Melbourne hip-hop collective 30/70 celebrate genuinity and innovation on their second album Elevate [Album Review]

Elevate begins as a shimmer of sound that gently morphs into infectious and illustrious grooves. Like morning sun touching your closed eyes, the warmth of their sound is simultaneously soothing and energizing. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia 30/70 has carved the perfect niche for themselves in Australia’s flourishing future-soul scene, releasing their debut LP Cold Radish Coma in 2015.

Since then, 30/70 has evolved into a sound that is intriguing and complex. Still rich with the soul, spirituality and a solid jazz and hip-hop foundation that characterized their first work, Elevate is grittier, dustier and more experimental. There are five core members: Allysha Joy (vocals), Zeke Ruckman (drums), Thomas Mansfield (guitar, synthesizers), Henry Hicks (bass, synthesizers) and Jarrod Chase (Fender Rhodes). Yet when the music calls for it, they span to an impressive 11-piece ensemble.

Amongst the ethereal soundscapes of their first track “Slangin”, Joy’s sweetly honeyed voice has a meditative quality to it. Her words echo like a mantra: “hold the fire in your hands/don’t let it drop”. Between her words, the brass soar in perfect harmony and the rhythm section hold it all down with effortless talent and style. At once, when you are dreamily entrenched in this meditative state, there is an abrupt change to an edgier, assertive and radical demeanor.

The rhythms become tighter and moodier, and Joy’s voice dominates with confidence and swagger. 30/70’s quick changes in demeanor reflect musical intuition, and they end this fiery track as dreamily as it started. The dream continues into the first interlude “Lucid”, where psychedelic melodies intertwine with earthy drums and vocals.

The sound of “Lucid” is the sound of revelations and self-love, by “elevating yourself” and becoming more in touch with what can not be seen or heard but only felt. Elevating yourself is a journey: one with twists and turns, but the path leads you to really feel the glow of true happiness and love that radiates from within.

The fourth track “Nu Spring” feels like this journey. The horns are as expansive and wide as the landscapes you view on your way to a new and exciting destination.  It is a track of utmost exploration, as Joy’s vocals are wild and unrestrained, where imperfection is absolute beauty. Beneath her voice, the band displays their talent for polyrhythms and express their adoration for freeform jazz. The end of the song nourishes the soul, as every voice of the group comes together, singing with freedom. Love for what they do and the music they all share together resonates in their voices.

Love seems to be the guiding principle for “(Breaking) For This World To Change”. With poetic lyrics and a timbre as soft as velvet come the words “if you could only wait for this love to settle in my heart/know that I could bloom in hands as soft as yours” a reflection on what lets love grow, what can destroy it, and the changes that occur all around us, guided by dreamy and melancholic guitar and distinctive boom-bap grooves. She warns of the metaphorical beast that will swallow you whole, of the “greed that does taste sweet to some” and of the reparations that will occur. After her voice calls out its final note, the boys of the band dive into a super rad instrumental bringing just the right amount of heat to close out the song.

Like a flame, the heat that comes off the following track is bold and captivating. “Misrepresented” sounds like a candle has just been lit in a grand room, where the smoke dances sensually up to the ceiling and shadows dance on the walls. It is a song of struggle, but ultimately of supreme empowerment for women. The distinct action of taking control of how you are represented is admirable, infectious and powerful. Joy’s confidence and swagger comes back strong, exemplified by some sublime harmonies.

The fire of this band keeps on as  the head-noddin’ “Get To Me” flows smoothly into “Steady Hazin” – a subdued, intimate track diving into the journey of self-growth. The meditative quality of Joy’s voice is back as she intentionally sings “I’ve outgrown ya, yea” repeatedly, letting the message sink in. Gorgeous neo-soul piano chords form the base of the track. As Joy’s message gains strength and soul, ‘Steady Hazin” seriously ups the funk with 80’s style synths, bouncy booms and claps and an energetic bass line.

As “Steady Hazin” comes to a close, there’s a collective “We got what you want” chorus that really shows 30/70’s love for community and lively creativity. “Takin Me Back” is a continuation of the funk that leads into a swaying, soulful ballad. Whimsical piano chords and dreamy guitar match Joy’s celestial vocals. The final sounds heard on this sweeping album is a heartwarming, genuine “Good job, everybody” that is a perfect conclusion to the sounds created, the intention that was there and the values the band holds so dear.

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