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Thursday, 4 May 2006
venetian snares - higgins ultra low track glue funk hits 1972-2006
Now Playing: bring that beat back w/billy jam (wfmu.org)
Topic: 2002 reviews (Jul.-Sep.)

[this review was originally posted to the BSOTS website in august of 2002. if there is someone releasing crazier compositions than Venetian Snares, i'm not sure i wanna know about it. make sure to check out the Bleep player below to listen to songs from this album...]

VENETIAN SNARES
Higgins Ultra Low Track Glue Funk Hits 1972-2006
Record label: Planet Mu (UK)
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: 27 May 2002

Dr. Strangebreak recently made a house call. In other words, my need for extreme music has come back something fierce. It was about that time that I decided to take a return trip to Planet Mu, whereupon I learned of the recent antics of one Aaron Funk. Known to hundreds of noisecore-lovin' freaks as Venetian Snares, he has moved fast and furious through the mysterious realm of fringe element beats. Jungle and hardcore become hideously mutated and even the hardest of the hard find themselves running for the hills, or at least wishing for something more linear.

Higgins…is a wild romp that experiments mostly with various styles of jungle. The opener ("Dance Like You're Selling Nails") works in a bit of opera into the formula, even including a vocalist singing phrases like "rudeboy" and "junglist massive" in this really affected opera voice. From there, it throws in a bit of a surf motif as performed by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Some of the tracks are so fast it's as if they're whizzing by your head, but the complexities involved in creating them aren't lost on the ear. Examine the scattered jazz fusion of "Banana Seat Girl" or "Valmer Side," demented tech-step in 7/4 time. "Deadman DJ" is relentless ragga-splattered jungle on speed. You know the feeling you get when you ride the Gravitron, that amusement park ride that spins you round at speeds so fast you stick to the wall? That's what "Deadman DJ" is on wax: messy, bludgeoned beats flung across your brain. "Dismantling Five Years" offers the only chance to slow down, and even then it's rather unsettling. Quieter moments from Mr. Funk come few and far between, but he doesn't make it easy for you - this is a haunting tranquility.

Very few in the game are moving with the speed and the brashness of Venetian Snares. Every release is another chapter in rekindling the spirit of punk and challenging musical conventions - even those of his peers. Apparently, he's far from finished: two more albums are scheduled to be released on Planet Mu before the end of the year. Spastic times call for spastic tunes…thanks, Aaron.

{macedonia}


Posted by macedonia at 1:17 PM EDT
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john oswald ain't nothin' ta f**k wit...
Now Playing: bring that beat back w/billy jam (wfmu.org)
Topic: 2002 reviews (Jul.-Sep.)

[this review was originally posted to the BSOTS website...hmm, i wanna say mid-2002, somewhere around there. know this: as far as sound collages go, nothing tops this album. NOTHING. -jrs.]

PLUNDERPHONICS
69 Plunderphonics 96
Record label: Seeland
Format: 2xCD
Release date: August 2001

I first got interested in sound collages listening to pieces like “Revolution #9” by The Beatles and Frank Zappa’s Lumpy Gravy. Eventually, it was Negativland that I would compare all others to – Escape From Noise, Helter Stupid, and the U2 EP did my head in. But now, even Negativland pales in comparison to the figure I’ll be studying for the rest of my life. His name is John Oswald.

Plunderphonics was first released in 1989. One glance at the cover photo (a doctored image of Michael Jackson as a naked white woman) should’ve made Oswald’s intentions clear – this man was on a mission to completely rearrange pop music. The rearrangement is twofold: not only taking a familiar song and severely altering its order, but to redefine what pop music is in general. Of course, most people (when they didn’t call it sacrilege) considered Oswald’s work the complete and total antithesis of pop. It’s not repetitive, the hook has been plucked away and thrown into the fire, and any commercial potential has gone the way of the dodo. Yet it’s still “pop” in a way – the songs’ origins remain recognizable. Not only that, but it’s done that way ON PURPOSE.

What he did to Michael Jackson’s “Bad” alone made the disc one of the most infamous releases in recorded history. And regardless of the fact that he never sold copies of the CD, regardless of the fact that he encouraged others to dub his album, Brian Robertson, then president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (equal to the RIAA in the States), had the master tapes destroyed. I wouldn’t even be writing this review if Negativland hadn’t stepped in. Through “borrowing” the album from John Oswald, they’ve made it available to the public. GOD BLESS ‘EM.

