SIXTOO Masterfully sampling wax.
Wed Sept 8
1001 SE Morrison

Underground hiphop has never been stronger. Tip of the iceberg examples: MF Doom, Madlib, Dalek, Danger Mouse, Blueprint, and most of Mush, Lex, Big Dada, and Def Jux's output. You could go broke trying to keep up with the left-field goodness filling bins right now, although you have to dig deeper to find gems amid the glut of mediocrity. (There's just too much music being released now, period.)

Two figures bringing fresh slants to this old game are Montreal-based Sixtoo and New York-based DJ Signify, currently touring with Blockhead (ex-Aesop Rock beatmaker who's also promoting a solid instrumental disc on Ninja Tune, Music by Cavelight). For this tour, Sig and Six will be performing together with Kid Koala collaborator P-Love on Rhodes, trumpet, melodica, and stylophone, and Matt Kelly on bass.

Sixtoo's Chewing on Glass & Other Miracle Cures (Ninja Tune) and Signify's Sleep No More (Lex) represent career highlights for both artists. Formerly of anticon and Cincinnati's revered 1200 Hobos crew, Signify conjured the classic mid-'90s mix discs Mixed Messages and Signifyin' Breaks. Like the finest hiphop DJs, Signify's all about the funk and strange juxtapositions (his collection will give you vinyl envy). He equally values scratching prowess and weaving in humorous/profound spoken-word snippets and psychedelic atmospheres. The pan-stylistic joy permeating Signify's mixes is absolute. Sleep No More is Signify's first full-length of his own productions, and it's a deep head fuck that submerges stark funk rhythms into a psychedelic soup that's eloquently stirred by MCs Sage Francis and Buck 65.

Sixtoo, a masterly wax sampler and another anticon alumnus, decided to record Chewing on Glass live and then edited the results on his computer. The disc's sprawling, cinematic post-rock and avant-funk opuses should broaden Sixtoo's appeal beyond the underground-hiphop ghetto.

Chewing on Glass also illustrates my pet theory: Hiphop--at least as represented by its most forward-thinking artists--has entered its prog-rock phase. Shit is getting more complex, densely layered, baroque, allusive. Indie hiphop in 2004 = rock circa 1970. Boom-bap beats with braggadocious lyrics just ain't enough anymore, are they?