Spin recycle

Cut Chemist comes to town in support of his debut solo album

by Emily Garber

Turntabling might be a lost art.

Creative machines that were once only available upon request at high-end music stores can now be found at Toys ‘R’ Us, allowing toddlers to pump out beats like Grandmaster Flash. Wanna-bes can download turntable software right onto their computers and run-of-the-mill DJs settle for café gigs to serenade studying college students.

If it’s really the case that turntabling has lost its flavor in recent years, Cut Chemist is stuck in a time capsule.

Lucas MacFadden, who records under the name Cut Chemist, generates work that’s deeper than a series of wicka-wickas. Chemist lays down wit and humor with his beats, commenting on the art of turntabling by toying with age-old techniques. He even manages to sneak in surf-rock, samba and polka without losing his edge.

MacFadden started out with the underground rap group Unity Committee, which eventually joined with Rebels of Rhythm to form the well-known hip-hop crew Jurassic 5. He produced and contributed to the “Jurassic 5 EP,” all the while dabbling in the Los Angeles Latin hip-hop group Ozomatli. He has also collaborated with DJ Shadow and Liquid Liquid, and broke a few barriers by scratching for Less Than Jake.

This summer, Cut Chemist released his first solo album, “The Audience’s Listening.” The record is a mishmash of found quotes, exotic vocals and pounding beats, cleverly reminiscent of feel-good block parties during the 1980s.

Cut Chemist with Lyrics Born

WHEN: 10 p.m. today
WHERE: Foundation Nightclub, 10 Fifth St. S., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $14 advance / $18 door, 21-plus, (612) 332-3931

Except for a few vocal samples, “The Audience’s Listening,” is free of trendy tricks and cheap shots. On the single “The Garden,” Chemist opens with jazz banjo patterns before laying in vocal samples from Brazilian bossa-nova legend Astrud Gilberto. Her voice lounges across orchestral strings and heavy bass beats.

Chemist creates a turntable conversation backed up by jazz piano on the track “Spat,” starting it out with a scratch that sounds like “Hello?” Two turntables answer each other, seemingly argue, then spin out of control at the end of the track.

Even though “The Audience’s Listening” is mainly a solo attempt, it still leaves room for collaborations. The song “What’s the Altitude” features rhyme master Hymnal, whose lyrics “She gave me head Ö phones” contribute to the album’s wisecrack tone. With the song “Storm,” Chemist draws guest MCs Edan and Mr. Lif into a freestyle rap session, distorting their voices like a sonic funhouse mirror.

On “Motivational Speaker,” Cut Chemist might be predicting his own future. A vocal sample from the 1950s, the kind which DJs seem to be able to locate without any trouble, declares, “The DJ of the future is going to be a respected member of the community.” A different voice responds, “If you don’t like the product, keep your mouth shut. It’s as simple as that.”