Mark Farina is a San Francisco resident by way of Chicago, and his name is as revered as other Windy City DJs such as Derrick Carter and Roger Sanchez. Though Farina is best-known for his smoking live sets and the successful Mushroom Jazz series of mix CDs, Air Farina is his first effort at a full-length album of original material. While the four Mushroom Jazz releases are filled with soulful instrumental hip-hop, San Francisco Sessions and Connect are funky compilations obviously influenced by the town where he grew up, the birthplace of house music in the mid-'80s. On Air Farina, the influences are combined to create a varied album, sometimes downtempo and mellow, sometimes hard-edged and danceable.
Air Farina is designed with the theme of a transcontinental flight and features vocal interludes (called "layovers") gleaned from an instructional course for pilots and from old movies. This jet-set theme is right on for Farina, a DJ who plays hundreds of clubs around the world each year. Most of the album features the type of music he plays in his live sets: banging four-on-the-floor house beats with some melodic jazz samples and a tribal bongo beat. "Fusbol" is a classic example of the San Francisco house sound, and the percussive rhythms and Spanish vocal samples would fit in well on South Florida's dance floors. Some of the songs are a bit repetitive, but house music, by definition, is just that. Special guests add soulful lyrics to a handful of tracks, but one, "Travel," stands out stylistically. Featuring a bass-heavy thump and the quick-tongued flows of hip-hop group People Under the Stairs, this song is a welcome change from the straight-up dance music of the rest of the record. Listen with a pair of headphones and witness the incredible job Farina does mixing his tunes, sound bouncing back and forth from one channel to the other; it's almost as good as experiencing a talented DJ working a dance floor.
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