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  Mark Farina - Mushroom Jazz 4
Rating: 5 out of 5 Rating: 5 out of 5 Rating: 5 out of 5 Rating: 5 out of 5 Rating: 5 out of 5

by Sterling McGarvey

Nearly a year after the downtempo trend reached complete oversaturation on the dance music market, one of the most popular series of downtempo albums touches down with a new installment. Suffice it to say, Mushroom Jazz 4 will slap your expectations upside the face and leave a mushroom tattoo.

Rather than blend the sounds of soul, acid jazz and hip-hop together as he has in the past, Farina goes straight for the jugular with chunky underground hip-hop beats, mixed in the familiar "kill switch" style that Farina is well known for playing. In this album one finds something rare and special; it is something that, in this age of disposable music, has a great deal of replay value. In Mushroom Jazz 4, one finds warm composition, crisp drums, and molasses-thick basslines.

Part of the brilliance of the mix lies in the uniqueness of each track, as Farina has juxtaposed the order to accentuate the qualities of every song. Not a single track feels like wallpaper; each one has a certain melody, hook or loop that lends it an identity, even if one co-opts the ultra-sacred loop from Group Home's "Super Star." In that sense, it is simpler to highlight the artists whom Farina features on the disc rather than attempt to dissect the whole picture. From Pete Rock to Maspyke to Julius Papp to Tek-9 and DJ Spinna, the mix never sags.

Mushroom Jazz 4 exemplifies quality. The replay value is higher than Super Monkey Ball. The sounds fall alongside one another flawlessly. This is what an ideal chill-out album should be; yet it defies the marketability that reduced downtempo CDs to the soundtrack of trendy hair salons and coffee shops. In leaning toward hip-hop, it seems that Farina is asking of the audience to make a logical step that in the midst of all of the electronic and dance music that everyone listens to, isn't hip-hop truly just downbeat electronic music?

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