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DJ Krush
(Red Ink/Sony)

DJ Krush has been part of the music community for roughly two decades now. In his last teens and early twenties (back in the 80s), he was a pioneer in the early Japanese hip-hop scene, and then in the early 90s he helped to usher downtempo and instrumental hip-hop into the scene along with artists like DJ Shadow and others on Mo Wax. He's never been afraid to collaborate with others, and he's worked with everyone from rappers like Company Flow and Antipop Consortium to singers like Zap Mama and more classical instrumentalists as well.

The last album that I caught up with Krush on was his Ki-Oku release with horn player Toshinori Kondo, but he's been steadily releasing albums since then and Jaku is yet another solid entry in the chapter of his career. Again, he finds himself teaming up with a whole slew of collaborators (everyone from piano player Ken Shima to rapper Aesop Rock) and adding to the variety of his album in doing so.

Considering the title of the release roughly translates to "peace and calm," Krush doesn't let simple definitions get in the way of cracking off a load of crisp beats. The opener of "Still Island" broods with rumbling beats and cracking snares as shakuhachi (a sort of traditional flute) player Shuuzan Morita drifts breathy passages over the top. On "Nosferatu," the album goes full-on hip-hop as Mr. Lif makes a guest vocal appearance and the track itself sounds like the sort of gritty, dark number that you'd find on a Def Jux joint anyway.

In places, Krush gets a little carried away with the Japanese instrumentation and the album veers a little bit close to typical-sounding Eastern soundtrack style stuff with chugging beats behind it (as on the overly sappy "The Beginning"). "Slit Of Cloud" is another track that lacks in subtlety as saxophonist Akira Sakuta is layered in with some soft synth pads to rather cringing effect on the beginning of the track before he comes back later and reads a poem in an almost guttural, folkloric way that helps redeem the track a bit. On the other side of things, ex-member of Kodo Drum Ensemble Tetsuo Naito helps make "Univerth" a rhythmic dream as programmed beats mingle with chimes, gongs, and other percussion to great effect. As always with a DJ Krush release, the production on Jaku is razor-sharp, and while it feels a bit more safe than some of his past work, it should appeal to Ninja Tune fans or anyone who likes cinematic, beat-laden music with an international tilt.

Rating: 6