Artist: Subjectjazz Records
Title: Dirty Quartet EP
Release Date: 28 Apr 2014
Genre: Jazz / Trip-Hop
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Label: Dusted Wax Kingdom / SoundCloud
Listening to Subjectjazz’s Dirty Quartet made me start asking some questions. Where does he fit relative to todays producers? Well, he’s definitely not Skrillex or Avicii. That alone makes his work more worthy of listening to.
No, instead this is the kind of work that Moby really brought to popularity years ago when he released Play. Of course, there were lots of other producers digging through the wax-stacks and unearthing delicious samples from the dusty grooves for years now. So how does Subjectjazz Records fit into the line of producers who have remixed and layered jazz samples for years now? How has heavily jazz-sampled down-tempo productions advanced over the years?
Subjectjazz’s Dirty Quartet
What Subjectjazz (aka Paul de Monteynard) does exceptionally well is creating atmosphere. Sometimes mysterious, sometimes anxious, almost always dark. He does this by creating a collage of samples from classic jazz records of (mostly) the thirties and forties, and layering quotes from films of the same era. All of this set to down-tempo trip-hop or hip-hop beats.
Most of the films chosen for this work are film noir classics, such as the 1942 adaptation of Dashielle Hammett’s book The Glass Key.
But this is where I’ve come to have a problem with a lot of this style of music production. It’s rather like the film The Glass Key, which as critic Dennis Schwartz wrote (quoting from Wikipedia):
The film is mostly done for entertainment purposes, as it lightly skips over the corrupt political process as merely background for the unlikely love story developing between the engaging Lake and the deadpan Ladd. The film had many undeveloped film noir themes used by other films.
It seems while searching through all the dusty wax grooves for samples, many producers focus primarily on finding things that have hooks that fit well with a beat layered over the top of them. It just doesn’t seem that over the past five to ten years that I have heard much progression in how down-tempo jazz productions. This seems a rather shallow way to treat a whole musical genre that had (and still has) so much going for it.
Make no mistake: I enjoyed listening to Subjectjazz’s Dirty Quartet. It’s got lots of atmosphere, very smooth production, and solid grooves to it. It’s easily the kind of music that one can put on and just chill-out to.
However, I feel that in the quest to find samples that fit these smooth grooves, many producers are ignoring a lot of the real depth of jazz. Jazz isn’t just about hooks and beats. Jazz is about communicating, at it’s best it’s an interactive music form that isn’t easily chopped into little sound bites. Songs like Strange Fruit document a very dark part of American history. Jazz is woven into the history of America, and many other countries. It’s an art form that reflects much about us, our history, and social condition.
I would like to hear what producers can do when they start to embrace the history that goes with the music they are using in their productions. The producer that can do that will really excite me. For now, Subjectjazz is really good, solid, easy listening.