Updated Software V. 2.5

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Updated Software V. 2.5 Review

by Stanton Swihart

Data input: Ultramagnetic MC's, Gang Starr, Main Source, Pete Rock, Company Flow, DJ Shadow, and an assortment of techno toys and state of the art sound-sculpting techniques. Data output: 15 years of influences retooled, reformatted, and reprogrammed into a brilliant, bionic synthesis of D.I.Y. future hip-hop -- the spare parts, cut-and-paste aesthetic of rap's early-'90s golden era upgraded for the knob-twiddling 21st cyber century. That's the simple math of Insight's debut full-length. Prior to going it solo with Updated Software V. 2.5, the producer had already earned his juice around Boston as something of an SP1200 virtuoso, and this 43-track, double-CD only enhanced that reputation. As a beatmaker he is the height of innovation, a streamlined and retrofitted new model Pete Rock who combines contorted piano chords, hauntingly alien sonic chunks and sound effects, galactic keyboards, and Oriental string embellishments with equally formidable microphone skills that fall somewhere between Mr. Lif's deadpan, Rakim copping monotone and the retro sci-fi horseplay of Edan. It results in a first disc of unconventionally proper songs, exceptional from top to bottom even with such instant classics as "Drama," "Humanity," and "That Sh*t Ain't Hot." The second CD includes 26 mostly short, mostly instrumental snippets. Generally speaking, they make up a set of the artist's technical experiments, a sketchbook or tour through his laboratory. What may in fact be rough drafts for Insight, however, would undoubtedly be the most polished -- and probably finest -- finished products for most other producers. Even if he tends to brush them off as throwaways during his intermittent, jocular commentary, they are frequently amazing and provide fascinating (ahem) insight into Insight's creative mindset, evidence of the almost frighteningly abundant reserves of his inspiration. The disc is rounded out with two videos and footage of the artist in his studio, not to mention an interactive game/program with which would-be producers can remix an Insight track with a simulated sampler.

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