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The Vinyl Whistle

El Michels Affair - Return to the 37th Chamber

El Michels Affair - Return to the 37th Chamber

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Album - Black Vinyl

Genre: Hip Hop/Funk/Soul

The wait is over, Return To The 37th Chamber is El Michels Affair’s highly anticipated follow up to 2009's underground cult classic Enter the 37th Chamber. Churning out classic records since then for the likes of Lee Fields, The Arcs, The Shacks, and tons more, it is clear that EMA's signature sound is stronger and sharper than ever. This time, in addition to re-interpreting the Wu compositions for a live band, EMA pays homage to the production and sonic fog that makes a RZA beat so recognizable. Producer and bandleader Leon Michels recorded the album completely analog, sometimes hitting 6 generations of tape before it was ready for mixing, giving the Return to The 37th Chamberit’s own hazy sound. Adding to the unique fidelity, the record is laced with psychedelic flourishes, “John Carpenter” synths, heavy metal guitars, triumphant horns, and traditional Chinese instruments that make up for the lack of the Wu’s superlative vocals. From start to finish it’s a dark trip that walks the line between RZA’s timeless hip-hop aesthetic and the cinematic soul EMA has become known for. El Michels Affair tackles some classics like 4th Chamber and Wu Tang Aint Nuthin to Fuck Wit, as well as some deeper cuts like Ol Dirty Bastard’s Snakes, Raekwon’s Verbal Intercourse, and Shaolin Brew, Wu-Tang’s contribution to the St. Ide’s Hip Hop endorsement campaign from 1994. This time El Michels brings some of the Big Crown family along for the ride. Lee Fields handles vocal duties on Snakes and is joined by Shannon Wise of The Shacks for their version of Tearz, which pays as much homage to the Wendy Rene sample as it does to the Wu-Tang Clan. Lady Wray makes an appearance on the cover of Method Man’s hit, All I Need, lending her vocal prowess to what gave the Wu one of their biggest hits of all time. Interspersed throughout the record are some original interludes that are like the “rug that ties the room together,” giving Return To The 37th Chamber a cinematic narrative that makes it a proper El Michels Affair record and not just a collection of covers. From the music to the presentation, this album is a perfect example of what can only be achieved through diversity. The end result is as much a kaleidoscope of influences and multiculturalism as the city it was recorded in. El Michels Affair is once again, “sounding out the city” that raised them, pulling elements of art and culture from across the country and around the globe to create an album truly unique in it’s own right.


reinterpretations of hip hop anthems from the Wu-Tang Clan, the album took stripped-down, raw hip hop bangers and flipped them into richly-arranged instrumentals. Cover versions of tracks such as “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Can It All Be So Simple” instantly sounded as
vintage as the records that RZA had sampled to create the originals, with the familiar melodies and driving rhythms elevated by expertly arranged horns and strings. The gritty and bottom-heavy style of these analog recordings—dubbed “Cinematic Soul”—has
been both widely celebrated and often imitated. El Michels Affair namesake Leon Michels has since gone on to produce for and collaborate with artists as diverse as Adele, Black Thought, Lana Del Rey, and The Carters (Beyonce & Jay-Z). Now 15 years from its initial release, “Enter the 37th Chamber” has proven to be one of the true classic instrumental albums of its era, every bit as enduring as the music it was meant to pay homage to.

Track Listing:

  1. Duel Of The Iron Mics
  2. C.R.E.A.M. 
  3. Mystery Of Chessboxin' 
  4. Can It All Be So Simple 
  5. Uzi (Pinky Ring) 
  6. Interlude 
  7. Glaciers Of Ice 
  8. Cherchez La Ghost 
  9. Criminology 
  10. Heaven & Hell
  11. Bring Da Ruckus
  12. Protect Ya Neck
  13. Incarcerated Scarfaces
  14. Shimmy Shimmy Ya
  15. Outro

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