Sometimes albums are made with groundbreaking new twists and sounds. Sometimes they are made for financial gain, via radio hits and MTV coverage. And then there are some that are really just made for the love of it.
Cut Chemist's "The Audience's Listening" appears to be one of the third category, though the turntablist/DJ/Jurassic 5-er does give electronica and hip-hop some novel twists in his first fully original album. But at the heart of it, it sounds like Chemist is simply dabbling in whatever he enjoys most.
"Start remembering what you hear," says a cheerful interviewer, before a patchwork of samples inform us about the DJs of the future, about music, the first annual DJ convention, and a lot of dogs barking. By the time you're finished with the intro, your brain will be in the right state for what comes next. ("People get ready... the robots are coming!")
He retreads familiar ground in the energetic percussion-heavy "My 1st Big Break," before switching over to a new sound -- bossa nova. Gypsyish guitar playing an energetic live tune, with a sample of Astrud Gilberto playing softly halfway through. It's an exquisite, ethereal tune that shows that Cut Chemist can do all sorts of music.
Lest anyone think that Cut Chemist has lost his edge, he dabbles in some truly weird stuff (a phone conversation done entirely with samples and scratches), sharply surreal hip-hop, and shimmering electronic numbers that sound like an arty sci-fi film. Cut Chemist dips back into bossa nova once before, before finishing up with the dense, catchy hip-hop of "The Audience Is Listening Theme Song."
Cut Chemist has done some pretty brilliant work with remixes and the "Brainfreeze" collaboration with DJ Shadow, so expectations were high for "The Audience's Listening." But the best way to listen is without expectations -- while it's neither groundbreaking nor brilliant, it is a beautiful, funky little album.
One thing it has from the beginning is a relaxed, laid-back feeling feeling. Cut Chemist shows that he can do everything from spare acoustics to dense, intense melodies, dabbling in a little of everything at least twice, and trying new sounds without trying anything too new.
It's not groundbreaking, but from the sound of it, Cut Chemist was just trying out whatever existing sounds he liked rather than striving for something new. The basic melodies are loaded with extra sound: lots of vinyl scratches, odd samples (glass breaking? dogs?), razor-sharp hip-hop beats, and everything from a cowbell to gypsyish guitar to waves of smooth synth.
Hymnal and Thes One make rather surreal cameos on a pair of songs, while Edan and Mr. Lif appear on the frenetic hip-hop "Storm," blurting out a breathless rap that gets stranger with every word.
Cut Chemist may not have broken new ground with "The Audience's Listening," but the result is still a fun, weird, and thoroughly likable album. Definitely worth a listen.