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28 November, 2014@11:29 pm

It wouldn’t really be fair to compare the sound of Blockhead to that of DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing every time we review one of his records. However that is the frame of reference that most people can identify with, so in the interest of turning more people on to his music, just imagine that DJ Shadow never changed his style on Endtroducing and kept making records like that for the last 19 years, and you might begin to understand the sound of Blockhead.

Now on his sixth LP, Bells & Whistles, Blockhead has long settled in to his signature sound, making his brand of sample collages look effortless. This may be his most cohesive release yet, as it sounds like one long piece of music. We get glimpses of 90s trip-hop on laid back tracks like “On The Back Of A Golden Dolphin” and the heavy opening cut “Kaput!” The songs are long and winding paths that grow and evolve, and then circle back around to their origin. Never do you feel like this dude is just randomly jamming; there’s a method to his madness.

As a longtime hip-hop producer, the classic production style resonates all over the LP, even if only in small doses. “The Everything Song”, for instance, sports a vintage filtered bassline – like you might hear Pete Rock or Buckwild do way-back-when – along with unknown old school rap vocal samples for extra flavor. Later on “Sacrificial Santa,” a five-minute, head nodding ethereal séance, we suddenly hear stabs of Shabazz The Disciple screaming “sacrificing babies on the altar!” It’s an ill juxtaposition, but it works.

Chalk that up to Blockhead’s trademark sense of humor, which has been present on all of his albums. While his music is heavy and serious, he lightens the mood from time-to-time with funny samples that don’t belong, which is what truly makes it his. That, and in the song titles. Songs like “Beach Blanket Blood Bath” and the aforementioned “On The Back Of A Golden Dolphin” have little to do with their titles, that’s just Block being Block.

The biggest caveat about delving into any Blockhead album is that it requires patience. This isn’t something you can skip to the next track or fast-forward to the drop. It’s similar to deep house in the fact that you just have to let it play and it will slowly melt into the background. Then, it becomes something you love.

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3 Responses to "Blockhead – “Bells & Whistles” – @@@@1/2 [Review]"
  • Mosley says:

    “Now on his sixth LP, Bells & Whistles, Blockhead has long settled in to his signature sound”

    No offense but I find your lack of understanding frightening. This album sounds absolutely nothing like any of his previous albums. This is a totally different Blockhead. Gone is the fun loving Blockhead music. This has taken a much darker turn and unfortunately for how Blockhead produces his music this doesn’t really work. This album was a large disappointment.

  • Electric Lobster says:

    Great album.

    “Gone is” the more formulaic / traditional beat making style (which I also love) and on with a more progressive dj oriented montage.

  • Chad says:

    It wouldn’t really be fair to compare the sound of Blockhead to that of DJ Shadow’s Endtrducing sacrificing babies on the altar or fast-forward to the drop of his Cookery highly recommended hot Barcelona moods can be depicted as the most memorable moment.

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