The path of the DJ-monikered musician who turns from static-laden samples toward live instrumentation is well trodden, but if we're to believe the buzzing zeitgeistthat hip-hop is in its last throes of originalitywhen it expires, let the poets write that it was not without a struggle. DJ Vadim's most recent contribution to this fight, The Sound Catcher, is a refreshingly ambitious collaborative effort, featuring more than a dozen guest artists who look both forward and backward. It starts strong, with the rounded swing and low-end boom of the reggae cut "Fear Feats," with solid backup from rappers Emo and Syrus. The title track delivers as well, with both Vadim and MC Abstract Rude reminding us just how good hip-hop can sound at critical mass. Even when instrumentals like "Manchester" drift toward cliché, a warm legato cello or percussive fill lures us back in with the beckon of a meticulous hand. In its strongest moments, The Sound Catcher is a well-crafted and challenging departure from the norm, borne from Vadim's exceptional ears to yours.