dZihan & Kamien - Gran Riserva
dZihan & Kamien are able to dabble in a variety of sounds and styles without ever straying from the jazzy, seductive, faintly exotic vibe. In Gran Riserva they dabble in easy listening house, trip-hop and nu jazz. It’s all held together by subtle touches of sexy vocals, Middle Eastern strings, Latin percussion, funk-tinged bass, and most of all, dZihan & Kamien’s impeccable production skills, which give every note of it a sleek, organic vibe and make it almost impossible to tell where the live instruments leave off and the samples begin.
40 Winks - Sound Puzzle
40 Winks are a Belgian lounge-hop duo that hit the scene in 2002, with a whole slew of laidback beats. Sound Puzzle is a record which reads like a narrative, with full tracks interspersed with the classic hip-hop interlude, and while it might at times sound dangerously close to a Ninja Tune also-ran circa 1998, it keeps the attention throughout. The duo’s lounge leanings are evident from the off, but instead of going all-out coffeetable, there’s a subtle leaning towards the credible end of lounge music – smoky European bars, crackling home movies and girls with knitted scarves.
Tsutchie & Force Of Nature - Masta
Departure, Masta, Impression and Tsutchie‘s ‘playlist’ are the four official soundtrack from Samurai Champloo, a great anime that illustrates a combination of multicultural pulp fiction sensibility. It’s an anachronistic mélange of Edo-period history and contemporary hip-hop and bohemian culture where baseball, graffiti, breakdance, Van Gogh, zombies, and Catholicism are tossed into the mix with a whole lot of revised Japanese pseudo-history. The soundtrack is pure perfection, typical of Shinichi Watanabe – the anime director and self proclaimed music freak.
Guru - Jazzmatazz Vol. 1
The music that fills Guru’s Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 is fundamentally hip-hop; the beats, the rhymes, the structure of each song. But Guru went a step further with this project and recruited Branford Marsalis, Roy Ayers, and Donald Byrd, among others, to play the riffs, solos, and other musical details. The rap is sharp, lyrical and creative while the jazzmen are as musical as they ever have been. This is a great album to enjoy whether you are a hip hopper or a jazzman.
DJ Krush - Zen Approach
Zen is DJ Krush’s seventh album and features collaborations with Black Thought and ?uestlove of the Roots (on different tracks, mind you), N’Dea Davenport, and Zap Mama as well as stars from the Japanese hip hop scene. The beats he creates are organic, at times defying any genre descriptions, which is exactly how DJ Krush likes it. Albums like this one dont come out too often.
Digable Planets - Blowout Comb
This is intelligent, alternative hip-hop that sounded like party music in 1994. Its lyrics are dense with wit, social commentary and politics. Its instrumentation includes sax, vibraphone and flute. Its samples included Grant Green, Eddie Harris, Shuggie Otis and jazz-funk pioneer Roy Ayers. And yet at the same time its beats are infectious and its spirit undeniable. So, Blowout Comb is a modest hip-hop classic that thrives on contrast. It’s both dated and timeless, angry and laid-back, smooth and prickly.
Kruder & Dorfmeister - The K&D sessions
As you’d expect from a record on a label called G-Stoned, the overall atmosphere of The K&D Sessions is laid back. These two Vienna folks have produced some of the most stunning and startling remixes of all time. K&D flawlessly mix everything from rap, jazz to jungle. This is an immaculately crafted, unclassifiable album to get lost in, where every track imperceptibly segues into the next so that you’re never quite sure where you are, but wherever you are is worth hanging around.
De La Soul - Buhloone Mindstate
Sonically, Buhloone Mindstate was one of the most inventive albums ever; experimenting with live jazz instrumentation and bringing in Japanese rappers Scha Dara Parr and Takagi Kan to rap on the album. Meanwhile, Jazz great Maceo Parker shows up on “I Be Blowin’” to perform an unexpected and moving sax solo. Lyrically, rappers Dave and Posdunous are as sharp and funny as ever bringing quick-witted turns of phrase and inside-jokes making the album impossibly fun to listen to.
Nightmares On Wax - In A Space Outta Sound
Boasting stellar production that shames his gaggle of imitators, the results are by-and-large gratifying, but can prove somewhat grating due to an unyielding sense of repetition. No one can deny that George Evelyn knows how to lay down a damn fine groove. In A Space Outta Sound is a hybrid of many textures; dub, jazz, funk, ‘70s soul-pop, all somehow manages to hang together miraculously.
cLOUDDEAD - cLOUDDEAD
Recorded on eight-track cassette, cLOUDDEAD’s cLOUDDEAD is an object lesson in lo-fi production and the creative use of budget equipment. cLOUDEAD‘s music is not easily slotted into a convenient genre. Jumping between the darkly humorous, poignant, and downright baffling, and described in the press as a cross between Radiohead‘s Kid A, Cypress Hill and the Beta Band, cLOUDDEAD’s eponymous gem is total genius and totally weird.
Rhythm & Sound - w The Artists
w/ The Artists is a collection of reggae-oriented tunes Rhythm & Sound (Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald) has issued over the past years. The sound of vintage dub reggae via drum machines, cool analog synths (or their virtual counterparts), and extensive effects is very exquisite. Put this stuff playing and melt away into another reality.
Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Inside this gem is some of the beautiful music you can imagine. Aphex Twin‘s Selected Ambient Works II stands out on its own among all his albums. None of the tracks on this album are titled, and inside the sleeve was a puzzle. A trip to long, unsettling electronic soundscapes, alternately quiet and confrontational.