DJ Olive
Bodega

The Agriculture
2003
D-



confession: back in the day (circa 97/98), I was a beat-junkie. Chilled-out sampledelica was my cup of tea. For a loose definition of the sound, imagine repetitive bong hits. As you might guess, the quickly-defined formula: dubbed out drum-work/hazy samples usually evoking soul or funk grew tiresome.

Illbient appeared to be the worst exemplar of these crimes, what with the self-appointed spokesman, DJ Spooky, taking much of the press for his pretentious babbles that accompanied much of his inane music. With the growing prominence of the label Agriculture, however, the world is now realizing that DJ Spooky wasn’t the only artist working in the genre. Perhaps it’s due to the lack of full-length material available from its other practitioners? DJ Olive, for example, is just now releasing Bodega, his debut album under this moniker. And while Bodega definitely fuses together all the right elements for a blunted adventure of sub-bass dub territories, there doesn't appear to be much left to excavate.

Suited more for the illbient's Brooklyn SoundLab and rooftop parties, the dubbed-out atmospherics inhibit any sort of tension. Songs like "Yard Swing" and "Ballad & Scrambled" move in and out of the mix and providing no sense of intensity—the sound fragments meander and act as little more than painfully dull crutch. Against the tightly-wound rhythm, all the quotes of earlier beat-composers make their shiny cameos. But lost are the idiosyncratic elements, like DJ Shadow's broken drum machine, that made those artists so compelling.

The enveloping production does achieve a few memorable moments. "Round Fire Strut" uses panning to playfully misplace the melody. The song then segues into a child's mutter of lost nostalgia (a la Boards of Canada) and "Hen Porch Blues" with sublime rapid-fire synth and a blaring horn section. These songs provide a moment where DJ Olive appears from behind his huge stack of equipment and winks. But ultimately, the same fascination with straight-faced clichés abound—from the obligatory introductory atmospherics of "Ally Way" to the gentle female vocals of "Coffee Grind", Bodega uses every well-trodden trick in the book.

Bodega isn't necessarily bad - it just feels tired. Maybe after the countless years amid the mid-90's beat quagmire, I'm not nostalgic for a throw-back "instrumental hip-hop" golden era. DJ Olive definitely appears to be in charge of his craft, but hopefully in subsequent releases, he’ll push outside Bodega’s tired musical vocabulary and establish a new one.



Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2004-04-21

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