko from “Rocko’s Modern Life,” this dog sits stoically, trumpet in hand, waiting to play.
The truth is that Casual Horns, Dog, is not the work of the dog on the front cover, but of the ‘Jefferson Park Boys,’ an outfit comprised of Mike Parvizi, Aaron Carmack, and Kenny Segal—all of whom have some kind of affiliation to the Team Supreme label and collective.
There have always been loose connections between hip-hop, jazz, and r&b—small spaces in between where each genre definitively begins and ends; Casual Horn, Dog, works itself into those gaps and showcases where there is an overlap in soundscapes.
Up front, I’ll tell you right now, the one fatal flaw with Casual Horns, Dog is that it is entirely too short.
Comprised of eight tracks, the album is less than 30 minutes long. There is something to be said about there being ‘too much of a good thing,’ or ‘quitting while you are ahead,’ or whatever—but god damn—I could listen to this album all fucking day.
Casual Horns opens with one of its finest moments—the glorious and triumphant “Gramercy Place.” Structured around chopped up piano chords, skittering and pitch shifted vocal samples, horns (of course), “Gramercy Place”1 is held together by a non-invasive bass line that rumbles unassumingly behind the steady rhythm of the kick drum heavy break beats that shuffle throughout its running time.
It should not be a surprise that the titular track is another one of the album’s strongest—sliding effortlessly into a slithering funk, r&b inspired groove, based around drums keeping time, layers of horns, and warm electric piano tinklings.
My initial impression of this album after pressing play was that it reminded me of Endtroducing…-era DJ Shadow.
You know, back when Shadow was good and relevant. The Jefferson Park Boys steer Casual Horns, Dog head first into that direction with “Jaka’s Lament,” which is hands down, the best song of the set. Reminiscent of “Midnight in A Perfect World,” the trio isn’t kidding around when they use the word “lament” in the song’s title. There’s some mournful and somber about it, though it’s beautifully arranged—relying primarily on the evocative feelings that the keyboards pull out of you, the swirling string samples that cascade through, and a jittery, moderately erratic beat that hits in just the right places.
I think it goes without saying that even with all it has going for it, Casual Horns, Dog is not a perfect album.
I mean, there are very few of those in the world. Even with the skeletal eight tracks, there are a few moments that are just slightly less successful when compared to the others—the glitchy and wonky samples of “Doin Too Much” seems slightly out of place within the aesthetic the rest of the album works to create; and the icy synths of “Abandoned Camrys” are not as inviting as the other keyboard tones used elsewhere.
However, don’t get it twisted—taken as a whole, from start to its all too soon finish, Casual Horns, Dog is a phenomenal listen.
There’s a lot of instrumental music out there in the world, and it takes great skill and thought to put together wordless music that is able to create such an interesting and memorable atmosphere. Casual Horns, Dog does just that. Released during a time when, typically, there isn’t a ton of noteworthy albums issued, please take note—here’s your first essential listen of 2018.
1- It’s worth noting that the instrumental “Gramercy Place” is used as the backdrop for the track “I Pray,” by Hassan Haze.
Feature Image Credit: https://twitter.com/jorge_webb
Kevin Krein is a Minnesota based writer, and has been operating the award winning music blog Anhedonic Headphones since January 2013. For nearly as long, he’s been contributing to Bearded Gentlemen; and for nearly as long, he wrote “The Bearded Life” column for the Southern Minn Scene magazine. He currently writes “The Column of Disquiet” for the recently launched Next Ten Words, and his writing has appeared on Spectrum Culture and in River Valley Woman.
He is a vegan, a huge jerk, and above all else, a cool rabbit dad.