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Mophono: “Be Human Part One”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/01-Be-Human-Part-One.mp3|titles=Mophono: “Be Human Part One”]
San Francisco-based DJ/producer Mophono is releasing his debut Cut Form Crunch on his own CB Records, featuring guest spots by Flying Lotus and MC Subverse. Keeping good company, Mophono builds an instrumental soundscape inhabited by dusty glitch samples and old-school beats under the direction of dub-like bass lines. It’s a heavy sound where Moog bleeps meet hard hip-hop beats, jazzy fills, heavy funk cuts, and fanatical synth hooks.
Advancing a style crafted by luminaries such DJ Shadow and DJ Krush, Mophono’s highly textured instrumental compositions encompass a wide range of dense atmospherics. But whereas Krush stays inherently nocturnal making soundtracks for the midnight marauder, Mophono steps to a completely different vibe. From dirty club stompers and wild synthetic experiments to classic break-out-the-cardboard B-boy tracks, Mophono keeps a variety that is disparate, noisy, and always funky.
Known as DJ Centipede in the Bay Area, Mophono has been a staple in the San Francisco DJ scene for a few years. The DJ’s weekly Change the Beat night in San Francisco has brought legendary and up-and-coming DJs together, strengthening a music scene already known for producing some of the best DJs and turntablists in the world. Though Mophono’s heavy emphasis on the beat keeps him close to his predecessors, his sound distinguishes itself thanks to shape-shifting percussion kits and his knack for uncanny synth pieces.
Cut Form Crush opens with “Be Human Part One,” immediately demonstrating the DJ’s rhythmic expertise and wide range of musical influences. The focus is very much situated on the drum kit – a simple heavy-footed kick is ornamented with a stuttering snare drum. As the impending horn passages give the tune an Afro-Cuban feel, there are no other present elements that point in that direction. The beat spatters through, holding everything together before dropping out at the end to make way for a static-backed flute solo.
Though less inclined to fill tracks with wacky samples a la DJ Shadow, Mophono has the same intense attention to detail. Never locking into the same groove for too long, Cut Form Crush is filled with hundreds of variations, all meticulously paced and masterfully placed. On the track “Crush,” a high-pitched synth creates an urgent presence, a sound that Mophono carries into one of the most manic beats on the record.
The record’s title track, a song recorded from a live studio session at Circuit Breaker Studios SF with Flying Lotus, is much more subdued than the rest. “Cut Form Crush” has a heavy drum machine, held intact with a filthy electronic sound. It’s almost meditative, though — a track that displays both Mophono and Flying Lotus’ abilities in building stark compositions. Rhythmically, there is no other track on the album more down-tempo. Melodically, the track is the most subtly nuanced, filled with layers of electronic grime.
But it’s tracks like “Now”and “Cut Form Eight” that reveal Mophono as a proper beat-smith. It also hints to the possible directions that he can take this whole beat scene. Both tracks were created using a technology that Mophono developed, coined “Skip on Beat.” On the most basic level, it’s a technology where no matter where the user drops the needle, the record always stays on beat. The technique yields stellar results: the songs skip but stay naturally on time.
Productive yet destructive, Mophono’s Cut Form Crush is an ambitious debut from the San Franciso DJ. With innovative ideas pushing the beat scene forward, Mophono is making new standards for all the genres that come in contact with his music.