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Cut Chemist at Amoeba on Friday March 4th, 2011

 said it before, I don’t understand much about DJs’ business, what are they doing all the time, with their turntables (when they still have one), their loop-pedals and sound mixers, constantly agitated between all this stuff, changing vinyl records, turning more knobs and what else?… I can’t follow,… but Cut Chemist said it himself in an interview to Spinner, his new live mix album was the most complicated thing he has ever done.

He was playing precisely parts of his new album ‘Sound of the Police’ at Amoeba on Friday night, and I got to the front, on the right side of the stage, next to a little girl who was talking like a grown-up telling me her father was Cut Chemist’s friend! ‘Cool’ I said, before she added ‘My family came to support him!’ … Support him? It’s nice but it looked like he didn’t really need any help seeing the large crowd packed between the CDs rows.

Cut Chemist is a man of legend here, literally, I had heard about him a lot and had never seen him like most legends. His famous vinyl-scratch style is mostly known for having been part of the alternative hip hop Jurassic 5, and Ozomatli, another LA mythology, which mixes about every Latino rhythms from salsa to cumbia, meregue, with a heavy dose of hip-hop, rap and funk. But Cut Chemist, born Lucas MacFadden, has also collaborated with DJ Shadow on a world wide tour and done the Hollywood thing: he is the chemistry teacher in ‘Juno’, and has a short role in ‘Up in the air’. Not bad!

His performance at Amoeba was a trip around the world, with the voice of Fela Kuti, African rumba and hot saxophones, tribal chants and middle-eastern or Mexican rhythms. There was Brazil, then Ethiopia and Sudan, the ‘east side after the west side’, violent beats blending in exotic sounds and lamenting chants, snake charming music diving into African drum beats, a complex cosmopolitan sonic collage that went back to old rhythm & blues, before becoming all bolting sirens over distortion,… and voices repeating ‘That’s the sound of da police’.

Seeing him live is witnessing a reenactment of the album, which was originally intended to be a one time performance for Mochilla’s Timeless concert series in 2009, and it seemed a little bit perilous at times, even though so many things in this vinyl manipulation were escaping me.

There was a video screen behind him, showing every one of his moves, but I was especially looking at his funny logo drawn on his turntable, a pair of scissors opened over a beaker,… a true chemist indeed.

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