Apr 00


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AUTECHRE – Drane (from the Peel Session disc, recorded 13 Oct 95)

The track itself is a 10+ minute expanse of typical twittering Autechre percussion and childlike melody, progressively more and more overcome by a slightly watery, buzzing drone. But since it’s Autechre, that doesn’t really do it justice – you’ll have to listen yourself. Suffice it to say it’s good stuff if you like trippy minimalistic freaky alien machine techno.

This review, if you could call it that, is really a stepping-off point for some broader musing. This track, along with the other two (“Milk DX” and “Inhake 2”) from its album, is claimed to be live somehow, in that it was recorded in real time on John Peel’s radio show.

Problem is, I’m not sure if I can tell the difference. This being electronic music, the easy-to-spot cues from “more human” music are absent: quicker tempos, missed notes, less-polished sound, etc. Furthermore, the music is typical for Autechre in the way that it leisurely develops, in true minimalist fashion, one or two ideas over the course of a ten minute track. Development like that is easy to reproduce “live,” I suspect, simply because you’ve got the time.

So for me this is a thorny one: it seems as if whether or not we’re to take “Drane” as “live” Autechre comes totally down to authorial intention. What would my English professor think? And more importantly, given that I can’t tell the difference, is there any worthwhile distinction between “live” and Memorex?

Apr 00

DIAMANDA GALAS – “Double-Barrel Prayer”

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DIAMANDA GALAS – “Double-Barrel Prayer” (from the album You Must Be Certain of the Devil, the third part of The Masque of the Red Death)

My first try at this was lost due to programmer incompetence so now I’ll make it short and sweet. Julia Kristeva – “eruptions” of primal speech. Captured perfectly roughly 3:00 in to “Double-Barrel Prayer”, with a nattering, chattering clamor of overdubbed Diamandas. Far scarier than any street rap, some of the scariest stuff I’ve ever heard – up there with early-period Swans, only I’m more afraid of Diamanda’s demon-channelling than Michael Gira’s regressive howls.

MOS DEF – “Mr. Nigga”

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MOS DEF – “Mr. Nigga” (from the album Black on Both Sides)

At least partly, an indictment of what seems to me (in the midst of the white-bread breadbasket of America) to be those – black specifically but hold that thought – who play up, overplay even, the popular stereotypes of blacks. Though Mos is also frustrated at the prejudices that won’t let blacks succeed without social impunity, “Mr. Nigga” isn’t helping things any.

A major component of these stereotypes – especially for young non-blacks – is the music, and not any hep new production tricks or chin-stroking lyrics, but the musical swagger, the naughty thrills gotten from rhymes about fat asses and violence and dope dope dope, the head-nodding beats, etc. etc. This isn’t to say that the musical frills (production or lyrics) that afficionados (like good Freaky Trigger readers) love go unnoticed by the masses, or that they’re unimportant.

But – if, as Tom suggests, the nifty production is really the point of all of the street rap, and that point goes unnoticed by the majority of listeners, it seems as if there’s plenty of “encoding” and “decoding” going on in that camp as well. Perhaps more de- than en-, as well, in what I suspect is an over-response to underground rap’s sometimes painfully-earnest righteousness, and overcompensation for street rap’s stereotype-rich content.

Oh, and the single again, by the way? A highlight on an eminently satisfying album. Driven by a funky slap-bass loop, Q-Tip guesting, Mos adding congas and other percussion to his relaxed delivery, and not much decoding to be done, really, at all, Mr. Reynolds.