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Breathing Lessons

The Opus
Breathing Lessons
(Mush Records)

Hells yeah. It seems like about once a year a very cool instrumental hip-hop album just sort of claws its way into my subconscious and the best of the past couple months just happens to be this release Breathing Lessons by The Opus. While part of my infatuation with the release may be due to it arriving just as the last of the snow was melting (and along with it my fascination for quieter and more heady music), there's no doubt that the stuff on this disc will appeal to those looking for a healthy dose of fat beats and well-placed samples.

There's no use fighting the urge to compare this release to work by DJ Shadow, and so I'm just going to go ahead and toss that out right now. It's not _quite_ as hard as the stuff that RJD2 has put together on his last two outings, but it definitely has things in common with him as well. Basically, what you get is 11 nicely-varied tracks that bump for just over an hours time. The opener of "Fanum's Organs" is a fairly standard number cutting up vocals over a two-stepping beat that loops incessantly while sounding like its leading into something better. "Mission Control" is what comes next, and while it gets a little bogged down towards the end (by repeating the same sample ad infinitum), the opening two-thirds of the track works wonderfully with a touch of ominous samples and a rattling beat.

It's on "Life's Endless Cycle Pt. 1" where the Josh Davis (aka Shadow) comparisons really come in handy, though. A nicely subdued beat rumbles along under what sounds like filtered strings and other classical music, spilling together into a track that reminds one of the "What Does Your Soul Look Like" series. "Life's Endless Cycle Pt. 3" bumps things back up again with some filtered horn and vocal samples while "Isis" loops string stabs and plucks over another trunk-rattling rhythm.

The album closes out with three longer tracks (all seven minutes plus), but it's here where the album is also has some of its best moments. "The Strange Adventures Of Mr Happy" could have probably used a smidge more editing, but swirls together shimmering soundscapes with upright bass and loops of broken jazz for a gem while the album closer of "The Addiction" builds from a quieter piece into a pummeling epic over the course of 10 minutes. In short, if you enjoy instrumental hip hop (especially by the likes of those mentioned above), you'll most likely bump on this.

Rating: 7.5