Money Mark/ Mix Master Mike | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Money Mark/ Mix Master Mike 

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MONEY MARK/MIX MASTER MIKE

For most of the last decade Money Mark (aka Mark Ramos-Nishita) has been content to make other people's music. In the late 80s the self-taught keyboardist did session work for an obscure production team called the Dust Brothers and laid down parts on various Delicious Vinyl releases, including early singles by Tone-Loc. But music didn't pay all the bills, so he did carpentry to make ends meet, and it was through carpentry that he met the Beastie Boys. The stars, by then transplanted to LA, needed a gate fixed on the house they shared, and when he was done with that they needed a recording studio built. By 1992 he was an adjunct member, contributing crucial organ parts to Check Your Head, and helping out the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and George Clinton besides. A couple years ago he finally began working on his own music, which turned out to be a sort of fragmented bedroom soul. The succinct, introspective ditties on his 1996 debut, Mark's Keyboard Repair (Mo' Wax/ffrr), offered Beastie Boys fans a scaled-down retreat, as early Sebadoh did for tired Dinosaur Jr fans. The new Push the Button (Mo' Wax/London) is Money Mark's real coming-out party--although he produced it himself and played most of the instruments to boot, it's wildly expansive stylistically and was recorded in the highest fi possible. Complementing the familiar hazy soul and groovy electronic funk are surprising turns at straight-up pop ("Too Like You," "Rock in the Rain," and "Tomorrow Will Be Like Today") that variously bring to mind John Lennon, the Velvet Underground, and Squeeze; a little Martin Denny-esque lounge ("Crowns"); some chintzy bossa nova ("Bossa Nova 101"); and a hilarious parody of the paranoid brutality of techstep drum 'n' bass ("Powerhouse"). To Money Mark's credit, despite its Whitman's-sampler-esque spread, the album is remarkably cohesive. I can't say the same for Anti-Theft Device (Asphodel), the debut album from Mix Master Mike, a Bay Area DJ who's part of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz. Like fellow Pikl Q-Bert, Mike's an undisputed turntable whiz, but over the course of an hour the album moves from music to sheer gymnastics--and while some scratching pyrotechnics can pin my jaw to the floor, many of this album's 31 cuts sound like segues with nothing to connect. Still, he ought to be highly entertaining live. Both Money Mark and Mix Master Mike are playing earlier the same night at Horizon with the Beastie Boys (see separate Critic's Choice), so guest appearances shouldn't be ruled out; Montreal turntablist Kid Koala also performs. Wednesday, 11:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Money Mark photo by Phil Knott/ Mix Master Mike uncredited photo.

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