Means of Production

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For several years before he debuted with the acclaimed full-length Cold Water Music, Aim's Andy Turner was producing hip-hop instrumentals of a surprisingly high quality -- especially so for the times. During an era when bedsit trip-hop often resulted in simplistic, superficial joints like the limp-wristed "I Can Water My Plants," Aim tracks focused American rap -- from jazzy to hardcore to old-school -- into a laser beam of breakbeat music that was hard-hitting and infectious but still intelligent. Means of Production recycles ten tracks of his 1995-98 best for Grand Central, illustrating that Turner had more of the crate-digger's art than higher-profile figures like the DJs Cam or Vadim or Krush, if not Shadow. Like some of the producers mentioned earlier, Turner does have a whiff of the chemist to him, precisely measuring out his samples -- golden-age rapper, soul shouter, funky guitar line, jazzy keys -- and so coming up with another jamming track. From the sound of it, he's inspired mostly by Grandmaster Flash circa 1979 (the outré hard-rock and disco flourishes) and DJ Premier circa 1992 (the plowing beats and wailing reeds). No matter who he's rescuing from the record racks (whether it's Biz Markie or Eddie Palmieri's Harlem River Drive), he shows a firm grasp of how to produce an excellent, unified track out of four or five disparate parts, each of them working together. Most importantly of all, these productions show Turner's mastery at making distinctive productions, like the mad-scientist-sampling horrorcore of "Demonique" or the sunny guitar pop of "Original Stuntmaster," which features extended samples from an Evil Knievel Q&A session (with kids!). Also ranking up there is "Phantasm," which merges a hard-bopping Hammond B-3 with transcendent strings evoking Derrick May's techno landmark "Strings of Life." During the years when many British trip-hop producers were just beginning to explore cut-and-paste hip-hop, Turner had nearly perfected it.

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