5 out of 5
Produced by: Bogdan Raczynski (?)
Something I love about the way our tastes evolve: something that seemed particularly challenging at one point – but that you like – causes you to seek out similar things, and then you adapt to the challenges that come along with whatever it is. Soon, it’s “normal;” you hear others decry similar challenges and either you can relate, or you’re possibly so removed from that state that you almost dismiss such sentiments…
Bogdan Raczynski’s Samurai Math Beats was my first taste of the artist, purchased when exploring the Rephlex label. It blew my mind. It was insane. It was exactly what I wanted, as a fan of Richard D. James’ beat-breaking beats, and then it was even more aggressive and chopped-up and weird: where James maintained a sense of rhythm and structure, Bogdan doubled-down on harsh drill and bass; where James might employ some quirkiness with a smile, Bogdan’s distorted vocals came across with a sense of innocence, making his stuff equally odd and emotive. I’d play the heck out of Samurai Math Beats, but only in chunks, as a single playthrough seemed to exhaust my ears with its relatively non-stop drum attacks, and I’d force the record onto others, who would hear it as annoying noise. (Which I’m sure I’d take as a compliment.)
I’ve listened to Bogdan pretty consistently over the years – as my tastes have evolved – but with the vinyl rerelease of Samurai by the Disciples label, I dive back in to the album for review, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how… normal this sounds now. Not just in the sense that I’ve had the chance to get exposed to tons more music in the time between my first listen and now – though that is certainly true – but also in how structured the album sounds; how controlled. Yes: it is still delightfully over-stuffed with beats, but it maintains a sense of “song” and flow that I couldn’t initially identify, and also hangs on to a more traditional club-based backbone than the breakbeat style had suggested. Most tracks actually boil down to a pretty steady beat or tune over which Bogdan squiggles with keyboard lines, or his quirky vocal samples, and then bridges sections together with awesome drum rushes. It’s smart stuff, and having it spread across four sides of vinyl more clearly shows off how the album has an ebb and flow as well, starting with more dancefloor stylings and then in to comparative “chill” – the album’s halfway point is marked with the keyboard hazey smoked-out wash of ‘Nan no tameni boku to hon’yakusha (“What for the sake of myself and a translator”)’ – and then things build back up to the D-side, which is relentless, brilliant pummeling.
The album is still a delight, for sure, and the Disciples’ remaster is crisp and clear, with a bonus “coloring book” – which is just black and white patterns a la the cover, but I dig it as an inclusion. And while I might no longer be “challenged” by the contents, I think the experience is even better as a result, as I’m not just wowed by the blitz of it all, and can instead appreciate the balance Raczynski employed, both intra-song and across the album as a whole.