he startling sound of Elizabeth Alexander’s voice (quoting from her Antebellum Dream Book: “Hello holy rollers who plug in their amps, blow out the power in the building, preach to the street from the stoop”) backed by free blowing sax and tribal drums in the spoken word “Overture: Watermelon City” signals immediately that Special Gunpowder isn’t your typical DJ mix. Better yet, it’s merely the first surprise in an album teeming with them. Following upon numerous remix and compilation appearances, the long-awaited debut full-length from Barcelona resident DJ/Rupture (Jace Rupture) was assembled over a two-year span and certainly sounds like it, not in the sense of sounding laboured but in the amount of coordination and effort involved in obtaining contributions from the many guests. The sixteen-track result resembles an hour spent listening to the hippest radio station in the country as its flits between snaking dub tunes (“Leech Wisdom”), turntablist hip-hop (“Je Suis Le Peuple Sans Visage” featuring the French flow of Programme’s Arnaud Michniak), funky ragga (Wicked Act’s impassioned toasting on “No Heathen”), even acoustic guitar-piano interludes (“Leaves”).
Virtually every track is rendered memorable by its guests’ contributions or its stylistic contrast with the others. “Little More Oil,” for instance, showcases Sister Nancy’s joyous singing in a funky dancehall number sweetened by Joel Robinow’s burnished trumpet playing, with added help from Kit Clayton on keyboards and guest production from Kid606, no less. “Taqasim,” on the other hand, provides a vehicle for the singing tones of Abdel Hak’s Eastern-tinged violin and Ghislain Poirer’s hip-hop beats. Sounding like Suzanne Vega, Lily drops her dulcet tones over the melancholy “Lonesome Side” with Ben Jammin adding tasty sax obbligato. Rupture moves further afield with his remix of Fosforo’s infectious, Latin-flavoured “Musquito (Club Foot Remix)” and ends the album audaciously with the classic country folk of “Mole In The Ground” featuring Sindhu Zagoren’s banjo and gentle vocal.
Not surprisingly, ragga is accorded a generous album share, with Junior Cat appearing amongst the darkly congealing breakbeats of “Flop We,” while Shockout maven Wayne Lonesome contributes fierce toasting to “Dem Nuh Know Me,” here given a tight and punchy Alias-Bias mix. Hip-hop highlights include Rupture’s steaming “Bonechip” remix, a glitchy and snarling take on King Honey’s “Trinity ft. Chief Hezekiah, Kamachi, and Goz,” and the instrumental “Osaka-Ku Memory Depot” featuring chiming guitar flutter from Ove-Naxx. Only a single misstep emerges, a scraping splattercore showcase for the caustic ravings of Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson. While the track perpetuates the album’s commitment to stylistic diversity, it’s more an episode one endures than enjoys.
What could have been an incoherent post-modern bricolage of disjointed pieces is held together by its predominating mix of reggae, ragga, and dub rhythms as well as Rupture’s governing intelligence and judicious sequencing. While his name might conjure an image of the prototypical nightclubbing turntablist, the persona that emerges by album’s end is that of an open-minded producer committed to aurally documenting the inestimable richness of the global village. Special Gunpowder indeed.
Reviewed by: Ron Schepper
Reviewed on: 2004-10-20