By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
For some mysterious reason, deep bass in hip-hop has always been associated with the genre's gangsta and playa elements; the "intellectual" hip-hop composers obviously appreciate bass and its bolt-rattling ramifications, of course, but they rarely glorify it the way that the Impala-drivin', gold-tooth-sportin' bass madmen do.
In recent times, though, bass music (a fascinating and distinct subgenre in its own right, though it's all but disappeared around here) has gradually developed an underground following among the hipsters. Miami bass legend DJ Magic Mike recently remixed Brit techno/electro DJ Andrea Parker; the kings of all things hip, the Beastie Boys, wrote a paean to it in their magazine; a whole slew of electroheads are uncovering bass gems; and Japanese instrumental hip-hop smarty-pants DJ Krush has submerged the entirety of his new Kakusei in it.
No, Krush doesn't have a big black booty on the cover of Kakusei. (Curiously, the label has blurbed the cover with this misleading description: "the groundbreaking new album from the world's greatest turntablist." Krush? A turntablist he's not.) Nor does it seem as though he intentionally decided to cut a bass record. But bass is what the record is ultimately about, the kind of bass that will have your neighbors politely tapping the walls, the kind that, were you to boom it from your system while cruising through Chesterfield or Ladue, would scare the bejesus out of prim white ladies on their way to their afternoon tea (a practice we wholeheartedly endorse). A semiharmonic rumble pervades the record, so much so that after a while, despite its omnipresence, it nearly disappears. Your neighbors will still be hearing it, but the shock wears off, and Krush spins ropes of curious, subtle samples around the bass knots.
It goes this way throughout Kakusei: Slow beat, one sample, another sample, some sort of bell, some sort of freaky unidentifiable noise. Mix it together. Carry it on until it runs out of steam. Start next track. The record seems pretty flat, even one-dimensional. Given its even, deliberate pacing and lack of drive, Krush has a lot of work to do. How do you inject the excitement of the Kentucky Derby into a donkey race? All the bass-y depth charges in the arsenal can't save us from the terminal tedium of sameness.
The answer: Krush is an expert minimalist, and inside each cut is a slow confusion, one that he constructs to keep us engaged. Whether it's the mindfuck mean-spiritedness of an off-kilter beat (one of his favorite ploys) or the curious filtering of the beat itself, the cuts on Kekosei, though superficially similar, are each distinctive and uniquely identifiable.
Krush also has a golden ear for nuance: What seems to be one- dimensional and linear on first listen pops open after a few more, and then those itsy-bitsy samples come crawling out into the open and, though remaining somewhat buried, gradually reveal themselves to be much more significant. Basically, the small things aren't so small after all. They're big, and they matter.