Can a record build a buzz if it barely exists? This sounds like one of those tree-falling-in-the-woods questions, and maybe it is. But for the four 12-inches of the MMT Tape Series, it's less an open-ended philosophical debate than a relevant inquiry into one of Rush Hour's more peculiar "reissues" of late. Hand-stamped and stuffed into paper-bag sleeves, MMT Tapes Series 1-4 arrived last fall in quick succession and with virtually no explanation, and then quickly disappeared. Before the aura of legend could begin to swirl, Rush Hour announced they were compiling them for one big (and widely available) release. Thus ended perhaps the shortest canonization cycle in dance music nerd history.
Granted, each of the four 12-inches sounded like a classic from the moment it emerged from the ether: they wiggled like Aphex Twin, tripped like Villalobos, slammed like L.I.E.S. singles and pushed through tape hiss like Edison test records. The head-scratchers they contained, whether deliciously extended or tragically short, sounded like they could have been recorded yesterday or 20 years ago, or at some point in the next decade. As you skipped through the original EPs, you never knew whether the next groove would contain squelching techno, mellow deep house, or even bother with a beat at all. As it turns out, the tracks were indeed vintage, though their creator—Jorge Velez, the Jersey City-based producer best known as Professor Genius—hadn't previously let them out of his studio.
Whittled down slightly from a stack of lengthy EPs but bursting with four unreleased additions, the collection makes for an overwhelming straight-through listen. But when you approach it as a treasure trove of off-kilter sounds, its constituent parts shine through. Compared to the more polished music on his self-titled Professor Genius album or his broodingly focused Hassan full-length on L.I.E.S., MMT Tape Series betrays a wickedly bizarre compositional sense. Throughout the set, melodies rarely jive, textures routinely clash and drum machines proudly get ahead of themselves. But when a scorcher like series highlight "Floo" bounds in like the long-lost feral child of Jus-Ed, you realize Velez left everything perfectly out of place.