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A Journey Inward with LTJ

On Tuesday, 19 September, I had my first live experience with Danny Williamson, more commonly known as LTJ Bukem. I did a quick skip past a meaty bouncer at the door, was instantly absorbed by the sporadic, beaming radiance of Centro-Fly’s ambience, and dove headfirst into the crazy vibe. I swam eagerly through a mad, bouncing horde of true D&B heads and found my place in a cozy niche near the front of a tiny stage. LTJ had just begun his set.

After an initial moment of peaceful bliss—an underwater medley of lovely jazz tweaks and dreamlike heartbeats of high-hats; gentle, but with a speedy force—I was ripped from my smiling daze and tossed helplessly into a deep and soulful bass roll that shook the entire dance floor into a single excited pulse. As if against all volition, Bukem had snatched up each and every body in the house, and with a hypnotic beat of some of the best live drum and bass I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing, was orchestrating a crazy puppet show with all of our flailing bodies. Accompanied by the fresh lyrical flow of MC Conrad, Bukem laid down track after track, and kept my head reeling. This shit was LIVE.

I bought my ticket with eager enthusiasm as soon as I heard Bukem was coming to New York; but I must admit, I left Brooklyn that night with a bit of apprehension. Well... no, not apprehension—more like curiosity.

A few months prior, I had my first taste of LTJ Bukem’s latest release, Journey Inwards (Good Looking Records/Kinetic Records); and about a month ago, I bought a copy for my very own. I was grabbed instantly by the smooth cuts on both discs of this fourteen-track CD wonder, but its ambient/jazzy, hypnotic flave seriously caught me by surprise. Tracks like “Watercolours” and “Sunrain” sound more like New Age Ambient Jazz side shoots, than the typical D&B breaks I figured on hearing. A more classic sound is maintained here and there (i.e., “Feel What You Feel,” hands down my favorite cut), but this album certainly offers an unexpected twist. It’s easily one of my new favorite CDs, and the D&B is definitely tight throughout, but as a whole, the work is much gentler than I ever expected. It’s a flow I can sit on my couch and melt with, but not necessarily the typical Bukem breaks that make me jump-Up at a club. I was curious on my way to Centro-Fly if I’d be floating around the stage or bouncing mad through every dark corner of the crowd.

Back to the show. One word: NASTY.

Much to my satisfaction, the deep and dark were definitely preserved, and Bukem kept it so fresh, so wicked, nonstop, all night. With the delicate precision of a surgeon, this geezer melded a wave of musical energy into a fluid galaxy of breakbeat I thought had swallowed me for good. The show was one true vibe with classic jungle throbs and pounds, juggled with a smooth caress, but still, it pounced and flung something like a psychotic minefield.

He did work in some of the more mellow styles I’ve grown to love in his newer tracks, but these served more as complimentary rest-stops along the racing freeway on which he lead us. Perfectly timed, these smooth intermissions provided me with just enough time to slow my roll, catch my breath, and throw up larger-than-life smiles and much respect to the man on the tables.

By far one of THE BEST live breakbeat experiences I’ve ever had, this will not be the last time I see LTJ Bukem.

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