While the RJD2/DJ Shadow style of turntablism continues and probably will continue to draw crowds and sales, producers like DJ Mutamassik and DJ/rupture eschew the easy formula of soulful ’70s-inflected bass lines over hip-hop beats in favor of mixes that acknowledge the global reach of music, specifically music from the Middle East and Asia. Mutamassik’s High Alert twelve-inch, for instance, is a melange of Baladi breakbeats, Egyptian electro-hardcore, aural storytelling and hip-hop emceeing.
The single, “Interlude for Grampa (a’la Geddu),” couples Mutamassik’s elegant, almost R&B-style singing with dense beats and 4th Pyramid’s rapping. Mutamassik’s imaginative combinations make the track; by pairing her beautifully wafting vocals with testosterone-driven breakbeats, she achieves a weird balance between gorgeously crafted chill-out music and a dance-till-you-drop anthem. The deliberate rapping of 4th Pyramid, like on his contribution to the Definitive Jux Presents, Vol. 3 compilation, leaves something to be desired — namely more interesting flow. The instrumental version of the same track, which is on the “High Alert” twelve-inch, might actually exceed the original; it allows for better concentration on Mutamassik’s beat wizardry and tendency to subtly drop a new percussive layer at just the right moment, making the tune feel as if it’s about to careen out of control.
“Interlude for Gramna (a’la Teta)” features Mutamassik’s narrative side. Helicopters fly by ominously, serenaded by police sirens — it’s the sound of urban warfare. This frightening soundscape is eventually overtaken by a slow, repetitive bass line and frenetic, tinny percussion that’s combined with distinctly Mutamassikian bass-drum thumps. You get the feeling this is an aural tour of how the other side lives, those with war dominating their tank-laden streets. Harkening back to turntable innovator Christian Marclay, though conceptually “heavier” than he tends to be, Mutamassik drops subtle reminders of the mere existence of Third World struggle in these songs — an unfamiliar, uncomfortable and frightening reality that most music-buying Americans would rather ignore.