Review: Jack Foley
THE PR for Blockhead credits the New York-based DJ with producing
some of 'the most sublime, understated, melancholic hip hop you're
likely to hear this year'. And it pretty much hits the nail firmly
on the head.
IndieLondon started to get excited about Blockhead around December
last year (2003), when he released his Insomniac Olympics EP
- and the subsequent album, Music by Cavelight, more than lives
up to the potential shown there.
And for those who haven't caught up yet, then Blockhead arrives
with some impeccable credentials, being compared to the next DJ
Shadow or RJD2, after having made a name for himself by working
with the likes of Aesop, Slug of Atmosphere, Murs, Mike Ladd and
The album bears similarities to all of those artists, while also
containing a style all of its own - one which, while ponderous
and deeply moody, is a joy from start to finish.
The aforementioned Insomniac Olympics, which sets its
stall out as an anti-fanfare album opener, gets things off to
a blistering start, with its captivating horns, driving bass,
brooding organs and big beat - rather like DJ Shadow at his most
It is during these moments that the hip-hop element of downtown
New York is really captured, as the track oozes attitude, without
saying anything vocally - except for a deeply distorted sample
Carnivores Unite combines some elegaic strings with a
slomo disco bass, while You've Got Maelstrom simply feels
made for the midnight hour.
And yet as brash as things can become, there is also an inherent
sadness to some of his music, most notable in the tear-stained
piano keys of tracks such as Sunday Seance or Triptych,
Part 1, which wrap you up in their melancholy beauty.
It is here that Blockhead, quite possibly, transcends the hip-hop
genre, reaching out into far wider territory, and taking his listeners
on the journey with him, during which he also gets to flex his
Blockhead isn't afraid to speed up a vocal or two, a la Wu Tang,
and then slows it down to create a series of choral effects throughout
his Triptych epic, while simultaneously keeping the beats
crisp, hard and rock steady.
Think the best of Bonobo, with elements of DJ Shadow, Murs and
Aesop Rock thrown in, and you're pretty much in the right sort
Think ideal mood music for a film soundtrack, and you're somewhere
This is, quite simply, spellbinding stuff - musical magic spun
on the decks of a new DJ master. Make sure you cast your musical
lights on Blockhead.
Editor's note: A limited edition run of the album will
come with a bonus disc of instrumentals of a selection of the
Blockhead-produced tracks from the three Aesop Rock albums. It
can be accessed via one of the links on this page.
Related review: Downtown
Silence (the new Blockhead album)
1. Insomniac Olympics
2. Carnivores Unite
3. Youve Got Maelstrom
4. Sunday Seance
5. A Better Place
6. Road Rage Breakdown
7. Triptych Part 1
8. Triptych Part 2
9. Triptych Part 3
10. Jet Son
11. Breathe And Start
12. Music By Cavelight