State of the Art
by Michael Endelman
"A lot of shit is too polished now," opines the Somerville-based hip-hop and
electronic-music DJ/producer Moosaka. "Hip-hop back in the day was pretty raw.
Today they just take a sample and loop it. But it's about how you manipulate
Moosaka makes this point succinctly on the opening track of his new disc,
Sound Thoughts (Street Forest Records), which receives its official
release this Sunday at the Middle East in Central Square. Five minutes of lo-fi
beat madness that rips through sitar drones, "Question Sparx" sports Al Green
grooves and Curtis Mayfield stage patter with a bold collage aesthetic that
leaves pops and crackles, stuttered switch toggles, and turntable squeals
intact -- a veritable wave of mutilation. "I chill with my headphones, and the
beat makes itself," Moosaka says with typically Zen-like exposition. "I don't
do so much work. The beat comes through me."
But Sound Thoughts is more than just a display of Moosaka's unique
production style -- which skitters somewhere between Marley Marl and Aphex Twin
-- and his formidable scratching skills. A constant presence on the local
hip-hop and electronic music scenes for the past few years, Moosaka is a member
of the Toneburst Collective, the roaming crew of DJs who throw genre-busting
multimedia happenings at unusual spots like the Children's Museum. And the disc
feels more like a compilation -- a document of Boston's swirling beat
underground featuring hip-hop heads, avant-electronic types, and
drum 'n' bass junkies. Toneburst regulars Electro Organic Sound
System, /splice, and Alien all contribute, alongside local hip-hop DJs Fakts-1,
Selector, Skinny B, and the two most underrated MCs in Boston, Radioactive and
"It started with me and all of my tracks," says Moosaka. "But Boston has all
these heads I've worked with but never recorded. So this is a way to get my
stuff out there and to release all this other talent. Some of them would never
get a chance to be heard." In fact, some of the standout tracks come from these
lesser-knowns. Radioactive's epic hip-hop tale "I Seek '99" follows a drifting
MC from youth to psych ward with only a selfless love of hip-hop as his guide.
EOSS's "Overgrown Technology" rides a sad melody into ferocious
drum 'n' bass. And Skinny B's melancholy closer, "Game Is Over,"
matches a moody Paul Simon sample ("Why don't we stop fooling ourselves/Game is
over, game is over") with a funky-ass, fuzzed-out bass line.
Yet though the November 7 release party will be a showcase and celebration of
the beat underground represented on the disc, the show is also a farewell party
of sorts, as Moosaka vacates the area for more DJ-friendly territory in New
York City. "In Boston," he explains, "the talent is really great, the people
making the music are really skilled, but the scene doesn't give a lot of
support. I played around for so long, but I wasn't able to flourish. I couldn't
find a weekly, I couldn't find open-minded dancing crowds, and the clubs close
early. In New York, every bar has a DJ, and that's beautiful."
Besides these common complaints about Boston's struggling nightclub scene,
Moosaka cites another trigger for the move. "They tried to raise my rent in
A record-release party for Sound Thoughts featuring DJ Moosaka with
/splice, Skinny B, Selector, Fakts 1, Electro Organic Sound System, /rupture,
Alien, and True World Order (Prof. Shuman and Radioactive) takes place this
Sunday, November 7, downstairs at the Middle East. Call 864-EAST.