Despite Its Title, DOMi & JD BECK’s Debut Album Is Exceptionally Tight
On July 29th, internet jazz phenom’s DOMi & JD BECK released their highly anticipated debut album, NOT TiGHT! Released on Anderson .Paak’s APESHIT label in partnership with Blue Note Records – yes, that Blue Note Records – NOT TiGHT sees the duo at their very best with some amazing guest appearances from .Paak, Mac DeMarco, Thundercat, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and, most importantly, Herbie Hancock. Featuring DOMi LOUNA’s signature piano work and JD BECK’s off-the-wall drumming, their debut album showcases not only the duo’s technical prowess, but also their ability to build things. What do I mean by that?
Well, it’s not secret that the jazz greats of days gone by were constantly jamming in the studio, riffing off of each other in beautiful exchanges of ideas and motifs. DOMi & JD BECK, however, didn’t just want, as JD says, “a snapshot of what [they] do to be [their] art.” They wanted to build and create. Despite everyone telling them to record a live album in the style of those old jazz greats, the duo wanted to show off their ability to structure songs and instrumental pieces within the confines of a recording studio. Though not something jazz is traditionally known for, the structuring of songs instead of just jamming is starting to become more prevalent.
From Robert Glasper and Terrace Martin to Theon Cross and Sons of Kemet, jazz artists of the new generation are keeping traditions alive during their live shows (see Robert Glasper at Outside Lands this year), but their records are becoming more structured. That’s not to say there wasn’t structure to older jazz music. There were refrains and hooks, but they typically used those as reference points to help phrase out jams. As jazz has started to try to gain new followers in the modern age, artists like the aforementioned as well as DOMi & JD BECK will be leading the way.
Of course, it would be doing everyone a disservice if I didn’t mention just how much fun NOT TiGHT is. Even more to that point, it would be doing everyone a disservice if I didn’t mention how goofy DOMi & JD BECK are. “Until recently, if you wanted to learn about DOMi & JD BECK—the internet’s most hyped jazz (etc.) duo—you had to visit their website, click on a rat playing saxophone, and read them in their own words, as a 12-year-old theoretical physicist (DOMi Louna) and a 6-year-old sheep investigator (JD Beck) who have been “gaining traction since summer of 2018 for their bodybuilding masterclasses.” This idea of just having fun with it seems to have been lost in the modern music industry, but if anyone is going to bring it back, it’s going to be these two disciples of Anderson .Paak and Thundercat (just to name a couple). As Blue Note puts it, “Their music finds both humor and greatness in harmonic complexity and rhythmic shiftiness, abruptly adopting and ditching tempos, toying with time signatures, and sneaking extra beats into bridges.”
Let’s talk the sonic quality of the album, though. After all, it is an album. It sounds immaculate.
Oh, did you want more than a one word description? That’s fair. From the moment “LOUNA’S iNTRO” starts, the listener is greeted with DOMi’s arranging skills. Swelling strings, atmospheric plucking, and a flute that is reminiscent of a baby bird learning to fly give way to “WHATUP,” a listener’s introduction to the insanity of JD BECK’s drumming. While their official description reads “She favors sounds that evoke ‘70s jazz fusion and the colorful blips of 2000s Pokémon soundtracks, while he tunes and plays his snare in ways that can sound electronic, channeling IDM and boom bap,” there is a lot more to their sound. Those sounds are there, for sure, but there is a whole lot more to DOMi & JD BECK.
JD BECK’s drums are a mix of Luke Titus, Louis Cole, and Ronald Bruner Jr. That is to say: completely off the wall in a way that doesn’t lose any semblance of a groove. When JD BECK is laying it down, his hand speed is mind-boggling, and his bass drum control is next level. This is showcased particularly on the title track, “NOT TiGHT,” which is the tightest track I’ve ever heard. Of course, he can also dial it back, as he does on “MOON.” His groove pocket is immaculate, and while his style is a hybridization, there’s no one else doing it quite like JD BECK right now.
DOMi, on the other hand, is an exceptional arranger and pianist. If you watch the video linked below, you’ll see that she plays bass lines with her feet while playing the most intricate chord progressions and melody lines with her hands. Her virtuosity knows no bounds, and this pairing is a match made in heaven. Retro pastiche with a hint of futurism weaves its way into the album on tracks like “DUKE” and “TAKE A CHANCE,” and the latter is how we’ll wrap up this recap.
“TAKE A CHANCE” is one of the best songs to be released in 2022. Anderson .Paak provides exceptional verses, and the chorus is the most memorable vocal melody out there from this year. The way it blends the old and new schools of jazz and gives every musician on the track the chance to shine is what DOMi & JD BECK are all about: they’ll make their presence known, but the song is absolutely about the guest’s interplay with their instrumental virtuosity. More to the point, though, is that “TAKE A CHANCE” showcases their ability to build unlike any other track on this album. The structure of the song is as strong as any, and the emotional resonance comes through every second of the four-and-a-half minute track.
If you haven’t checked out NOT TiGHT yet, I highly recommend you stream it below. There isn’t an album quite like it this year, and it’s the first of hopefully many artistic statements to come from this young duo. DOMi & JD BECK are the future, and the future is here.