Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Speaking of hauntology...

Provoked by an appreciation in this month's Wire (not available online, alas), I have spent an evening on Youtube checking out J Dilla / Jay Dee. He reminds me of Ariel Pink - barely-written songs, samples which sound like they've been traced rather than spliced, non-vocals drenched in an amniotic dreamworld...

It's interesting listening to him alongside, say, De La Soul (some of whose work he produced - "Stakes is high", f'rinstance). De La, and in particular AOI: Bionix (by far their best LP), make the sort of hip-hop which will be played to the blessed in utopia whenever the end of history comes around (LL Cool J's "Around the way girl" would too). De La's music can be sad, but it shimmers, its vocals embalm you, it is undeniably alive.

Dilla's music, on the other hand, festers and disintegrates, like he wanted to make this perfect record to be played when the sprinklers are on, but life got in the way and stained it. He often recorded over tapes of unmastered, discarded instrumentals, and the traces of those unwanted tracks resonate across Dilla's beats.

I got into Dilla through the caramelly, faintly tangy "So far to go", recorded with Common and D'Angelo. Like "Won't go", also from his second solo album The Shining, it samples the Isley Brothers. Elsewhere, he samples Donald Byrd, Kraftwerk, the Stylistics, ESG, Zapp, Minnie Ripperton etc. This is classic pop-funk-soul gone bad.

There's a virtually inexhaustible supply of his stuff on Youtube - singles, album tracks, demos, solo work, group work with Slum Village, remixes etc. Here's a sample - let the man speak to you from the grave.

COMMON featuring D'ANGELO, "So far to go"

J DILLA, "Won't do"

SLUM VILLAGE, "The look of love"



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