Rob Swift – The Ablist (Used)
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**Used - Sleeve/NM Media/NM - 1999 US pressing**
Directly influenced by Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," an early melding of jazz and hip-hop, The Ablist is Swift's attempt to introduce the turntable as a virtuosic instrument capable of being played with the same feeling and skill as any other instrument. He uses the turntable in various contexts, from solo scratching to full band. Much of the album is stellar jazz-inflected hip-hop, even if it falls somewhat short of the incredibly high goals of its composer, but those high goals are what make The Ablist such a thrilling listen. Many songs use the turntable in ways that have not been explored. On "What Would You Do?," Swift's scratches act as a sort of instrumental answer to the question posed. "Fusion Beats" shows that the turntable can be a jamming instrument as well, with some nice interplay with keyboards on what is actually some pretty straight jazz. Turntables are also brought into a full-band context on "Modern Day Music" and "All that Scratching Is Making Me Rich!" "Modern Day Music" features the band's three MCs and Swift's DJ Premier-like cutting up of words and phrases over a deep groove. Swift's spare style of cutting often recalls Premier, and his production skills are similar to Large Professor, emphasizing rolling bass and swinging but steady beats. Overall, Swift has crafted a strong personal statement. The album echoes old-school skills without devolving into a pastiche of past hip-hop styles or following commercial rap trends. Instead, The Ablist suggests directions in which hip-hop can go to remain viable. The album doesn't entirely follow through on all its promises, and Swift doesn't always reach his goals, which can make the album a frustrating listen at times. Overall, however, The Ablist redefines the turntable as a musical instrument that can bring new dimensions to both structured and improvised music, and it shows that Swift is capable of some incisive music that works outside the normal confines of turntablist music.