DJ Food and DK's Now, Listen!, the inaugural edition of the Solid Steel series, is straight classic, joining Coldcut's 70 Minutes of Madness and Kruder and Dorfmeister's DJ Kicks contribution among the greatest commercially released mixes ever. The record was a perfect synthesis of humor, crate-digging, and most of all technical proficiency. It's sequel, mind-blowingly titled Now, Listen Again!, has all of those things, but it still seems to fall short of being truly memorable.[more:]
Technically, the mix is as good as anything we're likely to hear this year. Tempos fluctuate, tracks intermingle, and well-known cuts like Rakim's "I Know You Got Soul" and Human League's "Being Boiled" dance together until they seem like old sweethearts that never separated. The ratio of known to unknown is a little higher than is usually desirable (unless you're a Girl Talk fan), but for the most part the tracks are reconfigured so well that it's practically like experiencing a new cut.
There are problems with track selections, though, and they drag down the record. Original songs by Z-Trip, Cut Chemist, and Shadow may earn the deejays points with their friends, but if you're aiming to successfully measure up to a classic original, choosing these cuts makes the record seem a little lazy; plus, most people who will be picking up this mix have probably heard the first two records. The other minor problem is the album's reliance on clever samples, which are often entertaining but can wear off in the novelty department.
But nitpicking a solid genre-hopping mix like this only seems relevant when comparing it to its perfect older brother. In every other way, Now, Listen Again! is a successful offering, a wide-ranging mix made for the ages, not a trendy micro-genre or flourishing scene. It's a style that is becoming rarer, so every record like this is worth treasuring.
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