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DJ Signify - Sleep No More

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Artist: DJ Signify

Album: Sleep No More

Label: Lex

Review date: Mar. 18, 2004

Nobody knows who the hell DJ Signify is, and that can only be attributed to the highly reclusive career he’s lead up to this point. Nevertheless, I’ve been familiar with his work for five or six years now, always knowing the potential talent that would one day surface. The 1200 Hobo member has certainly paid his dues, releasing two stunning mix tapes, Signifyin’ Breaks which showed the essential beats and breaks knowledge of any aspiring producer, and Mixed Messages which showed his passion for digging and seamless composition of juxtaposing records. Signify also had production credits on Anticon’s Music for the Advancement of Hip Hop compilation, showing subtle hints of greatness, but since then has shown minimal steps towards such fruition.

It’s hard to say whether Signify’s debut on Lex, Sleep No More, takes him there only because the project is so unorthodox. Securing two unlikely henchmen in Sage Francis and Buck 65, Signify embarks on a desolate journey through eerie loops, stark drums, and timely scratching, all seamlessly threaded into one unique whole. It plays a lot more like a mix tape than a conventional album, essentially meaning that you need to experience the piece in its entirety. As hard as that may be for some people to grasp, there is something magical about Sleep, both in its scope and execution that provides a sense of accomplishment for the creator and the listener.

The first time I listened to Sleep No More I had the natural instinct to listen to it as I was going to bed, and nine of the ten or so times since I’ve done the same. It has nothing to do with the title, nor does it mean that the music is an aural sleeping tablet. It has more to do with the ambience it creates; it’s a mood piece, a bedtime story if you will, and more often than not I found myself staying awake to the very end. It’s an engaging, highly interpretational story, held together by Signify’s focus and Sage Francis and Buck 65’s ability to invent stories that transmit profound tone and presence. The dynamics are excellent; Buck 65 the voice of wisdom, Sage the voice of intensity and spontaneity, and Signify the master craftsman that tightens and pushes everything forward. It’s a relationship that’s hard to describe, but nevertheless it’s one that works without tension or awkwardness, and that’s due in large part to Signify.

As a producer, Signify is more of what we’ve come to expect from the 1200 Hobos. His quest for loops often finds him in the darkest and unfamiliar of places, while his drum programming and utilization of breaks is simple yet deep. Skillful scratching is often used to stitch components together as well as add depth in the form of a textural voice. However, the way Signify ties it all together is truly the most impressive part of Sleep No More. Like the best mix tapes, it plays as one congealed composition and stands as such. He has a keen sense for seeking out and finding sounds that create balance but at the same time disturbance. Weird vocal samples wind their way through the aural landscape only to guide the listener into further oblivion. The path forged is densely packed with desperation, hope, and sadness, but amongst such desolation, there is an unmarked beauty that shines brightly by the album’s end.

This was the magic I was speaking of earlier, but is something that can only be realized if you are an active participant in the journey. Like all great stories you must process the information, let your mind wander, and try to capture the moment that is so articulately embedded beneath it all. There will undoubtedly be a lot of people without the patience to fully appreciate Sleep No More, but those that do are in for a genuine experience and quite awakening of the mind, body, and soul.

By Brian Ho

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