Slowhill: Finndisc (2002)
We've heard this song before. The recipe: Sample old jazz LPs, program hip-hop and club-inflected beats, overdub some horn riffs and then mix into a smooth cream which spreads easily. Blue Note enjoys cooking up this meal so much it seems that it is gaining Betty Crocker-status. Us3 did it, St. Germain liked it so much he made it a French dish, and now comes, logically, Slowhill, from Finland. EMI Finland opened its vaults to a Finnish duo, and they set out to add their own spices.
Finndisc was cobbled together by producer/reedist Tapani Rinne and turntablist DJ Slow, with help from some other studio stalwarts who added live instrumentation . Every sample on this disc was culled from the extensive, but relatively unknown, annals of Finnish jazz. These facts coupled with the decidedly downtempo direction Slowhill has chosen keep Finndisc from being a reheated version of the previous Blue Note sample-based records.
The opening track, "Slow Jazz", immediately stakes out new territory from its precursors . Us3's Hand on the Torch opened with the jazz/hip-hop nugget, "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)" and St. Germain's Tourist started off with the burning "Rose Rouge". From the outset, Slowhill announces they are making music for the living room rather than the dancefloor. Rinne's overdubbed bass clarinet and breathy soprano sax lines insinuate a somber mood. And instead of booty-grooving beats, Rinne blows over a minimalist drum machine bass thump until a distant, sampled acoustic bass line drops into the mix, accompanied by fragile electronic tone colors, a spare snare beat and the simmering crackle of vinyl.
The subtle, nocturnal sounds continue on "Fishbass Fusion", a tune drenched in deep, warm bass and lush synth beds, backed by a dragging hip-hop rhythm and light, swinging ride cymbal work by Teppo Makynen. DJ Slow accentuates with scratching that adds a sensitive texture rather than the machismo often associated with turntable work. Even when the beat and bass line bounce with more energy like on "Valo", Slowhill tempers the exuberance with Rinne's drifting melodies on soprano sax and a laid-back organ loop sampled from Pekka Pohjola.
Most importantly, Slowhill integrates the samples into the fabric of their songs, using them as instruments rather than as the basis for their song structures. On "Small Stone", which could fit snugly into any House DJ's set, an infectious piano loop punctuates the dub-deep bass and skittering hi-hats. Rinne then expands on the sample with some graceful soprano sax riffs. Finndisc holds no new revelations for sample-based music, but it offers up a tasty mix of how samples can be used with precision and subtlety.
Track Listing: 1.Slow jazz 2.Super Blue 3.Positive 4.Fishbass Fusion 5.Just a Phrase 6.Valo 7.Yesterday Star 8.Small Stone 9.Fragonardo 10.Song for Eetu
Personnel: Tapani Rinne-soprano sax, bass clarinet DJ Slow-scratches, samples, and producer JP Virtanen-keyboards and co-producer Kalle Chydenius-bass Teppo Makynen-drums Paleface-vocals