Penji is the self-titled, debut EP from Galway musician Aengus Hackett, working under the moniker Penji. It’s a fusion of jazz, instrumental hip-hop, psychedelia, chill hop and downtempo. Maybe it’s because I love jazz and produce music myself, but I believe I have a greater appreciation of the effort that goes into it. I found myself thoroughly enjoying this record, so let’s get into it.
‘Time to Go’ kicks off the EP and it’s as mellow a song as you’ll find anywhere. The drums are jazzy—making their presence known without being too powerful—the melodies are wonky, the pads are dreamy, and the piano is lush.
Listening to these songs, they call to mind the work of DJ Shadow, but only for brief moments as I found Penji’s sound to be very original. Each track has its own style and pace, no two songs are the same, and just when you think a song is slowing down, it changes direction.
Sonically, ‘Pink Clouds’ is the prettiest song on the EP. It starts out very laid back but builds to a fast-paced climax and, as the song progresses, I imagine myself floating and staring at the cosmos. The drums, mix, pads, and overall performance here are superb. There are so many memorable soundbites on this track, with bonus points for the excellent bass. I found the last two songs (‘The Real Deal’, ‘One Fine Night’) a lot wonkier melodically but that’s by design.
With Penji, you will experience feelings of calm, isolation, and hope all in a single song, but it never feels disjointed. All the instrumentation is a joy but the guitar is a particular highlight. Penji is a one-man band, and an exceptionally talented one at that. This release transcends hip hop, jazz, and more—it’s a perfect blending of all styles.
I can see this EP being sampled a lot in the future, it’s an outstanding collection of music. If you need something to help you relax, or simply want to enjoy well-crafted music, this is for you. It’s a flawless first release and one Penji should be proud of. I hope to see a lot more of him in the near future—the music scene is this man’s oyster.