Live Reviews

SoundCrash Presents: DJ Kentaro + Cheeba Live

The Gramophone, London.
23rd April 2009

SoundCrash have been working hard this year to bring some of the worlds hottest club acts to London. In the last month they have bought UK hiphop together at Cargo with the likes of Taskforce and Skinny Man, as well as one of HipHop’s heaviest hitters, Guru. Tonight is equally heavy, focusing on a different element of hiphop, the turntables.

Tokyo’s, if not Asia’s most talented DJ KENTARO is topping the roster, with Bristols Solid Steel DJ CHEEBA rocking support. The Gramophone is an odd venue, quite classy looking upstairs, but thankfully, they have a dirty dungeon underground where the beats certainly don’t have to conform to a dresscode to get in. The venue is quite small, and filled wall to wall with the usual DJ nerds, and hiphop heads, Cheeba gets us started.

Cheeba’s set is all on Serato, which is basically using the turntables as a controller for sounds in his laptop. Personally, I prefer a DJ to play vinyl, it feels more real, but hiphops about progression so I guess this is the future. Anyways, the set, Cheeba rolls in and out of hiphop breaks and even uses some trumpet samples to scratch out some Rage Against The Machine riffs. Sticking close to his Ninja Tunes labels sound, Cheeba hits up some breakbeat action and the set gets hectic while he constructs heavily layered tunes and scratch routines.

Former World DMC champ, and Ninja Tunes most versatile, talented warrior takes to the stage. I’ve seen a lot of Kentaro’s videos online and had the pleasure of seeing him play a couple of years ago and it’s safe to say that there is no telling what he is going to do on the night. His albums span from a futuristic evolution of breakbeats, to reggae, all based around hiphop roots and the turntables. To my delight, the serato is taken away and replaced with a third turntable.

Easing in with a mellow scratch routine, DJ Krush’s playful apprentice is relaxed and just feeling the crowd out for their preferred direction. Eric B and Rakims “I Know you Got Soul” gets re-arranged for starters, the beauty here is that Kentaro keeps his scratching away from being too technical to enjoy musically, sure he gets hectic, but you can still bounce to it. Tune selection is something a DJ has always got to get right, but when your ability on the turntables is so high, you can make anything work – anyone who can work Electric Six’s “Gay Bar” tune in to a hard break set has to have balls, and ability – so the direction gets bouncier as the night goes on.

Rolling from a hiphop scratch set in to a dub reggae session Kentaro truly has a wide range of understanding for musical genres, this is firmly demonstrated as he smoothly switches the night up a few notches in to harder breaks. This seems to be Kentaros preferred tempo, around 130bpm, but he still switches another gear and finishes the crowd off with a busy, freestyled drum n bass set that would rock any arena.

Soundcrash have a few more nights up their sleeves, with a new DJ Vadim album launch, plus Herbaliser at Koko with the Dub Pistols. So keep an eye on their site for more gems.

Phil Procter