CD Review of Plastic Starfish by Tal M. Klein
Recommended if you like
Sly and the Family Stone,
James Brown, Booker T.
Aniligital Music
Tal M. Klein: Plastic Starfish

Reviewed by Jason Thompson


o kids, it’s the new joint by my man Tal M. Klein. Tal’s been working the turntables since the ‘90s, and he’s easily one of the only instantly likable mixmeisters in the country these days. You don’t have to be a fan of the art of mixing or turntablism, or scared of electronic music or stuff created with the assistance of cool music programs in the studio, to enjoy Tal’s music. It just instantly reaches out and connects. You know, instant head bobbing, toe tapping, rump shaking stuff, but never in a fashion that tips the scales and wanders off into crass commercialism clichéd bullshit. Klein’s got the perfect balance down pat and knows what makes for a catchy tune without ever shifting into annoying territory.

His latest work here has a maritime theme running through it, but whatever that underlying “theme” may be representing for Tal at large, this is just another great disc by the man who’s done it all (including some porno film work). If you’re not familiar with Klein’s work by name alone, you may know him under his previous moniker of “Trancenden.” However, Tal was getting tired of people automatically assuming his music was strictly trance (which it never has been, either before or after that name), so he decided to just head forward under his own name. And why not, right? It’s as unique as any Keoki, Paul van Dyk, Billy Nasty, or whomever else you want to lay out there. And what’s even more unique is Tal’s brand of tunes. He’s always been reaching back into classic and obscure funk and soul and blending that with whatever he deems apropos at the time. Put it this way: any Tal M. Klein project is a guaranteed good time.

Take opening track “Neptune’s Minty Trident,” for example. Here, Tal seamlessly integrates the Meters’ “Look-Ka Py Py,” Tom Jones’ “Looking Out My Window,” and Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” while putting his own brew into the mix, and out comes something so infectiously good and new, that you’re grooving within 20 seconds or less. The man is good at knowing what makes a good backbone for a tune, like on “Houston Brownwater Moccasins,” which is a funked-out percussion tour de force that breaks down into a bass guitar line/electric piano through a Leslie speaker groove that no one can possibly escape. But again, this is Klein’s greatest gift: his accessibility has always been welcome in a genre filled with dudes who want nothing more than to often be artisier or more cerebral with their mixing and forgetting about the people on the dancefloor making it all possible. This is music anyone can enjoy.

“Sextant Machine” is pure spaced-out gutter funk bliss, while “Brincando El Tiburon” is easily some of the best instrumental soul released in ages, no lie. The funk is fresh and alive here. And while other artists these days may use that template as a purely kitsch/nostalgic kick to get people to notice, in Klein’s world it’s all about pure love and respect for the sound. Indeed, “Emmylou’s Underwater Petting Zoo” mixes Spanish guitar, funk horns and Hammond organ so righteously that you’ll never want to leave this groove. Whatever Tal’s secret “less is more” recipe actually contains, we may never know. But I’m damned sure it’s the same sort of genius mentality that coursed through the bulk of the great Booker T. and the M.G.s instrumental nuggets that are so well-loved to this day.

“That Ain’t No Mermaid” is exactly the kind of groove the Beastie Boys wished they could have come up with on their last instrumental album, but alas, they just don’t have the chops to come up with something that funky over the course of an entire disc. Klein, on the other hand, makes it all seem so simple. But then again, this is his territory and everyone’s welcome to come in and have a good time. This includes any and all of you out there reading this now. If another instrumental album comes out this year that is better than Plastic Starfish, I’ll be seriously shocked. But not to worry, because that’s not gonna happen. So get on the good foot and take a listen to one of the best and funkiest DJs out there. Another stellar album by Mr. Tal M. Klein that does not fail to impress. Amen.

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