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Dark Alley Beats

DJ Krush and Toshinori Kondo
(Apollo Records)

DJ Krush is one of those downtempo spinmeisters who's been around for quite some time. Not only has he released four solo albums (His 1995 Self-titled release, as well as Meiso, Milight, and Kakusei), but he's also collaborated with different artists (as on this release) and spit out tons of mix discs (including mixing his own work on the import-only Holonic and one disc of the 2CD ColdKrushCuts along with Coldcut and DJ Food). He's not only a prolific artist, but one whose name is nearly synonymous with quality in terms of the work that he produces.

In case you're wondering, Toshinori Kondo is a trumpet player, and the nature of the noise he produces fits right into the style of music that DJ Krush is usually known for. In fact, in a lot of Krush's beat-heavy songs, horns play a major part of the moody, giving a new life to the usually mid to downtempo grooves that he weaves. This release is no different, either, with Krush providing the programming, beats, and other noises, while Kondo toots his horn over the top of it all. Instead of being looped or of an otherwise sampled nature, though, Kondos trumpet playing is much more energetic and inspired that the horns you'll hear on other recordings that have sort of the same style.

The disc actually starts out on a fairly rapid note with "Toh-Sui." With some background bongo-type drumming, a sliding beat and some other strange sound effects, Kondo plays a couple different trumpet parts that range from longer blares to quick little staccato punches. It's nothing that showcases his skills immensely, but it works quite well with the music. After a short, minute filler track, things slide down several notches into the third track "Mu-Getsu." With one of those beats that's a thick as chocolate syrup, Kondo plays some more subdued (but more technically interesting) trumpets. It's steamy, soundtrack-type music. The kind you'd expect to hear when the detective is walking down a dark alley alone toward a jazz club that happens to be open all night. Things don't pick up any on the fourth track "Ha-Doh," and Krush adds one of the coolest sounding upright bass samples I've ever heard to the proceedings. The two-second sample makes the instrument sound like it's had the worst day of it's life, but it adds a nice element to the slow beats, scratching, and mellow horns.

Things go in somewhat of a different direction on the re-interpretation of the Bob Marley track "Sun Is Shining." Krush lends the track more of a dub-reggae groove, and although it doesn't sound out-of-place on the release, it definitely has a slightly different feel. After another laid-back number and a filler track, the tempo picks up again on "Fu-Yu." By interchanging sounds from the electric and acoustic trumpet, Kondo gives the track yet another layer of horns and even more of an interesting sound. If "Fu-Yu" is a mid-tempo track, then the next one "Ki-Gen" is barely faster than molasses. With a low-slung beat, an odd vocal (that really sounds like nothing more than some heavy breathing) and some very high-pitched electric trumpet, it's an odd, moody track that will either make you feel seducto or creeped out. Possibly a combination of the two.

Overall, the album is a very interesting one. Instead of enlisting the help of vocalists, Krush has gone with the very expressive sounds of Kondo's trumpet playing to provide another element to his thick beats. Although there are some more up-tempo tracks, Ki-Oku rides mostly a slower groove, and is good for a rainy night, or whenever you feel like lurking in the edges of the shadows. Once in awhile, the disc feels like it's getting a little repetitive, but things manage to switch around enough to stay interesting. It also shows that a 'professional' instrumentalist can work with a beat creator and come out with something more than the singular part of either.

Rating: 7.25