[acid-jazz] Reviews :: DJ Krush, Gotan Project

From: Wesley (wesleyhongkong_at_earthlink.net)
Date: 2003-03-25 23:51:55

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    Reviews :: DJ Krush, Gotan Project

    more reviews of the new DJ Krush and Gotan Project albums which have
    recent/upcoming domestic release.
    [Sound :: Lounge] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SoundLounge

    source: PopMatters
    The Message at the Depth
    (Red Ink)
    US release date: 11 February 2003
    UK release date: 14 October 2002
    by Ari Levenfeld
    DJ Krush Goes Coastal
    Ten years ago, it was difficult for American hip-hop audiences to
    finally accept that strong MCs and DJs were coming out of the West
    Coast. But as left-coast gangsta' rap began to dominate headphones and
    Impala speakers in the late eighties and early nineties, a growing
    resentment started to build in the New York-based cradle of hip-hop. The
    bile turned caustic as producers like Dr. Dre rebuilt top-forty radio
    with a new blueprint called G-Funk. Leaning heavily on hooks from James
    Brown and George Clinton songs, the West Coast variety proved that rap
    music could be effectively sold to every demographic in America, from
    metropolitan roots to the planned communities of suburbia. Sure, there's
    a lot more to the entire East Coast/West Coast rap debate than this.
    Music critics have written entire books on the subject. But it all
    basically stems from a conflict of styles. That's why it's difficult to
    understand how a turntablist like DJ Krush could be so widely accepted,
    and even admired. After all, DJ Krush is from way past the West Coast.
    Born and raised in Japan, Krush credits the traveling Wild Style tour of
    the early eighties with introducing him to hip-hop. When he witnessed
    the infamous break-dancing and turntable crew performing in a Tokyo
    department store in 1984, he was inspired. The next day he went out and
    bought a turntable, mixer and sampler, and began scratching immediately.
    In 1987 he formed the Krush Posse with members of the local hip-hop
    scene, including his brother. But this early work was more of an
    imitation of what was happening in America than a distinct style of its
    own. By the early nineties Krush had broken off from this group and
    began exploring varieties that were all his own. By then his fascination
    with international jazz found its way into the music he was mixing. The
    work attracted the attention of Gangstarr's Guru, whose 1993 album
    Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 would try to work the magic with jazz and hip-hop
    stateside. Krush worked with Guru, as well Black Thought from the Roots,
    on Meiso, his 1996 album. Meiso also featured a collaboration with DJ
    Shadow that marked the arrival of the genre we now refer to as trip-hop.
    In fact, many credit Krush with helping to invent trip-hop. His later
    ground-breaking work mixing avant garde jazz trumpeter Toshinori Kondo
    on the album Ki-Oku, is complex and unique. It might be one of the best
    jazz albums to come out of the last decade.
    Krush's latest album, The Message at the Depth, ignores much of his
    previous jazz and trip-hop work. Instead, he utilizes the musical
    platform to question the nature of truth and conflict in the world, as
    we teeter on the brink of war. The CD feels more electronic than his
    previous work, leaning on his sampler for much of the sound manipulation
    to get his point across. The layered fragments are sharp, like freshly
    cut aluminum. Their resonating tones leave a metallic taste in your
    mouth as you struggle to make sense of Krush's new message. In a way,
    the irritated quality that Krush produces seem like a person who's drunk
    way too many cups of coffee, or maybe something even stronger. But all
    the while you'll notice that your head is bobbing and your foot is
    Tracks like "Toki No Tabiji (Journey of Time)" and "Sanity Requiem"
    resonate like a symphony of insects. They're powerful pieces to throw at
    the beginning of the album, with "Toki No Tabiji (Journey of Time)"
    featuring a hard-sounding newcomer Japanese MC named Inden. It's clear
    from listening to these two tracks that DJ Krush has moved far beyond
    the mere art of scratching. The beat is a stuttered amalgamation of bass
    booms and drum machines, all slowed way down. Krush's technical skills
    are amazing, with his ability to build a beat seemingly out of thin air.
    He's managed to construct a totally new way of meshing rhythms.
