Soft Money
Jel - Soft Money
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Jel
Soft Money

As a youngster, Jeffrey Logan learned how to play drums, and then the coronet. The rhythm seemed to be his real love, though, and after saving up some money, he went out and purchased a SP-1200 sampler. He spent a couple years with the machine and after some stints working college radio and passing out demos to friends and local MCs, he teamed up with a Cincinnati rapper named Doseone. On subsequent releases, his circle of friends grew more and more, resulting in the Deep Puddle Dynamics project, Anticon, and a slew of other projects and collaborations over the course of the past couple years.

Jel's first album 10 Seconds was an ode to his old sampler (the title refers to the length of the sample time the unit allows), which he still owns, as well as a love note to three decades of hip-hop that he sampled for the release. Although it's still a sample-based record, Soft Money is more like his true artistic debut, and in typical Anticon fashion features contributions from Steffi Bohm of Ms. John Soda, Dosh, Fog, Poor Righteous Teachers, and several others. The album itself is a wild ride, veering from gritty hip-hop to mid-tempo instrumental work and eerie pop with ethereal female vocals.

The album doesn't open on the strongest foot, as Jel adds some not-so-subtle political vocals to the track "To Buy A Car," which never really seems to get on course. Fortunately, it's followed by what is easily one of the best songs on the entire disc in "All Day Breakfast." Mixing middle-eastern instrument drones, twinkling keyboards, and chopped-up breakbeat rhythms, it's flat-out one of the best instrumental hip-hop tracks I've heard in some time. Ms. John Soda's Bohm lends alternately detached and breathy vocals to the aggressive, yet heady "All Around," and the result is something that sounds something like Broadcast gone aggro.

Jel makes his way back into the release on "Soft Money, Dry Bones," and the track finds him locking in nicely with another politically-tinged attack riding over the top of juicy guitar riff samples, female backing vocals, and yet another thick thump. Although there are several standout vocal tracks (including the aforementioned, and the great political rant of "WMD"), the best tracks on the release are the instrumental numbers where he just lets the beats fly. "Sweet Cream In It" takes some awesome live guitar riffs and tosses them over some chopped-up jittery drumming while elsewhere "Nice Lead" swings back and forth from Boards Of Canada-sounding ambience to polyrhythmic pummelfests. There are a few soft spots on the disc that don't work quite as well, but with twelve tracks running about forty minutes, the album never gets stuck in a rut for too long. If you like instrumental hip-hop and don't mind a few tracks with vocals (most of which are quite well done), Soft Money is worth checking out.

rating: 7.510
Aaron Coleman 2006-03-02 21:38:08