How to Fake Sophistication Through Music
My friend and I wanted to feel sophisticated. We took a spot next to the wall at a small table for two, ordered some drinks, and watched as the band unpacked their instruments leisurely. I recall thinking how they seemed deliberate in their pacing—as if procrastination itself was the opening act. When the setup was complete, the lead singer ordered a couple of drinks for him and his bandmates and spoke at length to the small crowd, introducing themselves but also addressing them with familiarity, as though they’d been there every week. It’s possible that they had, of course—we wouldn’t have known. The band was a long-standing staple in the local jazz community—something that two twenty-somethings who’d been listening to DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing on their way in had only recently discovered on a telephone pole flyer. What I had learned from that record was the true meaning of roots—that even the most disparate forms of music could and did draw from common ancestry and the band we were about to see demonstrated that ancestry with uncanny style and grace. At the heart of their jazz was a deep groove and we were forced to abandon our notions of the style being limited to a progression of meanderings, experimentation, or mindless noodling. We found ourselves bobbing and swaying that night to a single constant—a deep groove. Around the same time a man named DJ Sun was introducing the listeners of Houston Texas public radio to these same lessons via his Pacifica radio show, Soular Grooves. Here it is many years later and I am nodding my head, barely restraining the movement of my shoulders as I am reminded of of that night by that DJ’s debut full length LP, One Hundred.
Given the pedigree you might come into this record expecting a magnanimous display of turntablism skills or a showing of electronica with a smattering of dubstep-influenced wobbles and of course the prerequisite hip hop and/or pop vocal guest appearances. All of that is par for the course on the repertoire of modern DJ/producers. Those expectations will be defied. This record relaxes on your sofa and instead of asking you to grab it a beer on your way to the fridge, it offers to share those that it brought. It’s all give. It’s easy. When the hour grows late you might even ask it to stay a little longer. And when it’s time to part, you’ll already be planning to do it again.
Fat organic breaks seemingly borrowed from the back rooms of the finest vinyl archives are plentiful from track to track, and DJ Sun doesn’t mind exploring them from phrase to phrase. In spite of that construction, however, it never feels disjointed or chopped and screwed. Every beat of this record floats like smoke rings, weaving into the sampled instrumentation in a loose jazz fashion. “Marks On the Keys” featuring Mark Sound is the finest example of this. The breaks are unstoppable but yet somehow manage to leave room for the gentle keyboard melodies and pads to offer up french electro-lounge vibes that would make the members of Air swoon.
The sample most will recognize is Average White Band’s “School Boy Crush”, which was made most notable by Eric B and Rakim’s sampling of it for their 1988 hip hop track “Microphone Fiend”. I love that DJ Sun doesn’t let that discourage him from putting his own spin on it. Just a minute into the track it becomes clear that he’s got a completely different intention. What it loses in swagger it gains in sway.
“Ten” featuring Jessica Zweback was another high point for me in a record seemingly devoid of low points. The longest track on the record,. it’s layers of lazy synths sun-bathing on a piano patio while the ice cubes in their cold drinks crackle out shuffles and breaks. This elevated the record to a candidate for soundtrack of the summer for me. Throw this down just after the BBQ as the sun is setting and the drinks start flowing and I promise you a late night and a head full of memories with a breakbeat soundtrack.
// Notes from the Road
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