By Philip Coombs
It must be quite a challenge walking into a recording session, looking directly across the room, and seeing nothing but a set of eyes and cables, lots and lots of cables linking and powering electronics of every possible conceivability. Compared to all the firepower that DJ Lemar (turntablist) brings to the sonic soup, Raphael Roginski (guitar) is relatively effect free mostly relying on a clean tone to cut through whatever he is faced with. It must have been similar to what Garry Kasparov saw when he sat down to face Deep Blue; seemingly unlimited moves to defend against by a machine with it's programmer looking on.
But it isn't as cut and dry as that. Like a well seasoned and experienced musician playing a traditional instrument, DJ Lemar's muscle control and speed in changing a mood as the song dictates is up there with anybody while never letting the machines control him. He is molding the arrangement with a confident hand the same as Roginski is doing with his guitar, and considering the nature of duos, this is a positive arrangement.
Despite Lenar's turntables, samplers, and loopers, there is a personalized sound coming from all the machines. He uses a vinyl scratch effect on multiple tracks very effectively, grounding the listener in the familiar. From here he adds his own flare. On the opening number, Wait Till The End, for example, he uses orchestral samples to give it a bright ending. On Windmill Love, his percussion manipulation is the track's excitement. Roginski keeps it all in the pocket as Lemar ramps the drum's tempo until it becomes a single sound.
Roginski very much has his own voice. Whether it be recreating a tone from a spaghetti western soundtrack, Can I Die With You? or experimenting with some simple effects of his own like the very understated Death Left On Pavement.
They save the best for last as both musicians come together to stretch the blues as far as they can take it. It is on Between Zone Settler, that a thin twangy guitar meets a processed vocal full of pain and hurting mixed over a bed of rumbling beats. The voice gets shifted in both time and pitch squeezing everything out of it. Sometimes making it sound more human, sometimes less. The guitar keeps to a relative blues blueprint but emotionally keeps up with the vocal with ease.
This recording was not the man versus machine battle I was first expecting. When it comes to expectations in music, it is sometimes really good to be wrong. There was no winner here or "I told you so", just an album I found myself putting on again and again, and with each listen appreciating just what a DJ can bring to this type of setting. A musically satisfying stalemate as it were.
Can be purchased from the label.