The folks at Seeland went all out on the packaging. What started out as a single album is now a double-disc extravaganza, celebrating a quarter century of Oswald’s work. Disc One (Songs) features more voice-centered material while Disc Two (Tunes) is mostly instrumental work. The introduction to Plunderphonics, “btls,” is our gateway into an alternate universe. As the last resounding chord of The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” transforms into the opening guitar chord from “A Hard Day’s Night,” we leave the realm of the rhythmically conventional and step into a place where there are no limits. This is quickly followed up by “power,” featuring an energetic preacher strategically placed over the music of Led Zeppelin. (The use of irony is one of Oswald’s stronger qualities.) Recorded in 1975, some call “power” the first rap song, a claim that is certainly debatable, to say the very least. Further audio operations are performed on The Doors, Elvis Presley, Edie Brickell, Madonna, Prince, Sonic Youth, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Antonio Carlos Jobim, the themes to 2001 and Andy Griffith, and countless others.

One of the most engaging tracks is “vane,” where Oswald takes Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and painstakingly splices in sections of a cover version by Faster Pussycat. The end result is a playful tradeoff, often in the middle of sentences. “black” and “brown” relish various characteristics of James Brown’s music. Strict attention is paid to the forceful punctuation of the horn section or James’s trademark grunts and squeals. On 1988’s “pretender,” Dolly Parton’s rendition of “The Great Pretender” is decelerated to the point of where it sounds as if the buxom country star has undergone a sex change.

A examination of Plunderphonics is incomplete without mentioning “dab.” This is Oswald at his most meticulous, reshaping Michael Jackson’s “Bad” into a seven-minute climax of noise. Listening to “dab” is like watching a solid object explode in a confined area and witnessing the fragments collide with each other, providing they aren’t already stuck to the walls. From the opening clicks of Jackson’s speech to the closing clicks of the same, “dab” is a masterful exercise in sound manipulation. Oswald had hoped that Jackson would be flattered by it, and it’s been rumored that Michael did find the cut amusing, but no one can say for sure. The only assumption that can be safely made is that Jackson’s lawyers weren’t laughing at all.

This retrospective contains over 60 tracks, each one bearing an anagram of the artist’s name it plunders. So Led Zeppelin becomes Deep Zen Pill, Jim Morrison is Sir Jim Moron, Pizzicato Five is Taco Pizza Five, Ludwig Van Beethoven is Devil Gun Won’t Behave, and so forth. The package also features a lengthy print interview with John Oswald discussing the creative process, the legal fiasco that ensued over “dab,” and his own philosophies on music. Photo collages and other pictures accompany the interview. Anyone interested in experimental works shouldn’t miss this release – 69 Plunderphonics 96 is the Holy Grail of sound collage projects. Seeing as how the entire project is comprised of 100% unauthorized samples, it would be wise to secure a copy before it disappears again.

{steve crognale}

*check out samples and purchase tracks through emusic.com.

Posted by macedonia at 1:15 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 19 April 2006
public enemy - revolverlution
Now Playing: alpha omega podcast
Topic: 2002 reviews (Jul.-Sep.)

[this review was originally posted to the BSOTS website in august of 2002. i love reviews like this: so full of life and passion about the music. by the way, if you ever get a chance to hear Chuck D on the college lecture circuit, run, don't walk. he's brilliant. -jrs.]

PUBLIC ENEMY
Revolverlution
Record label: Slam Jamz/Koch
Format: CD
Release date: 30 July 2002

Considering that most rap fans would rather raise the roof than raise their fists, you really have to wonder how many younger heads would care that there's a new Public Enemy album out. Those curious to know what made (and still makes) PE relevant should start with this album. Revolverlution is the best release from these brothers since Apocalypse 91. Realizing that hip-hop fans are not only fickle but overtly age conscious to boot (you'd think a 13 year-old rap listener had brought back the old slogan "don't trust anyone over 30"), this album caters to both the tried and true fans as well as those new to the noise. Revolverlution contains new songs and live versions of classics as well as a few remixes. It's also the first of a triple album set. And before you start having Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump flashbacks, have no fear: PE comes bangin' right out the starting gate.

