Cut Chemist – The Audience’s Listening – Beatdown Recordings/Warner Bros

by | Oct 6, 2006 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

Cut Chemist – The Audience’s Listening – Beatdown Recordings/Warner Bros. 48559-2, 43:24 ****:

Who wudda thought I’d be reviewing a CD from a turntablist-hip-hop-influenced performer?  And liking it? Well, this guy’s a real wizard with the tables and samples, it’s his debut CD, and I think he’s an audio genius. I’ll try not to hold it against the young fella that he’s doing it the lazy way – not having to deal with open reel tapes and razor blades as we did in the past. What Cut Chemist is doing here is somewhat similar to the early Dadaist avantgarde silent film makers in Paris, who juxtaposed every sort of contrasting image in their short films.  But Cut Chemist ties all his sounds together with a compelling groove or beat that comes from the electronica/ambient/dance music world. But this is definitely music to listen to – not to dance to.

First of all, ya gotta dig this stuff on a good pair of headphones, not speakers. There’s too much going on, subtle sounds all mixed together, to make much sense with just speakers. I thought ProLogic II would help but due to the highly processed sound there’s not often a lot of ambient L-R information here for that. There is more spatial definition with the headphones; you might even try Dolby Headphone if you have it.

There’s no doubt the major hit on this disk is The Garden. I think it’s the most exciting six minutes of music I’ve heard in years!  Ya gotta hear it!  Recorded in Sao Paulo, Brazil, it uses a sampling of Astrud Gilberto singing “Berimbau” – which is the name of the simple stringed folk instrument which provides an exotic drone both to Brazilian music in general and to this super-groovy track.  Over its hypnotic samba groove are the sounds of guitar and cavaco; then comes an ambient-sort of electronic string section.  Finally, Gilberto’s bossa novaish voice is added on top, plus more Brazilian percussion. I hear a sense of threat or some sort of danger in there too. What a sonic trip! Wow – I wanna go down to Carnaval right away! Book me a flight – my credit card limit can take it!

I must admit I hit the advance button a couple times to skip the rap sections that were too much for me, but here are a few of the other sounds that attracted me: The opening Motivational Speaker takes phrases lifted from motivation films and cassettes and backs them up against one another. Spat is a hilarious sonic satire of the cell phone phenomenon. The distorted voices of the two guys talking on their mobiles reminded me of the gibberish voices of characters in Eastern European animated shorts, which are intended not to be understood at all but just to communicate various emotions and relationships. The Lift puts the listener in a surrealistic elevator, complete with a type of Muzak created by Cut Chemist. Storm is not about weather but about “storming the studio;” it started out great but I had to leave due to heavy rapping.  Spoon cracks me up every time I hear it – over a very interesting instrumental groove a stoned-sounding male voice simply repeats the word “spoon” every so often. The closing track is the theme song of the album, and reminds us of the Outer Limits TV series with its intonation of “We will control the highs….We will control the lows….”

Tracks: Motivational Speaker, My 1st Big Break, The Lift, The Garden, Spat, What’s the Attitude, Metrorail thru Space, Storm, 2266 Cambridge, Spoon, A Peak in Time, The Audience Is Listening Theme Song

 – John Henry

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