Sounds of Futures Passed: AF THE NAYSAYER
Armed Wing Battle Unit is the new EP from New Orleans-based AF THE NAYSAYER (Amahl Abdul-Khaliq). Like his last release, The Autodidact Instrumentals, Vol. I., it’s a funky, jazzy, beats-driven, and cerebral album that can transport the listener to a whole ‘nother level. It’s also shot through with aural references to gaming culture, particularly arcade games of the 1980s and 1990s. If you, like me, pine for the days of pixelated visuals and the glitchy, vibrant soundtracks that accompanied them on your old-school galactic missions, then you’ll particularly love AF THE NAYSAYER’s new offering.
AF has consistently brought the funk to the electronic scene. His beats are characterized by their playfulness and their mellow bounce, which plays nice at your headiest party or along with your deepest chill mood. Armed Wing Battle Unit continues to explore this signature sound, and it also adds layers, ranging from vocal samples to Asian-inflected synth sounds. Though the songs stand on their own, I can totally imagine the game that would go along with the album, where players would criss-cross their way across space-time to do battle with intergalactic forces of evil.
Video game composers are some of AF’s biggest influences, and he credits his own past participation in the fighter game and game development communities with shaping his sound on these tracks. He has, in fact, had concept artwork created for the game that goes with the songs, inspired by science fiction, hip hop, and the Japanese style of games known as Bullet Hell Shoot ‘Em Up, or “shmup.”
Although he recorded most of the tracks several years ago, the sound is totally fresh, and the nostalgic, vintage aesthetic that permeates the songs is perfect for our current, Stranger Things-informed moment. The first song opens with a satisfying string of tones that sounds like a gaming system turning on, or a new level initializing, followed by chill, satisfying beats. In one of my favorite tracks, “Briefing Room (Staff Roll) [pieceFIRE remix],” a dangerous and deadly scenario unfolds in the vocal samples while the high-energy beats and synth chords crest over deep bass.
AF has taken some time off making music and touring recently, though he has been busy creating official remixes for groups like Taiwan’s Juzzy Orange, Phony Ppl, and tAz Arnold of the Sa-Ra Creative Partners. I’m a huge fan of all of those songs, but it’s great to see Armed Wing Battle Unit out. Everyone needs more of these beats in their life.