reaking free of production duties for various Anticon MC’s, on 10 Seconds Jel engages in what he does best- making tracks without a care in the world as to how they will be used. In this case, the songs are all instrumental- and all created on the SP-1200 sampler. The sampler has a long history of use among hip-hop aficionados, but a limited sampling amount in length (all must be less than ten seconds, hence the title) and bits (all less than 12 bits, making the samples a bit grimy on the whole).
That being the case, ten seconds and twelve bits offer up limitless possibility- and Jel takes complete advantage of the situation here, as is the case with most of his production work with groups such as Themselves, Deep Puddle Dynamics, and solo projects by Sole and Sage Francis. On the whole, the songs are defined by a distinct funk. Yearning guitar licks, frenetic scratching, and bombastic drums are the order of the day on nearly all of the tracks giving the album both a cohesive and monotonous feel.
It’s obvious, on one hand, that Jel is a talented producer, mining snippets of old records for the perfect sound on each song. On the other hand, however, few songs on the record stand out from this overall benchmark of quality. Jel becomes a victim of his own success on this record making solid, yet unmemorable paeans to soul, much like RJD2’s recent Deadringer. Where RJ constructed solid songs with choruses and a distinctive feel to each individual track, Jel is constrained by a lack of a knock-out punch, so to speak.
There are moments of pure brilliance, however. “Tune Select”, clocking in at a lean 97 seconds mixes a guitar chord, a bouncy beat, and a repeated chorus over and over to a hypnotic and glorious effect. Later on in the record, “Truncate” ups the funk element mixing a Stevie Wonder-esque bass and keyboard stabs to a constantly shifting, yet utterly familiar and stable beat.
As stated before, however, these moments of brilliance are fleeting- and they pale in comparison to the moments on RJD2’s Deadringer that stick in the head for days on end, as any quality song does. Jel’s 10 Seconds has its share of those “Wow!” moments, but perhaps excusing himself from the self imposed constraints of a love letter to the sampler that he uses, Jel will be able to one day construct the type of coherent and memorable document of instrumental hip-hop that both RJ and DJ Shadow have done. He certainly has the ability- but does he have the will?