Shuren the Fire - My words laugh behind the mask [Tha Blue Herb Recordings - 2003]It’s been a rather long time since I have last reviewed some hiphop CD. I was waiting to get the good one, you know, a bit like some lads and lasses are waiting to find the right person to start spicing up their sex lives. Time has come for me to deliver my load thanks to the aural stimulation offered by Shuren the Fire.
For I didn’t decide to review just another hiphop album. I decided to review the album of a MC / producer who I know will be around for a good few years, producing some excellent, excellent music – well, “hope” would be more accurate than “know”, but I’m in no mood to start being shy.
Shuren the Fire’s first full-length is released on Tha Blue Herb recordings, a label that should sound familiar to you guys, the musique[machine] faithfuls –if such a thing exists- since the people behind it are no less than everyone’s favourite Japanese hiphop crew Tha Blue Herb. Countless reviews, an interview, a band special and three mp3’s are available in our archive in order to convert the unconverted.
So Shuren comes from Sapporo, Hokkaido and has known TBH’s ONO and Ill-bosstino for a few years. Let me thank Boss for sending me this album, he doesn’t know how good it felt first time I listened to it. You know, TBH means off-kilter beats, traditional instruments and a strong melancholic flavour. Shuren couldn’t be further from that.
Shuren indulges in positive jazzy hiphop, playing with a pianist, a flutist and a drummer, using the sounds of a double bass and a lot of handsclapping. A smile bringing mixture, really. The first track, Space radio, is so good it’s hard to believe. They clap and they double-bass and they piano and they drum and they bounce, bounce, bounce ah, bounce, bounce ha ha ha tatatattatuduttudut. Instrumental A morning in Sapporo is slower, more melancholic and actually less interesting but Rage against me picks up where Space radio left us. A few gun blast for added pleasure (without any aggression in the music) and some very playful piano bits. And it’s doesn’t stop on the way to absolute fabulousness: 111 helicopter is another gem. As Shuren says “this is true hiphop, jazz and poet” (sic). The drummer plays an almost jungle beat which doesn’t seem to change a thing for the pianist who goes on doing what he knows: quiet, peaceful moods. “Clear vision is no drug the sound of future”. I’m with you on this Shuren. Instrumental A day in Sapporo is quite different, sounding more like a Shuren version of Shadow or Krush. Nice, but it doesn’t make me wet my pants as much as The world of pain. Oh boyyyyyyyyyy, now this is good. No drummer, just straight hiphop beats. Shuren produced this cut without the help of anybody, no co-producer, no musician, a 100% personal work. This is fantastic! Give me a radio show, people! I would play this track often! A toy music box, heavy beats, someone saying “ahhahaahhhhahhahhahahha” and Shuren’s voice. I haven’t said anything about his rapping by the way… My fav Japanese MC remains Boss, but Shuren is damn good too. He sounds self-assured, laidback and confident, perfect delivery, a man who masters his craft. His voice is not peculiar, but he doesn’t need that to be interesting, unlike some cats. Punk is on the funnier side, there is something undeniably playful and happy about the beats, the loops, the melody and the rapping. Good stuff but not as good as 100 evil round midnight. The drummer is back, and you get some trumpet too. On the drums, O. Uno gets a bit carried away and play more freely, which is a good thing, and Shuren is literally on… fire. Oh yeah: there ain’t much people in hiphop who use samples of Tom Waits. Way down in the hole. Extra kudos for this! Rage against you is my least favourite track on My words laugh behind the mask. Shuren quotes lyrics of a couple of other tracks, welcome a guest MC, uses a piano loop and some heavy beats, but it sounds a bit rushed and the groove is gone. Up next is a track whose title I’m not able to write (you know Japanese character and all). Shuren sounds as if he were rapping through the phone, but the most interesting is, without any doubts the music, thanks to the flutist. The good man bids farewell on Shuren musics with U, a super melancholic cut, almost instrumental, a little trumpet and piano, he is definitely sad for leaving us after just over 38 minutes. And we are sad when the CD ends, for it was an awesome listen.
I’m looking forward to Shuren future endeavours. And if you like Japanese hiphop, I’ve got a couple of reviews coming for ya soon enough!François Monti