Thinking of the beat scene and hip hop, it is not farfetched to have your ears perk up in curiosity when there is word of a Norwegian beat scene producer on the come up. Spending a number of years immersed in the graffiti and skateboarding scene, after both took a physical wear on him the next move was to make music. And that is exactly what 16 Knapper (16 Buttons) has been doing for the last few years. With a sound rounded on his MPC, and a particular influence derived from both his father's and personal record collection, Astral becomes his newest product of self expression wherein he denotes an array of stylistic approaches and endeavors.
The 10 track album runs a time span of 21 minutes that, while it is short in general terms for an LP, runs in accordance within the beat scene guideline and specifications, per se. Comprised of short tracks that hardly surpass the 2 minute and 30 second mark, things kickoff with track "Takeoff" that curates a feeling of grandness with a tinge of 80's inspired soundtracks. Rhythm conga drums, whirling highs, and fat lows create a suspense that promises a big unfolding. To say the least, it's a proper introduction to Young Tesla. With "G.O.A.T." things turn a bit. While we can tip our hats to the work completed behind the boards, the track itself falls short in feeling complete. Often noting to "keep your hands clapping" this could have been an excellent track to actually have an MC complement the instrumental by throwing in a verse or two. Instead, what ends up coming out is a track with plenty of potential being flattened by its lack of integrated element.
"Inside the Outside" promotes the beat making heaviness that all hip-hop heads savor over. And while it is one of the shortest tracks on the album, it marks a significant highlight. Sometimes all you need is a basic loop to repeat without over-complicating things too much, and that is just what 16 Knapper does here by reverting back to basics. What follows next is "Zero Gravity"; A space thriller availing to dubbed out cosmic persuasions via gaseous synths and trill percussion. The amount of atmospheric space on this track is big and filling. "Scream", another 80's touch-up that asserts itself with radiant and expressive vocal yells by a female entity, shows an apt creativity in how the producer can knock sense and meaning into his work. While the never ending scream feels proper, the work on boards lack in shift and creativity a bit.
Deviation is reached in the album's second half. I would even venture to say that if by now you are not truly convinced by 16 Knapper's creative edge, the remaining 5 tracks will make you reconsider. "Return of the King (Leo Messi)" is a proper track with high-flown and flashy esteems. Perfectly timed for this World Cup, the reference to one of soccer's most celebrated players accords with the epic tone submitted. Crash cymbals, rolling toms, and regarding keyboard strings make up the tracks totality, and it is a good one. What follows is "Astronomy" and "The Solider Boogie", two of which are hands down personal favorites. It is within the scope of these two tracks that I feel our Norwegian producer flexes his range the most. Equipped with zorba-style guitars and beatific chimes that charm the ears, this is the peak moment in the album.
"Time Machine" and "Asteria" do a fine job at gently bringing us down from the pinnacle moments had in the last two tracks. With "Asteria" referencing more Greek culture, we must assume there is some special liking or linkage between our producer and the country. Again feeling epic, the track pulsates a dark and sinister tone that gets lightened by the reintroduction of the Greek style playing of the guitars. If Leo Messi were Greek, this would probably be a fine track to dedicate in name of his greatness (just a thought).
All in all, while Astral shows the producer's cautious and mindful craft, it is the same carefulness and precaution in the album's first half that give it a limited range. Moreover, with plenty of hand-picked influences made evident from the various sounds gathered, one cannot help to feel that there is an aimless and loosely fixated discipline that still needs some brushing up. As it is the producer's debut release it would be unfair to expect too much distinction, but what is known for sure by now is that the 10 track album conceived by the Norwegian based producer serves a sample of his capabilities that leave us anticipating his follow up.