A real return to form...

If Action Bronson can be criticised for anything, it’s probably taking on too many projects. The trained chef has a habit of spreading himself thin, attempting to make his frenetic studio activities with a career as a TV personality, and even some notable screen appearances, including a role in all-star mob flick The Irishman.

‘Only For Dolphins’ finds the New Yorker gaining renewed focus. Last year he hit the gym, losing seven stone in weight and emerging with a new sense of dynamism. As a result, this new album is his most in-depth, challenging, and straight-forwardly enjoyable, and certainly a vast improvement on 2018’s ‘White Bronco’, a project that clocked in at a mere 26 minutes.

Immersing himself in the global music sphere, the production moves from Brazilian culture through the Caribbean before landing at old school funk, a palette that seems to match the twists and turns of his lyrical flow. Guest producers include some heavy-hitters, with DJ Muggs, Samiyam, and Tommy Mas supplying beats, while regular collaborator The Alchemist also dropped past the studio. Single ‘Latin Grammys’ sets the tone with its crunching guitar line, while ‘Capoeira’ - the name of a South American dance-driven martial art – is blessed with the light of summer.

The reggae flourishes are more than mere tokens, too, with Action Bronson switching things up to absorb dancehall techniques while never surrendering his New York sensibilities. ‘Splash’ and ‘Sergio’ are real high points, the sound of Action Bronson relishing music, and regaining the thirst that drove early projects, such as 2011’s ‘Well-Done’.

‘Marcus Aurelius’ and ‘Hard Target’ bring the album to a punchy close, finishing a dynamic selection that never sits still, and rarely returns to the same space twice. ‘Only For Dolphins’ is the sound of free-flowing sonic travel, and it’s depiction of Action Bronson in full flight underlines the conception that this is an MC who is back to his peak.

8/10

Words: Robin Murray

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