Review ·

As well known as DJ Nu-Mark may be, Blend Crafters is his first completely instrumental work. Alongside Cut Chemist, Nu-Mark has labored industriously for years constructing the beats for Los Angeles-based Jurassic 5. While helping to make quite a name for the West Coast powerhouse, he managed to earn a respectable rep for himself as well. In teaming with West Coast producer Pomo, Nu-Mark is doing even more for his name than he's done with J5 and his other Los Angeles-based band, Ozomatli. And with a vessel as slick as Blend Crafters, the producer reaches out to a bigger audience.

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Nu-Mark has solid soul-infused beats all the way through, and he waves the same tattered old-school flag that he does with Jurassic 5. But with Blend Crafters, he reaches the folks who are buying the beat albums, ushering his way into prominent instrumental country, too. The J5 followers will be pleased; Nu-Mark is charging forward with eleven tracks that are deeply indebted to the golden era of beats.

He favors smokin' brass sections and finger snaps on the memorable "Lola," but it's nothing like the Kinks song of the same name, unfortunately. Nu-Mark does, however, venture into cover territory, bravely offering a take on John Lennon's "Imagine" that didn't make me vomit upon first listen. He cribs a tasteful sax solo, originally following Lennon's vocal line, and cuts it with great care so that it fits inside the swinging drum loops.

On Blend Crafters, Nu-Mark gives two slots to Pomo, but the rest are his. Pomo plays with both ominous and lighthearted tones, and his pieces differ impressively from each other. He works in hostile, creeping synth sounds on "Shedding Steel" and breaks out '60s organ licks for "Unwind." These two gems will open doors for an exciting Pomo solo effort, no doubt.

Each track on Blend Crafters has places for the verse and chorus, but this can't be considered a soon-to-be-released J5 instrumental record. Because of DJ Nu-Mark's eagerness to populate the beats with unconventional vocal snippets and new ideas, it would be a daunting task for an emcee to fill the less-busy parts with verses. Sure, a couple of the tracks might benefit from vocals, but allowing such a thing would crowd Nu-Mark's ability to move the crowd without an emcee.

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