DJ Krush released Jaku
September 7th marks the release of legendary producer DJ Krush’ eighth solo album, Jaku (Red Ink/Sony).
Artist: DJ Krush
Release date: 09/7/04
Label: Red Ink/Sony
Buy at: Amazon
With Jaku, the 41-year-old Krush shows the community how age and longevity really do bring wisdom. An ambitious fusion of post-hip-hop beats and traditional Japanese music, his eighth solo album contemplates serenity in the chaos of the modern world, even as it cold-cocks the headz with readymade club-bangers. Def Jux's quick-tongued front-liners Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif interact with shakuhachi (wooden flute) and koto (Japanese strings) players under the global banner of hip-hop, making for one of the most personal statements of the DJ/producer's career.
Krush's evolution towards Jaku's live beats fusion began in the late '90s. First, he formed RYU, a Masters-at-Work-like trio (with DJs Hide and Sak) that focused on combining live playing with electronic production values. Then Krush began applying these lessons to his own albums. Both 2001's Zen, which was chosen Best Electronica Album at the AIFM Awards, and 2003's Shinsou "The Message At The Depth," explored Krush's fascination with mixing machine rhythms and instruments, featuring singers (Zap Mama, N'Dea Davenport), rappers (Company Flow, Antipop Consortium) and players (Sly & Robbie, D-Madness and Masato Nakamura). These albums also saw Krush venturing into a new kind of music, one loosely based on hip-hop beats, but darker, deeper and more uptempo, at once aligned with jungle's dance-floor and the spiritual aspects of sound and rhythm.
Which only makes more sense once you hear Jaku. Meaning "peace and calm" in Japanese, it embraces the philosophy and instrumentation of Krush's homeland. By his own words, Jaku finds Krush, "re-evaluating my roots. Sometimes, learning about your culture's traditional arts is a bit embarrassing. But I am older now and wanted to look into this. I thought, these instruments sound amazing, these philosophies are pertinent for the present day."
And so, the album reflects upon Japan from a variety of perspectives. At times, Krush uses the island's popular culture as a prism for his ideas: its association with monster movies ("Still Island," featuring shakuhachi master Shuuzan Morita playing alongside a beat-driven melody that could've been lifted from a Godzilla flick) and its vibrant and internationally respected hip-hop scene ("Decks-athron" is a turntablist duel with UK-based DJ, Tatsuki). At others, he contemplates on Japan's zen leanings ("Stormy Clouds" is a spatial, ambient piece featuring jazz pianist Ken Shima, while "Univearth" finds Krush's beats interacting with the humungous percussion instruments of Tetsuro Naito, an ex-member of the great Kodo Drum Ensemble). And while Mr. Lif and Aesop Rock's guest vocal spots offer fittingly contemporary distractions, far more telling is "Slit of Cloud," on which saxophonist Akira Sakata doesn't just play with a spiritual yearning that harkens to Coltrane, but also reads a poem in the sing-song style of Japanese folklore recordings.
Jaku is Krush using hip-hop as a canvas to not only express the musical culture's evolution, but to also express his own traditions. No wonder that he sits alongside legends such as Bambaata and Flash, as comfortably as he partners with progressives like Shadow and Cam. Deep into the third decade of a brilliant career, Krush seems perfectly at ease redefining the term "venerable" for the hip-hop generation.
1. Still Island with Shuuzan Morita
2. Road to Nowhere
3. Nosferatu with Mr. Lif
4. The Beginning
6. Stormy Cloud with Ken Shima
7. Univearth with Tetsuro Naito
8. Deck-athron with DJ Tatsuki
9. Kill Switch with AESOP ROCK
11. Slit of Cloud with Akira Sakata
13. Beyond Raging Waves with Shin'ichi Kinoshita
14. Distant Voices
15. Song 2
"Jaku" by DJ Krush - release date: 09/7/04..