DJ Food and DK: Now, Listen Again!
Ninja Tune

DJ Kentaro: Enter
Ninja Tune

Having initiated Ninja's Solid Steel mix series with Now, Listen in 2001, DJ Food and DK return with the raucous mash-up Now, Listen Again. The hour-long set comes out blazing with the turntable-heavy “Listen To The DJ” by Z-Trip featuring Soup, before moving on to Rakim sharing the mic with Phil Oakey on the Human League's “Being Boiled”; unfortunately, the mix includes some less-than-appetizing ‘rock' moments (the nadir being Cozy Powell's “Dance With The Devil”) though it is nice to hear Johnny Jones & The King Casuals' version of “Purple Haze” included in place of the obvious Hendrix choice. The always-fresh backbeat funk of New Order's “Blue Monday” segues smoothly into Part 2's “One of Dem Days” featuring Fallacy, Five Deez gets some deserved play with “Funky,” and Pendulum & Fresh pump up the mix with the drum'n'bass raver “Tarantula.” Complementing inspired choices like Cut Chemist's “A Peek In Time,” DJ Shadow's “Right Thing,” and Aphex Twin's “Nannou,” Now, Listen Again's eclectic potpourri features no shortage of turntable ferocity, electro-funk, ragga, and even soul. And, at 32 cuts, if something objectionable appears, the moment passes quickly, though there's no getting around the not-so-fresh aroma the closing pair (Ronnie Hazelhurst's Theme music from “Are You Being Served?” and The Dragons “Food For My Soul”) gives off.

Enter, DJ Kentaro's debut studio album, aspires to be more than a mere showcase for the Japanese DJ's considerable turntable skills. Specifically, the 50-minute manifesto for his ‘No Walls Between The Music' philosophy combines rapid-fire tongue-twisting by a multitude of guests (Pharcyde, UK hip-hop veterans New Flesh, Baltimore-bred Spank Rock, Hunger from the Japanese hip-hop group Gagle) with a mad mix of raucous hip-hop (“Enter the Newground”), boom-bap (“Grateful To You”), drum'n'bass (“Rainy Day,” “Trust”), reggae (“Uminnaka”), and rollicking funk (“Free”). To his credit, DJ Kentaro has his blazing set range widely without sounding forced. The blazing tribal stomp “Harvest Dance,” a collab with Japanese outfit Hifana, and the heavy breakbeat banger “Space Jungle,” featuring Spank Rock, Ronnie Darko, Chris Rockwell, and Armani XXXchange, attract attention but other tracks leave memorable impressions too. Kentaro steals a sax lick from Weather Report for the heavy boom-bap of “Tasogare Highway High (Bass Wanna Be A Singer)” and deepens the soul-funk vibe with tight scratching and a biting bass line, while the stoked fusion of broken beat and hip-hop in “Let It Go” is nicely countered by the smooth flow of Fat Jon, member of Cincinatti hip-hop crew Five Deez. And though he keeps the primary focus on crafting an album statement, DJ Kentaro lets his turntable wizardry shine too, most noticeably on “One Hand Blizzard” and “Grateful To You.”

May 2007