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Benji Boko Beats, Treats and All Things Unique Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Brighton-based artist is more than just a dream for lovers of alliteration.

Lou Thomas 2011

Brighton’s ‘fro-haired producer Benji Boko is beloved by respected leftfield DJ stalwarts like Rob da Bank and well-known for his live sets which intelligently and playfully smash up all the best party genres. The Avalanches, Krafty Kuts and many lesser-known musical magpies may have been knocking down the walls between breaks, hip hop, reggae, house, electro, funk and chill-out a decade ago, but with this debut album, Boko stakes a claim to be ranked among them with his own compositions.

The fruits of Boko’s labour are often enjoyable, albeit rarely exceptional – think the perfect soundtrack to a mid-afternoon Sunday barbeque. Where My Heart Is, for example, pleasantly showcases Faithless MC Maxi Jazz’s take on block party and pirate radio culture. He claims it’s about an "Underground where the soundsystems dominate / We recreate Jamaican nights on any council estate," in his usual laidback and gently affecting manner. Elsewhere, supple breaks track Glider lacks a vocal but evokes a post-midnight stare into the night from the roof of a monolithic tower block. It’s redolent of Jakatta’s American Dream, the terrific house tune that sampled elements of the American Beauty soundtrack so memorably. Later, with its scary Scarface synths and tough beat, Bokomainia could almost be a lost collaboration between John Carpenter and Giorgio Moroder.

But after a decent start, the album’s middle sags. Benji Bolognese is an unnecessary seven minutes of minor scratching, annoying riffs and samples; the tribal beats of Charuuna don’t help it sound better than the average DJ tool filler; and the jauntiness of Take a Stand is just incongruous. Coming towards the end, Lights impresses with its Steve Reich-like intro and echoes of DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing LP between jazzy piano stabs.

At 19 tracks, among them too many forgettable skits, this album is too unwieldy to qualify as a work of greatness. But its better songs show promise, and Boko expressed an impressive breadth of imagination when it comes to trying out different genres and ideas. Fair play for a first record.

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