Eliot Lipp Takes Flight
On the cover of Tacoma Mockingbird, a photo of Eliot Lipp is superimposed on a shot of an industrial Los Angeles skyline, his body bisected by a thick yellow line that busts a serious '80s graphic design move. While not my favorite album sleeve ever, it does a lot to suggest the influence that moving to LA has had on this 25-year-old producer's second album. G-funk keyboards mob all over this record, swinging through "Glasspipe," kicking back and squelching on "Check Weight." Meanwhile, the electro touches of "Last Night" and "Brand New" beg for an uprock or five, while the album's languid, liquid BPMs would be a great soundtrack to a smoke-filled lowrider slowly tippin' to the side.
In actuality, Tacoma Mockingbird equally reflects everywhere Lipp has lived (which is a lot of places). Songs "The People" and "Mashin on Em" channel the melancholy mood of his hometown: rainy, working-class Tacoma, Washington. "Vallejo" finds him under the influence of Bay Area gangster rap producer Khayree, whose underrated beats for Mac Mall and Ray Love informed Lipp's years in San Francisco. And the Dabrye-esque feel of the record–where instrumental hip-hop tempos rub up against plenty of techno touches–reflects a recent two-year stint in Chicago, one that had him listening to Pantytec, Luciano, and Cylob alongside Kool G Rap and Coltrane.
"I make different styles of music based on what environment I'm in," says Lipp, whose self-titled first album was released on Prefuse 73's Eastern Developments label. "My newer stuff has been getting less beat-oriented, but I've also been making beats for MCs. For MCs, I'll try to make something really minimal so that it doesn't crowd in with the lyrics, but on Tacoma Mockingbird, I was trying to take up the space of where the MC would be with synth lines." Though each track contains five or six different synths, the majority of sounds on the record originated from Lipp's beloved Korg MS-20 and the Sequential Circuits Six-Trak, a 1984 analog relic. "All the sounds that I ever really need to use are in those two keyboards," he enthuses.
While most producers are busy trying to give their productions a more organic feel, Lipp is wisely ahead of the curve–he plans to take his next record in a more machine-driven direction. "I played a lot of Tacoma Mockingbird live," he explains. "I didn't really sequence anything. [For my next album], I want to get the human element a bit more out of it and make it more computer-y. I want to do a lot more sequencing to keep it fresh and keep a lot of thought put into it, rather than just going with the flow."