DJ Nu-Mark — Hands On; DJ Nu-Mark & Pomo — Blend Crafters Volume One

To get the ball rolling: 2004 was a great year for Jurassic 5 solo releases. Next year is going to be pretty good too — more on that later — but the highlights were certainly DJ Nu-Mark’s two projects.

Hands On was the increasingly obligatory ‘I have an album coming out’ mixtape, except that it was also an official release on Sequence Records, which brought us Automator’s Wanna Buy A Monkey? and Babu’s two DuckSeason releases.

Hands On opens with some unselfconscious funk, including Organized Konfusion’s JBs-sampling “Fudge Funk”, and Rex Brown Company’s unrestrained clavinet workout “Hot Track”. (Clavinet: “the funkiest instrument known to man”?) A handful of Beatnuts- and Premier-produced skits and intros precede a slab of red-hot US hip-hop. There’s a guest spot by fellow J5 member Chali 2na. “Saliva”, the best track from Viktor Vaughn’s Vaudeville Villain, is produced by Rjd2 in Deadringer mode. And there’s Vitamin-D’s “No Good”: think you’re sick of sped-up vocal samples? Hear this.

Among the album’s highlights is the stretch of international hip-hop towards the end. There’s still something disconcerting about hearing a properly-practiced non-American flow; the accents fall across the beats in ways slightly — and therefore illuminatingly — different. Even MCs with a distinctively London delivery still stand out (on the other hand, there’s nothing more bland than a UK MC aping American delivery). But that’s nothing compared to the novelty of French, German and Aussie cadences and rhythms here. And there’s All Time High’s Ayrshire brogue, which I imagine must be unintelligable to the majority of listeners. Excellent.

Like Hands On, Blend Crafters is back-to-back crisp breakbeats and muscular basslines. The first track — “Melody” — is featured on Hands On. It’s a taut jam built around a stack of overlapping baritone vocal samples and a phat snare sound. “Lola” similarly stacks up and parcels out horn riffs. “Bad Luck Blues” takes the reedy vocal and winsome guitar riffs of Skip James’ Delta classic “Hardtime Killin’ Floor Blues”. The mechanical throb of “Shedding Skin” sounds like Chemical Brother’s “Piku”. And that’s just the first few tracks: there’s more, including a strangely touching corny piano-sax-beats cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine”. It should really say ‘EP’ on the tin, though — at 30:16 it runs a little too short.

As with Jurassic 5, there is something of the old-school about these releases: they are fun, funky, not too thoughtful, and not too self-important. They certainly more than fill the spot taken by 2003’s DJ Format/MC Abdominal collaborations.

In other J5 news, Chali 2na’s Fish Market mixtape had some high points. Cut Chemist’s Litmus Test (about half of it streamed at his official site) is a 28-minute cut-up of his best-known productions. Both of them are, presumably, efforts to soften up the market for solo albums (2na’s Fish Outta Water, Chemist’s The Audience Is Listening) due at the start of the next year. There is also a J5 album slated for May.

DJ Nu-Mark, Hands On

(Sequence, 2004)

DJ Nu-Mark & Pomo, Blend Crafters Volume One

(Up Above, 2004)

Chali 2na, Fish Market (mixed by DJ Dez)

(N/A, 2004)

Cut Chemist, The Litmus Test

(Tube, 2004)