Latin GRAMMY Award-winning engineer, producer, and musician Victor Rice is gearing up to release his first solo album in almost 15 years. The subtly-complex elegance of Smoke provides a rich smoothness made available through tastemaker label Easy Star Records on November 3rd. Smoke takes Rice’s knowledge from experience across a realm of genres and cultures and rolls it all into a consistent line of thought, resulting in a fusion Rice identifies as “samba rocksteady,” or SRS. Victor stated his goal for the album “was about finding a way to fuse two different styles of music and dance from the 1960’s, Brazilian samba-rock and Jamaican rocksteady.”
Smoke is filled with a classic warmth which presents a serene mood, contrasted by an edginess veiled in the details throughout. Inspired by relaxed and quiet surroundings and a team of great musicians, Rice began conceptualizing his goal of fusing the two distinct styles, creating something that felt new while drawing previously unclear lines of commonalities. Being honored as a guest in Belgium at the home studio of collaborator Nico Leonard opened up time and allowed Rice’s muse to visit.
A well-respected contributor to legendary bands such as The Slackers, Easy Star All-Stars, Bixiga70, and The Skatalites, Rice has also received top recognition for his mixing and engineering capabilities during his immersive stay in Brazil, which helped him bring home two Latin GRAMMYs (2015, 2016) and become further knowledgeable in the depths of underappreciated Brazilian music. The results of this blend of styles are at first glance very easy to listen to with a sense of stability, but upon further evaluation, intricate details emerge around the solid core, as Rice adroitly explains that “music systems all over the world are founded on the physical laws of earthly acoustics, without option. This line of thinking led me to create a series of simple ‘tonal motion’ studies – creating a harmonic environment within the laws of western counterpoint around a fixed movement by one voice.” Or, as he figuratively puts it “…a musical study of molecular behavior.”
A taste of Victor’s signature blend is most evident in songs like “Fumaça,” “Lou,” “Turn,” and “Motion II.” In Europe with plenty of time on his hands, Rice took a deep dive into applying music theory in unique ways, as showcased by the auditory illusion of modulation in “The Dream” and studies in interval motions in “Motion Study I” and “Motion Study II.” Varying time signatures prove no obstacle for the musical agility of Rice with tracks like “Turn” and “Bermuda Triangle,” while more personal stories are embedded into tracks like “Mr. Brooks,” an homage to an esteemed colleague, the late, great Cedric IM Brooks.
Smoke is a remarkable effort from a man whose contributions have made ripples around the globe. A pleasant ambience mixed with a virtuosic soul make Smoke an album worthy of appreciation. Be on the lookout for the album to drop November 3rd on Easy Star Records.