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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Cut Chemist
The Audience's Listening
Warner Bros.

Rating: 8/10 ?

August 8, 2006
When the term "turntablism" is used to describe an artist's style, some automatically think whicky-whicky and nothing else. For longtime Jurassic 5 member Cut Chemist, his work is deeper than just tricky chops and fat beats - although those two elements are always present as well. The Chemist recently released his first proper solo effort, The Audience's Listening, to polarized reviews, in part because he isn't accompanied by a zillion MCs and in part because as a turntable act he doesn't choose to take his listeners on a path that similar acts Mix Master Mike, DJ Q-Bert, or X-Ecutioners follow. Instead, Cut Chemist lays down some know-how and humor, and makes a better album than most of his contemporaries could.

The Audience's Listening is a stockpile of great beats - both rare and danceable - ingenious quotes, and great hooks. Unlike some current DJs, Cut Chemist doesn't just settle to lie on a hot riff and catchy beat; throughout each track there are tempo changes, layers of effects, time signature changes, drum fills, clever audio clips, and sung vocal elements.

One example of the great patching together of a complete track is the commentary of the album's first song, "Motivational Speaker" -

(A stodgy, old white guy voice): The DJ of the future is going to be…
(Another stodgy, old white guy): …a respected member of the community…
(Another voice): …motivated people to get out and buy, try, or use…
[barking dogs]
[spritely banjo plucking]
(Loud voice): SHUT UP!
(Another voice): Give the best which you feel you're capable
(Woman's voice): Is that good?
(Man's voice): It's only good when people listen… but if people don't listen to it, then it's no good.
[music cuts and a bing]
(Old man voice): No, that's wrong!
(Another): DJ work is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable tasks a person can set for themselves.
(Another): If you don't like the product, then keep your mouth shut.

The product is seamless in its transitions and crafty in the narrative that is being told. Other tracks don't have running voice samples as the first does, but are equally as solid. "The Garden" utilizes a sample of an Latin originated guitar-like instrument, stacked but thin vocal sample from Astrud Gilberto, and hand drums sounding somewhat like congas and concert bass drums. Only after four minutes does Cut Chemist strike his patience and lay down a modern, Western sounding, pumping breakbeat. In addition, during this chorus segment Cut Chemist adds a weepy, breathing orchestral string section and a further developed, more layered version of Gilberto's soft voice. Such is a similar standard for success that has led Blockhead and DJ Shadow to cult status in the same subgenre.

Even though The Audience's Listening has moments of profound production there is still some room for a couple quality collaborations, one with Hymnal ("What's The Altitude") and one with Mr. Lif and Edan ("Storm"). Hymnal ties together tight rhymes that also contribute to the album's at times quippy approach, especially a chorus part that goes, "She gave me head - phones…" The Mr. Lif and Edan track co-stars these two great rappers, each bringing their original and aggressive cadences over a flowing beat choice.

Perhaps one of the cleverest tracks of all is a phone conversation between two turntables ("Spat"). In this one Cut Chemist uses his in-depth tone knowledge to create moods between the two sides, a conversation in vinyl that eventually graduates into an argument of scratches. The two most comical parts are when the first table answers the phone with a scratch that sounds like "Ello?" - that evocative similarity like when a dog can sorta say "I love you." Later in the track one side gives off a tone that sounds irate and the other responds with a cut that retreats in a "Wuh ohhhh…"

The Audience's Listening is artistic, witty, comprehensive, technical, but most important of all it isn't pretentious. Crate diggers can enjoy this one as much as people who have never even heard of Cut Chemist. This DJ has been involved with music for his entire 33-year-old life, so much so that he probably popped out the womb with a pair of headphones on. In his lifetime he has been stockpiling names, songs, and sounds in order to compose a scrapbook work of coalesced sound. In the end, the journal approach worked and Cut Chemist comes away with some excellent achievements on this, his first major label solo release.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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