As a key member in both Jurassic 5 and Ozmatli, Cut Chemist proved his worth as one of the world’s most forward thinking DJs / producers. After leaving both groups he then began collaborating with the legendary DJ Shadow on a number of projects before the two began a worldwide tour, selling out countless venues. This Dublin Button Factory gig marks the first time he’s played in Ireland in over three years, so excitement is high as people are curious to see what new skills he’ll bring to the table.
Undertaking the role of sidekick for the night is visual expert Tom Fitzgerald. With any Cut Chemist gig it’s as much a spectacle as it a musical experience. Seeing Chemist flay the decks is half the reason people are here, so when the entire thing is fused together by Fitzgerald’s live visuals it adds serious weight to the experience. Any subtle lyrical mention of an object or place is instantly displayed by Fitzgerald, who seems to be reading Cut Chemist’s mind with an uncanny amount of psychic relevance (or who knows the tracklisting prior to taking the stage).
Playing a huge role throughout his set are the earthy rhythms of both Africa and Latin America. ‘Berimbau’ is at the foreground of this, receiving that most prestigious of prefaces, “Check this shit out.” These foreign styles have a lot more purpose than a simple attempt at versatility. Cut Chemist draws attention to the similarities between these traditional forms of music and contemporary hip-hop. By seamlessly blending them together he highlights the seminal values of African and Latin music.
Aside from playing a mix of world music, Cut Chemist also focuses on some homespun charms. That distinct West Coast sound that’s constantly featured in his records naturally plays a large part in his live performance. Everything from old school hip-hop to surf rock and dubstep get a spin, and all with the recognisable stamp of California attached to them. He, of course, throws in a few J5 tracks for good measure too. ‘Contact’, ‘Swing Set’, ‘Break’, and ‘Day at the Races’ all get their turn, as do some tracks from his 2006 solo album, The Audience’s Listening. On top of that, we’re treated to two apparent world premieres from his upcoming album. The first of which is a bass heavy tune that actually has twinges of metal in it. The second track is an aggressive fusion of punk rock and hip-hop, but so quick is the tempo that both genres are left twiddling their thumbs in the wake of some truly turbulent drum work. Both songs serve as effective vaunt for his next release.
At times it’s clear that the songs themselves are simply secondary. They’re necessary tools in order for Cut Chemist to display his unnatural turntable skills. Operating a total of four decks, he constantly launches into furious bouts of precision scratching. At one point simultaneously scratching on the two end decks, giving him the impression of a robotic pendulum. He beat juggles to the point where he’s basically making his own tunes. Anyone who doubts the validity of turntables as a reputable instrument certainly hasn’t seen Cut Chemist live.
Photos: Alan Moore.