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DJ Krush

As disciples of meditation and chanting throughout the ages have known, there is a form of change revealed in repetition. So if the modern-day breakbeat is another incarnation of this trance-inducing tradition, then the DJ must be the master who brings balance to the force. Attracting diverse collaborators such as Gang Starr's Guru and genre-hopping funkster Bill Laswell, Japan's DJ Krush has made a name for himself over the past six years with his ability to masterfully mix stark and minimalist sounds with fresh hip-hop drum tracks. On his seventh solo album, Krush is armed with just that: a big bag o' beats. Nothing fancy -- no loud headbanging clangs or trendy bounce syncopations -- just crisp and repetitive head-nod-inducing beats. And while at first listen, Kakusei might sound simple, after repeated exposures this lotus unfolds.

Keeping the tempos just shy of breaking into a gallop, Krush emits a fog of paranoid alien jazz gurgles and old-school b-boy breakbeats. Overall, the rhythms are somewhat sedate and lo-fi, but it's the little added flourishes that paint the mood and texture of each song. From warped rubber-band bass loops to Arabic praying intonations, each aural garnish creates its own slightly deranged and surreal addition to the larger soundscape. There's a mild subliminal quality to tracks like "Deltaforest," with its repeated piano fills and beats that sound as if they were played through an old Victrola. "85 Loop" comes across as a drunken horror-film soundtrack, with moaning horns and creepy respirator emissions, exemplifying the subtle dread lurking throughout all of the songs. The album peaks when DJ Sinista (of the San Francisco-based X-ecutioners DJ crew) throws his frantic scratchwork into the mix on "The Kinetics." On the track, a person who sounds like a radio talk-show caller chimes in, asking, "Is there any other sound you guys can scratch besides scrrrrrrrrtttch?"

Much like other non-American hip-hop DJs, such as France's DJ Cam, Krush is able to offer a refreshing and back-to-basics style that often feels more genuine and heartfelt than a fair portion of major-label hip-hop product being released in the States. Given the lack of any MC rhymes on the record, less truly is more. By limiting the range of the palette, even the most minor sonic embellishments stand out like giant gestures. With this stripped-down approach, Krush has created a subconscious mirror: What you bring to the recording is a determining factor in what you get with each listen. This relativistic morphing feature gives the record a seemingly indefinite life span: It's subtle enough to be a great chill-out record, yet imbued with enough irresistible funk to make it an appropriate morning wake-up call. Kakusei brings the noise and the Tao.

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Kevin Crouse

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