The Album That Changed My Life: Quantic “The 5th Exotic”
If you’ll turn the machine on…
Each month we get one of our writers to tell us about their “that” album. This January sees our Nightlife Editor, Leo Burrell take on Quantic’s astounding 2001 debut album, “The 5th Exotic”.
As a youngster raised in Kent by a classical musician turned vicar and a music therapist, I wasn’t exposed to much electronic music. My parent’s record collection consisted of several hundred classical LPs, an Oscar Peterson LP, Sgt. Pepper’s and The Dark Side of the Moon. Luckily, I had two sisters several years older – one of which got me into Blur, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Bee Gees; while the other gave me Radiohead, Bob Dylan and a little artist called Quantic.
“…It was then that I genuinely started seeing colours: the depth of the reverb, the swirling delays, the dramatic use of panning, the extraordinary variety in textures – it was a seamless journey into a whole new universe…”
I’d like to say the first time I heard The 5th Exotic, aged 14-years-old, I started seeing colours and the world changed around me. But I just liked it a bit. It had funky beats that I’d not heard before and a real sense of hypnotic theatricality. It wasn’t until a few years later, when me and my friends were smoking some, well, you know what (I’m actually pretty sure it was my first time) that I texted my mum to see when she was due home. “On my way, be there in 10 minutes,” came the reply. I booted out my friends in a panic and ran up to my room, put on some headphones and pretended to be asleep. It was then that I genuinely started seeing colours: the depth of the reverb, the swirling delays, the dramatic use of panning, the extraordinary variety in textures – it was a seamless journey into a whole new universe. The sample of the man describing the “artist painting a picture of an artist painting a picture” analogy in ‘Infinite Regression’ was enough to blow my little mind into a thousand Quantic-sized pieces.
Up until that moment I had only really played music. From then on I was obsessed with the recording of music, the power of the studio, and more importantly, sound. I had no idea it could be manipulated in such a way to make it sound like it was inside your very own skull, and I never heard production the same way again. Everything became a comparison to this album: if it wasn’t opening new pathways, it was pointless. The 5th Exotic leaves no stone unturned psycho-acoustically, not to mention musically. With dub, jazz, funk, flamenco and blues all explored through the lens of early-noughties trip-hop and garagey beats, it really is an exploration of what can be done when you combine samples of acoustic music, electronic beats and fresh recordings, many of which Will Holland played himself on a variety of instruments. Unbelievably, this was his debut album, at the astonishing age of 21. To this day I still play many of the tracks in my DJ sets, and while in the background it may sound like borderline easy-listening, I urge you to hear the 5th Exotic on good headphones or a big soundsystem and discover the parts of your mind you didn’t know existed. That said, good luck getting it on wax for less than £50. I was lucky enough to get a copy of the limited run of the first repress in 12 years signed at the Harley by the man himself a few years back!
Words: Leo Burrell