With technology's growth spurt in the past several years, particularly in terms of music recording technology, now anyone can make mash-ups, cut-and-paste samples from iTunes and become an amateur DJ of sorts. But to go beyond the amateurism, a deft touch is needed: a sense of musicality as well as a strong feel for rhythmic precision.
Dayton's Ruckus Roboticus is a mix-master of the highest order, wisely compared to the likes of DJ Shadow and his statemate, RJD2. Roboticus has remixed Bloc Party and jammed the turntable and drum machine on stage with artists like Prince Paul and Mr. Lif. But his debut album, Playing With Scratches, is all Roboticus. Well, and about a million samples, culled most prominently from old children's albums and instructional recordings.
Like Girl Talk, Roboticus' music is, first and foremost, fun, and the kid-record samples add to the playfulness. Beneath the merriment is a funky quilt of scratches and endless breakbeats, all craftily weaved together to give the record a high level of funkiness. The humor level is also pretty high — on "How to Handle Grown Ups," a distinguished announcer gives tips for kids to relate to adults, but ends with a froggy voice instructing tikes to tell their elders, "You smell like a piece of doo-doo." "A Child's Introduction to Drums" is a marvel of beat intertwining, as various pieces of a drum kit are demonstrated, clashing and colliding in perfect sync with numerous outside rhythms.
A lot of albums like this can become monotonous and trancelike, but Roboticus assembles his clips and beats together in a compositional manner, making it more than just background music for your next party and actually something you could listen to on a regular basis and still hear something new every time you put it on. Though primarily for grown-ups, Playing With Scratches might just be the hippest kids' album ever made. It certainly is the funkiest. Grade: A