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Hard Cell

New tastemaker series brings electronica to 5.1 surround-sound market

By Greg Cahill

DJ Motiv8 is no stranger to the world of 5.1 surround sound. Two years ago, the 26-year-old Chicago-born beatmeister contributed a track to Awaken, the first electronic/underground hip hop music specifically recorded in the surround-sound audio format. Now he's back with a compilation of Old School-style tracks on a new 10-part series that is bringing electronica, mixed entirely in 5.1 surround sound (actually there is one 6-channel release), to DVD-Audio consumers.

That landmark 2001 release--which featured tracks by Rabbit in the Moon, APL, Divine Styler, King Britt, Poet Name Life, to name a few--was produced by Richard Dashut, well known for his work on Fleetwood Mac's classic 1977 Rumors album.

The Cell Series is the brainchild of executive producers John Trickett and Bob Michaels of Myutopia Recordings, a division of the 5.1 Entertainment Group and sister label to Silverline Records. Featuring collaborations between top DJs and producers, the Cell Series is comprised of 10 new tastemaker releases in the DVD-Audio format mixed entirely in 5.1 Surround Sound.

Each release features 24-bit/96 kHz DVD-Audio and 24-bit/48 kHz Dolby Digital 5.1 options (so the discs can be played on any DVD player), as well as either artist interviews or music videos.

Judging from the two titles sent for review (Cell Nos. Two and Eight), it's unlikely that everyone will appreciate every track (these releases cover a fairly wide range of styles; some great, some no-so-great). Yet, there's a lot of strong material and the sound is poppin' fresh--literally exploding out the speakers and rumbling with deep low-end. Given the dearth of surround-sound titles for the youth market, this series is welcome indeed.

Here's a non-critical overview of the series, based on the label's own press releases:

Cell One: Poet Name Life presents The Sound Proof Walls. Alongside hip-hop allies the Black Eyed Peas, Poet Name Life has established himself as one of the newest members of LA's music elite. Songs on this DVD-A album embody a dynamic and futuristic musical collision between worlds of live instrumentation, free-form jazz, club moving, head bobbing, hip-hop, and loungy tweaked out electronics.

Cell Two: DJ Motiv8, From Hip Hop to Drum and Bass. Producer, DJ Motiv8 has established himself as one of the most respected figures in the hip-hop world using his signature "electro-organic" sound. He has produced tracks for Madonna, Billy Idol, 'N Sync, members of Bell Biv Devoe, Jurassic 5, and Black Eyed Peas. This DVD-Audio disc incorporates a true blend of hip hop with a drum-n-bass tempo, featuring Tippa Irie, Seven, MC Twileeze, Dante Santiago, Goldenboy the MC and others.

Cell Three: Daddy Kev, Penchant for Buggery. Known as one of LA's top sound sculptors, Daddy Kev forges a psychedelic rock blend of subversive hip-hop with jazz influence on this DVD-Audio disc. Tracks feature AWOL One, Existereo, Busdriver and the Grouch, among other innovators. Penchant for Buggery is an anthology of Daddy Kev-produced tracks from 1997 to 2002, all remixed in 5.1 surround sound. There's also a bonus video segment featuring behind-the-scenes recording and live concert footage.

Cell Four: Camarillo Blues Triangle. Combining rock guitar, bass and dark synths, Camarillo Blues Triangle forges a spectrum of blues, rock and world music to express social outrage and their sometimes troubled ramifications: violence, urban strife, drugs and paranoia. Cyrus Melchor and Alfred Di Maio combine their tragic humor and serene hostility to channel the moods and life cycles of people in the early 21st Century. Mixed in 6-channel surround, this DVD-Audio release invigorates the musically enriched.

Cell Five: Correctional Facilities. Hailing from the London underground scene, Correctional Facilities mixes a concoction of mid-tempo break beats infused with hip-hop grooves slamming the 5.1 mix into a surreal out-of-body experience.

Cell Six: The Grouch My Baddest B*tches. A founding member of California's "legendary" Living Legends crew, the Grouch continues his promise to take his listeners on an audio journey, this time in 5.1 surround sound on this greatest hits DVD-Audio album blending a new school fusion of psychedelic rock and be-bop jazz mixed with the intensity of the fiercest boom-bap. Includes music videos "Crusader for Justice" and "Clean Nikes."

Cell Seven: The Secret Feel It All the Time. Conceived by producer/songwriter, instrumentalist Opher Yisraeli in Los Angeles, Feel It All the Time features a wealth of local and international talent. With an explosive mixture of distorted rock guitars, hip hop flavors, electronica, funky bass lines, dub harmonics and dancy grooves, their music lures the listener with depth of emotion, good humor and infectious hooks all reflecting modern day human experiences. Includes three music videos and exclusive artist photos.

Cell Eight: DJ Haul & Mason. DJs Haul and Mason, LA's four-turntable demolition team, offer rare and unreleased tracks guaranteed to blow both speakers and minds. Collaborating with a diverse group of LA area musicians and MCs, the dynamic duo fuses live instrumentation with a traditional hip-hop style production reflective of their myriad projects over the past few years. DJ Haul & Mason captures a modern beat architecture that is both straight-up hip hop and uniquely LA.

Cell Nine: R-F Interno. Ryan Francesconi is a multi-instrumentalist combining electronic, acoustic and organic elements into ambient sculptures and grooves. Lush, electronics, digital crickets and organic landscapes glide over Balkan guitar melodies, alluding to an otherworldly sensation enhanced by the first release of Interno in surround sound.

Cell Ten: Sound in Color presents MU.SIC Pixelated Pulse. In collaboration with the Los Angeles label, Sound in Color, Myutopia Recordings presents a compilation of artists in a movement of thought through rhythm. The album features future soul producer GB, beat conductor Exile (Emanon), sonic innovator MHE, dance floor movers Mainframe & Platonic, among others. This collection is mixed in surround sound, combining rhythms from hip hop, jazz, electronica and palpitating sonic grooves. Includes four exclusive videos and amazing artwork from the Sound in Color camp.

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Web extra to the January 1-7, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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