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King Britt

On the Seventh: Park Hyatt Chicago

(Milan; US: 31 Aug 2004; UK: Available as import)

Champagne for the Champale Set

King Britt has resorted to different monikers to fulfill his disparate sonic curiosities, but the constant throughout has been his mature aesthetic; while some prefer their breaks Bogey, he takes ‘em Tony. Additionally, whether he represents from behind the boards or behind the decks, he always instills his trademark smooth touch of the funk. Britt returns with a lover’s night mix that initially comes off as exceedingly mature, even for his style. Red flags also abound, considering this disc is his collaboration with the swank Park Hyatt in Chicago; Britt breaks off his name and some hip tracks, the Hyatt raises its cred, artists get some added fame for they name… Everyone wins, right? In a day when uptown sensibilities invade downtown and are reborn as what’s hot, like Tribeca Grand in New York City, the relationship is practically passé; after all, DJs are just as class-unconscious as the next musician when it comes to getting that next paycheck. Brushing cynicism aside, On the Seventh: Park Hyatt Chicago is a clever blend that finds ways to make butter out of the Parkay. Additionally, Britt remembers the importance of mixtape features (five unreleased tracks, one exclusive), thereby making the mix a commodity not just for Paris and pals, but for you and yours.


The literal lover’s rock kicks off with Twyla’s “Love of a Lifetime”. The breathy singer floats in off the breeze of Vikter Duplaix’s soft bass tones and sparse rhythm track, flexing maximum floss. The sly glance, subtle looks, and muted giggles continue with the softer side of Britt via Sylk 130. “For Love” maintains the drum machine pops, but opens the set’s sound with some warm vocal harmonies, while maintaining the continuity through Twyla’s reappearance as the vocal lead. Britt digs deeper for hipster credential, dropping band-of-last-last-year’s-moment Spacek and their previously unreleased “Peep Live Show”. However, they rise to the occasion and demonstrate why they attracted that attention in the first place. Gaspy dramatics and ooh bap change the tone; listen for those high off-tone keyboard squeezes during the choruses that cast dark hues across the board.


The heatwave comes early on the strength of a string of underground artists, beginning with the near comatose chill of Josh Wink’s unreleased track, “I’m On Fire”. Warm keys wrap singer Caroline Crawley like a mid-‘90s Massive Attack joint, but subtle beat transitions and slow-mo jungle breaks that stomp with a leaden left foot add a welcome edge to the track. The cold steel gets sparked when placed in contact with current stars SA-RA and their stand-out single, “Glorious”. Displaying some of the better results of editing/engineering, the effected vocals sputter in front of the rollercoaster-on-mescaline effects. The vision: in the dark with a sunglass-bespectacled soulista, button-up, camo coat, and jeans, wildin’ out against the flickering screen of a Los Angeles nighttime cruise. The scene: precisely that. Hence, Britt bridges the Hyatt with the east of Hollywood scenes.


The mix enters a plateau that hedges smooth hip-hop beats and gospel tranquility. Atjazz’s “Eastern Sound” adds the bit of boom bap, but calms with its Ayers-not-Eastern tone. The exclusive track from Scuba, “Angel”, follows closely, wherein Britt displays simple and smart mixing, evolving rhythms and harmonies. The drum fill of the Atjazz track creates a slight sense of drama and introduces the beat wafting “Angel”, while Michele Shaprow’s breathy vocals simply move the melody up a major step and into brighter territory. Shuffling steps courtesy of Clara Hill’s “Flawless” place the focus back on rhythm, while background singers lead dancers across the floor. By selecting records that maintain a simmer—a slow bubble instead of bubbling over—Britt is able to use vocal tracks, which typically attract attention, to establish neutral moods.


Beats continue to remain the emphasis in the second half, as Britt reappears with Mark Bell on “Romeo’s Fate”. The track reintroduces the Family Affair-style Roland drum machine, previously heard in updated form on “For Love”, bumping the song along. The played out lyrics of “Romeo is bleeding / Waiting to take you there” unfortunately presage a series of weaker tracks that cool the mix to lukewarm. Heavy’s “Do for You”, which breezes in later, is no Stevie with its neo-soul-lite lyric, “I be all that you want in life / You’ve given me the chance / I know I’d make the perfect wife”. All carb and taste-free, the track is ideal for a piss break for the listener, not the DJ.


However, Britt washes rhythm and music throughout and finds a strong sister-sister-sister combo to close the set. The triad of noteworthy female lead vocalists begins with Ivana Santilli sliding in with the softly syncopated “Breathe Inn”, which displays how to successfully reinterpret the moog fantasies from Stevie’s inner visions. DJ Spinna combines stepping hustle with suggested latin rhythms on Lizz Fields’ “I Gotta Go”, an appropriate send-off track. Britt closes out with a sexy set of highs from Michelle Shaprow on “Anything U Say”, maintaining the lover’s hustle, dimming the lights, widening the smile…


The sheer sheen that coats the entire set leaves little aftertaste, which can be good or bad. The initial sample disappoints, because the flavor does not resonate. However, subsequent tests reveal a clean palette, a sense of refreshed wonder. In achieving this stroke of subtlety, King Britt demonstrates another bound in his advancement of the funk; the funk no longer hits the fan, it wafts in behind it. The mix has immediate appeal for the non-heads, the party-goers, the atmosphere. With time, the mix can hit with even the snarkiest aficionados, the party-makers, the action.


Or it may not be your thing at all. In which case, just toss it on when you want to clear the room. Now, where the real party at?

Rating:

Nishimoto has written features for Wax Poetics, Paste, Venus and Prefixmag.com, liner notes for Tuff City funk reissues, and more than his allowable share of forgetable book reports. When he's not DJing weddings, working on his footwork, balancing budgets, shaking hands or kissing babies, you can catch the kid blahgging at sintalentos. He also detests bios and lists. Wait a second...


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