Jazzanova

In Between

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Though Jazzanova's underground credibility and respect among fellow artists never wavered during the late '90s, the German six-piece waited a long time to release a proper full-length (reportedly, it required five years of recording). In Between certainly proves the wait was worth it; the collective has not only a Teutonic efficiency for creating complex, precise, detailed beat tracks -- recalling the earthier side of house, hip-hop, and jazz fusion -- but also the wisdom to focus away from music that sounds like it came out of a laboratory. On the surface, "No Use" is just another smooth acid jazz number with a sensuous female vocal and a depth-plumbing bassline; in the hands of Jazzanova, though, it's transformed into a work of real beauty, an impeccable production with countless touches embellishing the percussion in a way that few acts have been able to do (Nuyorican Soul and 4hero are really the only others in the same league). "The One-Tet," a rap track, features a pair of battling drum breaks and glorious stuttered effects over the awed rapping of Capitol A (unsurprisingly, the production overwhelms the vocal). Beside providing the house and acid jazz equivalent of Kruder & Dorfmeister's sublime deconstructions of dub and hip-hop, the Jazzanova revolution focuses squarely on the drum. Piano, Rhodes keyboards, and acoustic guitar are mostly untouched, along with the songwriting and structure; the percussion and programming, however, are forward-thinking to the point of incomprehension. The only problem here is the length: as usually befalls an ambitious dance record (to say nothing of one that was years in the making), In Between is easily twice as long as it should be. (One hint: program out tracks seven through 13, but leave in nine and 11.)

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