Quelle Chris: Lullabies for the Broken Brain

We’ve all felt alone at some point or another. In those moments, it seems the world passes by while you sit in painful silence. It’s a common emotion, really; one you’re ashamed to admit, one that needs time to run its course. It seems rapper/producer Quelle Chris is going through something similar, if his recent work is an indicator: Last year’s Innocent Country briefly touched on his perceived personal insecurities, and his new instrumental album, Lullabies for the Broken Brain, carefully walks us through that despair using lo-fi drum breaks and spacious beat construction. Quelle’s production has always been unorthodox, yet Lullabies finds him pushing for something rooted in hip-hop, though it registers further away. This isn’t your average beat tape. Lullabies is made of divergent sounds, loosely built to set a pensive vibe shaded with desperation and hopelessness.

As the title suggests, Lullabies is overtly nocturnal, full of dark, disjointed sounds and cosmic clatter. It comes together like a Madlib instrumental project in the way certain songs aren’t fully formed, but they work well within the scope of the LP, making for a coherent suite to be played all at once. Many of these tracks don’t go much beyond a minute—except for “M-39,” “Peace and Pain,” “I’m the Bridge You Must Burn,” and a few others, which serve as some of the best work on Quelle’s album. Compared with 2012’s Jock Sin Six Beat Tape, an edgy conceptual EP dealing with societal angst, Lullabies is a slow burn designed to soundtrack what the mind endures when loneliness sets in. The melodies are cavernous and somewhat distant, emitting a gritty resonance that affirms Quelle’s premise.

At certain points on the album, we hear positive affirmations blended into the mix—like the 1970s “Most Important Person” commercial spot—offering brief glimmers of hope amongst an otherwise bleak soundscape. Lullabies is the album you play when you’re going through serious shit. At just the right length and tempo, Quelle skillfully blends genres, showing his great range as a composer and creative visionary. He opts for jazz fusion on “Desire to Be,” “Red Buttons,” and “Sickum,” sprinkling light keys and horns into the fray; the aforementioned “Peace and Pain” is a seething electro-rock hybrid similar to the work of OPN or Trent Reznor. This is easy listening, but it has all the psychedelic grit you’d expect from a Quelle release. He’s pushed beyond his usual arc, leading to a wonderfully ambient release that should be mentioned with the genre’s trendsetters.

Then again, this isn’t surprising if you’ve followed Quelle so far. The Detroit native has long pushed his music to weird places, crafting art that’s equally genuine and peculiar. In recent years, though, Quelle has discussed his career path with the same level of angst we’ve all expressed in our respective fields. He ponders the road ahead and choices he’s made along the way. He’s wondered why he’s slept on and what it’ll take to move past those doldrums. Over several projects, Quelle has always been someone you can relate to, and his music comes off as such. If Innocent Country trailed off without clear resolutions, Lullabies signals Quelle’s uncertain trek to the light. Many of us have taken that journey, or will do so eventually.

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