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Published: 2002/09/24
by Jesse Jarnow

Front End Lifter – Yohimbe Brothers

Ropeadope Records 7567 93136

DJ Logic and Vernon Reid's Yohimbe Brothers is a sonically adventurous sound
collage of samples, grooves, and squealing guitar action. It's certainly the
first step in redeeming Logic from some of his more questionable
associations in recent years (which – hopefully – bottomed out with an, umm,
remix of Gov't Mule's "Soulshine"). The two fill the space with a stunning
array of distorted, and often playful, sound. There is very little open
space left over.

A lot of the time, it's a bit hard to tell what noise is coming from which
musician (there's also a wide array of guests, including all of Reid's
Living Colour bandmates, Soul Coughing's Yuval Gabay, Prince Paul, and
others). This is when the music is at its best. In other places, it's
stunningly obvious: Reid's thick, muscular, highly affected, prog-like tone
wrenches its way on top of the grooves. During those moments, it sounds like
a less effective version of the Dust Brothers' classic rock pastiches on the
Beastie Boys' Paul’s Boutique.

I was listening to the radio the other night, and a remixed Aretha Franklin
song came on. At first, I didn't think anything of it. It just seemed
perfectly normal. And it was perfectly normal. But it didn't used to
be. The idea that music could be taken off disc and reconfigured was, at one
point, completely mindblowing and reinvigorating. There was also something
snotty about it. To rip a riff off a record and loop it endlessly as the
core of the song — well, that's more punk rock than most punk rock.
Scratching, at least in its original form, has a violent, insurgent poetry
to it — literally, a scratch across the surface of a record, perhaps
damaging it.

Now, though, scratching almost seems like a gimmick to show off that the
beat or sample is being lifted from somewhere else. What's far more
interesting, I think, is burying the source — recontextualizing it so much
that all traces of the original are lost. When he wants to, Logic employs a
few methods for this. The most common methods found on Front End
Lifter involve chaos: drenching the sources in effects, layering them,
distorting them, and generally creating a wild aural picture. In that
regard, much of the album is cluttered mid-range mud.

When Logic and Reid give themselves room to breathe, either by employing
slower beats or spacier approaches, the music they make is more pleasing. On
the all too short "$moke and Dust Dub (Version)" and the seriously echoed
"Transmission XXX", the beats percolate and find emotional hooks — ditto
for the circus-like weirdness of "Welcome 2 The Freq Show". When the two let
up like this, they really seem to get inside the beats and make the
music feel completely original.

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