Turntablism, Molecular Gastronomy, and Welding Masks: More Is than Isn’t by RJD2

Producer and turntablist RJD2 stopped at the Hoxton this past weekend on a tour supporting his new album, More Is Than Isn’t

After 2 hours of sub-standard plodding from two opening DJs, RJ walked out dressed in a bejewelled jumpsuit and a welding helmet to the cheers and cellphone flashes of an impatient crowd. After amping up the crowd with some quick-fingered sound effects from a drum pad slung over his crotch, he stripped off the costume behind the Hoxton’s hydraulic turntable altar and the show began.

He darted back and forth between a crate of vinyl in frayed sleeves, four well-loved turntables, two sticker plastered drum pads, and a laptop. It was humbling to see him rushing to keep up to the cadence of beats and the precise choreography of scratches, taps, and flicks required by his art. He made it look easy. The heaving tangle of revellers couldn’t get enough. The set was a mix of well-worn favourites like A Beautiful Mine (a.k.a. the theme song from Mad Men) and tracks from the new album.

 

More Is Than Isn’t is RJD2’s fifth full length studio album, since his acclaimed 2002 debut, Deadringer.
Since starting out as an underground hip-hop producer, he has darted all over the musical spectrum and shape-shifted his style innumerable times. If someone unfamiliar with his work were to ask you “What’s his genre, what’s his style?” it would be impossibly difficult to answer without first cracking open a thesaurus, mashing together hundreds of adjectives to form wildly conflicting genre-based portmanteaus.

The new album feels like it has been conceptualised in an open-plan kitchen of molecular gastronomy, and the head chef is whipping up some inventive treats. Yet, however open it feels, it is still strung together loosely in 3 suites (each being headed with a track of the same name, Suite 1 and so forth). RJ explained this in an interview with hiphopdx.

Yeah. The idea of that came as soon as I had the chord change pitch that those three suites are based on…I realized as soon as it popped into my head that it was completely feasible to take the same harmonic idea and pursue it in three different iterations.” 

The result of this audio-culinary meddling is a fantastic, RJD2-typical mish mash of seemingly discordant styles into smooth consistent tracks that engage the listener through a chaotic soundscape.More Is Than Isn’t is not so much a departure from his ‘un-nameable’ style, but an evolution of his large body of work compounded into a solid and charming album. It features collaborations with Roots Crew affiliate rapper STS and singer Khari Mateen on the slow paced and soul-infused track ‘See You Leave’. He also worked alongside his Soul Position counterpart Blueprint on ‘It All Came To Me In a Dream’, which is abound with spacey synthesizers and a haunting back-melody that sounds like it’s coming from a Theremin that’s scared to be trapped in an elevator.

As usual, the vocal tracks are strong, but the album is driven by several stratospheric instrumental tracks that constantly lead to me imagining film scenes. ‘Behold, Numbers!’ utilisesclassical strings, jazz guitar and bass lines in conjunction with a striking choppy beat. The effect is similar to looking through a zoetrope, flickering but perpetually in motion. Another such track was ‘A Lot of Night Ahead Of You’, with a sometimes gentle/sometimes aggressive pulsing progression, it made me feel like I had wandered drunkenly into a carnival run by space-elves with a penchant for synth. Such a declaration is a testament to the kind of sounds RJD2 is putting together and the places the sonic landscapes can take your imagination. RJ is a master of the craft of…crafting; channeling 80’s hip hop, funk, soul, nu jazz (plus many more) and transmogrifying them into 16 splendid tracks in just under an hour of play time.

His latest incursion into the world of genre-bending, style-mixing and general hip-hoppery is packed with ambition and a whole lot of life. RJD2 continues to be an innovator in the field of ‘feel’ and leaving almost everything to the imagination. He’s a man who wears many musical hats; and he wears them all with panache. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess; but it will be rather exciting to find out.

You can hear the entire album on YouTube.


More Is Than Isn’t was released on October the 8thon RJD2’s own label; RJ’s Electrical Connections. 


Track Listing:

  1. RJD2 – Suite 1 (2:01)
  2. RJD2 – Temperamental (3:27)
  3. RJD2 – Behold, Numbers! (4:33)
  4. RJD2 – Her Majesty’s Socialist Request (3:45)
  5. RJD2 – A Lot of Night Ahead of You (2:56)
  6. RJD2 – Bathwater (3:06)
  7. RJD2 – Milk Tooth (3:56)
  8. RJD2 – Suite 2 (1:48)
  9. RJD2 – Winter Isn’t Coming (4:13)
  10. RJD2 – See You Leave (4:59)
  11. RJD2 – Got There, Sugar? (4:29)
  12. RJD2 – Love and Go (4:30)
  13. RJD2 – Descended from Myth (6:14)
  14. RJD2 – Dirty Hands (3:48)
  15. RJD2 – It All Came to Me in a Dream (3:17)
  16. RJD2 – Suite 3 (2:26)

Album review by Graeme. Photos and concert recap by Justin.


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