Hip hops favourite Russian ex-pat returns with his third album, "USSR The Art Of Listening" and once again DJ Vadim has raised his game.
Listening" has all of the angular abstractions of Vadims earlier work, but here it is combined with a new depth of musicality, a love of bass and an interest in music and words from around the world. So, alongside UK MCs like Taskforce and Phi Life Cipher and the cream of US underground wordspitters like Slug, Gift of Gab, Moshun Man and Vakill can be found Polish jazz legend Urzula Dudziak (a favoured sample source for A Tribe Called Quest back in the day), Gruff from Super Furry Animals, Ade Soma and the Revd Clevie Brown. Tablas and djembe drums mix with Japanese flutes, Brazilian guitars, spoken word, obscure scratched sound bites and a definite UK street sound incorporating hints of jungle bass and drums, all build the whole into something unusual and special
It makes for a heady mixture, a record which Vadim describes as "a very grown up but cheeky and extremely musical album." Urban but experimental, fresh and different, this record goes beyond not only what he has done before, but beyond much of todays hip hop. With its global view of music, its new emphasis on soul, its concrete feel for the aesthetic of the sample, "The Art Of Listening" is funny, serious, unique.
Those who know how to listen will hear
Shuffle up, Roots Manuva: on USSR: The Art Of Listening
, Russian-born trickster turntablist DJ Vadim encapsulates the ethic of leftfield hip-hop imprint Ninja Tune with a skill that leaves all but the brightest of his contemporaries in the shade. The public-service-announcement-style introduction to the opening "Till Suns In Your Eye" might announce that "Listening to music while stoned is a whole new world", but this no pastel-shaded chill-out sound: Vadim's production vibrates with sharp, often hilarious detail, absurd sounds and baroque instruments--baritone sax, fingerpicked harp, keening violin--wriggling like maggots through a stable hip-hop framework of beats and breaks. "Ghetto Rebels" throws a surrealist spin on the concept of street-level rhyming, the grind of a pneumatic drill backing Phil Life Cypher's comically childish rebellion rhymes. And on "Taa Fun Aiye", the presence of Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys--here guesting on guitar--is a big Welsh signpost to this record's boundary-bending eclecticism. Despite the fact it leans heavily on an ever-shifting line-up of special guests, The Art of Listening
is never over-egged. Quite the opposite, in fact: Vadim has crafted an intelligent and spacious hip-hop album, as streetwise as it is brainy. --Louis Pattison