Miami doesn't have the strongest of indie music scenes. So it's nowhere near often enough we see promising local underground artists erupt with new, promising work. Now if these artists also happen to be pushing the envelope and breaking ground with their music, it's a very special thing indeed.
With its fluid, future-thinking blend of experimental hip-hop, basstronica, and urban contemporary flavors, Manuvers & Yarlen's The Drive Home LP delivers that rare promise. The new album, which just dropped this week, spans nine original tracks and features local favorites like Induce and Ketchy Shuby's Jay Jo Hero.
You may already know Manuvers (AKA Francisco "Pancho" De Pablo) from his old Sunday Coolout radio show on WDNA 88.9 FM, various local DJ nights, or any number of production credits, including progressive hip-hop releases on Counterflow Recordings. But The Drive Home marks his first collaborative work with Yarlen Ferreira, another budding young producer with roots in Miami's underground bass music scene.
"The project came about from us collaborating on a track randomly," Manuvers tells Crossfade. "We have known each other for so long, but never had collaborated or anything, musically.
"I guess it was bound to happen, but it happened naturally, not forced. The first track was the 'Hit Her With The One Two' instrumental. I had that track, and some friends and label owners of Discos Pegaos in Chile stepped to me about releasing something on their label, and I expressed how I wanted to do something different than what I am known for down in South America -- hip-hop.
"So I showed them that track Yarlen and I did, and suggested it would be easier for me to work a project with someone else."
And partnering up with Yarlen certainly helped steer Manuvers' signature sampledelic hip-hop style in a more experimental electronic direction, embracing elements of glitch and future bass.
"Most of the time, we'd work on our parts separately, and then get together and finish them," explains Yarlen. "I started working on some sketches and ideas, and Manuvers picked what he liked. From there, he added his flavor, which I love, because he's amazing with melodies, and I'm more into weird rhythms and glitchy sounds."
Of course, there are also the guest vocalists, who must be credited with elevating key tracks on the album. The voice of Jay Jo Hero, in particular, brings a haunting, atmospheric quality to "Scribble Hearts," a hypnotic number that will get under your skin and linger long after the first listen.
"Jay is genius -- he is a music-making machine," gushes Yarlen. "Most of what he did for us didn't take him very long to come up with, except for 'Scribble Hearts.' I sent him the song, and he took his time with that one. I'm so thankful and lucky he agreed -- I love his solo projects and his band Ketchy Shuby. Jay is just brilliant, period!"
Once you get past the album's darker shades of emotion on tracks like "Scribble Hearts," the mood is considerably brighter, especially on baby-making jams like "Goodbye Reprise," thanks to Miami's own indie soul crooner, Induce.
"The Induce vocal happened as a reprise," explains Manuvers. "I had done the original on his album, called 'My Sweet, Goodbye', with Danny Keys from ArtOfficial, and I just wanted to flip the song on some midtempo dance shit -- some sexy slow shit."
Ultimately, though, as its title implies, The Drive Home is an album designed for a quiet, meditative, introspective listening experience.
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"The concept is pretty much late night sessions, in whatever way you want to imagine it," offers Manuvers. "Creeping with someone, or driving, thinking, creating. Either way, it's a concept from something Yarlen and I have in common -- we're night creatures.
"I make most of my music at night -- I feel like there are less distractions, you can hear your soul clearer. The Drive Home means music to drive to at night, when you leave the club, and you want to relax and disconnect from it all."
Get your copy of Manuvers & Yarlen's The Drive Home LP on iTunes and support local independent music.