As part of his preparation to relocate to the United States from The Netherlands, musician and producer Nicolay created Here, a psychic travelogue charting his progress across the country through collaborations with American artists in their hometowns. Though Nicolay worked as a live musician for a decade before he began producing, he began making waves after teaming up with Little Brother's Phonte Coleman as The Foreign Exchange. Here, his solo debut, follows last year's acclaimed Dutch Masters, Vol. 1 mix-tape.
The record opens with a flute-driven intro that sounds nicked from the opening theme of a streetwise '70s film or TV show. That swell of lush and blissful anachronism (and Stevie Wonder influence) carries over into the rest of the record, starting with "I Love the Way You Love," the first proper song, featuring Darien Brockington's smooth R&B vocals.
To give you an idea of the travelogue aspect, "Give Her Everything" features Graham Sears Tracey channeling Big Apple heartache over Nicolay's trip-hop beats; "My Story" features Kay (of The Foundation), recorded in Texas, and Sy Smith's soaring backing vocals, recorded in Los Angeles. The lion's share of the guest spots goes to St. Louis' Black Spade. You may or may not have caught Nicolay's tour stop at Shadow Lounge earlier this year, but regardless, Pittsburghers should note "What It Used to Be," recorded by E. Dan at I.D. Labs, where guest emcee Wiz Khalifa's rhymes surgically remove the rose-tinted glasses.
Tapping the experiences of people across the country, Here slices across boundaries we're reluctant to even acknowledge, all with a bittersweet keep-on-keepin'-on that echoes Marvin Gaye's masterpiece What's Going On. And if that sounds odd to you, consider Kay's lyric on the closing track: "As the sands drop through the hourglass / some things remain suspended in time / the ways of men, we never learn / just repeat mistakes over just to do it again for no closure."