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Spectrum

No space monster promotional toys, no drawn-out pan-continental recording sessions involving any musician or singer who happens to be in the right town at the right time, and most definitely no onerou

No space monster promotional toys, no drawn-out pan-continental recording sessions involving any musician or singer who happens to be in the right town at the right time, and most definitely no onerous whimpering from Thom Yorke.



Post-UNKLE, this must count as emotional healing for DJ Shadow, a chance to blank out memories of his trip to the outskirts of prog-rock hell, as he hooks up with his old buddies Blackalicious and Latyrx for a welcomely concept-free saunter into unfettered hip-hop.



Unfettered, yes, but never one-dimensional, since rarely has the form covered as much ground as on this appropriately titled album. With an impeccably cool line-up of guests, including Jurassic 5 and Company Flow's El-P, Quannum nod respectfully at everyone from Grandmaster Flash and Whodini to Isaac Hayes and Grand Central Station, packing a commodious arsenal of beats and lyrical styles which mean that electro, rare groove and fiercely modern hip-hop styles are all within their reach. On 'One Of A Kind', for instance, they rhyme stealthily around a Motown-esque piano refrain, while on next track 'Storm Warning' they roll out razor-sharp old-skoolisms, before giving it some Wu-Tang-sized heaviness on 'Divine Intervention'.



In many ways, Shadow seems intent on doing his job neatly and proficiently, but leaving the lion's share of the glory to rappers Chief Xcel, The Gift Of Gab, Lyrics Born and Lateef The Truth Speaker, four guys with verbal skills as sizeable as their names. Sure, most of the time they offer discourse on how great at MCing they are, but it's engaging discourse nonetheless.



And though 'Spectrum' loses a little of its zest towards the end, Quannum are wise enough to ensure they don't go out on a bum note: cue 'Bombonyall', a colossal slab of P-funk, robo-rhythms and expertly timed poeticism which rumbles around your cranium long after the tune has ended.



An impressive album, then, and hopefully the kind of back-to-basics endeavour which will sweep the last cobwebs of 'Psyence Fiction' from Shadow's mind before he gets stuck into creating a worthy follow-up to 'Endtroducing...'. In the meantime, 'Spectrum' celebrates just about every shade of hip-hop wizardry imaginable.
8 / 10

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