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Oh No - Dr No’s Ethiopium

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Artist: Oh No

Album: Dr No’s Ethiopium

Label: Stones Throw

Review date: Nov. 3, 2009

In a unique twist on business diversification, Stones Throw has, in partnership with Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee, introduced a line of specialty coffee beans in tandem with some of the standout artists in their catalog. In doing so, the label has deployed what is either a quietly clever gimmick to add some (ahem) buzz to their eclectic new releases, or a cleverly loud FUCK YOU to non-music companies like Starbucks, which have only muddied the water by releasing watered-down folk music and resurrecting the careers of artists past their prime.

The latest pairing is an Ethiopian coffee with the new beats-only collection Dr. No’s Ethiopium by the label’s defacto house producer, Oh No. Perhaps in specific deference, the coffee to be released in association with the record consists of Ethiopian yirgacheffe: it’s rich, with notes of honeysuckle and jasmine, with a clean finish of spice and cocoa; it’s Ethiopian; it’s not cheap; and, it’s ‘single origin,’ as opposed to a hodgepodge of beans from different regional farms.

Oddly enough, this description dovetails nicely with Oh No’s outing on Ethiopium. It’s rich; despite the fact that the cuts are short and sweet, each represents any number of possibilities for repurposing and restyling. It’s Ethiopian: anyone who has listened intently to the voluminous Ethiopiques series will notice the scales, the rapturous nasal wails, the chugging funk of the rhythm sections. It’s single origin: there is very little non-Ethiopian debris in this bin, and the needle drops and dusty din are consistent from beginning to end.

If there is a single standout moment, it’s the novelty of "Pussy,” a zippy little gem over which the sampled voice seems to be chanting a certain word over and over again. It’s reminiscent of the Butthole Surfers’ "Kuntz” from Locust Abortion Technician, which is comprised of the cut-out syllable "/kuntz/" on repeat. Oh No’s "Pussy" is a little less gratuitous; it’s part of a beat, meant to be made to repeat forward, backward, through filters and without, but enjoyed a dozen different ways – however the world’s more adventurous MCs and producers choose to use it.

By Andy Freivogel

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