REQUIRED LISTENING Session with CIrcle Research , DJ Serious , John Kong and DJ Fase at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (January 16). Free before 11:30 pm, $10 after. www.dorightmusic.com Rating: NNNNN
Until the release of the Required Listening (Do Right!) compilation disc - an excellent scene survey of Toronto's underground dance club and hiphop talent - it was beginning to look like Circle Research's promising Speak & Read debut 12-inch EP was also going to be the hiphop production duo's final bow. Evidently, there was good reason why Astro "the Guillotine" and Nix "the Finger Prince" spent much of 2003 on the down low: they were busy sifting through tracks recorded over the past four years for their long-overdue full-length album release.
Provisionally titled Mulligan Stew and set for release by Do Right! in April, the disc draws heavily on the rhyming skills of long-time pals MC Abdominal (of Abs & Fase), Aceiks, Planet Pea, Phatt Al and others, but it's the stone-solid beats and party-rockin' vibe that define the Circle Research sound.
The conspicuous absence of gunplay and misogyny may sound like an old-school throwback to the pre-gangsta joints of the late 80s, but for Astro and Nix, their music is a natural product of growing up as b-boys in Etobicoke.
"Most people don't know this," chuckles Astro at John Kong's swank College Street pad, "but Nix and I used to breakdance together when we were in school. We both really liked old-school hiphop and electro besides being the only DJs in the crew, so it made sense to join forces. We formed Circle Research back in 95.
"When it came time to do our own music, we wanted to make the sort of hiphop that we grew up with and made us love the music in the first place. Neither of us has ever tried Cristal and we don't have any guns."
At the Required Listening Session Friday at Roxy Blu, Astro and Nix promise to drop a couple of tracks from their forthcoming disc in their DJ set, but will wait until closer to the album's April street date to stage a full-on concert involving their many guest rappers.
There's no word yet if their secret weapon, MC Yushin, will make the release party. Since recording his tracks with Circle Research, he returned to Japan and hasn't been heard from since.
"Some guys I was in a brass band with told me about this guy from Sapporo who taught a dance class and could rap in Japanese," recalls Astro. "So I met Yushin the next week and we hit it off right away. We became roommates and began recording tracks together.
"Actually, the idea of the recording was to showcase our friends, who we believe are really talented people. Everything was recorded and mixed at our home, so this really was a completely do-it-yourself operation."