I was lucky enough to have picked up a promotional copy of this album at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton. I’d never heard of Chinese Man before and had no idea what to expect, but the lady behind the desk at the French Music Party said I would really enjoy it. She was right.
There are few albums where you just know they’re going to be an important part of your life. Albums you cannot do without and that cut across and inform your musical tastes for years to come. Leftfield’s “Leftism”, for example, is as fresh today as when I first heard it in 1995. In 2005 “Demon Days”# by Gorillaz, gave me that same vibe.
I’m going to stick my neck out hereand say that “Racing with the Sun” by Chinese Man is one of those albums. Infusing hip-hop, scratch turntablism, dub, dubstep with oriental, french, african and middle east genres juxtaposed with samples, live locals and some of the best beats, this album pushes all my buttons. Chinese Man is a collective based not far from Marseilles, France, but the music is from far and wide.
Introduction (Morning Sun) is a relatively simple hip-hop piece, layered with some oriental strings and samples. This leads into One Past, which is overlays piano and xylophone melodies over nice phat beats, morphing seamlessly into some trombone-led dub. If you Please starts with some full-on Chinese instruments, which morph into middle east sounds on top of some hip-hop and African drums.
Miss Chang starts with a sample of an old Chinese song, on top of a lovely dubby beat, leading into some live vocals provided by Taïwan Mc & Cyph4, which reminds me of that Leftfield groove.
Saudade begins with some stand-up bass jazz, before ushering in a hip-hop beat and simply plucked guitar. The skill of the “ambient hip-hop” pieces is the excellent selection and juxtaposition of samples.
Stand!, mashes up American civil rights speeches, north African influences, dubstep wobble, and big beats in a melange that I’ve only ever heard before from Secret Archives of the Vatican. They even managed to turn a civil rights speech into a call-response, before Plex Rock comes in with some live vocals. Very clever indeed.
Racing with the Sun cleverly samples an old country song and layers this on top of a nice dubby beat. Simple, but very effective. This leads into Down, featuring Scratch Bandits Crew and is another hip-hop styled piece with a simple acoustic guitar-led riff, phat beats and some excellent samples.
In my Room lays down a rich beat before overlaying a fragile voice sample, which makes you sit up and notice. Then there’s Get Up, which features Ex-I, Lush One & Plex Rock, but the killer sample is an “Irish/Disney” snippet that makes you laugh out loud and look forward to it’s reprise.
Ta Bom (feat. General Elektriks), brings in some latin beats, to this seemingly simple track. Then there’s J.O.G.J.A which features M2MX , DubYouth & Kill the DJ, providing live vocals over north African samples, and again reminds me of what Leftfield did with “Afro Melt”. And finally, The King, which is a much more downbeat track, rounding off the album with just enough interest to make you want to listen to it again.
This is my album of 2011 so far. I recommend you listen to it.
Here’s a sampler.
And checkout the video for Miss Chang.