|1||The Cricket Club|
|3||Around The Horn|
|4||Yes It Is|
|8||Siri, How Do I Know If I Have Commitment Issues?|
Of all the things that can and should and will be said of Sam Wilkes’ & Jacob Mann’s Perform the Compositions of Sam Wilkes & Jacob Mann, let’s begin at the beginning and acknowledge that it is an aptly named record indeed. An ideal collaborative effort (which is to say, greater than the sum of its parts), here we have two longtime friends, two luminaries of the New Weird Los Angeles — the experimental, genre-encompassing underground—who have, at last, devoted a full-length record to their signature musical admixture.
Since their meeting as USC music students (Wilkes studied bass, and Mann, jazz/piano), the two have, with a kind of ceaseless abandon, chased the music to the ends the earth — oftentimes quite literally; travel is a recurrent theme in Compositions’ track titles (Pre-board, Soft Landing, and Around the Horn), and the record’s second track, Jakarta, was sketched out in a hotel room in the city of the same name, where Wilkes and Mann were performing at a jazz festival in 2019. Having initially bonded over a mutual and abiding appreciation for the Soulquarians, the two have spent over a decade playing and traveling, together and separately, their styles coevolving all the while.
Across its thirteen tracks, Compositions captures the relaxed creative flow of two consummate musicians. Most of the record’s sessions (“four-to-five-day summits” in an apartment studio, occasioned by “blasts of inspiration”) began with casual improvisation, and, indeed, roughly half of the final material was composed in this manner: Wilkes and Mann squaring off, a Yamaha DX7 facing a Roland Juno 106, alternating leads, two co-pilots with no set course. And though the songs are polished to a shine, there are artifacts of the intimacy of these sessions. Yes It Is concludes with a snippet of just-intelligible studio chatter: “…A flat minor, then A major.” A figuring-it-out-as-we-go moment that briefly renders explicit the warmth, friendship, and creative freedom that is the album’s heart.