The opening three tracks on OG Senpaiii's debut LP, [Headspace], are built by taking an ethereal melodic sample, reversing it, and overlaying it with a simple 4/4 drum loop. The approach works to pretty average ends: the songs establish a mellow foundation, but they aren't aren't particularly captivating. Opening track "PEMDAS" would function as a nice, blissful-but-glitchy intro, but it wears out its welcome about halfway through. The next two numbers, composed of vast, swimmy samples oscillating between a small handful of notes, are never dynamic enough to demand much attention.
Fortunately, [Headspace]'s weak beginning feels more like a false start, yielding to progressively more interesting territory that explores a more disorienting and expansive musical realm. OG Senpaiii redeems himself with "Additup," wherein a tinkly synth sample flutters beautifully alongside free-jazz cymbal hits, then melds into a mellow, handclap-driven groove with wind chime samples providing a wistful texture. It's dreamy without being deadbeat, conveying dynamism without disruption.
"Joy ride the (space) whip" makes for an excellent complement, driven by a distorted drum riff that evolves wildly into what sounds like a new age religious tape, ornamented with goofy synths swirling in space over a punchy kick drum. The rest of the record follows en suite, taking unexpected turns, getting weirder, looser, and more daring by the second. "Imouttahere" is a fun, catchy tune based on rapid synth arpeggios, while closing track "Zoomin'" powers [Headspace] to an exciting finish with the most aggressive beats on the record.
When OG Senpaiii simply sticks to a formula—a few ethereal samples and a drum loop repeated ad infinitum—the record flounders. But when he sticks his neck out for songs that are inventive, deliberate, and attentive to detail, he thrives, creating captivating soundscapes and headspaces all his own.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Next Levels."