    The rest of the album is an interesting pastiche of guest appearances --
    from the gifted Angelina Esparza, who sings like a more sultry Tori Amos
    (if that's possible) to underground hip-hop acts like Opus. In fact,
    most of the collaborations on the album are with artists known for
    bridging the gap between genres. Sly and Robbie, for example, whose
    1970s and 80s style dub influenced just about every modern musical
    variety on the planet. Or Anti-Pop Consortium, rap artists who have
    dabbled in electronica.
    The short "Supreme Team" features flow from Anti-Pop Consortium and a
    plodding, big beat sound, like furniture being moved around on the
    ceiling. Anti-Pop's smart rhymes and underground hip-hop sound work well
    with Krush's steady beats. The hooks he creates aren't anything you've
    heard before, but still subtle enough not to compete with the vocals.
    This is one of the album's highlights, flowing as though DJ Krush and
    Anti-Pop Consortium were meant to play together. Krush tends to have
    that effect on a lot of artists.
    He teams up with underground rapper Anticon on the oddball "Song for
    John Walker". This ode to the man dubbed "The American Taliban",
    captured in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, sums up
    the feeling of the entire album. Anticon's style is as absurd as the
    rhymes in this song, and it's interesting to see the lack of seriousness
    that Krush devotes to the central idea of the album. "We know John
    Walker / We know John Walker" is repeated in each chorus, and the song
    asks us to think about how different this so-called terrorist is from
    the people we grew up with, or those that lead us.
    Krush goes so far as to team up with the world's most famous
    rhythm-section. Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare add their trademark to
    "The Lost Voices", collaborators who are better known by their first
    names. Krush uses the track as a good excuse to lighten things up
    somewhat. Still, the dub only barely masks the ominous feeling that
    dominates The Message at the Depth. This might be Krush's first attempt
    at mixing dub, at least on record, and he proves his skills easily here.
    The track also sets up the album's epilogue nicely. "What About
    Tomorrow", featuring vocals from reggae singer Ras Abijah, serves
    Krush's case against the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and at the
    same time asks what we're going to do to make the future better than the
    present. "What About Tomorrow" sees DJ Krush dipping into the dub realm
    once again, while maintaining the somber tone of the rest of the album.
    It's the lyrics that flicker hopefully, an unusual way for a turntablist
    to go out. But then, this has always been DJ Krush's hallmark, and most
    intriguing quality. He's not so rooted in a style or scene that he won't
    turn on a dime to get his message across, without going coastal.
    — 25 March 2003
    La Revancha del Tango
    (Ya Basta!/XL/Beggars Group)
    US release date: 8 April 2003
    by Andy Hermann
    Originality is a scarce commodity in the music world these days, so the
    very existence of a group like Gotan Project is cause for celebrating.
    When they first appeared in 2000 with the singles "El Capitalismo
    Foraneo" and "Triptico", the Paris-based Gotan Project stood out from
    the crowded field of nu jazz producers mixing house, jazz and Latin
    sounds for one simple reason: Their music was based on the rhythms and
    instrumentation of tango. While this doesn't sound like a particularly
    radical concept, the fact is that no one had ever done it before, and
    Gotan executed it so flawlessly, especially on the dazzling "Triptico",
    that no one else may ever be able to follow in their footsteps. Their
    sound is so definitive it's almost beyond imitation.
    Now comes Gotan Project's long-overdue (at least in the US; it's been
    available everywhere else for over a year) full-length debut, and
    happily, it picks up right where the monster hit "Triptico" left off.
    The Gotan guys blend the sexy syncopations of tango with the dark,
    echoing textures of dub and the beats of house and nu jazz to create a
    sound that is at once timeless and extremely modern, familiar and
    completely original, and basically just so darn all-around hip that
    it'll infuse your squalid little urban apartment with all the allure of
    a smoke-filled Parisian jazz club. Well, at least that's how it makes my
    squalid little urban apartment feel.
