Solange Knowles isn’t a stranger to collaborating with some of the world’s most most unique artist’s. 2008’s Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams took on a team consisting of (but certainly not limited to) Thievery Corporation, Mark Ronson, Soulshock, Bilal, and Boards of Canada themselves. Years later, Solange released the free song “Under Construction,” which found the songstress once again borrowing from Thievery, so it comes as no shock that she’s taken yet another Boards of Canada beat to throw her soulful musings over.
In “Left Side Drive,” Solange left the original Boards instrumental untouched, instead, completely focusing on vocal production that compliments and adds a fresh take to the already perfect song by the same name. The most stunning production aspect that allows Solange’s vocals to over top of the track is the gorgeous reverb that are prominently heard on the verses. As with most R&B productions, vocals are often left with a loud and dry sound as to allow more room for mass compression to ensure every syllable sung is presented in megaphone form and ready to compete with the cesspool of mundane music that floods our satellite and FM stations daily – Solange doesn’t play that game on this track. Instead, her vox tracks are manipulated and wet to fit in with the track’s psychedelic and chill out vibe. While her vocals are compressed to be heard and present above the track, there is clear dynamic range heard throughout the verses, with a heavier setting on the chorus to allow build.
The chorus of the track also contains a vocal double, panned left and right to allow the vocals to be an even more powerful and spaced out. At times, she may sound too loud for fans of the purest Boards of Canada beat, but in the realm of R&B, it’s classic and almost necessary to ensure the vocalist shines above everything else. While it certainly could be an issue during the strong parts of the song, the Sandison’s production is still clearly heard and would sound even better if the track were to be released in lossless format, instead of the MP3 we’ve been given.
Several delays are also cleverly automated and present throughout the track, mainly on the last word of each phrase in the verses, filling the void where lyrics are not present and adding a bit of depth within the empty spaces.
As for the instrumental itself? It’s perfect and like the article for “1969” that was posted just yesterday, I could go on for pages about it’s subtleties and admirable production that makes everything Boards of Canada touches, perfect.
Track rating: 4/5