Album Review – 85 Decibel Monks: Reel-to-Real

85 Decibel Monks is the production team of Iowa City hip-hip producers Tack-Fu, The Chaircrusher and drumk. Reel-to-Real is their latest release and the third under this name since 2000.

To make the album, Tack sorted through a sizable archive of work amassed over fourteen years. Still, consumed in one sitting, the collection of tracks is surprisingly even. There is some variation in fidelity which occurs naturally due to the array of sources a typical producer will mine for samples but The Chaircrusher–who handled post production of Reel-to-Real–guided the tracks into a cohesive release.

Reel-to-Real is made up of beats that were obviously made to have MC’s over them, so tracks like “Go-Go Gadget Remix” tend to be a bit repetitive on first listen. However, I found this release provided a great soundtrack to other chores and I was bobbing my head while it played.

If you dig DJ Shadow, Vadim, DJ Krush, Diplo, or Cut Chemist you’ll find a lot to like here. These tracks remind me of some of the early work of these producers. In particular, the use of organ on “Microwave Popcorn” reminded me of Cut Chemist’s remix of Shadow’s “Number Song.”

My favorite track on the compilation is “City of Chill,” which has a great wash of sound under a constantly-flipping high hat break beat that recalls Roni Size’s drum and bass act, Reprazent.

While Tack had previously done albums, in his words, “the old way… physical CD’s,” he wasn’t interested in doing that with this release. He worked with Bulgarian-based label Dusted Wax Kingdom ( to put Reel out online under Creative Commons licensing.

“[Dusted Wax] found out about my style of music through some of the artists on their roster [and they] really dug my stuff,” says Tack, who put the release together using the best 85 dB tracks he had that hadn’t been used for other projects.

As a piece published under Creative Commons, the artist retains ownership of the material but it may be used under certain conditions without paying licensing fees. What this means is that if you want to enjoy this collection of local tracks you may do so for no cost! Download and you’re off to a half an hour of head-bobbing, stuttering beats and manipulated samples.

Download Reel-to-Real by 85 Decibel Monks at here.