It’s always been a challenge to pin Keller Williams down. Beholden to no one specific genre, he’s veered from folk to funk, rock to reggae, with hints of bluegrass, electronica, jazz and jam band drive tossed in between. Not surprisingly, he operates under any number of different guises—the Keller Williams Incident; Keller Williams with Mosely, Droll and Sipe; The Keels and Kdubalicious, among them—and yet, he often goes it alone when he wants to shift his stance. He’s also adept at playing all the instruments in his arsenal, adding loops, phasing and other effects when mandated by the music.
It’s little surprise then that Sans finds him venturing into new terrain yet again. The title refers to the fact that the album is mostly free of vocals, an instrumental album that finds him indulging his penchant for intrigue and experimentation. It’s characterized by a series of twists and turns, from the kinetic pulse of “Fat B” with its sinewy groove, prominent bass and brass-infused accompaniment to the hypercharge and chant of “Newness” and the celebratory sounds of “Gracious Leo” and “Sheebs.” Many of the entries shift gears repeatedly; the sprightly “Ticks When Told” stalls once the groove deeper, while “Roshamboagogo” starts off triumphantly only to change its tune midway through.
Nearly all the tracks are re-imagined versions of earlier efforts that never quite reached fruition.
The one exception, “The Cabella Vibe,” was recorded with his two children, and while nepotism can be suspect, like the album’s other offerings, it’s both alluring and intriguing.
More soundscapes than songs, Sans offers Williams opportunity to retune his template and vary it accordingly. Both facile and frenzied, Sans is another satisfying addition to Williams’s remarkable repertoire.
Watch Keller Williams 2017 Paste Studios session below: