MC and producer Graphic Melee pulls sounds from hip-hop, new wave, darkwave, and 8-bit music on his latest instrumental album Spectrum, released in late May. Each song forays through its own sonic and emotional territory, incorporating just enough similar elements from other songs to pull the whole thing together into a kaleidoscopic, Alice In Wonderland-esque odyssey. If someone made a video game based on this album, I would play the shit out of it. Listening to this record can turn a run-of-the-mill walk to the store into an epic adventure just like that.
The album lives up to its name, evoking a satisfying range of moods. A common thread is an element of mystery, maintaining intrigue throughout. It's hard to pick standout tracks, as each one stands up uniquely as its chapter of a larger story. Some tracks set a creepy and foreboding atmosphere like "Globe," "Portal," "Hold On," and "EMP." Contrasting this, "Nightfall," "Survival," "All I Need," and "Unknown Visions" have a triumphant and upbeat vibe. The album masterfully plays with creating a balance of light and shadow through its 13 prismatic tracks. Super compressed beats, distorted bass, and a wide range of synth tones make Spectrum one of the best instrumental albums I've heard in a long time.
Graphic Melee is a long-standing member of Portland's hip-hop community and is incredibly talented and extremely hardworking. Since the start of the pandemic, he's been live streaming regularly. He's released at least one album each year since 2013. Since 2017 he's released no less than two per year without ever slacking in quality. Spectrum is his second release so far in 2020. His discography is available on Bandcamp, and due to its sheer size, I doubt the man ever sleeps.