[14 January 2010]
Remember the days when you would make a mixtape for your friend or that certain someone you were trying to get the attention of? No? OK, well, what about a mix CD? Well, however you answered those questions, bear with me. The mixtape (and mix CD) held a lot more meaning than a playlist in your iTunes. Because it was a tangible item, the mixtape was a (semi-)permanent memento. It was a memory of past loves, friendships, and days when you would sit by the radio anxiously to record a song – ah, the early days of bootlegging. I can remember calling the local rock radio station (Brown University’s WBRU) just to hear the DJ give me a shout out and play my request (typically Sublime’s “Doin’ Time”). And I will never forget the endless stream of mix CDs I created.
But I digress.
The point is that mixes, like every musical format, have changed. We have Now That’s What I Call Music! compilations, iTunes playlists, podcasts, and downloadable mixes from artists such as the Gaslamp Killer. Sure, some producers still make actual mix CDs, particularly those on the Stones Throw roster like Egon and Peanut Butter Wolf. And yes, there are also the mixes hosted by Adult Swim that range from indie-rock showcases to left-field producer remix projects. But even with those releases in mind, an effort like Edan’s Echo Party remains unique in our current musical landscape.
This Maryland native, who splits his time between producing, rapping, and DJing, is mostly known for rocking with Boston-based artists like Insight and Mr. Lif. These are a specific brand of MCs who stay true to hip-hop’s roots while simultaneously trying to move it forward. For an example of this, you can look no further than Insight’s Soloplexus project in which he rhymes as six completely different rappers. While it was flawed at times, it proved that Insight, who also produces, is looking to stay ahead of the curve. As for Edan, he typically unifies the simplicity of hip-hop’s infant years with galactic loops and beats. And what’s most impressive is he can pull them off on-stage with a delay or distortion pedal.
For Echo Party, though, Edan stepped away from the microphone and focused on his duties as a DJ. And he was given access to Traffic’s vault of old school hip-hop. That means this mixtape is filled with a slew of breaks with DJs and MCs rapping over electro beats. On here, you get a chance to once again hear trailblazers such as Spyder-D and Ice T, the latter of whom is featured via his electro hit “Body Rock”. Throughout the mixtape, which plays as a 29-minute-long continuous track, there are also plenty of frantic edits, cuts, and glitches by Edan. As such, it’s not just one song transitioning seamlessly into the next. He offers up in-stereo mixing, which causes the breaks to shift from from one side of the room to the other. And he takes hip-hop classics like Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache” and, more or less, decimates them into a scattered, albeit focused, blend.
The inherent downside to a project like this, though, is that it appeals to a very narrow sect of listeners. Of course, Edan fans will want to hear what he has been up to since 2005’s fantastic Beauty and the Beat. But it’s likely some will be disappointed to learn nothing, aside from its presentation, on Echo Party is Edan’s original work. Those hoping to hear him rap, for example, will have to wait. Others likely to gravitate towards this are old school hip-hop heads who either have a soft-spot for electro or grew up listening to this music. There will also be a few record store browsers who will have their eyes on the limited release vinyl that features different artwork on each copy done by Edan.