By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
The relevant debate over turntablism is no longer whether the wicky-wicky is indeed legitimate music and the Technics 1200 a real instrument. Humans are possessed by a need to drag sound out of any remotely suitable object, no matter how much work that object may require first -- after all, it's not as though the Fender Stratocaster occurs naturally in the wild. Now we're well into the second and third generation of kids who have grown up hearing wax manipulated to create music, the generation to which The Allies, a crew with several members not yet in their 20s, belong.
The relevant question is now: Is turntablism just prog rock for the double-zeroes? Both take a vocal form of music that grew out of tough circumstances and transform it into an intellectual exercise for the head-scratchers. However, this debut EP from The Allies proves that turntablism is a vital extension of the sonic transformations that have been the distinctive calling card of hip-hop since the earliest days. The first DJs stole snippets of the disco, soul and funk around them, just as today's turntablist makes it his job to seize anything -- rock guitars, jungle beats, sappy strings -- and reassemble them into hip-hop.
A crew composed of multiple world DJ title winners, The Allies are the first turntable incarnation of that dreaded musical phenomenon: the supergroup. Of course, these aren't the Damn Yankees, because A-Trak, Develop, Spiktakular, J-Smoke, Infamous, and the incredible Craze can all stand up to inspection on their own. And unlike the old rock-star egos, which tend to multiply exponentially, the addition of each skilled record spinner only adds dimensions and layers of complexity to the mix. The three cuts featuring the full Allies crew are bursting with ideas and wild scratches, as on "D-Day"; you can sense each DJ bouncing on his heels, favorite scratch record in hand, ready to jump in on the track. That collective energy spills over into the other six tracks here, one each from the group members.
Develop puts warbly, underwater scratches into a woozy soundscape in "My Function," Craze dips into the Notorious B.I.G. sample bag for some appropriately curmudgeonly commentary on "Freedom of Speech," and A-Trak just rips everything up with "All Hail to My Hands." All hail indeed, as with just one EP The Allies have already stormed the turntablist beaches.