Review ·

Neutrino seems to have discovered very reasonable ground between late-night jazz-infected grooves and hypnotic instrumental hip-hop beats. Their consistently tight, self-titled debut rolls out of Tokyo, Japan and onto the already impressive instrumental portion of Mush's roster. In their minimalist approach, Neutrino needs no help from intrusive guest emcees in crafting classy, understated compositions. Primarily, these compositions are suited for most hours of the day, not just party time.

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Neutrino is comprised of Atsuhiro Murakami and Hideki Kuroda. The duo's name means, according to science textbooks, an essential particle of matter, and this record may be essential to the electronic/hip-hop instrumental advocate. Murakami and Kuroda are aware that it's important for an instrumental record to change throughout. Laying down beats for freestyle purposes is necessary in its own right, but the compelling instrumental hip-hop format must allow for new ideas to filter in and out -- for the pieces to change and then change again. Neutrino has this down.

There aren't scratch-heavy beats here. Neutrino's works are intimate and often mild excursions that fall between the most memorable down-tempo platters in the bin. The album is indebted to the genre's oft-cited greats, but its sound owes a lot to jazz and vocal hip-hop, even though the only vocals are sampled snippets. Fortunately, a few of those snippets come from Digable Planets, such as on the aptly titled "D-Planets."

Neutrino can play a decent part in several situations. The ten tracks could easily underscore a wine-and-cheese soiree, but upon close examination, the duo's adherence to keen production values call for the repeat button. Some of the gentle chimes, chopped snares and accessible melodies might even be better suited to Sunday mornings. These days, it's a notable achievement to devise a listenable, interesting instrumental hip-hop record, let alone one that's universally acceptable in either a party or breakfast atmosphere. Neutrino has done both, on one LP, and with considerable skill.

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