Vex Ruffin: LiteAce Frequency

Filipino beatmaker Vex Ruffin’s third release on Stones Throw Records, titled LiteAce Frequency, is a sampled mishmash of soul-infused funk, pop, hip hop, and falsettoed vocals tip-toeing lightly on top of a mix of drums, horns, guitars, and keys. For an album that was made primarily using samples, it’s full, live sound is impressive. At once hazy and groovy, with a healthy dose of bleeps and bloops, LiteAce Frequency exhibits Ruffin’s mastery of the sample in the footsteps of his labelmates J Dilla and Madlib, whose legacies continue in these tracks.

Not only does Ruffin show dexterity in his sampling ability, but also in his ability to transcend musical styles. The first six tracks of LiteAce Frequency consist of a sort of retrospective of sonic moods, all inspired by sounds from the 70s and 80s, and on all of which Ruffin has placed a signature touch. His opening track, “Know Yourself”, is a down-to-earth seaside jam about knowing yourself, being yourself, checking yourself, and being at peace, complete with campy organ, upbeat congas, and analog synths lines. It’s an easy track to bop your head to. Track number two, titled “Hard to See”, sounds like it was sampled from a best of Aerosmith album. “I’m Going Hard” is a surf punk jam about, you guessed it, going hard. “Ikaw Lang”, a definite album highlight, means ‘Only You’ in Tagalog and is a beautiful ode to Brazilian soul. Signs of Arthur Verocai sail through this track.

Following on the heels “Ikaw Lang” is another LiteAce Frequency stand out titled “I’m Still At It”. A true funk jam in the vein of Parliament Funkadelic, “I’m Still At It” features a groove you’ll be moving with long after the song ends. The next song contrasts most with the rest of the album’s content. “All I Have” is a langurous, dreamy tune with little rhythmic ornamentation about giving love and working hard, those actions being all he has. Lazy guitars swoon above a simple backbeat; a light, phased drone sweeps back and forth through the mix. It’s the kind of track that you can imagine listening to while lying alone in a field, looking at the sky.

It’s difficult to talk about LiteAce Frequency without mentioning its final track, “What Matters The Most”. A dancefloor-ready, disco-inspired song that repeats the phrases “Take care of the ones you love, take care of yourself too, that’s what matters the most”. Ruffin’s work on this latest release is impressive in numerous aspects. The range of styles he encompasses speaks to a musical intelligence not only in terms of composition, but in terms of ear, and a deep appreciation for all music. There’s a simple, but clear moral stance he takes as well. The album is about remaining true to your roots, your passions, your family, friends, and yourself: words to live and listen to music by.

Rating: 7.6/10