Chasm - Razza Ma Chasm
Friday, 8 February 2008
The producer's Beyond The Beat Tape rivals the artistry Katalyst exhibited with What's Happening. There are overtones of funk, soul, jazz and reggae.
Chasm, who first released an EP under his own name back in 2004, has brought in a grand cast, among them Koolism's Hau, The Tongue and The Herd's Ozi Batla.
As Chasm tells it, the album 'fell' together - he had no masterplan. "It's just a natural thing. I'm always making beats. I've spent heaps of my time in the studio working on stuff, so it was a natural thing to do. We'd wrapped up the Astronomy [Class] album and tours and everyone was doing their own things. I just had all these beats and I was like, What am I gonna do with 'em- It was the obvious thing to do - put together an album. It wasn't too preconceived."
The analogue boffin completed his album at Brit expat Mike Burnham's feted Tardis Studio. "It's a big part of my sound, for sure." Chasm considers the local Doctor Who "a real analog purist," who's "schooled" him in classic production techniques.
The producer is into a broad spectrum of sound. Chasm cites as influences everyone from to RZA to Ennio Morricone to the dub originators. "Production-wise, I've always been fascinated and influenced by the early dub producers - like King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry - and the overall production sound.
"Beatwise, I'm fairly influenced by a lot of the classic New York '90s producers like RZA, Premier and Pete Rock - all those guys. That's the style I really feel.
"I also love Madlib and DJ Babu and people like that on the West Coast."
Chasm is uncertain if there's a distinct Australian hip hop sound but agrees that the producers here have mostly rejected the 'ringtone rap' - electronic hip hop - emanating from America. "I think it's splintered off a little bit - there's a few different sounds now. I don't know if you could say that there's an overall Australian 'sound'.
"With [our] rap, there's the accent, which identifies it immediately.
"People here are still really into that organic '90s-sounding boom-bap style, as opposed to the more nu skool style coming out of America, which is maybe a little more throwaway, some of it - like the ringtone shit. [But] apparently you make a lotta money off that!"
Hip hop heads have debated the merits of the Wu-Tang Clan's comeback, 8 Diagrams. RZA shunned ringtone rap for something more traditional - and musical - and, ironically, closer to what is being created Down Under. However, Chasm, RZA fan as he is, wasn't into what Ghostface Killah has described as his "hippy" beats. "I enjoyed the new Ghostface Killah album heaps more than the new Wu," he divulges. "It sounds more like a RZA [solo] album. It doesn't sound like a collective thing. I found it frustrating that it didn't slap me in the face. It was pretty soundtrack-style. The beats weren't just slammin', which I kinda wanted to hear."
Though Astronomy Class are aligned with Elefant Traks, Chasm chose to issue Beyond via Melbourne's Obese. How come- "I felt like the sound of the record would fit a little better on Obese than Elefant Traks," he responds. As such, Obese' boss Pegz, who recently announced his retirement from rap, cameos.
An even bigger surprise is an appearance by Diafrix on the summery Let The Beat Go. The Melbourne group, formed by African emigre MCs, are being compared to The Fugees in their prime. But, while they're favourites of Kiss FM's Timmy Byrne, the cliquey hip hop scene have been slow to embrace them. Not so Chasm. "They asked me to do a remix on their last EP, so I did that for them. I really dug their raps. I just thought that was a dope tune. After that, I saw them live a couple of times and just really dug their stage presence. Then we got Mohamed [aka Mohamed Komba] on a track on the Astronomy album. When I came up with that beat [Let The Beat Go], it was almost on the Afro-beat tip, and I just thought of them immediately - Oh, man, they'd be perfect for it! I hit 'em up and they were down."
Chasm intends to tour widely behind Beyond. He'll be joined by MCs Jeswon and Dialectrix plus DJ 2buck. Chasm is cutting another side-project with Dialectrix.
Nevertheless, he does foresee a second Astronomy Class album sooner rather than later.
The outfit's 2006 debut, Exit Strategy, attracted the support of Triple J. Fellow Astronomer Sir Robbo graces the production credits for Beyond. "We're planning to hook into a new Astronomy [album] this year. We're definitely gonna do another one. It'll probably come out at the start of next year. We're all keen to do that."
Chasm doesn't say as much, but Astronomy Class are surely anxious to build on the momentum of Exit Strategy. The producer isn't the type to brag, let alone outline plans for world domination.
Needless to say, Adelaide's Hilltop Hoods have broken into the mainstream but, as of yet, no others have followed them. Chasm can't predict how the scene will evolve - or what's next for Astronomy. "I can see why Hilltops are massive with their sound, but I am surprised that a couple of the others haven't blown up as much. I don't really know exactly why!
"It's an interesting thing 'cause [Hilltop are] the only ones who've really taken it to the mainstream.
"It can be frustrating for dudes with more underground sounds as well - trying to get played on radio can be really tough. But that's just the way it goes."
WHAT: Beyond the Beat tape
WHEN: Out 16 February through Obese Records