Audio Mixer: Karriem Riggins.
Photographer: Gerard Victor.
Dozens of recordings released since the mid-'90s feature Detroit's Karriem Riggins. Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Roy Hargrove, and Paul McCartney have sought his drum skills, while hip-hop fans know the name more for production credits on releases by Common, J Dilla, Slum Village, and Erykah Badu. A several-hour playlist of Riggins' best work would blow minds. The man didn't get around to releasing music under his own name until 2012's Alone and Together -- sibling EPs combined for the compact disc format as Alone Together. Those who are well aware of Riggins' hip-hop side can probably tell, after scoping the 34-deep track list, the title of the last track, and the Stones Throw logo, that Alone Together might share some traits with Dilla's Donuts. Like that landmark release from Riggins' departed close friend and creative partner, this is a dizzying, ostensibly happenstance sequence of abstract beat flipping with tracks averaging 90 seconds in length. There are some differences. On a handful of selections, Riggins adds his own drums, keyboards, and, on one occasion, harpsichord. The samples, overall, are more obscure, often skirt the alien and the familiar, and are therefore more brain-wracking when it comes to identification. More notably, the album doesn't carry Donuts' emotional weight, but it's equally funky and more freewheeling -- an absolute joy to play repeatedly from front to back. Riggins' voracious craving for moving sounds crosses the States, Africa, and South America, and it entails not just the whole spectrum of jazz and R&B but early experimental electronic music, knuckle-dragging biker rock, and prissy instrumental pop. Some of the album's most stunning moments, like the heavenly "Oooooooooaaaaaaa" and the ringing/thumping/Nytropolitan "Orbiiz," are among the shortest in duration. Then again, nothing resembles a full-blown song. The only possibly point of contention is the (purposeful) brevity, or perhaps the fact that the flashy blaxploitation lounge funk of "F-rd Jingle" is cut short by a peculiar devil-shaming a cappella. Alone Together might frustrate those who want more. The high points are so affecting and brief as to provoke small acts of violent ebullience, like the destruction of fragile objects on shelves. But it will never tire. It's another remarkable achievement in magician-MPC interface. ~ Andy Kellman
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