While there is no animated movie to accompany it, there might as well be, as D-Styles’ Phantasmagoria is the best turntablist album since DJ Q-Bert’s Wave Twisters, if not one that surpasses it. But for this writer, “all that scratchin’ is making me itch,” and in a bad way. That’s right, I’m not a frequent visitor to Scratchappyland, and while the skill of the turntablist is respected, after ten minutes of three guys scratching in unison, it gets a little tiring. Naturally, I wouldn’t even touch this album, but after overhearing it a few times, I had to take a deeper listen - this actually sounded really dope.
The theme that runs concurrent throughout the entire album is like “Faces of Death” on wax, as D-Styles incorporates a montage of different samples from horror movies, sensational serial killer documentaries, anti-drug videos, and the nightly news. But in all of its darkness, there is a certain comedy to it that makes it entertaining, as it’s more Dr. Octagon than Necro. For instance, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” exhibits D-Styles as the “regular sort of guy, who liked hamburgers and chocolate ice cream”, as he manipulates horrific pianos with turntablist boom-bap among a psychosis of samples. Or “Cliffords Mustache”, which portrays him as the guy across the street with “cocaine on his mustache” who’s “into wife swapping and sex parties”, again manipulating edgy pianos and cutting up cries of fear. Sounds nasty on paper, but dope on wax.
However, towards the end, D-Styles strays off course a little with “Flowtation Device”, which still searches for an answer to the tired old question, “what is a DJ if he can’t scratch”, for the most part he sticks to the script. But the thing that makes this album a true accomplishment is that it trends the line between technique and style. So many times we’ve heard DJ’s try and make records that show off their skill, but musically sounds like a lot of noise. But D-Styles has done the impossible, seamlessly bringing technique and style together. Not only does this album play like one long piece of music, but listen to tracks like “John Wayne On Acid”, “The Murder Faktory”, or the posse cut “Felonius Funk” (feat. DJ Babu, Q-Bert & Melo-D), and then ask yourself if this sounds like a bunch of endless scratching. In the liner notes, D-Styles writes “If at times you happen to forget that I created these songs solely from scratching, then I’ve succeeded.” Indeed he has.
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