DJ Mark Farina

Any fan of music, be it hip-hop, jazz, downtempo electronica, or R&B, will find Mark Farina's latest Mushroom Jazz compilation a successful modern-day fusion. The preternatural DJ who's made his name on the looped-out frames of San Francisco and Chicago house continues the trend of cutup artists sampling a more soothing style in search of a vibe that will satisfy a club crowd not as young as it once was.

Carefully sifting through genres and rhythms, Farina displays eclectic tastes and well-rounded skills in laying out a nineteen-track atmosphere that is at once past cool, present funk, and future mellow. Blending in bebop horning, head-nodding backbeats, and keyboard melodies with delicate traces of vocals, from soaring pitches to instructional monotones, this collection finds Farina at his most comfortable and enjoyable.

Kicking off with Pete Rock's "A Little Soul," Farina finds the groove-source from which the rest of this collection draws. A case could be made that volume four is really one track stretched over a few tempo changes, but even if that were true, it's well worth the ride. What gives Farina the edge is a seamless transitional quality that allows him the space to drop roots-rocking hip-hop from People Under the Stairs ("Suite for Beaver Pt. 1") before side-winding his way into Trankilou's smoothed-out "Chicago Babe." And when the whacking guitars jangle on in Jboom's "Wiggle & Giggle," all the pieces are in place for a rebirth of the cool.

Farina finishes off his set with a couple of nu-blues mixes in the guise of Dubble-D's "Big Fish" and Greyboy's "Bath Music," ambient numbers deep enough to keep from slipping into new age. Like contemporary electronic acts Jazzanova and Thievery Corporation, Farina holds on to a code of hip that once turned underground jazz into the barometer of fresh. While many DJs have hit the 4/4 wall, trying in vain to force-feed electroclash on shell-shocked dance fans, Farina comes through with a clever diversion to change the party line. If another night of banging drum and bass seems unbearable, curl up with Mushroom Jazz 4 and be thankful DJs like Farina are feeling the same way.

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Kevin McLaughlin