Cut Chemist – The Audience’s Listening
Sometimes it is easy to miss something that is right under your nose. I got the new Cut Chemist album a few weeks back, I thought it was great – I still do! However, once all the new Shadow stuff came to light, I got a bit caught up in the whole fracas to do with The Outsider; was it plain crap? was I being harsh? is he mental? Then someone left a comment on that review and said simply; “If you wanted a ‘DJ Shadow style’ album, go for the new Cut Chemist album instead. It’s much better!”, and I figured that this person was absolutely correct. Why waste time (and webspace) debating over just how mediocre Shadow’s new album is, when I haven’t even spoke in detail about the amazing new Cut Chemist album! So, albeit a bit late, here it is…
Lucas MacFadden, oh sorry, Cut Chemist – he’s a turntablist, ex member of Ozomatli, and an ex member of Jurassic 5. But here we are in 2006 and Cut Chemist has just released his first solo LP; The Audience’s Listening. But how does it compare to the new Jurassic 5 album and also the new DJ Shadow album? No surprises here, Cut Chemist wins.
The album starts with a fast paced intro track called Motivational Speaker. This track is absolutely riddled with samples, it reminds me a bit of Swing Set, which of course Cut Chemist made with Jurassic 5. This is a great intro track, full of energy and chaos – sets a good precedent for the album.
(My 1st) Big Break is the second track on the LP and it continues the high energy vibe from the first track. It has a catchy beat and incorporates some clever beat juggles. The break is almost hypnotic and I just couldn’t sit still! Obviously he was eager to let us all know that he is still a turntablist at heart, Cut Chemist uses his full repetoire of tricks; cuts, scratches, vocal samples, and the aforementioned beat juggling.
Track number three is The Lift, a short interlude track in a psychedelic vein. This short track has a steady beat and some eerie flute samples. It sets the listener up nicely for the next track; The Garden. Stepping away slightly from the usual turntablist route, The Garden incorporates a funky banjo sample and some congo style drums, to start. The juggles and cuts are still there, but this track has a distinct bossa nova style. It actually uses some Portuguese vocals from the Astrud Gilberto track Berimbau. It’s a real latin funk sounding track, with an oh-so-typical thumping Chemist break. Great track and beautifully structured.
Spat is a shortish track with a slick jazz piano and drum arrangement. It’s largely sample based and contains scratches to sound like people talking on the telephone. A nice bridging track indeed, breaks the songs up well. Then in drops track six; What’s The Altitude (Feat. Hymnal), and what a killer track this one is. It has a solid drum break with a seriously catchy guitar riff. Proper head-nodder of a track. The rapping by Hymnal is really sublime and although this track sounds distinctly old skool, it also sounds very fresh at the same time.
Track number seven is Metrorail Thru Space. When I first heard this I knew I recognised the main drum break. Then the penny dropped; Cut Chemist used it on his remix of the Jem track They. I don’t blame at all for using it on his album, it’s brilliant. Even though the break is seriously thumping, this track still has a chilled feel about it. Towards the end of the track it tapers off with some cool electro psychedelic samples.
Storm features Edan and Mr. Lif, two very talented fellas. This actually sounds like it could be straight off the last Edan album, killer beats and definitive psychedelic chaos. The break itself is a bit 80s electro-pop, Edan is his typical self, and Mr. Lif flows as good as he ever has – overall it’s just fantastically chaotic.
On to the back end of the album now and we’re presented with 2266 Cambridge (Feat. Thes One). I thought this might be a People Under The Stairs style rapfest, but actually it’s a funky story-telling kind of track. A real deliberate narrative to the proceedings. It uses an old skool guitar funk rhythm and displays a sort of soundscape style with samples from street surroundings. A funky story indeed.
Spoon continues the old skool funk theme to the album. The guitar sample is excellent and the occasional voice sample of “spoon” strangely fits very well into the track! Chemist breaks out some of his cut up techniques, and generally this is just a good wholesome funky track. Man, I’ve used the word ‘funk’ too much, but rather than attack my poor vocabulary, I’ll just blame that funky mother… Cut Chemist!
The next track is a crazy cut up mish-mash called A Peak In Time. The drum break is great and the latin style vocal sample that Chemist cuts up is genius. This one will make you want to get out of your chair and dance… samba style! Don’t take my word for it…
Cut Chemist – A Peak In Time
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The last track is an outro track called The Audience Is Listening Theme Song. It contains lots of cuts and samples, and actually reminds me of one of the old Jurassic 5 breaks. It is as funky as expected and a good way to end the album.
Now, as you by now know, I thought that album was funky as hell! The order of the tracks was pinnacle, it allowed for changes of tempo and direction without disrupting the flow of the listening experience. The Audience’s Listening is the sort of album that you could chuck on and then chill to, or… hear in a club and get your dance on to. Overall this album shows us that Cut Chemist is the master of re-hashing the old funk breaks and making them sound fresh as a daisy. Two words that crop up time and again in this review are; funk, and psychedelic – so I guess you might say it’s a funky psychedelic kind of affair. Top album, get it bought.