James Pants

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Ex-marching band drummer-turned DJ-turned producer from Spokane, WA, James Pants explains the spirit of his first full-length -- on the same label responsible for breaking underground hip-hop mavericks Madlib, J Dilla, and Guilty Simpson -- by saying, "It's just the sound of really cheap equipment, listening to a lot of records, and goofing off." Left of center even by Stones Throw's eclectic standards, Welcome isn't a hip-hop release, per se. Instead, it appropriates and revitalizes electro sounds of the '80s, adding elements of soul, new wave, post-punk, and techno along the way. Made up of primarily old-school sounds from vintage synths and drum machines that he scored from thrift stores, Pants played the remaining drum, keyboard, bass, and guitar parts himself in his garage studio, and the record sounds remarkably true to the era that he's emulating, mainly due to his pile of analog gear. "Cosmic Rapp" is flavored with claps from a Roland CR-8000 CompuRhythm, gummy synth-bass, and robo-vocals sung through a vocoder, turning it into a pop-locking jam worthy of a block party DJ set, right between Whodini's "Five Minutes of Funk" and Newcleus' "Jam on It." While carbonated synth gurgles and 808 beats are the heart of the first couple tracks, other cuts are more progressive. "My Girl" and "Finger on the Knife" are drum-heavy shout-alongs that share more in common with indie rock than indie rap, and "Crystal Lite" and "Ka$H" (which both feature soul singer Deacon Leon Davis) could practically be Gnarls Barkley B-sides. Unfortunately, consistency isn't Pants' strong point, and the latter half of the CD falters with a spattering of sparse instrumentals that feel more like skeletal after-thoughts than fully developed creations. At the grandest moments, Pants accomplishes his mission of re-creating the dance-happy fun funk of Chromeo and Cameo, and the cardboard-spinning electro boogie of Arabian Prince and Egyptian Lover. If you're feeling retro, you can't ask for much more than that.

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