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J Rocc - Some Cold Rock Stuf

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Artist: J Rocc

Album: Some Cold Rock Stuf

Label: Stones Throw

Review date: Apr. 14, 2011

Some Cold Rock Stuf, the latest solo joint from Beat Junkies co-founder and Stones Throw / Now-Again crate-digging guru J Rocc, concedes not a thing to purists of any stripe. It’s a bubbling cauldron of samples, but it’s not a “DJ record.” It’s as dark, hypnotic and immediately, accessibly undanceable as Portishead’s Dummy was on the listening stations, but it’s too humorously unpredictable to be “downtempo” and it’s way too weird to be identifiably noir-ish, or at all relaxing. But, unlike the thorny, in-your-face stylings of West Coast contemporaries such as The Gaslamp Killer, it’s not confrontational, just hypnotically antagonistic while playing the wall. Like many sorta-post-hip-hop elpees that immediately bare the aura of a future classic, it has thusfar received emphatically mixed reviews.

You guys are wrong. I am right. This one’s a keeper. It will only get better. I’m taking bets.

The intro/opener “Rocchead’s Delight” plays with the heads a bit – it pastes together a bevy of recognizable samples and, in a code any long-haul hip-hop fan can understand, promises serious car-alarm-triggering, alignment-throwing trunk-rock action in the near future. Almost immediately thereafter, things get foggy, eerie, complex and defiantly mellow. By 10 minutes in, in the heart of “Stop Trying” (a skewed, cluttered track with a slowed-down, accented sample of quasi-Zen self-unhelp spoken word), any enthusiastic old-school breakdancer has found herself on a very strange, remarkably cold chunk of sidewalk.

Things to, now and again, get a tad festive. “Party” doesn’t disappoint – its throbbing low end buoys sampled strings, sampled Indian vox, and commanding punch-ins that wouldn’t be out of place in spin class. “Play This (Also)” is more heated and crowded but no less fun – it’s like The Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul series thrown in a blender and poured on a thick plate of snake-charmed dancing spaghetti.

If you relish the unpredictable, you will probably laugh out loud at this a few times, particularly at the sped-up “Heart of the Sunrise” sample threaded through the fat, comically ominous “Chasing the Sun.” But, as the affair winds down with the spaced-out ’70s funk of “Too Many Clowns” and the mostly beatless theremin-like drone of “The Truth,” the overall effect can be deeply unsettling. Or just kind of cool.

It’s not all that “difficult,” and it’s not just “cerebral.” It’s too smart to throw off a house party entirely – the one-of-a-kind oddness is there if you’re ready for it and the state-of-the-art beat science is a lot of fun if you’re not. It doesn’t neglect the classic pleasure centers, but it hits the emotions (the soul, if you will) in places that could not have been expected. Its mix of absurdist humor, lonely stoner confusion and detached sadness could not be more miserably, cathartically timely (albeit in its own, unboxable way). Smart money says this one only gets better.

By Emerson Dameron

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