(March 23, 2000)

Chained Reaction from Iowa City DJ/Producer Tack-Fu is a massive statement. The CD booklet divides the 21 tracks into two "sides" but a nearly 72 minutes, this is really more the equivalent of a 4-sided double album. Side one features vocal tracks by various artists, while side two is made up mostly of instrumental tracks with intentionaly vague spoken-word samples, which resemble the Tape-beatles more than any other rap act.

The structure works well- with the more aggresive rap tracks giving way to the more atmospheric work of the second side- and help keep the listener's interest. (especially important for an album dangerously long as this one) Of the rappers featured, all of whom are very good, the best are Joe Juggla and Braille. Juggla has a huge booming voice and authoritative delivery, while Braille is startlingly melodic.

Tack-Fu has always mined unique scores for his samples, and that doesn't change on this album. He samples everything from orchestral music (some of which is actual classical music, while some sounds like music from scores of old movies) jazz, TV preachers and music that is unidentifiable out of context. One track, "Brimstoned Hymn" even combines what sounds like a banjo with Gregorian chant. The samples also just generally sound better than on previous Tack-Fu efforts, presumably due to better equipment, and that's important in hip-hop. (especially in instrumental hip-hop) The occasional live bass, guitar and keyboards performed by J-8 add another dimension.

Probably the highest praise that could be given Chained Reaction is that of its 21 tracks, none are throwaways. Iowa hip-hop has a reputation for being a bit amateur in some people's minds, but this excellent, eclectic CD should change all that.

-- Jay Miller

You can purchase the physical cd on-line

or download this release