As a producer, rapper and cofounder of the Anticon record label, Jel has contributed a significant body of work to underground hip-hop, consistently venturing into the distant reaches of electronic music. Though he doesn't always fit in among other independent hip-hop figures, he should mesh well with genre-blending songwriter and MC Astronautalis and spastic rapper Busdriver on Thursday, Dec. 20, at the High Noon Saloon. Here are a few places to get a taste of Jel's production style.
Projects with Doseone
Jel's most frequent collaborator, Doseone, is a nasal and athletic MC whose dense sprawls of verbiage resemble free-verse poetry. Together the two artists founded Themselves, whose 2002 album, The No Music, provides a surreal and moody window into hip-hop. The pair also joined German electronic group the Notwist to form 13 & God, a project that's even more wonderfully morose and unmoored.
But the easiest point of entry is Subtle, a six-piece band that uses elements of art-rock to flesh out Jel's beats and the theatrical vision of Doseone's lyrics. The project's 2006 release, For Hero: For Fool, is a concept album with a nearly incomprehensible plot: On "Midas Gutz," Doseone envisions a celebrity-judged beauty contest for intestines.
Recordings with Deep Puddle Dynamics
Jel often combines breakbeat fundamentals with eerie and sandpapery textures, which helps Deep Puddle Dynamics' 1999 album The Taste of Rain...Why Kneel sound like an underground-rap primordial soup. Here, Jel and Doseone join a small stable of other important indie-rap artists, including Slug, Alias, DJ Abilities, Sole and Ant. The production on "June 26, 1998" tries to reconcile Slug's pugnacious delivery and Doseone's nerdy sputter with a combination of simple percussion and lonesome, sparse strings.
On his 2006 solo album Soft Money, Jel's rapping is angry and straightforward, but downright serene compared to Doseone's. On 2002's instrumental Greenball, Jel chills out a bit by incorporating some mellow samples of jazz piano and horns. Then again, the guttural bass and tense guitar chords on "Grass Skirt No Hat" make it hard to stay comfortable for long.