After a long 13 years hiatus, Maestro Fresh Wes has a lot to get off of his chest with a lengthy 18 track long album filled with each single thought that has run across his mind over the past literal decade. We don’t know what his obsession ever was with the idea of the symphonic orchestra, but Orchestrated Noise serves as a conceptual follow-up to 2000’s Symphony In Effect. Contrary to the album name, you won’t find any Rachmaninoff samples during the hour long run, but instead, with this album, he took on a no holds barred approach to a new, more modern, and even more commercial sound.
Maestro Fresh Wes lost the funky fresh feeling of his past work but didn’t cut corners when it came to featuring notable old school MCs like Chuck D. and Kool G. Rap. While these features are impressive, the lyrical exchange often seems muddled and the subtleties of the instrumental inflections are the highlights of the album. Even without all the features we’d still be here for the instrumentals and how each one is perfectly utilized.
Somehow each song remains so distinctly different from the next. It must be said though, that at times, the production can seem a bit scattered. Perhaps this is due to the lack of a consistent theme. “Dearly Departed” featuring Kardinal Official displays brassy cymbals hidden behind fluttering flutes to yield one of the album’s most noted tracks. But this is almost immediately followed by “Desire,” a more electronic, Portishead-laden cut, which features Canadian electro-pop princess Lights and an occasional sharp snares and experimental screech. The off-kilter production never seems to bring the drama and climax of an orchestral movement like the album title promises, but somehow it showcases Maestro Fresh Wes as multi-faceted—he goes from the gritty (“The Conversation”) to the pretty (“See You On The Weekend”) and proves to be an artist that could so easily have been pigeonholed into the cool, but not so ubiquitous 90s rap realm of music, but instead decided to try for more relevance.
But it must be said that the distractingly obscure element of Orchestrated Noise is the concept. Is there one? Is there a deeper meaning we’re not catching on to? Regardless of the answer, it should not be this hard to capture. If you are looking for the Maestro Fresh Wes of the 90’s and early 00’s, you’re not gonna find it here. This album is a good way to explore what he has been up to, but as a disclaimer, it will not satisfy your craving for the artist you came for.