Jel: Soft Money

Jel's Soft Money largely eschews Anticon rapping for a broader palette of styles and sounds, all of it rooted in the boom-bap of Jeffrey Logan's SP-1200 beat-making (much like his 2002 10 Seconds debut). The new disc's a nice mix of head-nodding instrumentals, scratching, doomsday breaks, and well-considered guest shots, with Wise Intelligent (Poor Righteous Teachers), Stephanie Bohm (Ms. John Soda), Hervé Salters (General Electrics), Pedestrian, and cLOUDDEAD's Odd Nosdam joining the fray. Certainly there's a strong suggestion that Logan 's recent involvement in 13 & God, the outfit he and Doseone's Themselves share with The Notwist, has contributed to Soft Money's expansive melodic character.

Bohm in particular enhances Jel's sound, with her silken voice boosting the epic trip-hopper “All Around” and her punctuation sweetening the doomsday hip-hop of “Soft Money, Dry Bones.” (Though Morr Music and Anticon might seem like strange bedfellows, the pairing isn't without precedent given Alias's past collaborations with Lali Puna and Styrofoam.) On a more ferocious tip, MCs ferociously declaim over dive-bomber beats in “Thrashin” while Jel's broiling breaks make a perfect foil for Wise Intelligent's anti-Bush smackdown “WMD.” Occasionally rapping too, Jel layers anti-commercial bite (“Don't buy this product / You don't need it”) over a swirl of funk breaks and hazy samples in “To Buy a Car.” More often than not, however, beats do the talking for him on smoked-out instrumentals like “Sweet Cream in It,” which stokes a greasy brew of scurrying beats and truck-stop guitar, and the Indian-flavoured “All Day Breakfast.” The album's marred slightly by a silly coda (“Chipmunk Technique”) but, on the whole, Soft Money is as satisfying an Anticon release as has been heard in recent days.

February 2006