It's no secret that Assemble Sound is one of Detroit's most valuable stakeholders in both music and community. Through their yearly, residency program, Assemble amplifies both the voices and reach of some of the region's most talented creators. Since the creative sanctuary's conception, pun intended, a diverse community of creators has gone on to grace national stages, manage other musicians, and become stakeholders themselves. These are all impressive accolades, but Assemble's latest benchmark is impressive and enjoyable with just the press of a button.
Soil to Sky: A Resident Mixtape is a new mixtape by Assemble's 2020 Residents, that connects cultures, sounds, and communities-- a compilation that makes a strong case for the residency approach.
I've often wanted to hear a compilation of sorts from Assemble. Quite honestly, as a musician myself, I like the idea of gathering creators from different walks of life into a room and seeing what wicked sounds they can conjure up. Soil to Sky is surely that. Comfortably pop, but unafraid to reach into Detroit's weighty bag of influences, the project is an urgent commercial for Detroit that we feel will wake up anyone who's been sleeping just like those informercials we encountered in the wee hours of the night when we were little.
So here's what we think about this new record.
Singer/Songwriters Gabriel Duran and Kynzi kickstart the album into overdrive with "Call My Line", a highspeed-disco where both singers reach out to that late night driver, ruminating on love-lost. The analog prodigal child in synth-pop is surely back and it's no more clear than on this opening record. "Call My Line" kicks off an excitingly uptempo first leg of an album graced with appearances from Supercoolwicked, whiterosemoxie, Primer, Michael Tocco, and Tiny Jag. From Supercoolwicked's interstellar groovromance with Shakespeare in "Juliet" to an ocean-wide battlecry in "D.A.R.E." by Tiny Jag and Primer, the first half is packed with a punch. whiterosemoxie evens graces us with one incredibly on-brand banger with "Side Piece" that evens out the record with some trap-inspired sounds.
As the tape reaches its halfway point in "Why", things start to slow down a bit, with Kynzi and Michael Tocco capturing how we've all felt before. "how much longer till we make it, feels like everything is taking too long", they sing. Vulnerable and unsure, "Why" is that moment that all creators have---that moment where you just feel unsure and restless. And its such a great record for anyone who's been feeling down this year. Sometimes it's nice to know someone has been where we've been.
And to be honest, the second half of this record is our favorite. The project takes such a beautiful turn, dwelling heavily in reflection, and this is where we think Soil to Sky really shines. Records like "Empty Streets" and "Mt" are vulnerable and truly cut deep while records like "Rain" and "Ponds" are beautiful and enveloping. The second half of the album even saves room for Curtis Roach on "High Fidelity", a record that brings Curtis into a more traditionally pop space, a sound that we thoroughly enjoyed. Roach shares the record with fellow Forever Golden homie Jay Squared, along with a sticky hook sang by former resident and in-house manager Jax Anderson (fka Flint Eastwood).
The project also features musical contributions from Thibault Ruellan, Caz Aglets, SYBLYNG, Mark Whalen, Hala, Sam Austins Kaleb Waterman, and potentially some other uncredited artists. Cause it wouldn't be very cash money of us if we left out the others that worked on these wonderful records.
It's not easy collaborating on this scale, but we think this tape is a success for Assemble. Not just materially, but narratively. Assemble is an emblem of Detroit's rich creative community and the people that occupy it, and this album surely shines through as that. Soil to Sky is eclectic and fun. And like Kynzi sings earlier in the album they are "ready to fly, ready to soar". And if moments like this project are the soil, chances are those lyrics are going to manifest for these amazing artists.
So what's your soil? What's your sound? Grab your friends and find out! Hell, grab some strangers! And get to creating; who knows what you'll create. And that's the fun of it. Cause when "the travel seems endless, there's a right to be free". After all, "those blue waters are just ponds anyway".
Listen to Soil to Sky: A Resident Mixtape below!
Buy Soil to Sky: A Resident Mixtape on Bandcamp