Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Genius of Madlib

Madlib - Yesterday's Universe: Prepare for a New Yesterday (Vol. 1)
I am skeptical of the dj-as-genius patina that causes such an awful glare when I step into the club-not-club turntablist world, but this collection by Madlib is so goddamn good, he can be a genius if he wants. Built on a bed of fusion, this album sounds like you stumbled on the best lite-jazz station ever imagined, as if in the face of a cold future, the higher powers assembled the perveyors of antique-store and ladies-who-lunch-restaurant music and decreed, it's all up to you, you are our only hope, and they brought their soprano saxes and windchimes and muted Latin percussion instruments to the frontline for the battle between good and evil, enlisting one Madlib as the field commander. So delicious. I want to stroll endlessly the brutally hot streets of Baton Rouge with this bursting out of a boombox on my shoulder.

Madlib - Beat Konducta Vol 3 & 4: In India
In light of the faux Indian Devendra Banhart video the other day and randyf3's tales of taking tabla classes in India, I have had a tabla thud and the perpetual swirl and bells and sitar waves on the brain, and this disc assembled by Mr. Madlib is only making things worse. Extended samples of dialog and orchestral swells from movies are woven just haphazardly enough in Madlib's doped-out dubby loops to make it perfect. I got to know Madlib through a mixtape-or-maybe-actual-album free download thingy he did with Talib Kweli called Liberation, and his loose approach with beats really resonated with me. Madlib is not afraid to let the seams show, letting that blank spot at the end of the loop become part of that neagitive/positive space dynamic that is present in a great DJ. At many points, the samples are just that, window dressing on the top of rickety beat but on the occasssion number, he burrows into it, pulls loose threads back out and tangles himself up in them. See "Onthatnewthing" for a stellar example - it sounds as foreign as Harry Partch microtonal percussion workout and as immediately familiar as cars passing on the street. and like many of the tracks here, it works its idea to completion in about a minute and a half and then moves on to the next. If you are familiar with Christian Marclay's massive snippet pileups, imagine one with a syllabus, a box of curry takeout and and undercurrent of casual funkiness, you will get this record.

Madlib - Theme for a Broken Soul
This album from 2004 is closer to the bone of turntablist practice: piling and piling and lining things up, leaving the edges sharp for a minute in order to establish form, and then smearing it up to give it your own (or perhaps all of our collective) texture. This reminds me much of The Orb, who owned my world for most of 1994, though it lacks Alex Patterson's sense of landscape. At points, it sounds like expensive-haircut music, but sometimes I like those points, even as expensive haircuts are lost on my melon head. maybe next time I get a haircut, I'll request that they play this disc and it will feel expensive.

No comments:

Post a Comment