England - Full Moon 87 - 11/09/03
DJ Andy Smith
The Document 2
There is a current vogue in pop music for the bootleg. This largely underground
phenomenon of splicing 2 existing records together to make a new one has this
year gone overground in a big way. This is largely thanks to bootlegger to the
stars, Richard X, who fashioned new magic out of old for both The Sugababes and
Liberty X during 2003, and proved that sometimes the bootleg is the passport to
pop perfection. Most of the time, though, the tunes 'created' have a shelf-life
about as long as the 30 seconds it takes to get the one joke behind the idea,
which seems to combine po-faced dance-music superiority with the laziest excesses
of the novelty single.
Portishead DJ Andy Smith can revel in the same kind of juxtaposition of
styles, but with none of the related cringe factor. As if to highlight bootlegging
as the artistic cul-de-sac it really is, The Document 2 glides in on a truly innovative
meshing of styles: the minor-key beauty of Kate Bush's "The Man With The Child In His
Eyes" is suddenly underpinned by a funky breakbeat, then an acapella version of Akbar's
hip-hop flow on "Hot Ya Hot" comes in, which in turn begins to slide over a James Brown
instrumental called, with poetic appropriateness, "Lowdown Popcorn". These few minutes
sum up Smith's unique sensibility - his undeniable hip-hop dues and taste mix with a
refreshing iconoclasm to rock the crowd and leave a smile on their faces.
The next few minutes of the mix merely serve to underline the point - an unhyped
Mr Lif b-side seamlessly segues into a tune by hoary old rock band Three Dog Night. Smith
knows his shit, but it sure ain't gonna stop him having fun.
It's taken about five years for Andy to bring out the sequel to the original
breakbeat/dirty funk classic mix tape The Document, and sees him move yet further
from the subdued, low-key environs of Portishead, who's live shows he used to warm-up
for. This is unashamed, life-affirming party music, that faithfully recreates the buzz
of his live DJ sets: the Ultramagnetic MCs flow into Georgie Fame; Serge Gainsbourg fades
in from the breakbeat lunacy of DJ Bombjack. More astounding, though, is Smith's turntablist
sleight of hand, where snippets of rhymes get looped, mixed and merged. Here, it sounds
effortless - perhaps it loses the impression made when you hear him live, where you get
to witness the spirit and skill of old school block parties invoked in a flurry of ambi-deck-strousness.
Listening to the CD, you can almost hear the cheers from the floor as Smith executes another
flawless time-stopping manouevre - check Black Sheep's "The Choice Is Yours" for more "throwaway"
moments of genius.
So let everyone else stroke their chins and get serious. The Document 2 is the true
spirit of hip-hop. Playful, funky and totally on the money - this will make your Christmas
parties with a swing they've never seen before.
Copyright © 2003 James Caig