Enthralling electro funk-filled ‘theatre of the mind’
Re-released at the end of last year, ‘Prohmita’ by Seattle producer / lyricist Proh Mic is, in his own words: ‘…the soundtrack to a conceptual instrumental album / short film about leaving Earth on a space mission. This album is dedicated to one of my favorite producers / arrangers Isao Tomita from Japan…’
All musical samples are sourced from Tomita’s extensive catalogue of electronic ‘space’ music, including synth-based takes on classical landmarks.
The feel of Tomita’s ‘Promenade’ is maintained yet given a satisfyingly contemporary twist in the lead track ‘Lift Off!’ This opener whets the appetite and sets the scene for the rest of the project in both narrative and style: the sample material is lovingly rearranged and the big, energetic drums, synths and bass make for an exciting opening.
The sense of fun on early tracks like ‘Lift Off!’ and ‘Extra Terrestrial’ gives way to the more moody, seductive vibe of ‘Black Hole, White Light’. A raunchy foot-stomper with plenty of bass, sleazy synths, delicate strings and nice handclaps, ‘Black Hole…’ would work equally as well on a forward-thinking RnB album as it does here.
Proh changes gears again with the sinister funk of ‘Life Out Here’, where J Dilla’s syncopation meets DJ Quik’s sheen. With its dramatic choir samples backed by relentless drums, ‘March Of The Martians’ is the soundtrack to an epic cosmic conflict. Think Just Blaze and Jay Electonica’s ‘Exhibit A’ in size and tone.
The latter half of the album is equally satisfying. Negative space, tension and relief are used to great effect on ‘Milky Ways’. ‘Cosmic Beauty’ is another gorgeous trip into space, with nice arpeggiated keys and plenty of beeps and whistles to get lost in. The eccentric ‘Solar Struttin’’ rekindles the sense of fun as it bobs along with a confidence befitting of its name.
Anyone familiar with Proh Mic’s catalogue will know his affection for vocal snippets. ‘Prohmita’ carries on this love affair. Culled from films, TV and stand-up routines. these are the only non-Tomita samples on the project and usher in many of the tracks. Touching on themes including California life, street-level consciousness and, on ‘March of the Martians’, Africa as viewed from outside, these provide a balance to the overriding ‘spacey’ theatrical feel. The only time the use of vocal samples may falter is on the otherwise stunning ‘Galactic Revolution’. A track so dramatic does not need breaking up for the ‘newscaster reports’ which pepper it. However, the lovely gated synths and bass guitar more than make amends.
‘Pergatory’ ends the project in classy fashion: this is a J Dilla / PPP sounding joint with lots of swing and lovely, evocative synth stabs. The track hints at an astronaut stranded in space, doomed to float through the vast expanse forever or, re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere and, after all the beauty and excitement of space, feeling less than ecstatic to be returning back ‘home’.
‘Prohmito’ will appeal to fans of electro, ‘space’ music and synth-heavy hip hop. By ‘restricting’ himself to one artist’s catalogue for inspiration, Proh Mic has successfully shown his resourcefulness and sampling, rearranging and composing skills. Not only this, but he has paid homage to one of his favourite artists and introduced uninitiated listeners to Isao Tomita in fine fashion.
Proh Mic’s project is one that, in the hands of a lesser artist, would have quickly become a one-dimensional gimmick. However, ‘Prohmito’ is a highly cohesive, intelligent and rewarding listen.