Namo: Analogue Skyline
Dirty Chi Music

Namo: Movin N Groovin
Dirty Chi Music

Analogue Skyline, a self-described “tribute to the Golden Era,” is the brainchild of Namo aka Nam Vu, a Long Beach, California DJ and beatmaker who used nothing more than an MPC, sp404, ProTools, and old vinyl records to produce the album's material. With twenty sample-heavy cuts of instrumental hip-hop and dirty boom-bap spread across a seventy-minute running time, no one track sticks around for too long and boredom never sets in.

After a street rap (“In the Beginning...”) nicely establishes the album's old-school tone, the music kicks into gear with “Skylines,” a prototypical Namo cut in its pairing of multiple crackly samples (in this case, a Fleetwood Mac-styled acoustic guitar part) and headnodding beats. Dusty and dirty, tracks like “Outta Townaz” and “Biggie vs. New Harlem Sound” dig into their downtempo grooves with relish, in some cases augmented by an MC's drawl (in a few cases Vu's blend of instrumental loops and MCing could pass for CYNE, one example being “Soul Chips RMX”). Smatterings of Fender Rhodes and saxes surface occasionally too, tipping Namo's material into a more soul-jazz direction, while turntable scratching also solidifies the material's old-school allegiance. An occasional curve ball takes the music in a different direction, such as during the Latin-flavoured lilt of “Endless Mile,” but regardless of the left turn the music takes there's always a crisp bottom end to keep things locked in place. The flutter of a tenor sax and the legato flow of jazz guitar lend appeal to the slow-motion breeze of “June Gloom,” while the feathery sound of a Greg Osby-styled alto sax enhances the serpentine flow of “Bad Habits.”

Vu does a pretty good job of camouflaging the samples' origins, though it's sometimes obvious where they've come from, a case in point the voiceover from Taxi Driver (Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle) that leads into the boombastic drum solo in “Mindful DUB P.1.” Truth be told, you won't hear anything terribly trailblazing on the album, but one presumes Vu's aim isn't to spearhead a new genre but rather offer a satisfying riff on an existing one. It's certainly a credible enough take whose bass-thumping jams offer a more than pleasurable listen.

For those whose appetite isn't completely sated by Analogue Skyline, Vu's also issued Movin N Groovin, a seven-inch single available in a 500-copy edition. There's certainly no denying the serious headnod of the title cut, whose dizzying MC loops help lodge the tune in memory, and the B side's “Now You Know” also oozes a delectably laid-back flow, especially when its flute playing adds a jazzy quality to its hip-hop pulse.

October 2011