“Statement Of Intent”
(Project Blue Book Records)
It’s been nearly a decade since the release of UK vinyl junkie DJ Format’s 2003 debut album “Music For The Mature B-Boy” and seven years since its follow-up, 2005’s “If You Can’t Join ‘Em…Beat ‘Em”. Since then the Brighton-based producer’s presence on wax has been fairly limited, with Format becoming known more for his party-rocking live deejay sets and mixes than his own musical output. But, as its title suggests, with this third album the dedicated crate-digger returns to remind listeners of his capabilities behind the boards with what appears to be a renewed sense of vigour.
To these ears, “Statement Of Intent” showcases the work of a rejuvenated Format. It’s not that any of the tracks included here are a million miles away from the producer’s trademark mix of obscure samples, deft cuts and hand-picked underground lyricists, but there does seem to be a grittier, more aggressive feel to this project in places compared to Format’s past work, as if he really felt he had something to prove this time around (perhaps to himself more than others). If so, that sense of purpose and determination has definitely led to some positive results in the studio.
Having worked closely on previous releases with Canada’s Abdominal, this time around it’s Washington D.C.-raised Diggers With Gratitude emcee Sureshot La Rock who maintains a constant and welcome presence throughout “Statement Of Intent”. The opening title track finds the talented wordsmith giving props to some of the pair’s shared old-school influences, name-checking the likes of Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz over expertly chopped beats and a variety of fast-moving samples. Whilst on the Levi 167-sampling “Dope Pusher”, La Rock peppers the track’s dense soundscape with cocky, larger-than-life boasts.
The relentless “Spaceship Earth” features Boston’s Edan travelling at magnificent speeds around the universe, dropping a rapid multi-syllable flow that would make Big Daddy Kane smile over rattling drums and whip-lashing psychedelic guitar (“Starting a colony deep in the galaxy must be the aim of astronomy, Crooked economy killing ecology”).
On the instrumental side, the dusty vibes, old-school chants and free-flowing funk of “Beyond Disco” (co-produced by The Simonsound) evokes the eclectic feel of mixes heard on Afrika Islam’s NY-based early-80s “Zulu Beat” radio show, whilst the brilliant “Battle Of The Planets” brings back memories of the electro era, with Format taking to the vocoder to issue dance-friendly instructions over rolling drums, melodic synths and space-age sound effects (“The whole galaxy is watching, This is a universal jam….Interplanetary b-boys I know you came to throw down”).
Another stand-out is the humorous “Remember…” which features Sureshot La Rock cleverly paying homage to the various females who’ve been immortalised on wax by the likes of Just-Ice, Stetsasonic and UTFO over dreamy chimes and mellow guitar (“The other day I took a stroll down memory lane, Erick and Parrish were makin’ dollars pimpin’ out Jane, You shoulda seen her kickin’ game, I tried not to stare but, It’s been twenty years with that Anita Baker haircut!”).
With further input from Mr. Lif, Phill Most Chill and The Nostalgia 77 Quintet, “Statement Of Intent” covers a lot of musical ground, from true-school breakbeat-driven anthems (“Live At The Place To Be”) to full-blown jazz (“The Long Goodbye”), but Format consistently hits the target regardless of where his musical inspiration is coming from.
In my opinion, “Statement Of Intent” contains DJ Format’s best work to date, mixing his experimental tendencies and love of Hip-Hop with a new sense of urgency and sonic vitality. As far as statements go, this particular one is hard to refute.
DJ Format ft. Edan – “Spaceship Earth” (Project Blue Book Records / 2012)