The head architect of Anticon’s aural acropolis at long last offers up his true album-length debut: Soft Money. Jeffrey “Jel” Logan’s long-awaited magnum opus is sly dog of a disc born of ad-inspired paranoia, well-placed suspicion, and outright obsession where all things sound are concerned. With 2002’s 10 Seconds, Jel imagined a long-playing ode to his first real love, the SP-1200, composed entirely of hand-picked snippets from three decades of hip-hop history. Soft Money takes that same meticulously studied musical consciousness and expands it both literally (the previous LP got its name from the limited sample time of the SP) and conceptually. Though undeniably rooted in the boom-bap of rap’s best instrumentals, this is an ode to good music, period, channeled through one man and his machines, with a little help from some good friends.
Album opener “To Buy a Car” is a classic anti-commercialism jam featuring Jel’s own ultrasmooth vintage-styled raps over a tense backbeat of lo-bit drums, breakbeat loops, pulsing bass, cold tones and sampled commercial clips. The head-nodding intensity builds to a fever pitch before dashing itself happily against the gorgeous calm of “All Day Breakfast.” Drones and squeals from stringed instruments from foreign lands arch high over the twinkling keys, heavy bass and nimbly layered rhythms. Track three (“No Solution”) opens with record static and an archaic sample before giving way to the best recorded Rhodes timbre this side of OK Computer (courtesy of Dosh) and a trademark Jel bump. Fog’s Andrew Broder layers the guitar a la Fennesz, while Jel’s distorted voice drops the wisdom: “Shut up and get used to the smell the ruins / Do you think that Rome was burnt in a day?” And we’re only 10 minutes in.
Elsewhere, Jel challenges Broadcast on their own turf with dreamy noir-hopper “All Around” (starring Steffi Bohm of Ms. John Soda as chanteuse). “Sweat Cream in It” is one of the most impressive moments, a live-recorded sampler tour de force, while the presence of Poor Righteous Teachers’ Wise Intelligent on the anti-Bush, anti-bling diatribe “WMD” is a fine coup in and of itself. Jel also weaves in contributions from Parisian synth wizard Herve Salters (of General Electriks), Anticon poet laureate Pedestrian, and cLOUDDEAD’s Odd Nosdam to complete Soft Money’s ornate amalgam of progressive hip-hop, electronic composition and musique concrete. All in all, it’s a damn fine record, uncluttered but deceptively full and entirely original.
* immediate free MP3 download for all vinyl orders of this release.