Controller 7 is the alias of San Francisco-based beatmaker/composer Tommy McMahon. He described his first full length release, Left Handed Straw, as a “mixtape of [the] projects” he had been working on prior to its release in 2002. And although at times it does feel like a thrown together collection of disparate pieces, like the best mixtapes, it also manages to retain a strong sense of cohesiveness. And, also like many mixtapes that I’ve heard, my primary criticism of Left Handed Straw would be its over-inclusiveness. This isn’t to say there are weak tracks that pull the album down (in fact, the bulk of the beats are delicious), but rather that the 70-minute, 37 track album is just a note too long. Of course, that just means that as a consumer, you get more bang for your buck (in this case, somewhat literally). Left Handed Straw is an excellent collection of primarily instrumental hip-hop with a few MCs (such as Slug, Sole, etc.) making occasional, rare appearances.
McMahon pairs beats with eclectic samples lifted from wherever he can find them: early hip-hop tracks, 50’s French pop music, rock n’ roll, live recordings, and (like Kid Koala before him) assorted dialogue snippets from numerous obscure sources. The track “Follow the Light” begins with vinyl crackle and a simple brooding beat. A pensive acoustic guitar passes by as the whole track crumples into itself. The succeeding track, “Yellow,” begins like the score to an old James Bond movie featuring a foreboding violin riff matched with a beat of its own. 1:45 into this track, McMahon sonically submerges the violin under water, but spares the beat. The result is a simple but elegant groove that Controller 7 brings to a stuttering close. Other highlights include the tracks “Bunny Slippers,” “Unknown,” “Rain Men (Left Handed)” and “Heckles from the Peanut Gallery.”
You can download “Heckles from the Peanut Gallery,” which appears on Left Handed Straw and Rain Men (remix) ,(original 12” version) courtesy of Controller 7’s Website.
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