Music Reviews

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Artist: KJ Sawka
Title: Synchronized Decompression
Format: CD
Label: Wax Orchard
Rated: *****
Kevin Sawka is to the west coast what Jojo Mayer is to the east coast: live drum'n'bass at its best. Based in Seattle, KJ Sawka started out in the mid ninetees and gained popularity playing with Siamese, but today he runs his own show and keeps pushing the envelope with sweaty jaw-dropping club performances and collaborations with the like of Bill Frisell, Amon Tobin, Reggie Watts of Maktub, Michael Shrieve of Santana (who took him under his wing), DJ Logic and many others. "Synchronized Decompressions" is twelve tracks (plus a ROM track with three bonus tracks) of drum'n'bass and jungle breakbeats with samples and electronic sounds and occasional female vocals. The album flows pretty well although it should probably be a DVD. What I mean by that, is that watching a live drummer tangle together insanely complex breaks and tying them up with super fast beats is really exciting, but whether "Synchronized Decompression" can stand on its on feet is a whole other story. I am not implying it doesn't, but it just ain't quite as exciting as a live show or as some other better drum'n'bass records out there. For one, KJ Sawka's attempt at d'n'b songwriting grandness is lacking some of those solid sun-sonic bass lines that we love and that make the room tremble. On the other hand he often chooses the more atmospheric and electronic path over the strictly mid-'90es d'n'b, which gives it that experimental aura that sets him apart from all the others doing the strict thing, which is cool. The introduction of the vocal parts also gives into that new perspective and makes the album equally approachable for fans of Delerium as well as (of course) fans of Jojo Mayer, M'Lumbo, Amon Tobin, Jamalski, LTJ Bukem, Al-Haca Soundsystem, Censor, Squarepusher, Laurent Brondel, Dieselboy, Rony Size and so forth... Definitely worth checking out.

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