“Substances” is an album by DJ Cam, released in 1996. It is a hybrid of jazz, trip hop, and electronica, making a bridge between those styles and combining them into one cohesive whole. Although some tracks veer towards ambient, and all the small interludes between the songs are made of jazz-oriented loops, it is generally classified as a trip hop recording, especially for its slow-paced beats and stylistic origins.
Compared to some DJ Cam’s other works, “Substances” connection to hip hop style may not seem so apparent, verging probably more towards ambient, and jazz. Instead of the raw hip hop beats and occasional rapping, this record mainly features electronic atmospheric effects, ethereal vibraphone, harp arpeggios, strings, and breakbeat.
Just as his previous “Mad Blunted Jazz”, the album “Substances” reflects DJ Cam’s passion and delicate perception of jazz music by including short clips and samples from famous jazz recordings. “Friends And Enemies” is built around a melodic piano loop, as played by the legendary pianist McCoy Tyner on “Wise One” by John Coltrane. However, this does not mean that this album has only sampled jazz recordings. For instance, the main theme of the “Twilight Zone” is a string orchestra loop, extracted from the “Interview With The Vampire” movie soundtrack.
DJ Cam’s “Substances” also features an Indian vocalist Kakoli Sengupta, who lends her expressive vocals to such moody tracks as “Meera” and “Lost Kingdom”, adding Eastern influences to those compositions.
“Angel Dust” is perhaps one of the most fragile and peaceful tracks on this recording. It features a mellow sample from a Blue Note classic tune called “Lazy Afternoon” by Pete La Roca. The beatless track with its ambient effects, fragments of flute, quiet saxophone, and calming chant, is somewhat contrary to most of the DJ Cam’s groove-driven tracks.
Due to the greater influences of jazz and ambient music, “Substances” is more melodic, inner-oriented, sentimental, and dreamy than the previously released “Mad Blunted Jazz”. The beats are perhaps not so sharp and featured as some of his die hard fans might expect, hoping to find another collection of fat hip hop grooves.
Nevertheless, this record still has the DJ Cam’s signature minimalistic sound and thoughtfulness to it, where all the details are put together in a simplistic, yet creative way. Those who are willing to give up their expectations and take the album as it is – a small collection of delicate and contemplative stories – will most likely find “Substances” at least as enthralling as DJ Cam’s other recordings.