If you’re on the hunt for some chilled-out, Hip Hop-inspired Neo-Soul to kick off your 2024, then look no further, because you’ve found it here in Nabil Muquit – The Only Way Out Is Up. This is the second full-length album from the Philadelphia-raised, New Orleans-schooled producer (who was classically trained and plays both saxophone and keys to the standard of a jazz musician), following 2021’s more vocal-oriented 4u&u2, as well as a handful of singles and b-sides and a live mini album from 2020 titled Covid Sessions: Live at Turtle Studios.
This new release certainly sees Muquit expand his sonic palate; many of the seven tracks on here are dominated by an experimental vibe, embracing unusual structures and off-kilter melodies. A jazz-centric feel also prevails throughout, with the opening track Pieces Of A Dream bursting in with an intro that sounds like it could very well have come straight from the 1970s, whilst the Hip Hop-style beat that enters a few seconds later brings it right up to date. Unbreakable Faith is another track on Nabil Muquit – The Only Way Out Is Up that seeks to entice its audience with a retro-sounding intro (in this case, the resonant peals of an organ-esque synth) before infusing the track with modern rhythms and slick, clean production.
Another notable feature of the songs on this album, meanwhile, is the fact that they never once outstay their welcome. New Cycle, for instance, is a heavenly rise and fall of persnickety rhythms and celestial synths that seem to melt into thin air after the track’s three minutes is up, whilst Honor sees the bass guitar take center stage for a sweet but all too short two-and-a-half minutes.
Focused around bright, soaring melodies and embellished with deep grooves, all in all, Nabil Muquit – The Only Way Out Is Up is a must-listen for anyone who calls themselves a fan of 21st-century experimental jazz, funk, and soul.