Pretty much one of my favorite jawns from the summer of '94, which had a lot of WTFness to its credit.* The first many heard of The Roots, and an intro in which they put a bold foot forward. Supremely cheeb'd-out, head-nodding groove -- the sharp punch and momentum of the drums and verses, offset by the reverb-soaked keys and the bassline that tugs against the rest of the tune, creating a proto-Screw'd spatio-temporal disorientation. The latter qualities are what hooked me, making me give the 12" repeated back-to-back spins. There was also -- naturally -- the willful foregrounding of surface noise as a sonic motif, which was given greater prominence in the b-side instrumental mix.**
Doubling back to listen to some of DJ Vadim's early releases for the first time in years, it seems that he must've taken the Roots track as an inspirational template. I remember that when I first heard these records, I found their severe minimalism could be fatiguing, almost punishing, after a while. But Gurov had a pronounced fascination with atmospherics in those days; as manifest in his first few recordings, as well as some of what he released on his own Jazz Fudge imprint. You've left with the impression of someone making beats and tracks in some dark and dusty attic, working with broken equipment -- jerryrigged and frankensteined turntables, with dilapidated drives or whose belt had lost their torque, resulting in tracks that were distinctly and compellingly woozy, and slurred well in advance of the recent "wonky" sensibility. Or: as if hip-hop had been an obscure musical fad that transpired sometime in the early 1930s, recorded on a long-extinct format, and could only be retrieved by means of some dodgily reverse-engineered technology. It served as some welcome counterpoint to the increasingly clean, assemblyline production that was gaining its foothold in hip-hop at the time.***
And yes, the above is something of an indulgent and geekish aside on my part. But it's also a tangential preface to another upcoming post.
* Or one of the favorites. I think it was neck-to-neck with this one.
** And while I usually couldn't give a toss for video, the clip (fullscreen it) complimented the track very well -- fleshed it out in an interesting way, matching its starkness on a visual level. That, and the deep chiaroscuro effect of how it was photographed. It reminded me of sequences from Claire Denis's No Fear, No Die, which I saw at roughly the same time.
*** For those inclined to investigate, the material in question can be found on the Abstract Hallucinating Gases EP, the U.S.S.R. Repertoire LP, and on his The Isolationist collab project with the guys in Anti Pop Consortium. But Gurov abandoned this more experimental mode by the time he cut his second LP.