How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Four years since Ropeadope released The Anomaly, DJ Logic is back with an album every bit as cerebral and grooving. He works with a phenomenal roster of invited guests, and he knows how to pick his collaborators as well as his samples. Blending block-rocking beats, spacey dub, classic soul, raga-tinged grooves, stuttering Afro-beat horns and analog keyboard driven electro-funk, Logic's catholic tastes allow him to journey wherever an infectious groove may take him.
Logic augments his beats and scratches with an alternating cast of instrumentalists. Bassist Melvin Gibbs, guitarist Charlie Hunter, a handful of percussionists, the Antibalas Horns and a slew of keyboardists all join in the fray. Maintaining Logic's old school aesthetic, keyboardists John Medeski, Scotty Hard and Chris Brown roll out Moogs, Wurlitzers, ARPs, Clavinets, Mellotrons and sundry ancient analog keyboards to funk up this already grooving affair.
Breaking out of the instrumental mold, Logic invites rappers Creature and Sub-Conscious, as well as vocalist Latasha Nevada Diggs, to contribute one track apiece. The established tradition of guest appearances by vocalists and rappers on DJ records helps the average DJ avoid being overly repetitive by breaking up the instrumentals with a distinctive human vocal presence. This device may seem necessary for novices, but for Logic it merely demonstrates his magnanimous interest in collaboration.
Even without the vocal tracks, the album never sounds repetitive or monotonous, so diverse is its panorama of styles. Hopping seamlessly from genre to genre, Logic reveals encyclopedic knowledge of a number of styles from Afro-beat to dub.
"Balifon Planet" blends sci-fi ambience, kung fu samples and backwards masked organ refrains into a moody haze. "Afro Beat" lives up to its title, with the Antibalas Horns churning out stuttering riffs over John Medeski's spooky voodoo organ. "Hope Road" invokes melodious dub, while "Something Distant" calls upon bhangra and Grime for raw beats. "Rat Pack" even includes a brief Sun Ra sample for an impromptu history lesson.
Spinning and mixing beats on the wheels of steel takes adroit technical skills, like any other musical instrument. But combining all these elements into a cohesive musical whole takes compositional forethought. Logic's spinning skills are definitely beyond reproach, yet he is a conceptualist first, a technician second. With Zen of Logic, he joins the ranks of such luminaries as Kid Koala, DJ Spooky and DJ Shadow as one of the most astute DJs today.
Track Listing: Peace Y'All (I am in the House); 9th Ward Blues; Balifon Planet; Hypnotic; Interlude #1; Simmer Slow; Afro Beat; One Time; Something Distant; Hope Road; Smackness; Interlude #2; Rat Pack; Holding Down.
Personnel: DJ Logic: all cuts and scratches, beats, Moog bass; Melvin Gibbs: bass, beats, Moog bass,
Moog synth (3,8,9,14); Scotty Hard: guitar, 808 drum machine, tone bass, Mini Moog,
Piccolo Moog, Moog synth, Fender Rhodes (3,5,7,8,12,13); John Medeski: ARP String
Ensemble, Wurlitzer, Hohner String Organ, Farfisa Organ, Mellotron (4-7,12,13); Chris
Brown: Wurlitzer, Moog synth, Moog Voyager, Clavinet (2,3,9-11,14); Charlie Hunter:
Fender Guitar, Fender Bass (2,10); Micro Vard: bass (7); Deanthony Parks: drums (6,9);
Brahim Fribgane: oud, dumbek, cymbals (9); Yoshi Takemasa: shekere, agogo (7); Suphala:
tablas (6); Antibalas Horns [Aaron Johnson: trombone; Stuart Douglas Bogie: tenor
saxophone; Martin Perna: baritone saxophone; Jordan Maclean: trumpet] (7); Creature:
vocals (8); Sub-Conscious: vocals (4); Latasha Nevada Diggs: vocals (6).