Downtempo Bliss: Maple Syrup’s Vacation LP

Sixteen tracks of bright-eyed & blissed out hip hop and jazz on Maple Syrup's Vacation LP.

I was eavesdropping on a public conversation between two label owners awhile ago, and one of them revealed that he was able to marginally increase sales by dropping the BPMs on a couple of tracks and calling them “downtempo” remixes. I made a note to check them out, and they were as bad as to be expected but by this point he had changed the genre to “Balearic.”

There were enough people doing this for awhile that it made you start to hate downtempo and Balearic, or at least the crappy House labels that were smearing this shit on the walls and calling it art, and most of all the mysterious strangers and apparently terrible DJs who were buying it.

There are so many amazing groups making quality soul & chilled-out funk these days that I have no idea why anyone would want to listen to some second-hand House that wasn’t all that good when it was pitched-up in the original mix to begin with. Locally to Chicago, you need to check out Beyond Luck and all the related projects in the members’ orbit. And internationally, some terrific quasi-trip hop-related shit is being cranked out by Russian producers working in isolation. Such, apparently, the guy who goes by “Maple Syrup.”

I’m highly tempted to make a pun on the title here but Maple Syrup pretty much invites as much, with most of the tracks on his Vacation LP named after certain international cities. I don’t know if it the cities really match up with the songs they’re assigned to, but that could probably be because I’ve never seen half the world’s delights.

Vacation is 16 tracks of luscious lo-fi, and among the top draws are “In Between” (which certainly evokes the umbilicus to limbo that is the layover or cancellation at the station) and “Homesick” has a palpable melancholy. Tracks like “Havana” and “St. Petersburg” show flashes of brilliance regardless of context.

We bring our own experiences to art, and our temporary moods to notes and chords and songs and albums that are immobile and immutable. You might hit this one at the wrong speed and not see the forest for the trees. If so, i strongly urge you to pick it up again in a different frame of mind. Like the best songs and albums, this one seems to me less a product than a companion.


Originally published first in 5 Magazine Issue 139, featuring Jerome Baker, Hanna Hais, David Mancuso, Surface and Karen Copeland & more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full Access to Real House Music.


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