Record Review - 3 May 29 2002

A mix CD can say a lot about a DJ’s set, but can it say much about a DJ?

“No,” Paul Oakenfold must have thought as he stenciled the blueprints for Bunkka (set for release June 18), a collection that speaks volumes about Oakenfold’s non-DJ career.

With Bunkka, Oakenfold puts down the headphones and picks up the baton, conducting 10 guest vocalists (including Perry Farrell, Grant Lee Phillips, Nelly Furtado and Tricky) across 11 tracks, attempting a commercial crossover by avoiding, for the most part, the tranceporting anthems that have become his beleaguered trademark. And many of Oakenfold’s previous hallmarks are revealed along the way.

Bunkka echoes various Oakenfold eras past. His early-’90s rock roots (he produced Happy Mondays’ Madchester phase and remixed U2’s Achtung Baby) inform the gritty guitars and lite breakbeats of the Moby-does-James Bond-like “Ready Steady Go.” And his ’80s work in hip-hop A&R is exemplified in the album’s only major misstep, “Get ‘Em Up,” featuring Ice Cube, who also worked with Oakenfold on the equally lacking Blade II soundtrack.

Newcomer Carla Werner heads up the album’s most banging track, “Southern Sun,” while Crazy Town’s Shifty Shellshock flits over a flimsy “Everybody’s Talkin’” riff. Most compelling are somber, cinematic tracks like “Nixon’s Spirit” (featuring gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson) and the instrumental, string-laden standout “Zoo York,” which highlight Oakenfold’s recent work in scoring films.

But for all Oakenfold’s experience(s), the competent Bunkka doesn’t travel far outside the expected realm of the working DJ; shades of such artists as the Crystal Method and Olive can be heard throughout. But it does help put a fresh spin on a DJ everybody thought they knew.

Paul Oakenfold spins at eleven50 Wed., May 29.??