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Caural - Blurred July

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Artist: Caural

Album: Blurred July

Label: Chocolate Industries

Review date: Aug. 12, 2003

A Bit Heavy on the Chocolate

I don't doubt that Kid Acne's consistently adorable cover artwork has something to do with it, but my abstract impression of Caural, otherwise known as one Zachary Mastoon of Chicago, has been that of a bright, if innocent and impressionable, child. Certainly he's one of the more talented children to hit the instrumental hip-hop scene of late, proven amply by his full-length debut Stars on My Ceiling, but that doesn't have to mean he's all grown up. There's something charmingly simple, almost naive, about his work – perhaps in the delicate jazz nods or the grassroots funk influences that course through it – which would place him after, say, Boom Bip on the list of heirs to the DJ throne which Shadow recently relinquished to Rjd2.

Now let us abandon this fanciful world of my own imagination for the present day and the release of Caural's latest offering, Blurred July. If Stars was the plaything of a precocious child, then this EP is the sound of that child being taken by the wrist and intermingled with high society by its wealthy and influential benefactor (played to perfection by hepper-daily institution Chocolate Industries). After "Goodbye May Kasahara," a lovely, though not terribly imaginative, piece along the lines of the better and more coherent songs from Stars, we are jerked – not even coaxed – out of Caural's reverie and into that obligatory collaboration with an MC from the label's roster. Said track, "Blacktops & Plains," isn't done any favors by Diverse's scatterbrained and relatively bland flow, but fares no better with Mastoon's crunchy and abrasive background, which sounds little different from Prefuse 73's generally amelodic and repetitive ventures into hip-hop production (see the Urban Renewal Program).

As the EP continues, the Scott Herren connection rears its head more and more. Left to his own devices again on "Visuals," Mastoon sounds conflicted between his own passive, carefree dreamworld and the mechanical-sounding rigor that has come to embody the Chocolate Industries style. The track is reasonably pleasant thanks to its watery effects and jazzy overdubs, but the persistence of a disembodied breakbeat doesn't quite align right. The final track, a Savath & Savalas (Herren again) remix of "Sipping Snake Blood Wine" from Stars, is a nicely chilled affair which emphasizes the highlights of the original song, but Herren’s drunken handclaps threatens to outlast the novelty of Caural's lush backdrop. Fortunately, the S&S remix narrowly avoids outstaying its welcome, but by the conclusion of the EP one can't help but notice Chocolate/Warp conglomerate illuminati’s palpable influence.

As a piece of work standing alone, Blurred July is decidedly above average, but on a broader scale it seems to herald something dangerous. The Rhodes-soaked splendor of the pure Caural – the vintage stuff that presented Mastoon as that endearing child in the first place – is in satisfactory supply, but doesn't come off as fresh as it once did. Meanwhile, the points where he stretches to fit in with the Chocolate thang only sound derivative in comparison to the work of luminaries like Herren who more or less invented it, and thus their mentoring ends up somewhat damning. Still, worse things have happened, and the flaws of Blurred July are by no means irrevocable. As long as Caural stays innocent enough and doesn't get too jaded, things should be fine.

By Daniel Levin Becker

Other Reviews of Caural

Stars on my Ceiling

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Find out more about Chocolate Industries

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