Okay, so you've made a couple of records of near-perfect downtempo instrumental hip-hop, blending hard-edged breakbeats with melancholy, oddly beautiful soundscapes. But what do you do NEXT? It's a question that has, I am sure, troubled us all at some time or another. All of us, at least, who have produced a couple of records of near-perfect downtempo instrumental hip-hop, blending hard-edged breakbeats with melancholy, oddly beautiful soundscapes. (Myself, personally, I have not. But occasionally I like to pretend that I have in bars to impress girls, so I find it is best to have an answer prepared.) It is, however, an inordinately difficult question, whose answers are many and various, and always strangely unsatisfying. Some, like the UK's Rae & Christian or the Herbaliser, opt for slightly 'lite' attempts at making 'proper' soul / funk music. Other's, like Japan's DJ Krush, spiral off down an interesting if ultimately unfulfilling path of increasingly reductive sonic minimalism. And then there are those, like Luke Vibert / Wagon Christ, who just sort of.... carry on. To my mind only one guy has ever really got this right, the guy in question being 'Legendary San Franciscan Weirdo' DJ Shadow with his magnificent second album 'The Private Press'; a toweringly engaging record which balanced eclectic experimentalism with beat-heavy funk almost perfectly. But not perfectly; there were just enough massively bizarre and annoying failed tracks to make it interesting and, ultimately, loveable.
So, what then for Texas-born producer RJD2, whose previous recorded works to date (2003's excellent 'Deadringer' album and the frankly stunning collection of remixes and rare tracks, 'The Horror') have given him the not-unprofitable claim to fame of sounding more like DJ Shadow than DJ Shadow himself? To his credit, on this his second full-length solo LP, he offers a new and adventurous answer to the question: he goes FUCKING INSANE. Seriously. This is one of the most messed-up records I think I have ever heard. If you ever wondered what the sound of someone losing their very sanity was like, I urge you to buy this record and satisfy your morbid curiosity. It's certainly extremely hard to sum up in words. Bizarre. Uneven. Massively confusing. Surprisingly funky. In places the weird and seemingly arbitrary combination of disparate musical ingredients just fires perfectly, on tracks like the awesomely funky '1976' and the rollicking intercontinental mindfuck 'RingFinger'. But in places it just all gets a bit... unfocussed. And then... oh Jesus Christ, then there are the vocal tracks. It seems young RJ may have lost his heart to a young lady recently, because this record features several songs of love and loss, given voice by a singer of such jaw-dropping unskilled awkward badness that I can only presume it is in fact the writer/producer himself. (I would confirm this by perusing the liner notes, but unfortunately I don't have any. See, music piracy really IS wrong.) The freakish sad-sack wank-melody of 'Making Days Longer' is so embarrassing that at first it is almost impossible to actually listen to it. And then you come to 'Through the Walls', which finds Mr. D2 on a heroically thankless one-man mission to fuse cutting-edge dance music with terrible, terrible 80's pop-rock. Why? Fuck alone knows! And yet the more I listened to this record, and make no mistake, I could not fucking STOP listening to this record, the more these tasteless aural misbirths became my favourite thing on it.
As I think I may have mentioned, it's quite a strange record. But I think I am a little bit in love with it. What can I say, I like 'em mental.
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