Much of Express Rising rings with melancholy, or at the very least, nostalgia. To say Carfagna is a student of the game is an understatement, and his lonesome piano on “Keys to Be” and languid procession on “Capsize” reveal a man lost in admiration of those who’ve come before. One of the wonders of instrumental hip hop is its ability to usurp machismo’s methodology and turn it into a venue for sensitivity and reflection. In that vein, portions of Express Rising are downright overwhelming. “Cardinal, Fly How?” is one such occasion.
While the BPMs never escalate past 90, Carfagna does cut a few rugs on Express Rising. “Comfortable With Failure” and “Dead Mall” ride funky backbeats that toy with syncopation before returning to the ‘one’ without fail. “Neighborhood (Gentrified)” is a remix of the album’s opener, complete with an Indian mode and the meanest break on the album – a blissful syncopated world of bass drum, snare and high-hat that thankfully continues into the ether long after accompanying loops have faded away.
Express Rising’s relative sedateness is a significant departure from the electric funk of Chains’ favorites like “I Believe I Found Myself Today” or “Fuck the Police”, but this shift in dynamics and rhetoric only furthers Memphix’s mercurial mystique. No longer just notorious, the Memphix crew have demonstrated with Express Rising they can take also solace in serenity
By Otis Hart