Thursday, 8 August 2013

Crucial 4 - An Honest Album Review

Okay. To begin I am taking off my rose-tinted specs because I want to be as open as possible here. I am not affiliated with Street Sounds in any way whatsoever and was not given a copy of the album for review purposes so this is wholly independant.

So, I recently listened to the whole of Street Sounds' hotly-anticipated CRUCIAL 4 cd.
Beginning with Mantronik's/Mantronix' own Who Is It this has been remixed exclusively for the album ("Crucial Electro 4 Version") with a 'modern-day' hip hop type beat which is thankfully only sporadically used although there is a bit of wobbly bass throughout. Extra razor-sharp edits are employed and being a fan of this technique (hell, I loved it on the first Mantronix album) I enjoyed the use. The main song hasn't really been messed with too much so no drastic changes here.

On the whole, the content of the first disc is great with some of my personal favourites included such as DMX Will Rock (essential), Knights Of The Turntables (brilliant faux-history lesson) and Marley Marl Scratch (a turntablist's delight). In fact the only let-down is the El Bruto's Bankster Edit of Divine Sounds What People Do For Money (the original is also included). The title is indeed correct here in which it is not remixed but rather edited (including some aforementioned razor-sharp edits) and seems a bit out of place in this collection.

Now, the actual Crucial Mix itself. Mixed by the man Kurtis Mantronik with what is suspiciously like a copy of Ableton or similar dj mixing software without a hint of vinyl being manipulated (i.e., scratching).
The trouble with digital dj-ing is that if you're not careful you can put together a mix with unnecessary embellishments and become over-reliant on technology thus making you become lazy. With the previous Crucial albums there was an onus on mixing - creatively - and what is happening here is that Kurtis is using looping, filters and other effects a lot more than is needed. However it is 2013 and as technology has moved on then perhaps then so has the need for this type of mixing.
There are some odd pieces in this mix it must be said, the first being a very strange edit in which Knights Of The Turntables mixes in out of Marley Marl Scratch where MC Shan is actually cut off mid-sentence which comes across as very amateur. There's a terrible part in Monster Beat where the tempo increases like an out of control runaway train - I didn't know how fast it was going to get but it sure as hell wasn't subtle. And then after yet more unnecessary looping in the mix it segues into the oddly-edited (by Chad Jackson) yet totally appropriately-titled Looking For The Perfect Beat which is only 4 BPMs slower than it's original 119 yet feels tortuously stretched - probably as a result of hearing the previously 'chipmonked' track.
Crucial 3 (1987)
I can't help but think of the beauty and jaw-dropping inventiveness of my favourite Crucial in the series, volume 3 from 1987. The segue from Alice I Want You Just For Me into Can You Feel It? Bassline into Bite This and then Megamix II? Or how about Hold It Now, Hit It into South Bronx where it seems that KRS is commenting on (the late) MCA?
Now that is some genius mixing courtesy of Mastermind on the GLI.

I don't want to come off as a Street Sounds hater here because that's not the point. But when you are kept waiting for much longer than is necessary for a proposed release (floods in Europe?) and then finally get to listen to what is quite frankly a poorly-executed mix by someone who has (had?) the intuition to know better. Considering there are probably hundreds of people who would've loved to have had a crack at doing this Crucial Mix I wonder what went wrong?

Of course you could never have EVERY track included on this album to please EVERYONE but from what is here I am happy with (re-edits notwithstanding).

So to conclude, hardly the "groundbreaking" album we were expecting as far as mixing goes. A pale imitation of its' namesake mates and probably best not to put it in such classic company. This album reminds me of an Electro album SS put out almost ten years ago entitled The Definitive Electro & Hip Hop Collection' which although had a great selection also had a rather dodgy mix. However that mix was still better than this even though it was done by an ex-Kiss FM RnB dj.

One has to ask though was this album necessary? When put up against the three other volumes it cannot compete. Was it strictly for the 'fans', the ones who blindly follow SS regardless of it's quality who command a freakishly god-like devotion to the cultish Mr Khan?

Maybe next time some more stringent quality-control wouldn't go amiss to make it a return to how essential and crucial listening these albums actually were.

Further reading:

Street Sounds Facebook page

Discogs Crucial 4 reviews


Waxer said...

So glad you did this review mate... I was wondering about this and I didn't want to be one of these people who loves to see failure, you know when someone like Morgan Khan has had a lot of haters giving him a kicking and some people like to enjoy seeing someone at the top of their game fail... well, I was pretty hopeful that this would be an outstanding LP and StreetSounds would be back on the map.... however, seems that's not the case, real shame and thanks for the honesty...

Phil PieNears said...

peace Benski.
I got passed a copy on vinyl to check, and can honest say as an electro boxset owner, there was no reason for this lp.
I checked it as being an old school first generation bboy, but i thought the technology employed here was overused.
im a huge fan of Kurtis' work, especially stuff like t la rocks breakin bells, and wish he used the same techniques in the mix.
What really annoyed me was what kept this from being released ages ago? Hype build up maybe, as it certainly wasnt quality control.
even artists need a reality check by someone saying, do that mix again, take 1 doesnt cut it. it seems like Kurtis came intot he studio and knocked out a mix and ran for the hills cash in hand.
Besides this fact, there are some nice tracks on the lp and one of my faves Monster Beat is on there.

Respect Morgan, but 9 out of 10 for the final product, as it looks classy as a double lp, but 4 out of 10 for actual audio entertainment.

Anonymous said...

i think the Street Sounds lovers may well be sticking pins in their Repo voodoo doll now :-)

Anonymous said...

I purchased this album last year, I would give it 5 out of 10 the mantronix mix is mediocre, and why so many tracks used on other electros, or widely available on other various lps....I would have liked to see some rarities e.g byron davis hands are quicker than the eye...thats deep dr jr kool....etc etc real old school mike allen nuggets.

overall i think morgan trys too hard he was a genius with the original electro/hip hop well up to 16 anyway and then lost his way too many fingers in pies I suppose and I was sad when the label folded in 88 but he'll need to try harder to win over the hip hop crowd.

mr mantronik heres a message "WE GOT 2 TURNTABLES AND A MICROPHONE"

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