Music

Cut Chemist: The Audience's Listening

"The DJ of the future is going to be a respected member of the community," drones what I imagine is Ward Cleaver with a buzz-cut and members of the topmost levels of the post-WWII military-industrial complex staring down at him through a forest of unforgiving floodlights.


Cut Chemist

The Audience's Listening

Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2006-07-11
UK Release Date: 2006-07-10
Amazon
iTunes

The proper debut disc from Cut Chemist opens with one of those endearingly emotionless '50s military-training-film voices that DJs seem to be able to regularly locate with absolutely no trouble whatsoever. "The DJ of the future is going to be a respected member of the community," drones what I imagine is Ward Cleaver with a buzz-cut and members of the topmost levels of the post-WWII military-industrial complex staring down at him through a forest of unforgiving floodlights. "Motivate people to get out... and buy... or try... or use."

Sure, the synthetic, creepily optimistic voice-from-the-horrible-future-that-the-human-race-couldn't-stop-from-coming-to-pass is one of the oldest tricks in the DJs handbook, but in the case of the longtime Jurassic 5 tablemeister, it's a consciously applied head-fake. Jurassic 5 (and Chemist's other part-time employer Ozomatli) are the opposite of synthetic. Both are bands grounded in the work-together aesthetic, and there's an organic ingredient to their verse-swapping old-schoolery that approaches... warmth? Approachability? Whatever, but it's none of the cold, calculating detachment of techno, or the blank uhm-tiss of club tracks, or the consciously designed iciness of the average anonymous DJ. J5 seem like nice guys down at the park, and Chemist someone who would love to show you off his wares, as long as you don't get them all scratchy or anything.

Much of that sound is due to Chemist (and J5's other co-resident DJ Nu-Mark), who laid down beats hard enough to rock the streets, but plenty rubbery enough to nod your head to. As much as he slyly sneaks little voice samples into "My 1st Big Break" about "robot music" -- smirkingly hinting, of course, that the music you're currently enjoying is a soulless pastiche of machine-born blips and bloodles any monkey could staple together -- he keeps his sense of natural rhythm front and center. What tends to kill DJ music for me is the dehumanizing anonymity to it all; in a fairly sad irony there's little funk to it. Chemist knows the foundation of hip-hop lies in the smash, the bash, the big brother beat.

Hence The Audience's Listening is as accomplished and approachable a CD as Cut Chemist (Lucas McFadden, to his mom) could have hoped to make. "My 1st Big Break" owes a fat bit of debt to Fatboy Slim, with its big, booming snares, its skip-to-my-lou melody, pleasing stops-and-starts, and its danceable shuffle. The Brazilian boogie-inspired "The Garden" threatens to blast open from a sole riff, and then lovingly sprinkles a sweet female vocal over capitalizable beats: Boom BAP, boom boom BAP. "What's The Altitude", featuring a guest rap from Hymnal, strips things down even more, finding the long sought-after middle ground because surf-pop and big beats. By way of driving the mood up and down, of course, Chemist takes a "Metrorail Thru Space" to chill things out, brings in tongue-twisting underground all-star Mr. Lif for a typically busy "Storm", and supplies a hypnotic hook on "Storm" enough to lull you into a pleasant little nap state.

Bottom line: Chemist knows what he's doing, and he knows his history. The Audience's Listening is a DJ record in that old Brooklyn-park vibe, free of trendy mash-ups or bobbing and weaves. Except for a few of the samples it's not inconceivable this could have come out in the early '90s, or the late '80s. Big old beats peppered occasionally with nonsensical, vaguely looming proclamations like "The robots are coming…" or my favorite, "in the face of nuclear attack, the protection of records is essential." It's DJ music for the casual fan, something you don't need to be a knob-twiddler or connoisseur of the break beat to appreciate or enjoy. May it play at many a summer barbecue this year.

DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, DJ Nu-Mark - Pushing Buttons: the DJs mix up some live music using only samplers

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

I Went on a Jewel Bender in Quarantine. This Is My Report.

It's 2020 and everything sucks right now, so let's all fucking chill and listen to Jewel.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.