    Though nothing on La Revancha del Tango quite equals the many splendors
    of "Triptico", it's still pretty much all outstanding. Starting with the
    opening accordion-fueled strains of "Queremos Paz", Gotan Project build
    a 10-song set of loose-limbed, jazzy melodies stitched together by
    rock-solid beats that seem to hover somewhere between traditional
    Argentinean tangos and modern breakbeats, with maybe just a splash of
    bebop-era jazz thrown in to keep the vibe cool, man, cool. Gotan's
    official members are keyboardist/beat programmers Philippe Cohen Solal
    and Christoph H. Müller and guitarist Eduardo Makaroff (how's that for
    an international collection of names?), but the player who really
    defines the group's sound is probably Nini Flores. Flores plays the
    bandoneon, a complex and unwieldy breed of accordion whose sound,
    crisper and less wheezy than a standard accordion, is heard on most
    traditional tango numbers. On every track of La Revancha, Flores'
    playing is a marvel, never overly flashy, in keeping with Gotan's
    chillout vibe, but always oozing with quietly restrained passion. Just
    listen to the haunting high notes that open his limber phrases on "El
    Capitalismo Foraneo", or the way he slices through the dark, dubbed-out
    soundscape of "Chunga's Revenge" (which is, of all things, a Frank Zappa
    cover featuring a gravelly Spanish "rap" from MC Willy Crook).
    As good as Flores is, the other guest musicians on La Revancha match him
    note for sensual note. Line Kruse's violin and Gustavo Beytelmann's
    piano are in fine form throughout, especially on "Triptico", which as
    its title suggests is basically a showcase for each of the three
    soloists. It's on "Triptico" that Gotan Project sounds most like another
    Paris-based outfit known for using programmed beats as a platform for
    jazzy acoustic solos, St. Germaine. But if anything, the solos on
    "Triptico" outshine the work of the St. Germaine ensemble, especially
    Kruse's incendiary violin, and the backing track has a propulsive,
    syncopated energy St. Germaine's Ludovic Navarre, ever the househead,
    has never quite achieved.
    Elsewhere, the Gotan guys mix things up nicely, varying tempos without
    ever straying too far from the jazzy, sexy vibe that is their stock in
    trade. A very hip cover of the theme from "Last Tango in Paris"
    accompanies Beytelmann's and Flores' sweetly melancholy work with a
    sprightly, almost trip-hop beat; "Epoca" and "Santa Maria (del Buen
    Ayre)", featuring the torchy vocals of Cristina Villalonga, stick more
    closely to the rhythms and sounds of conventional tango; "La del Ruso"
    keeps it simple, highlighting Edi Tomassi's intricate percussion and
    Fabrizio Fenoglietto's reverberating double bass to deliver a song that
    gives a strong sense of tango's roots in Spanish folk music. Their
    finale, a cover of a song from tango's elder statesman Astor Piazzolla,
    dispels any lingering doubts that Gotan Project is just a bunch of
    electronica hipsters ignorantly dabbling in traditional Latin dance
    music. "Vuelvo al Sur" isn't an obvious cover choice -- it's off one of
    Piazzolla's later and less celebrated albums, 1987's Sur -- but Gotan
    reinvent its tricky blend of pop, jazz and tango superbly, wedding a
    slow, shuffling breakbeat to Villalonga's timeless voice and the
    expressive guitar and bandoneon of Makaroff and Flores.
    As reward for having to wait nearly two years for the release of La
    Revancha del Tango, American audiences get treated to a bonus disc of
    remixes and a video for the group's new single, "Santa Maria". As is
    often the case, none of the remixes really adds much to the original,
    though Peter Kruder of Kruder & Dorfmeister is his usual innovative self
    on a quietly slinky reworking of "Triptico" that bears almost no
    resemblance to the original. Tom Middleton's and Pepe Bradock's remixes
    are workmanlike broken beat and house treatments, respectively, of
    "Santa Maria", and Kushite's alleged remix of "El Capitalismo Foraneo"
    is really just a bad political rap set to looped fragments of the
    original track. I can't tell you what the video looks like because they
    didn't include it in the press copy, but I betcha it features lots of
    artfully distressed shots of members of the band walking around the
    streets of Buenos Aires.
    Some purists will no doubt protest Gotan Project's appropriation of
    Argentina's semi-official musical style, but I think most tango fans
    will be as exhilarated as I was by the way they breathe new life into
    the form. Thanks to the level of talent involved, and Gotan's knack for
    building a groove without letting it overshadow their lead players, La
    Revancha del Tango is an all-around triumph for modern, Latin-based
    dance music. If nothing else, buy it for "Triptico", and be amazed at
    how hip the much-maligned accordion can sound.
    — 25 March 2003
    ECLECTIC Japan
    [Sound :: Lounge] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SoundLounge