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Artist Sixtoo
Album Jackals and Vipers In Envy of Man
Label Ninja Tune
Year 2007

     Robert Squire, better known as Sixtoo, has been releasing solid Hiphop for over a decade. While some artists who’ve been around the game this long just stick with the tried and true methods of their past, Sixtoo is a cat who has been challenging himself further on each and every release that he puts out.

     For his latest album on Ninja Tune records, Jackals and Vipers in Envy of Man, Sixtoo experiments with his plethora of machines to create an instrumental disc that brims with dope drums and samples galore, from start to finish. He set out in the beginning compiling music from live sets recorded in various locations, in order to string them together as an instrumental, tape-edit record. In the end, these live sets were dressed up in the studio with his signature drum machine magic and electronics to resemble a dark, banging soundtrack.

      Jackals and Vipers in Envy of Man is essentially one track, broken up into thirteen parts. The album starts with three parts that sound like they could be outtakes from DJ Shadow’s masterpiece Entroducing. Many beatsmiths who create an instrumental album will inevitably be compared to Shadow, but most producers in this instance are merely emulating, while Sixtoo is creating something completely unique that happens to sound like the real original. In this case, you can call him a peer and not an imitator.

     On parts four through six, Sixtoo proves that he’s not only a master at sequencing drums, but is equally impressive with his string selection and arrangements. Part four bangs along at a sinister pace, set by some hard driving drums and accompanied by some sitar style strings that give the track a Bollywood horror sound. Part six also keeps with a similar Indian sound and is bolstered mid-track by some synthesizer sounds that would make this tune sound at home on a video game when the lead character lost his life.

     The disc hits a high point with parts nine through eleven picking up the pace considerably. That’s not to say these cuts are any less dark than the tracks which precede them. Part nine features a piano sample and horns that could have easily been lifted from a number of albums that employ Latin rhythms and funky brass licks. Eleven sounds as if Madlib is at the helm during one of his Jazz-based experiments like Yesterday’s New Quintet.

     Most Hiphop producers these days feel comfortable making similar tracks over and over again as long as people are diggin’ it. Sixtoo is not one of these producers. He continues to move in directions in which he has not covered during his more than ten years in the game. Even though he is equally solid on the mic, his confidence in his production abilities is apparent, as he lets them stand alone without vocal accompaniment on Jackals and Vipers in Envy of Man. Why he’s criminally slept on is a question that has no valid explanation or answer.

- Bob Signorelli

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