Trax on Black Wax

I’ve kept deferring the long screwed & chopped piece, but it’s running around my head and it’ll get up here well before the end of the ice age (to borrow Ian Curtis’ song title). I felt compelled to rattle off a short ‘now playing’ (wherever) list, more will appear tomorrow. (Wednesday).

in no particular order

Wasteland: October (Transparent) US CD
I-Sound and DJ Scud have left behind their third-rate ‘raggacore’ acolytes, to make electronic music that is never academic or sterile, but packed to the rafters with dirty rhythms, giving the lie to the threadbare idea that 3/4 time signatures can’t induce a deep head nod. Always keep your senses alert to the music of these two visionaries. Scud’s Ambush label releases towering, body-slamming records on a regular basis, but his Voice Crack remixes project makes clear that his talent and range go far beyond 210+ BPM tracks.

Various Artists: Seventies Box Set (Trojan) US 3xCD
Kingston vocalists like Alton Ellis, Hopeton Lewis, and Ken Boothe are already properly crowned, but if you don’t have goosebumps while listening to Honeyboy Martin’s cover of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”, you’re probably comatose. Think you couldn’t bare another version of “Candle in the Wind”? That’s only because Eric Donaldson’s version was, until now, lying behind a thousand reels of tape in a Kingston studio.

Jean Grae: This Week + accompanying Kay Slay mixtape (Baby Grande) US CD
Yeah, Ms. Grae’s become so trendy I’m half expecting a retrospective of her work to open at the Triple Five Soul store next month. But that’s not her fault. On occasion, imagination and skill actually do reach a wide audience. Nevertheless, her rhymes, timing, and flow still stun. One verse of Grae’s has more imagination and sheer wordsmith than many MCs can pull together on an entire album. Until Grae’s still rumbling ‘Attack of the Attacking Things’, ‘The Bootleg of the Bootleg’, the ‘Grae Mixtape’ and ‘Official Bootleg’, and her numerous quasi official releases on wax and CD, I’d forgotten how many rappers repeat verses, let their timing slide off-beat, and spit rhymes you forget by the time the track’s over. The fact that she enlists some of NY’s most skilled producers (perhaps they enlist her) means that the records are peerless. Grae also revives a lost old-school tradition, spoken shout-outs on tracks. Throw on Kool Moe Dee’s “Wild, Wild West”, or King Tre’s “Take A Pause” and you’ll hear what I’m talking about. Her gesture in that regard is anything but nostalgic. From start to finish, this is a gem. If it gives you a full body-wax, you can still obtain her older material and discover why she makes records that would impress Rakim.

DJ /rupture: Special Gunpowder (Tigerbeat 6) US CD or (Very Friendly) UK CD
It’s hard to believe that DJ /rupture has not released a full-length ‘album’, only because he’s so prolific and is seemingly on tour for six months at a time. Those not possessing a copy of his ‘Gold Teeth Thief’ mix CD should get their hands on a copy post haste. It is, without doubt, the contemporary equivalent of DJ Red Alert’s NY radio shows circa ‘84. He draws on a startling range of musics none of which sound overwrought or self-conscious. ‘Special Gunpowder’ may surprise some of his fans for it is not entirely made up of vein-throttling speedcore. But that is not to say it isn’t a remarkable accomplishment. Opening with an intro, ‘Overture: Watermelon City’ which features poet and Yale English professor Elizabeth Alexander before moving into a midtempo rockers track featuring the venerable Sister Nancy, the record is perfectly sequenced but without the dull linearity of ‘professionialism’. The final track, “Mole in the Ground” is a rendering of a traditional song, done with the elusive, sometime video-game designer, Sindhu Zagoren. There is hardly a lack of guest ‘stars’ here: Kit Clayton, Cocoa Tea, and Eugene Robinson. As Rupture notes: all samples cleared. And those consist of brilliantly timed bits of Sudden Infant (from the unfairly obscure Tochnit Aleph label), Ove-Naxx, Wayne Lonesome, and the vocals of Max Turner. Many lesser artists would have lost their balance among the panoply of musicians on this record, but dj /rupture never never makes a misstep. And if you think you hear one, it’s what Ishmael Reed once referred to as the “African deification of accident”.


One Response to “Trax on Black Wax”

  1. Arno Says:

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