Since We Last Spoke
with 250,000 produced for the Allied army, the Chauchat is evidence that an instrument can be produced in cornucopean quantities based solely on functional intent. of course in the field of battle, especially in World War I which saw the introduction of trench warfare on a massive scale, a weapon must disply more than just good intent, it must be able to accomplish its job with efficacy and with little negative repercussion to the warring side. the Chauchat could only employ 20-round magazines compared to the Machine Gun's 500, fired at a pathetic 250 RPM, did not always properly discharge empty cases, and became clogged whenever dirt and mud found its way into the weapon. still, the Allies claimed victory and i guess the Chauchat is excused as an instrument used on the wrong field. who knows, maybe the French could have improved the design if they were given more time or had a better sense of engineering direction.
RJD2's 2002 album Deadringer received much adulation upon its release. many claimed it was the exemplar of Turntablism, some even saying that it bested DJ Shadow's Private Press. granted that it had a few limitations, the praise was much deserved. Deadringer's amalgam of hip-hop and Turntablism was infused with unconventional sampling to effect some truly spectacular textures. he employs relatively the same panoply of influences on Since We Last Spoke but this time around he employs them with a different goal. it's one that doesn't match the field he's attempting but succeeds nonetheless. Deadringer was unabashedly hip-hop, featuring artists such as Blueprint and Soul Position and using more scratching and mixing. Since We Last Spoke, however, is something different. it's not quite Hip-Hop and not quite Turntablist; instead you see RJD2 reach for something more complicated, more ornate, and more serious. the problem is that he used the wrong tools.
the album opens strongly with 'Since We Last Spoke.' a noticeable difference is the emphasis on organic influences: the cymbals are palpable, the bass drum is made to sound more human, and there are hints of guitar; the same goes for 'Exotic Talk.' then there's a markable return to expectations with 'Since '76,' featuring sprinklings of Tijuana brass instruments and vocals, which flows into 'Ring Finger,' a softer piece involving Spanish guitar and Elizabeth Frasier-like vocals. 'Making Days Longer,' which reveals the same pechant for subtlety in sadness found on 'June' from Deadringer, signals that the music seeks to venture in a direction outside the immediate bounds of Turntablism and Hip-Hop proper. 'To All Of You,' 'Iced Lightening,' and 'Clean Living' are all strong, traditionally Turntablist tracks that almost seem abberant compared to the first half of the album ... but in a somewhat positive way. indeed, RJD2's vision of the album is made clear with 'Through The Walls,' what sounds like an indie-rock song set to staccato, turntable beats. the result is somewhat mixed: there's praise for the effort yet a little repulsion at the lack of cohesion.
the problem with Since We Last Spoke is a disjunction of vision and the utensils used to bring that vision into fruition. Deadringer was set to be decisively within the terrain of Hip-Hop but his new effort strives for something new, more expansive, and maybe even more brilliant. but such vision is marred by the material truth, which is that he did not possess nor employ the correct tools. RJD2 stated that electronica is neither his desired classification nor the point from which he begins his works, and that's fine. what he seems to have overlooked is that he may have stepped into electronica or rock demesne ill-equipped to accomplish the goal completely. Since We Last Spoke is a good follow-up, but could have been truly spectacular with the right weapons.
Release date: May 18, 2004
Label: Definitive Jux
Rating: 7.5 / 10
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