Mike Relm Spectacle

[Radio Fried; 2008]

Styles: underground and instrumental hip-hop, hip-house
Others: Cadence Weapon, Blackalicious, People Under The Stairs

As a long-time fan of Mike Relm, I'm pretty disappointed with this release from the San Franciscan mash-up A/V-DJ. I've been quietly spreading his good name for years now, ever since I witnessed his scratch DVD set at the 2005 Shambhala Music Festival in Nelson. I would never have thought John Lennon with a hip-hop beat would work as a sing-along at a rave, but it sure as hell did. I bought his debut album Radio Fryer right then and there, and immediately fell in love with sections dedicated to the work of Danny Elfman, faded Saturday morning cartoons, and Joy Division, among others. The future was hope. Apart from its misleading title (referring more to Mike's glasses than the awe-inspiring quality of the record), that's part of what makes Spectacle such a let down.

While Girl Talk currently enjoys the fruits of being hyped into unjustified cultural significance on the back of comparatively tame and tasteless bastard pop mash-up, Mike Relm is still an obscure figure in the scene. His sophomore album will do nothing to change that. He apparently grew tired of seeing "cease and desist" letters in his mailbox, so he's decided to go straight. Though Spectacle contains several small film and TV samples, obvious music samples have been thoroughly obscured and reduced to a minimum. This record is mostly the sound of Relm's own synthesizer programming, a Moog Voyager, and guitar. From an artistic standpoint, there's nothing wrong with that. Relm considers bootlegging to be a step backwards, and in light of his collaborations for this album with future legends such as Gift Of Gab, Del The Funky Homosapien, Lateef The Truthspeaker, Mr. Lif, and more — as well as his success on Gnarls Barkley and Blue Man Group tours — it is hard to argue that point.

The problem is that Spectacle simply isn't very good. The production is muddy, the sounds are mostly tired ’80s cheese, and he reuses the same Adrian Hartley "Every time you break my heart/ Mama sends anonymous letters saying you're going to leave" vocal and accompanying beat in three separate tracks. Aside from using three different MCs, the songs "Every Time," "You Break," and "My Heart" are identical. By the third time you hear the exact same hook in a single sitting, it pretty much loses all its power, let alone if you listen to the album more than once just to be sure it sucks. That repetition reeks of laziness, especially considering that Relm is a world-class turntablist and easily capable of tweaking the beat in an original manner every time out.

To be blunt, Spectacle is stale dud of an album. I wouldn't count him out just like that, though. From all accounts, he seems like a really nice guy, a snappy dresser (always performing in his Sunday best), and driven to succeed. I'm sure if he's given enough time, he'll be able to focus the few positive aspects of this record into something utterly consuming and universally fulfilling, which will finally see him break on through to the other side. It simply is not this record.

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