I would make the argument that, like with so much electronic music, the US charts barely reflect the world-spanning scope of the genre and its artists. And one of the biggest cases of that is BeatKnoxxx a music producer and artist from Southern California who smashed onto the scene with ‘3AM’ in 2015. But even though the United States and other mainstream charts may forget that underground talents like his exist in bundles, the rest of the world hasn’t. Obviously there is something to this guy that will grab many people’s attention, and his 17 track album “4AM” set for a 3-24-2017 release has an impressive array of vocal talent, plus an even vaster gamut of electronic musical styles, which BeatKnoxxx infuses with all sorts of samples, sounds and effects.
“4AM” by BeatKnoxxx is a prime example of a record that’s functionally critic-proof, especially for me. I’m used to lyrical analysis or assessing themes, or at the very least deconstructing the dramatic impact of a record, but here?
The entire purpose of “4AM” seems to be all-encompassing, where it becomes more about the music and even more about the atmosphere. As such, this disc is very cinematic, in sound and in big production style. You’ll find tracks that are rapped, others that are sung, and still others that are pure instrumentals.
There are simple original productions as well as challenging remixes. By the time you get to track 7 called “Acid”, you realize that this stuff is not on mainstream circuits for the simple fact that it contains too much content for ‘instant-gratification-and-throwaway’ pop material.
Having said that, this stuff is very accessible, lusciously produced, and with plenty of catchy elements in each song. But discovering this album in front of you is more or less like going to McDonalds and ordering a hamburger and fries, and then being presented with a delicious gourmet 6-course meal prepared by a world class chef.
It looks heavenly, and you know it’s going to taste even better, but it’s so much more than you were expecting and just how are you going to eat it now without a knife and fork, and in front of all these people? So your only option is to sit back, relax and take in each platter slowly and carefully until you manage to devour everything. That’s more or less how you need to go about getting through this magnum opus by BeatKnoxxx.
So let’s start off with instrumentation and production, and the key thing to note is that there is everything to like about BeatKnoxxx’s formula. He’s got a taste for strong melodies that do stick in your head being driven by instrumentation, singing or rapping, and when his mix can build some swell off the gentle ebbing bass, there’s real groove to match the more textured percussion.
And to his credit, after several listens to this record, you can identify a plenty of personality in BeatKnoxxx’s compositions: staccato, bouncy progressions that tend to play off different cadences on the same note before shifting. And yet the key word here is formula – but not in the sense that everything is the same.
No, on the contrary, formula here means that BeatKnoxxx’s musical formula is scrupulous, if you look at just the instrumentals, you’ll notice that even the smallest of details are capable of seriously distinguishing these songs.
Once you add all those production subtleties to all the different voices and musical styles presented here, you’ll realize what an immense project “4AM” is. It is almost impossible to choose standout songs, because notwithstanding the wealth of material here, there is no filler. So the standouts depend largely on your personal tastes in music.
I fell directly for the slower soulful songs like “Memories Ago”, “No Tears”, “Acid” and “Running” and “Aysias Interlude”. Hardly before have I been so enchanted by the vocoder effect, the dark subdued moods, and the emphatic lead vocals accompanied by low synth chords and far-away sounding drums, as can be heard on this album.