Leave them all behinds 

No one knows the quagmire of jungle on both sides of the Atlantic right now better than the New York DJ-production team of Ming + FS (Aaron "Ming" Albano and Fred "FS" Sargolini). As purveyors of self-ascribed "junkyard" jungle, the pair were among the first Americans to successfully combine hip hop and jungle on their 1999 album Hell’s Kitchen (on Om Records) which took hip hop and breakbeat back to their common boom. The pair have also been responsible for some of the most convincing hip hop-jungle remixes on New York’s Liquid Sky label.

But Ming + FS now want nothing to do with jungle culture even as they prepare to co-lead this summer’s "Om Deep Concentration"tour with turntablists Apollo, Vinroc and Shortkut, who likewise explore the baggier side of hip-hop culture with their live beat collages. So what happened?

"Jungle went white, that’s what happened" begins Ming, "It lost its soul. Now it’s coming from a mathematical, nonmusical perspective."

"I believe the correct terminology for it now is ‘drum ‘n’ techno,’" chimes in FS.

"In the beginning it was fun, rapping over the tracks; it was a party; it was urban culture. Now it’s the suburbs; it’s about wearing a baseball cap and bobbing your head, usually out of time," he adds, laughing.

"It used to be about unity, now it’s a high school lunchroom," continues Ming.

"Everybody’s off in their little cliques. It’s starting to fold over on itself."

While the duo’s opinions are likely to piss off legions of jungle kids, Ming + FS are among the few American DJ teams who can put their skills where their mouths are. The 25-year-old FS has been a hip-hop DJ-production prodigy since he was 14, remixing and producing everyone from Coolio to Brandy. Albano was a pedigreed musician playing guitar in speed metal and industrial bands. Besides jungle and hip hop, they have a beat-pop record under the name Beat Tree, which FS describes as "what Sugar Ray should have sounded like."

Now with the "Om Deep Concentration" tour, the pair hope to sidestep subgenres altogether and get back to what DJing was supposed to be about in the first place: party rocking.

"What we’re trying to do with our sets is really just compose music on turntables and get people dancing. Hopefully it won’t be all trickery and shit with kids standing around watching the DJ," says FS, knowing full well the kind of backpack-toting trainspotter crowd turntablist performances can attract.

He’s pretty sure that won’t be a problem. "Apollo is one of the most musical scratch DJs I’ve ever heard. He’s a good party DJ – he doesn’t abuse the skills."

The most recent proof of Ming + FS’s skills is their incendiary "Locus" track with DJ J-Rocc of the World Famous Beat Junkies on the Tektonics compilation, also on Om. The set pairs turntablists with breakbeat and jungle producers in the best and most forward-thinking example of the synergy between DJ and producer culture yet. It’s also an indicator of how producers and turntablists have only begun to really reach a musical common ground where the DJ isn’t just scratching "aahh, fresh" over the bridge. Tektonics may not quite be the blueprint for the next school of dance music, but it’s a step in the right direction. "We’re at an interesting crossroads right now," says FS.

Their rock-the-party ethos may leave kids expecting all jungle or all hip hop scratching their tilted Nautica caps. But the pair see the Deep Con tour as one step closer to the day when soundmen at the rock clubs they often find themselves playing at can make turntables sound as good as guitars and drums. "The sound systems in most clubs just aren’t set up for DJ shows," Ming says, adding, "You wanna know why jungle never really seemed to hit in America? It’s because the sound systems were shit."

But it isn’t all the soundman’s fault. Ming admits electronic music needs to evolve out of its subgenre status. "People don’t say, ‘Björk made a good electronic record,’ they say she made a record because she had good songs, not just beats."

While he concedes he and FS haven’t quite polished their hip hop-jungle moniker with Björk-level work just yet, they do hope to eventually form a live band. "We’re at that point where there’ll be some kid in 15 years that will fuck everything up, in making everything that’s going on right now make sense, like Rage Against the Machine did when they first came out," says Ming.

"Unfortunately we might have been born too early to be that kid, but he’ll be influenced by us." he laughs. Hobey Echlin is a freelance writer. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com. Echlin never arrives too late to influence the

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