A few (of the many) things the state of Wisconsin has gotten right: cheese, the Green Bay Packers, Leinenkugel Brewing Company, and Dj Unwind. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dj Unwind, produces and mixes breezy-electronic-jazz trip-hop beats, coupled with the melodic collaborations of a two other trip-hop talented artists, producers, and vocalists on his new album Épais. Truly appreciating his style requires the understanding that he aims to provoke feelings with his “off-the-beaten-path” musical tracks.
If you are anything like me, you might be wondering what exactly this style of music called trip-hop is. The only answer that seems appropriate: it is nearly impossible to define. You can find anything from hip-hop beats to jazzy ensembles to house party rhythms all within one song. Beginning in the UK, trip-hop has crept across the ocean and begun its infectious crawl into American culture. Artists such as Björk, The Chemical Brothers, and Daft Punk have created and paved the awareness highway of trip-hop music over the past 15 years.
Slightly new to the trip-hop scene, Dj Unwind began his successful musical journey in 2006 with the release of his album, Truth Beyond the Beat. Since 2006, he has composed and produced six other albums, his most recent album, Épais, dropped earlier this year. In the past, his music has been used on television shows that can found on ABC, ABC Family and Oxygen. Once listening to his albums it’s easy to see why his tracks would be perfect for so many different types of cinema genres.
Originally from Eau Clarie, Wisconsin, Dj Unwind aka (Brad LaBarbera) pulls from his native city’s French background, naming his new album Épais, which means “thick,” in French. The thickness, for which the album gets its name, does not refer to the thickness seen in milkshakes; rather, it refers to the thick cloud of human-bred negativity that has been polluting the world in the past year. Dj Unwind created Épais “to help soothe folks from a paranoid, antisocial, violent and insecure society.” After listening to this album it is becomes clear that he has done just that.
It is not often, in 2013, that an instrumentalist/remix master comes to the scene and offers an alternative to the music on popular radio stations. Without disrespect to the popular music scene, Dj Unwind is able to take influences from popular music and create something that invokes intelligent thought and provokes a peaceful vibe into the airwaves. Even when accompanying other artists, his musical beats are the guiding force behind it all. Three tracks on Épais are accompanied by Hannah Kayrdas, an 18-year old Australian folk-pop singer, whose voice complements Dj Unwind’s breezy beats so well you would think they have been working together for years.
After listening to Épais, on my balcony repeatedly, that the star of the album is clearly the track “Mannequin” feat Hannah Karydas. His jazzy-trip-hop beats in this track meshed with her sensual, sugary voice spark the ear of the aural romantic many of us, in a sort of melancholy style that will have you begging for more. That isn’t to say the other tracks should be understated by “Mannequin”; with the conclusion of each track, it feels like you’ve just finished watching a film that inadvertently makes you self introspective and aware of your surroundings.
Another track off Épais that deserves extra attention titled, “Gatsby,” is reminiscent of what I can imagine life in the 1920’s to be like (hence the title), with a splash of electronic trip-hop aroma thrown in; it leaves listeners with a beautifully, eerie aftertaste. Also gracing the new album, music producer and composer, Levphonic, joins Dj Unwind on a track titled, “The Beach.” This track has a deeper hip-hop vibe combined with a slightly meditative backdrop that will make you yearn to take in the beauty of the ocean wave’s ebb and flow.
Truly, a “non-conformist,” artist, Dj Unwind has managed to create a style of music that can make even the most uptight individual release a sigh of relief. The way his albums, including his newest, Épais, set the scene for tranquil vibes, put him ahead in the musical game. His ability to combine so many different musical elements, while remaining true to his humanistic nature, allow him to remain unique and paramount among a flock of sheep, which is what makes him worth giving a try.