Tack-Fu Presents the Production Team
85 decibel Monks

In hip-hop, producers can be the stars of the record. Probably the best-known example of this is The Neptunes, who create CDs full of beats and invite popular artists like Snoop Dogg, Ludicris, Busta Rhymes and Nelly to rap over the sounds. Top billing on the discs goes to The Neptunes because what underneath the vocals really is the most important thing happening.

Iowa City has the 85 decibel Monks, Tack-Fu Productions' team of producers who scavenge for sounds from obscure records and other off-the-wall sources and then blend them together using a computer to create musical landscapes for local rappers to do their stuff. The 85 decibel Monks have just issued their first disc as headliners.

As would be expected, the emphasis here is on the instrumentation and mixing more than rapping, and several of the tunes are completely instrumental. That does not mean words don't matter; they are just more judiciously applied. Consider the track "Message from Goyum" (a misspelling of the Yiddish word "goyim") the songs message is strong and clear. Producers Tack-Fu and The Chaircrusher (a.k.a. Kent Williams) seem to have unearthed a documentary recording about how modern rebels are co-opted by the system to profit the mainstream establishment and effectively quash real rebellion. The narrator's phraseology is cut up for maximum effect through the use of repetition (Their so-called anti-establishment outlook is the calculated product/the calculated product/the calculated product/of the establishment press") and other editing techniques. The track practices what it preaches as it appears on a small local, independent label.

Tack-Fu and Chaircrusher together and separately handle almost all of the production chores on the disc, but there are some noteworthy exceptions, including drumk's "Mangolian Fire," a strange mix of acoustic and Asian music, simple drum beats and percussion and electronic static noises. But Tack-Fu and the Chaircrusher are the real stars here. The work their magic as a team on a number of stellar cuts such as the operatic "Russian Percussion" and the spooky sexy "Lie Down Beside You" (with cello by Erin McCusky and vocals by Rachel Kann) and independently on others, including my favorite track Chaircrusher's elegiac "Interlude in E Minor"

- Steve Horowitz

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