The proliferation of the ipod has reemphasized the importance of the playlist on our consciousness. A modern day art form that challenges the creator’s taste, knowledge, and sense of irony (The Carpenters “Close to you” followed by the Doors “Touch me”) the homemade “mixtape” was all but dead with the emergence of CD’s, kept alive only in the hip-hop community. Only in recent years with the advent of fast CD burners did it make its revival.
But the instantaneous nature of creation that the ipod nurtures allows a mix for every conceivable emotion, notion, and feeling. People, in essence, attempt to orchestrate their feelings track-by-track. By now, every tempered mood and exaggerated emotion has been set to music, and in turn is used a guidebook to trigger that feeling, no matter how specific.
But there is still much to be said about a complete work, by one artist(s) that can capture isolated moments in life that a collection of non-related singles can’t. From isolated introspection on a melancholy winter’s day (Broadcast, “The Noises made by People”) to a morning to night road trip through rural backwaters (The Dandy Warhols, “Thirteen Tales of Urban Bohemia”), extra credit goes to a group of minds with a singular vision shaping a singular document. In the final debate, the complete album beats the mix because it is just that; complete.
With Narrow Path, Josh One creates a claustrophobic but inviting world that would be impossible to recreate on a LCD screen. As the titles such as “Day Dreamer,” “Contemplation,” and “Grey Skies” indicate, Narrow Path is about the moments in the day that give way to soft meditation, lacidasically lost in thought. With a handful of live musicians and his evil genius production, Josh weaves together a hydrographic soundtrack that can at times hold your thoughts or recess in the background.
Every track features different vocalists, each leaving their own signature on the parchment. But the book is still Josh One. Where Poet One Life puts a freestyle fellowship spin on “Endless” (a blunted calypso track that is the album’s best song), Mikah9 blasts over a smoky jazz rhythm in “After Hours.” Dub and house elements also make an appearance, swirled together and dipped in honey.
“Less Traveled” momentarily breaks the lassitude, but it is corresponds nicely with the rest of songs. Over sparse organ and guitar licks, Rashaan Ahmad attacks the Mic that recalls what The Roots sounded like at their artistic peak. The track is a refreshing change of pace and it’s a shame it isn’t done more as a couple of the songs are too similar in mood and direction, the only serious complaint I have about the album.
Much press has been written about the Dual Disc technology that “Narrow Path” employs. A CD on one side, and a DVD on the other, Dual Disc was created in part to combat the mp3 revolution and the aforementioned playlist. While there is much opportunity for adventurous artists to create the kind of multimedia projects their minds (and bank accounts) can handle, the technology is too early in its infancy. And while the DVD portion offers a video and the album (plus seven bonus instrumentals) in 5.1 stereo, it doesn’t really offer anything extra that would prevent someone from downloading the album.