by: Ariel King
Jul 28, 2021
When GRiZ first began turning in a steady stream of singles earlier this year, fans’ ears quickly pressed to the ground in the hopes that an album announcement was imminent. Initially however, the saxophone-wielding selector, lesser known as Grant Kwiencinski, kept his lips sealed. Then, news of Rainbow Brain, GRiZ’s seventh studio album, finally arrived on July 13, along with the project’s titular single.
Just 10 days later, future-funk devotees were greeted with a collection of 23 tracks, packaged together as a the full-bodied psychedelic odyssey that is Rainbow Brain. Perhaps an overwhelming number at first glance, seven of the tracks are short interludes, described by GRiZ as “shamans,” that lace the album together in an underused setlist-style framework that provides a salubrious directional flow to the LP. The “shamans” bridge various tracks on the album, acting as a way to help carry listeners from one song to the next, while also supplying their own pleasing stylistic signatures. And while Rainbow Brain had first been led by several singles, including “Astro Funk,” “Tie-Dye Sky,” and the album’s title track, GRiZ commendably managed to keep the lion’s share of tricks stashed up his sleeve for the full release, rather than simply turning in a grip of previously market-tested singles at once.
The album opens with the 53-second, “c h r o m e s t h e s i a” which sets the tone for the dub-riddled, kaleidoscopic psychedelia that’s about to ensue across the album’s hour-long run. Distorted vocals weave through the track, threaded with synesthetic messaging as the come-up begins, beckoning the listener with, “music is, in a way, visible. You can feel the sense of color in your mind.” Remaining an overarching motif throughout the entirety of the album, the sample continues to make appearances in several tracks. Acting as the first “shaman,” the instrumental smoothly launches into “Astro Funk,” and dives into Rainbow Brain’s journey.
A quarter of the way through the tracklist, GRiZ employs the veteran talents of Jantsen on “Burn Up The Floor.” The pair patch together a genre-blurring collaborative cut that effortlessly highlights each of their production strengths in a complementary fashion as Rainbow Brain throttles onward. The album also finds Big Gigantic and ProbCause on the track “Daily Routine” and Cherub assisting on “Gold.” The LP’s only other features arrive on “Rainbow Brain” and “Feel It All,” with Chrishira Perrier appearing on both.
Now a decade into his career, Kwiencinski proves there is still new territory waiting to be explored within the endless intersections of nu-funk, electro-soul, and contemporary dubstep. The album manages to strike the sweet spot with its setlist-esque progression, while still allowing each of the tracks, all wrapped in buzzing low-end breaks and wailing saxophone arrangements, to command their own unique characteristics. The album requires the listener to suspend their reservations slightly, and at the risk of sounding trite, allow for a little open susceptibility to the trip, if you will. Though, to that end, while everyone has spent more time at home than ever expected over the past year, Rainbow Brain invites listeners to enter the outer realms of their imaginations and to find cosmic adventure within their own minds.
Altogether, the album very clearly finds the Michigan-native beatsmith having a blast in the studio again; the convivial, happy-go-lucky nature of the album’s writing process evident from the project’s first notes. For those looking for a spirited good time, GRiZ has a bag full of fun on Rainbow Brain, and luckily he’s invited us to share in the mind-bending festivities. Throw on a good set of headphones, sprawl out across the rug that ties your favorite room together, and dive into Rainbow Brain.
Featured image: Alden Bonecutter