A Much Better Tomorrow

An uneven scrapbook...

San Francisco-based groove mechanic Dan ‘The Automator’ Nakamura‘s star-studded back catalogue bridges old-skool East Coast hip-hop to the wildest, funniest, most experimental wig-out merchants of armchair lo-fi stoner trip-hop eclecticism. Originally released as an EP in 1996, ‘A Better Tomorrow’ has been expanded into an 11-track archive album featuring [a]Kool Keith[/a], DJ QBert, Poet and Nephtali ‘Neph The Madman’ Lewis.

Little here matches Dan‘s work with Keith for the Dr Octagon recording ‘Blue Flowers’ – hatched in the same period – or his later collaboration with Prince Paul as Handsome Boy Modelling School. There are hints of Octagon-style madcap logic when Dan and Keith combine on ‘I Want Da Mic’ and on the [I]Flintstones[/I]-namechecking ‘Cartoon Capers’, but any truly surreal flights of fancy are kept in check.

Elsewhere, Wu Tang-tinged loops and orthodox ghetto rhymes prevail. In fairness, most of these tracks date from the first wave of murky, grimy, bone-rattling trip-hop. They may sound slight now, but spooked instrumental rumbles like ‘Sleep’ and the slinky jazz-hop slither of ‘The Truth’ are competent slabs of fucked-up loungecore which still retain a gnarly charm. Keith‘s boom-rapping urban panorama on ‘King Of NY’ is an unsettling sleazoid trawl, while his tremendous slow-motion nostalgia trip ‘It’s Over Now’ sounds like the memoirs of a hip-hop veteran summing up his role in the rap wars. An uneven scrapbook, then, but that’s all ‘A Much Better Tomorrow’ was meant to be. Completists will enjoy it, casual Dan fans should hang on for his official all-star “31st century space opera” album, ‘Deltron 3000’, in October. Phasers on stun, Captain.