Cut Chemist's 'Die Cut' Asks You To Listen Closely Listening to Cut Chemist's latest album is like looking under a microscope at a drop of ocean water. The longer you examine, the more life you find.
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Cut Chemist's 'Die Cut' Asks You To Listen Closely

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Cut Chemist's 'Die Cut' Asks You To Listen Closely

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Music Reviews

Cut Chemist's 'Die Cut' Asks You To Listen Closely

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For more than 25 years Lucas McFadden of Los Angeles, better known as Cut Chemist, has carved out a reputation as a gifted deejay and adventurous explorer of musical styles from around the world. His latest album "Die Cut" puts some of those influences into his spin cycle. Reviewer Oliver Wang says this is one musical experience where it pays to listen closely.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUT CHEMIST SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Ladies and gentlemen.

OLIVER WANG, BYLINE: When Cut Chemist first emerged out of LA's hip-hop underground, he was already sampling savant and a purveyor of pastiche.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUT CHEMIST SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hold it a minute, folks. Are you familiar with a jam called...

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Radio.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: So if it's great jam you're after, try this one.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: One, two, three and...

WANG: Through his music you can trace a lineage back to the musique concrete composers of postwar Europe who experimented with tape loops and synthesized sound up through the pioneering rap remixers of the 1980s like Coldcut and Double Dee & Steinski. The creative philosophy uniting these generations was simple - all sounds in the world exist to be atomized, amalgamated, alchemized.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I GOTTA WEAPON")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: I mean, I felt like vomiting. I felt like laughing. I felt like crying.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: You shouldn't be here. Get out of here, you hippie.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: He's saying...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Beat.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: Beat.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: Beat.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #10: Beat.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #11: Kicking.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #12: Stepping.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #13: People get ready.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #14: I got a weapon.

WANG: This cut-and-paste pedigree continues to be at the heart of Cut Chemist's craft, though he's gotten far more sophisticated at hiding the scenes. On "Die Cut," he's still working with samples, but he's also collaborating with musicians, rappers and singers to explore an expansive range of sonic textures and moods.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIE CUT")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #15: And if I die, if I D-Y-E, will I be buried?

WANG: Here he invites avant garde drummer Deantoni Parks to join him in a raucous polyrhythmic pairing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIE CUT")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #16: Too much pleasure (ph), too much pleasure, too much pleasure. Kill me (ph).

WANG: No less striking is hearing one of Cut's favorite emcee partners, Hymnal, warbling over electrified steel guitar.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLANE JANE")

HYMNAL AND UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing) Sunshine and rain, plain Jane...

HYMNAL: (Singing) Skipping by and gone like rocks across a lake.

HYMNAL AND UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing) Plain Jane, fed up with the same, forever remained in my picture frame.

HYMNAL: (Unintelligible).

WANG: Cut Chemist also layers a dense burble of beats under indie pop singer Laura Darlington's melancholy vocals.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOME AWAY FROM HOME")

LAURA DARLINGTON: (Singing) Called away from home, my mama under heaven's door. You told me always share until I run out of air.

WANG: The album isn't meant to work at the middle distance. This isn't background music. Rather, it's an album that rewards close attention just to pick up on all the minute details that Cut Chemist works into any given moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RHYTHM METHOD")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #17: Breathe.

WANG: There's a dynamic momentum that sweeps through "Die Cut" where small rhythmic patterns, instruments and sound effects burst into frame and then exit just as quickly. It's a mercurial, at times turbulent experience. But like staring at ocean droplets under a microscope, the deeper you go, the more you find teeming with life.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUT CHEMIST FEAT. MYKA 9 SONG, "RHYTHM METHOD")

CORNISH: Our reviewer Oliver Wang is a professor of sociology at Cal State Long Beach. He co-hosts the music podcast Heat Rocks.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUT CHEMIST SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Singing) Rain...

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