Tor/Sufjan Stevens – Illinoize (2008)

12.22.2009

First there were jazz bands, doing unlikely covers of songs of every genre, then DJs, chopping up tracks manually with turntables. Samplers brought us into an era of “techno remixes” but those were garbage. The digital age has brought us the classic “mash-up” throwing two or more songs together to make a new creation. This can be a career maker for you if you do it right (see DJ Danger Mouse), but most of the time a concept that has high hopes can maybe produce one good track, and the rest of an album is a stretch. Montreal based producer Tor took up an interesting project by putting great rap tracks over top of beats composed of Sufjan Stevens samples. My girlfriend sent this to me originally, and it kind of sat in my iTunes…bugging me…until i happened to turn it on…what could he have done with my Sufjan?! Well, Tor has done it properly. He tastefully blended the soft style of Sufjan Stevens and his multi-instrumental creations and soft subtle beats to make an impressive backdrop for his rap tracks. My favorite track, the opener featuring Aesop Rock even has dabbles of Sufjan’s voice in the chorus to counter the harsh lyrics of Aesop. Overall this is a great listen, and the instrumental versions provided serve as an audition, hopefully, for some of the rappers featured to throw some production business Tor’s way.
Love them or hate them, and note my careful choice to leave Girl Talk out of this discussion, mash-ups serve a purpose in music. They serve as a launching pad for fledgling producers (no offense, Tor) but mostly they prove to lame white guys like me that hip hop can be a wonderful thing if it is done properly. Generally, rappers are so focused on their rapping that they stick a half assed beat behind it and call it a day, but if someone cares enough for the backing music, then the product quality increases exponentially.

Dave

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