The Boston Phoenix
November 4 - 11, 1999

[Music Reviews]

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State of the Art

by Michael Endelman

Moosaka "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 and mutilate."

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 Prof. Shuman.

"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 Somerville."

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.

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