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Dan The Automator - Wanna Buy A Monkey?

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Artist: Dan The Automator

Album: Wanna Buy A Monkey?

Label: Sequence

Review date: May. 16, 2002

Perhaps it was ego that prompted Dan "The Automator" Nakamura to release Wanna Buy A Monkey? Perhaps Mr. Nakamura thought that it was his responsibility to put together this offering of 16 tracks, which he refers to as "A Mixtape Session," so as to point all of us in the correct musical direction. I tend to advocate the former; the latter implies that Dan creates without wearing his influences on his sleeve.

The main goal of this effort is ultimately eluded by the lack of creativity therein. What Dan attempts to do on Monkey is put together a compelling mix of music that wouldn’t otherwise be listened to in the same sequence - that is, to originally arrange several prereleased tunes that would at the very least stir up curiosity of the artists mixed. Instead, the listener is reintroduced to all the usual suspects. Sure, there are some great tracks on Monkey, its just that Dan didn’t have the stones here to expose us to tracks that we may have missed...the ones where we would have thought to ourselves, ‘Damn, that song ripps,’ and then run and pass off the discovery as our own to our closest friends.

As well, his input on these tracks, including transitions, is nothing more than a scratch-scratch here, and a voice over there, leaving even completists of featured artists bored and undecided. I believe that there is virtue in a minimalistic approach; however Nakamura, in the vein of artist integrity, is risking nothing by playing the hits. Any loyal follower of Nakamura’s will feel alienated by the lack of ingenuity and creativity on Monkey, especially considering his ultra original work with Kool Keith on the Dr. Octagon project, as well as his teaming with Prince Paul (as Nathaniel Merriweather) on the 1999 Handsome Boy Modeling School release. His newest record, Lovage …Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By, features old friends Koala, Albarn, and Prince Paul, along with Mike Patton (Faith No More) and Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields), and continues the trend of Nakamura’s patented kitsch. The success of his Gorillaz project is arguably owed to the mere creativity of its animated characters. Undoubtedly, San Francisco is a better place when Dan is at home brainstorming - yet, he may have just missed the trolley to greatness with this one.

The album opens with a typical rap intro, which I suppose should be expected bearing the album art in mind. Needless to say, we could have done without it. The next three tracks follow in style and tempo. A Brand Nubian joint leads awkwardly into dubs by Black Rob and Deltron 3030, both of which are Nakamura original collaborations (the Deltron cast is comprised of Nakamura, Del The Funkyhomosapien, and Kid Koala). The hip hop fades cleverly and delicately into an Automator remix of Air’s "Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi", which has nice good timing, but could just as well have been substituted by the Sigur Ros hit "Svern g-englar" (probably omitted due to licensing problems). Next up, Zero 7 is meshed nicely into the latest album opener by Chicago resident indie rockers Tortoise, and then proceeds to become thoroughly unentertaining. The Doves "Firesuite" sets up the low point of the album: "Stroker Ace" by Merriweather’s own Lovage outfit. Dan, wanting to protect his ill-advised tangent, enlists the help of Bobby Digital a.k.a. RZA of Wu-Tang fame to shake things back up. Unfortunately, the record seems to idle along through tracks by Gorillaz (predictable, yes, but the original version!! C’mon, Danno), De La Soul (the title track to last years Bionix), Masta Ace, Jigmastas feat. Sadat X, and on into the X-Ecutioners theme song featuring guess who...The Automator! The final track on the Mixtape Session is "Clockwork" by Dilated Peoples, a strong finish.

Although there are more than a few inventive transitions, the contrived, and at times careless, fusions outweigh the aforementioned, hence not commanding the respect of a bonafide DJ. The question that Dan is really asking us here is "So...how’s your record collection?"

By Billy Shand

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