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September 2008

Dapp Theory
Layers of Chance
Obliqsound Inc

Layers of Chance, a mélange of progressive and smooth-jazz, funk, hip-hop, electronica and avant-garde, will surely seem valueless to those who like music with a pedigree. That’s a tragedy: It’s a great record. Dapp Theory is simply too hip for its own good.

The first half is helmed by Dapp Theory’s percussion team, which includes not just drummer Sean Rickman but also “percussive poet” John Moon (whose title is apt; he has a knack for making hard and soft beats from the phonetics in his artful lyrics). They jab and feint like prizefighters on “After the Fact” and “SOS.” On the second half, leader/keyboardist Andy Milne and saxophone/flute/clarinet player Loren Stillman co-pilot, creating lush complexities (“Tracing the Page”) and daring free excursions (“Three Duets”). Christopher Tordini’s bass is ever-present but subservient, accenting Milne’s piano on “Monk Walks” and fluttering a virtuosic, Spanish-guitar-like intro on “Bodybag for Martin.”

The wild cards are the centrally sequenced title track and the closing “Déjà Vu.” The latter is a synth-driven groove punctuated by furious drums and poetry. The former is a tour-de-force—a dynamic, cerebral yet lovely piece with every member on equal footing (two additional singers provide backgrounds). It demonstrates Milne’s collectivist, M-Base-inspired ideas, as well as Dapp Theory’s remarkable chemistry.

Indeed, that chemistry makes the mix of sounds on Layers so impeccable, it’s practically a musical Unified Field Theory—which, like the physics concept, is surely too dense for the mainstream. So this is what it means to be “tragically hip.”

Originally published in September 2008
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