Everyone's present and accounted for: Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X (more in spirit than a physical presence, but still down with the crew), even Professor Griff is on the joint. Serious props go to DJ and producer Johnny "Juice" Rosado for bringing the funk back into PE's sound. While distinctly different from the hip-hop cut-and-paste techniques of the Bomb Squad, Rosado updates the noise to keep things bumpin' and your mind alert. The lead-off cut "Gotta Give The Peeps What They Need" is probably the strongest track they've made since "Fight The Power." (The remix version featuring Paris, self-proclaimed Black Panther of rap and "Bush Killa" when George Sr. was in office, makes for a sweet bonus.) "Get Your Sh*t Together" furthers Johnny Juice's position as the future of PE's production, and also proves the group's relevance in terms of lyrical content. Chuck D has much to say about 9/11, and best believe that George W. doesn't escape the wrath either (see "Son Of A Bush" for the full rundown). Even in an ultra-patriotic America, Public Enemy refuses to stay silent and continues to "fight the powers that be." The snippet of the "Post-Concert Arizona Interview," where PE only played two songs on U2's Zoo TV Tour in protest of the state's refusal to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as a national holiday, serves as a reminder of how long they've been in the struggle.

The most noticeable change is the larger role that Professor Griff plays on this album, showing off some able production skills. When it comes to his rhyming chops, brotha man's kinda rusty. But even back on his earlier solo works (what, you didn't know?), it was understood that he cared more about the message than its delivery. Behind the boards is where he does damage; the spirit of the Bomb Squad lives on in him. From "Son Of A Bush" to the title track to his solo cuts "Now A'Daze" and "What Good Is A Bomb," Griff's tracks are heavy and noisy, knee deep in head bangin' hard rock. Guitars aplenty. On the flip side of the mood, Flavor Flav does what he does best: make no sense whatsoever. Actually, "Can A Woman Make A Man Lose His Mind?" makes more sense than "Cold Lampin' With Flav" - at least he's not making up words anymore - but it's Flavor, so it'll still make you shake your head and laugh. (Wanna get your laugh on for real? Check out some joints on his solo album. Words fail me…)

Probably the best aspect of this album is all the extras. The live versions are dope, especially the joints taped in Switzerland and DJ Lord Aswod gettin' ill on the tables on "Miuzi Weighs A Ton." Those Public Service Announcements are a trip, too. (Quote Flavor: "If you don't wanna be a goner, stay away from the drugs on the corner!") While the remixes certainly won't overshadow the originals, it's cool that they were included. All four remixes were winners of a contest on Slam Jamz, Chuck D's online music label. He got his fans to play an active role with the album, something that never would've happened while he was on Def Jam, so the digital music revolution has its benefits. (While I'm thinkin' about it, big ups to Moleman - your remix of "By The Time I Get To Arizona" has been growin' on me.) Most of all, these remixes remind us that PE have never shied away from incorporating rock or odd sounds (electronic or otherwise) into their audio assaults, which makes the hip-hop nation's accusations of them being "sellouts" after re-recording "Bring The Noise" with Anthrax even more puzzling. (YES, I'M STILL MAD ABOUT THAT.) Lastly, I owe Gary G-Wiz a huge apology. Back when Apocalypse 91 and the Greatest Misses album came out, I kept comparing his style to Hank and Keith Shocklee and saying that he came up short. Now he's got me head noddin' to the point of whiplash on cuts like "Put It Up" and "54321…Boom." I just realized how long I slept, brother. Respect.

It's albums like these that make me wonder if Public Enemy ever really fell off. Seems as if they started a whole other life after the noise died down and people decided to get back to the party and bull. Even after they stopped moving units, they turned to the Internet and became champions of the MP3. Matter of fact, an earlier album of theirs was released on the 'Net first. They embraced a controversial format at a time when most major music artists wouldn't…and those that wanted to, couldn't. (Major labels don't swing that way.) For that alone, they prove themselves relevant to today's youth. Include everything that they talk about on this album and they're about five seconds away from being blacklisted, possibly even deported. It's cool, though: what some may suppress on a mass media level can always be let loose throughout cyberspace.

Revolverlution is a surprisingly good album for a hip-hop group that has been around for 15 years. Not a bad way to celebrate their anniversary. Considering that there's so much turmoil in the world and so little being said about it in today's rap music, it's a damn good thing they're still here. Chuck says it best on "Put It Up": "Somebody's gotta communicate beyond the beats."

{vic feedle}

this album can be purchased at emusic.com.


