Once 11 Smile Hunter

This album must have been quite the long and winding road to construct, having been recorded in Costa Rica, Panama, Hungary, Austria, Spain and the U.S. Oh, and it was mixed in Uruguay. Once 11 has created a very satisfying sample-based dub sound. Leaning more toward the jazzier syncopations in the mid-tempos rather than to slow dirges or dub-step tracks, Once 11 reminds us why trip-hop had so much potential a long time ago. He’s big on the spatial panning whereas the echoes tend to be spread out and quick within the sonic spectrum. The initial track "Trinidad and Tobacco” is a case in point: acoustic guitars cascade all around a brushed drum while bass rattles your fillings. Once 11 doesn’t shy away from harshness, though; he makes it sound beautiful as in "When The Dance Is The Game, The Food Crisis Came,” which features a hazy swirl of distortion underlying a sensitive, tom-driven groove. The choppy samples on many tunes recall Montreal’s Deadbeat, but with less deliberate programming or techno sensibility. For the most part, this would be a pretty tough sell on a dance floor, but "A Long Beard on a Throne” has clipped West African tones that can power a mutant one-drop forward. Keep in mind that this is one of the few tracks with any snare drum presence — this detail alone speaks volumes about the mood of the majority of tracks. (CL)