Cloud 9 & JollyJay – Fresh Breeze (Review)

Artwork by Tom Hines.

Two years since the release of his joint effort ‘Scattered Colours on the Rubiks Cube‘ with H-to-O, Anglo-German emcee and battler JollyJay is back with his first ever solo project. Produced entirely by Brighton beatsmith Cloud 9, ‘Fresh Breeze‘ elicits newer and crisper sonic sensations than those found in his debut album and traverses a far richer electronic soundscape.

Essentially an 8-track grab-bag release, ‘Fresh Breeze‘ is a medley of experimental, reverberant and spacious electronic sustains, tinkly jazz piano and vaguely trip-hoppy atmospherics all stretched over walking basses and easy boom-bap rhythms.

Its experimental sounds are matched by a fresh impetus from Jay, who succeeds in imposing a will to assert his self-identity and defiance in the face of ephemeral trends in the rap game. Predicated on Jay’s own carefree worldview, his lyrics contain elements that transcend the traditional conceptual field of hip-hop, with tracks like the jaw-droppingly beautiful ‘Virtual’ betraying a yearning for a world without technological commodity. The synthetic electronic strains in the instrumental somehow give a rich, earthy resonance to the lyrics to which Jay adjusts his ebbing and flowing cadence beautifully.

While the individual tracks have been tweaked and refined beautifully, one thing ‘Fresh Breeze‘ doesn’t do a good job of is sticking to a motif. For example, the juxtaposition of the playful and comedic ‘Just Jam‘ doesn’t play off too well against the quixotic electronic/shoegaze in ‘Thinking‘ and this negates the tape’s overall impact. That said, I can hardly fault the individual tracks which are carried through with an easy charm and bolstered by Jay’s trademark rhyme acrobatics. His penchant for rather facile punchlines notwithstanding, JollyJay is a truly beguiling rapper.

Adding depth to but never overplaying Jay’s boundless gusto, ‘Fresh Breeze’ is relatable, gimmick-free hip-hop for rap enthusiasts and lovers of plain good music alike. This isn’t music to be over-analysed, and although it isn’t a cohesive front-to-back effort, listening to its individual tracks truly is a breath of fresh air.

Download ‘Freeze Breeze’


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