We need another one of those producer-compilation albums like we need another Marvel superhero flick. A while ago De La Soul lamented at the fact that everybody and dey step uncle wanted to emcee. These days mofos make beats. Everybody has an in-house studio, even if they live in a studio! Thankfully, we have guys like Cut Chemist to remind us that not every hip-hop instrumental album is a piece of pressed giraffe turd.
With The Audience’s Listening, the ex-Jurassic 5 beatsmith delivers a collection of dense mutli-layered sounds that are living, beating organisms in their own right. “The Garden,” for example, is a wondrous, Brazilian-flavored odyssey that samples Astrud Gilberto’s “Berimbau.” At the 2:45 mark, however, its smooth texture splinters into bits of broken beat dissonance and the faint ethereal chorus hovers above the cracks. Oddly enough, sublimity is achieved, even in this volatile soundscape.
Never has ugly been rendered so beautifully than on “The Storm,” featuring the retro, alliterative stylings of Edan and Mr. Lif. Pure detritus is what it is: misshapen shit-funk where 80’s era synth stabs and blips collide. Cut Chemist still manages to make a neckbreaker out of it, tho’.
The evocative “Metrorail Thru Space” shoots the listener through three movements of static broken beat and only to end at a utopia of effluent melody. Did I mention the other stellar vocal track on the album, “What’s the Altitude?” Here Hymnal laces this piece of boogie woogie — replete with a sinister guitar sample, cowbells and yelping noises. Hard to believe it, but the shit’s dope.
There’s so much to adore on The Audience’s Listening, a concept album designed to take the listener through an aural journey. One could quibble with the meandering “2266 Cambridge,” which wastes a vocal appearance by PUTS-dude Thes One, who barely says anything on the damn track. But you could forgive Chemist because the track tongue-kisses your ears.
Okay, I’m using up my word count here, but let me just say this: The Audience’s Listening is one of the better producer-oriented efforts to come around in awhile, a definite sleeper-album-of-the-year candidate. The layers of sound — each component mutating and shifting — will immerse you. Soon a new reality will be imminent: the makers of those half-assed beat CDs will be sent to remedial.