Posted by macedonia at 3:41 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 18 April 2006
caural - stars on my ceiling
Now Playing: the havenots - a fresh start
Topic: 2002 reviews (Jul.-Sep.)

[this review was originally posted to the BSOTS website in august of 2002. i absolutely LOVE Caural's music. this album remains a favorite of mine almost four years later. recommended if you like DJ Shadow, RJD2, or Prefuse 73. - jrs.]

CAURAL
Stars On My Ceiling
Record label: Chocolate Industries
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: June 2002

At least one artist comes around that stands out from the rest every year, one whose techniques are understated but will speak volumes to all that stop, look and listen. This time around, the honors go to Chicago's own Zachary Mastoon a.k.a. Caural. Recording for the Chocolate Industries label, he is certainly in good company alongside the genre-bending tactics of Sluta Leta and the block rocking beats of Push Button Objects and While. Adding his own influences to the mix, Mastoon's outlook on life and music seem full of wide-eyed innocence. At least that's the impression one gets while listening to Stars On My Ceiling.

Hip-hop is the underlying theme, but what happens beyond that falls under a wide spectrum. His beat-making style rivals DJ Shadow's in terms of anchoring his compositions with drums that take over your heart rhythms. Drop the needle on "All These Todays Melt Into Tomorrows," symphonic hip-hop against a lush backdrop of samples and percussion. (Then again, I like anything with a little kalimba in it. Nothing makes me chill out faster than the sounds of an African thumb piano.) "Red Sunshine" features the same types of juxtaposition. Hard, fist-pumping beats are front and center, but the playful lilt of Spanish guitars creates a nice contrast. "Sipping Snake Blood Wine" continues the jazz descent, almost displaying beats of a broken variety, but held in check by a tight bass line. Then there's the mushroom-enhanced visions of "Mint & A Hospital Watercolor" - stoned enough to conjure up a psychedelic jazz vibe without leaving you reeking of patchouli afterwards. Call it dreamlike soul, call it hip-hop from an alternate universe, call it what you will…just know that Caural is the bomb. And he's just getting started.

{macedonia}

this release can be purchased through emusic.com.

Posted by macedonia at 5:52 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006 3:43 PM EDT
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Thursday, 23 March 2006
day to day
Now Playing: Know Your Rights on eastvillageradio.com
Topic: 2002 reviews (Jul.-Sep.)

show #15 led me to search the site for some reviews on Delsin releases. here's one for a great compilation of theirs that came out in 2002. be sure to check the media player to hear selections from this comp...

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Day By Day
Record label: Delsin (The Netherlands)
Format: CD
Release date: 5 September 2002

(Review originally posted to BSOTS website September of 2002)

The last two years have been very good to the Delsin label. This small Dutch upstart has consistently put out quality releases focusing primarily on deep house and warm, soothing techno, but ultimately on electronic music with heart and soul. As a result, worldwide accolades have been pouring in, including the likes of Laurent Garnier, Kirk Degiorgio, and Carl Craig singing their praises. Their first CD compilation, …Going Thru Life, established an attitude of making music for the body, mind, and spirit, be it for the dance floor or the chill-out section. This follow-up collection of singles is sure to make all the Delsin fans without record players very happy. Just like the previous compilation, most if not all of these tracks were only previously available on vinyl.

Day By Day features artists from the UK, the Netherlands, and the United States. Matthew Puffett's contribution as Future Beat Alliance is very "Sweet" indeed, romantic techno that's also rhythmically engaging. Aardvarck, a mainstay of the Dutch techno scene, has made a name for himself with his breakbeat jazz compositions. "Doeda" is a great example of his production wizardry. Back home in the States is Delsin newcomer $tinkworx, whose "Todas Las Noches" is a downtempo house pleaser - perfect for the lounges. Underwater deep house grooves float to the surface courtesy of New World Aquarium ("Trespassers") and Peel Seamus a.k.a. Marsel Van der Wielsen (owner and founder of Delsin) is responsible for one of the most hypnotic and seductive tracks on this compilation ("Artemis"). Throw in a pair of songs from Detroit veteran Keith Tucker (appearing as Optic Nerve) as well as others from the label roster and it's another satisfying listen from this Dutch imprint. Let's hope that this label stays active for a long time - Delsin knows how to do it right.

{steve crognale}


Posted by macedonia at 3:57 PM EST
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