Education & Recreation
Rendered with uncluttered clarity, Surprise Chef’s savvy instrumentals prompt the listen to pay closer attention. That’s especially true of the Melbourne jazz/soul ensemble’s third album, which showcases their sample-ready breaks and soundtrack-esque vibe studies in digestible three- or four-minute portions. “Conversation Piece” pairs snappy drums with rippling piano, stuttered xylophone, and a concise guitar line to allow for plenty of open space before some choice woodwinds come into play. Despite having no vocals, these self-produced tracks are total earworms: Observe the squiggly synth hook urging on lead single “Velodrome,” or the dusty groove that emerges halfway through “Iconoclasts.” Surprise Chef has clearly done their homework, poring over the back-catalog nooks and crannies of funk-minded labels like Stones Throw and Daptone. That makes Education & Recreation aptly titled indeed: You can hear the players drawing on decades’ worth of crate-digging wisdom and simply having a lot of fun with it.