Music News

Gilles Peterson

These days many DJs lay claim to either a "purist" or "eclectic" style. For most turntablists, "purist" means only shopping in the house section, while "eclectic" means throwing on a heavy-metal record after a breakbeat record after a hip-hop record, with no hint of rhyme or reason. See Armand Van Helden's recent Killing Puritans for that sort of cynical, self-conscious "eclecticism." Gilles Peterson, an influential DJ in England and boss of the Talkin' Loud label, is neither eclectic nor purist, but merely an individual who has been in touch with music for so long that his personality is fused to his choice of records.

Hence, the real shame of INCredible Sound of Gilles Peterson is that it is a picture of the soul of a music lover cut in half. The original import version of INCredible sprawls across two discs, allowing long, involved songs to play out to their full length, and giving Peterson room to indulge his love for spacey jazz, long, dubbed-out dance records, and tunes that generally tickle the artistic bone, as well as move backsides.

Perhaps it's foolish to expect that the full version of Peterson's mix would be released here. After all, American music is chiefly shaped by those in business suits, while in Peterson's U.K., pop tastes are dictated at a level closer to the music -- by DJs on the radio and in the clubs. Though this is something of an oversimplification, it's a fact that Peterson is a massive figure in England, while in America his radio program is just making inroads through syndication.

INCredible still stands out despite the paring-down process, however. Peterson's choices are nothing if not tasteful. He hews to a mix-tape aesthetic rather than a beat-matching aesthetic, frequently bumping dissimilar tracks up against each other, or letting one record play out entirely before bringing the next one up. This may be an editing artifact, as the transition between Nu Yorican Soul's "I Am the Black Gold of the Sun" (via the neat jungle of a 4 Hero remix) runs directly into the deep bass of MJ Cole's "I See" in one of the disc's smoothest exchanges.

Peterson also accomplishes a nice trick by forging thematic links along with musical ones in his choices. Messages of positivity and light can be found in the titles alone: "I Can See the Future" by Incognito; "See the Light" by Eddie Russ; "Let the Sun Shine In" by Sons and Daughters of Lite. Don't mistake Peterson's vision for the relentless bounce of happy hard-core, though. Contemplation and struggle factor in, as in the unlikely duo of Minnie Riperton's "Les Fleur" and the Handsome Boy Modeling School's dark hip-hop torch song "The Truth."

As though to point out that rewards come through struggle, Peterson pairs DJ Vadim and Sarah Jones' prickly "Your Revolution" with Pharaoh Sanders' enormous, joyous "Rejoice." Ultimately, the listener is left with the impression that the redacted domestic mix, while losing some of Peterson's scope, may have actually helped sharpen the album's focus.

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Rob Geary