Unagi Unagi

[Kimo Sciotic; 2003]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: sound samples, hip-hop, easy listening
Others: Quantic Soul Orchestra, Peanut Butter Wolf, Broadway Project, Controller 7

If you read our site on a fairly regular basis, you know there are several of us writers who really enjoy the hip-hop scene. As one of those people, I must admit that I've always been more interested in the DJ that creates the music than the emcee. That's not to say there aren't plenty of good emcees “spittin' rhymes,” but with DJ's digging up some of the funkiest grooves in history, it makes it pretty hard to contend with them. Someone like Unagi (Brolin Winning if you just have to know), is someone who obviously agrees with me. His short debut album collects snippets of rare and funky grooves and pastes them together for a lo-fidelity easy-listening experience in a similar vein to sound-collagists like DJ Shadow and Odd Nosdam. In some ways, it's also very conducive to the way someone like Quentin Tarantino revives lost treasures in film and music by celebrating the old through a microscope for a new generation to enjoy.

Unagi takes us to the basement of records stores from around the world. In a sense, he has cut out the need for us to dig for great pieces of music, and has compiled them on one tiny album for our enjoyment. Most of these songs are under two or three minutes in length, but Unagi allows the focus to remain on the parts we really want to hear, sans any filler. It begins with “Crazy Chase,” a blaxploitation-crime clip that sounds as if it were straight out of Starsky and Hutch's television show. It's soon followed by several easy-listening songs like “Hmm!” and “Good Vibes,”  which are both as cool and funky as anything Piero Umiliani ever did for his 70s Italian soundtracks. Two of the more memorable tracks on Unagi are “Mello Yello” and “Gaye Pride,” which show the album at its most confident and funky. The rest of the songs are slightly similar to each other, yet all have their own ability to stand up to the next. 

While this album may not be as long as I'd like, I can't help but truly appreciate the work that has gone into it. It's an in depth study in fine music searching more than anything else. In today's hip-hop world, being ahead of the game requires many things, but most importantly, having the best samples around. Unagi has done a stellar job with his samples here, but calling Unagi a hip-hop album is not really what I should be doing. Its appeal, however, will be for those who love the idea of finding those rare gems at the bottom of the crate. Those nice jewels that when you find them you know none of your friends have heard it before. Guessing these samples should be left up to the dedicated diggers only. For those of us who don't have the ability, time, or money to go out and find some of these treasures, we should just continue to praise and support artists like Unagi, who spend their time bringing us music that we would otherwise never hear.     

1. Crazy Chase
2. Hmm!
3. Good Vibes
4. Nagasaki Narcoleptic
5. Invisible Frenchman
6. Mello Yello
7. Blown Away
8. Gaye Pride
9. Space Cadet
10. Newborn
11. Blue Ilan
12. Mentos Party
13. Nonononono
14. Tickle Time
15. Courtship Revival
16. The One
17. Sacred Music