El-P always seems to be a step or two ahead of the rest of the underground circuit. First it was the passionately unique “Funcrusher Plus” with Company Flow, and then, learning from the mistakes of distributor Rawkus Records, he created his own indy label. Definitive Jux has grown quite powerful since, and he must have felt the need to innovate in other directions. Recently, he has set up DJRx, an online only record label through the Def Jux website. An all-instrumental release, ArcSin’s “Resonant Murk Tactics,” is the first release on this new online venture.
ArcSin is the latest Def Jux producer, and his sound is tailor-made for the spacey samples and violent drums that make up much of the material out of the camp. He previously produced a couple of tracks on the “Definitive Jux Presents 3” compilation, which were relative successes, fitting in with the context of the album and its continuity. “Resonant Murk Tactics” does not have an emcee’s voice on it, though, so it is ArcSin’s show all the way. El-P must have plenty of faith in this fellow to bless such an unproven talent with an entire full-length release.
“Led Raindrop Destruction” is the opener, and the twisted mechanical sounds chug along lethargically across the running time of two-plus minutes. The stereotypical Def Jux production can only be successful when melodic elements creep through the overbearing sound effects, and this track is no different. The music sounds professional and is relatively satisfying, but there is almost no underlying melody to speak of.
Luckily, the appetizer fades out quickly and we are treated to the more immediately pleasing “Backlight Pain.” Many of the effects used sound similar to the previous song, but the result is much less abrasive and the music has a slight therapeutic effect. “Atomic Sunrise” is more of the same, but with a title that perfectly matches the feel of the song, as it slowly builds from scratch into a soft crescendo of synths.
As the disc goes on, the monotony begins to set in a bit. Though each track is unique, when placed together, they all jumble together with the same restrained urgency that each exhibits individually. There is some musical alteration occurring within each track as it develops, but the songs do not switch up enough to be outwardly noticeable, and though each beat is very complex the album is ultimately difficult to experience straight through more than once or twice. Within the confines of the blueprint that ArcSin seems to be working with, “Resonant Murk Tactics” is very successful, but the bubble that appears to be surrounding the creativity of his production is stifling for his artistry. “Filthy Temple Touch” and “The .50 Caliber Shrine,” falling back to back at tracks eight and nine, are stretching the boundaries of the disc at times, but they still manage to cling to the orbit of the rest of the material. Everything is too similar to work as a whole unit, despite some of the interesting qualities that many of the tracks have on their own.
Across fourteen tracks, there is plenty of intriguing material, but those who aren’t die-hard listeners of even the moodiest Def Jux material will find it strenuous to wade through the whole album. Variation and creativity are a must for instrumental albums, and there are only small doses of each of these. With a capable emcee riding over his work, ArcSin would have something much more compelling. As is, it’s tough to get through without feeling a little depressed or agitated. “Resonant Murk Tactics” is high-quality, but ultimately uninspiring and just the slightest bit frustrating.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: n/a of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: April 19, 2005