The Qt Of Blood Technique
Having spent the latter half of 1999 away from tape making due to self-imposed mix detox, the acquisition of a CD burner during that year’s Yuletide sent me back into the hobby with a mad frenzy. I didn’t fall off the wagon so much as I gleefully leaped from it, clammy palms and all. The Qt of Blood Technique (a foolproof defense tactic that doubles as a Trading Places reference) was one of the first CDRs I made but it was misplaced shortly after that. Lo and behold, the forgotten disc was discovered recently while rifling through some old paperwork and several credit card offers that were waiting to be ripped in half. It was made with the intent to be given to my brother Dave, who since the time of this CDR’s finalization has had to wade through more than enough of my mixmaking crud to the point where it would be redundant to give it to him now.
‘Street Life’ isn’t merely one of my favorite Roxy Music songs; it’s one of my favorite album openers as well, and it seems to be ideal for the opening scene of a movie involving a group of people who conduct their business on the streets and in dimly lit clubs of ill repute. Cliche! When I was assembling the tracks and sequence, I thought about how great it would be to open the mix with this and close it with the Crusaders‘ ‘Street Life,’ even though it was already used for Burt Reynolds’ 1981 thriller Sharky’s Machine. So bam – there could be a theme of some sort! A few other songs came to mind that fit along the same lines of those like-named songs, and all I could think of was a soundtrack for some imaginary film stuck between the blaxploitative likes of Detroit 9000 and a more recent film like The Limey. Gutter-ridden but sleek in a sense. Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman would most definitely have to be in this film.
Primal Scream‘s Vanishing Point – which cribs dialogue and thematic content from the ’70s movie of the same name, another inspiration for this mix – is a really uneven record, and the instrumental ‘Get Duffy’ might not be its most representative moment, but it has the right glassy-eyed flow to follow Roxy Music with its ’70s rhythm box and an atmosphere that lends itself to a backroom scene at some joint where all the decor is dark red and black.
With a forceful swipe of organ, the possible party sequence is kicked off in the form of Latin percussionist Candido‘s monstrous version of Olatunji’s
‘Jingo.’ This mix is six and a half minutes long, over three minutes less than the version most are probably familiar with. Even in its truncated form, it’s still able to build up, break down, and show off all those intricate layers – the percussion duel between the left and right channels, the swelling organ, the galloping bass, and… everything else (this time constraint is no good!). There’s so much going on and yet it’s easy to take that fact for granted when it’s so reflexive to simply delight in its direct-to-the-hip lusciousness. Hooah!
The bass line gets deeper and slows down a bit for S.O.U.L.‘s ‘Burning Spear,’ another instrumental that’s one of maybe five songs containing flute that I actually like. A big reason why this song appears here is to set up
Axelrod‘s ‘The Mental Traveler.’ ‘Burning Spear’ actually begins somewhat like the breakdown of drum and bass of that song that comes along later, but it has its own charms to distinguish itself apart from the song it’s more or less assisting for effect’s sake. ‘Burning Spear’ makes me think of early
’70s Bar-Kays with the keyboards replaced by flute. It’s pretty much the lead instrument here, ducking in roughly 20 seconds in and skipping and winding around the rhythm and plaintively strummed guitar for the remainder. Everything’s direct and amiable until it speeds up at the very end, where it ends abruptly.
‘Bassthema’ – by Einstürzende Neubauten’s dapper Blixa Bargeld – is one of those songs with a title that tells you just as much about the song as any desperately rushed description. Thanks to some muffled production values and lots of revrrrrrb, the primary bass line is even deeper than the one in the song preceding it. Paranoia-inducing chime-y effects (bells?) and a slight rhythm hover, and then a jolting succession of pungent thrums jab and jab and become louder and louder and louder until – gasp! – suddenly dissipating with no tension resolved. This could be the crime scene.
The shuffling ‘Shadows’ by Superpitcher creeps out of the sewer holes and, like Kompakt mate Dettinger’s Intershop, it sounds like the ideal accompaniment for driving down a barren damp avenue around 3 a.m. A looped ghostly sample of a female vocalist intones something that sounds like
‘Breathe in the sympathy/ When the shadows fall.’ Now I know the ‘when the shadows fall’ bit could indicate that it’s from a version of ‘Willow Weep for Me,’ but I just can’t place it because of the ‘sympathy’ (?) bit. Any help with this brainwracking issue would be appreciated.
I am, however, positive beyond a shadow of a doubt that the origin of the
Black Box Recorder song that follows is in Althea and Donna’s ‘Up Town Top Ranking.’ Black Box Recorder’s claustrophobic angle on the young duo’s original picks up nicely after the eerie murk of the Superpitcher track. This is rather different from the original, not only in the production but the delivery. The vocals seem to come from someone whose idea of a good time involves robbing a bank instead of double-dutch.
Oh no it’s another ’70s spy-type deal – mallets, cascading keys, seesawing strings – this time from Tindersticks. ‘Paco’s Theme’ is a b-side to one of the few singles of theirs I’ve bought. The only reasonable defense in this being relegated to a secondary spot would have to be that it was recorded after the album was done (in this case it’s Curtains). It’s better than anything on their soundtrack/score records to date, more lively but pensive and seemingly put together in an off-the-cuff fashion with a brilliant result.
‘The Mental Traveler’ ups the drama with all of David Axelrod‘s legendary trademarks: the fat chords, the breaks, the crisp but graceful touch – acted out by all-star personnel. Speaking of all-star personnel, some label should anthologize bassist Carol Kaye’s session work. Such a thing would have to include songs by the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, Nancy Sinatra, Quincy Jones, Joe Cocker, Cannonball Adderley, and Axelrod. Now there’s a mix. I reckon you could also devote a whole disc to bassists who mimic Kaye’s style (hello Broadcast, hello His Name Is Alive). But back to ‘The Mental Traveler’ before it vanishes. Just as ambitious as a side-long ELP medley, the song fits as much thrill and dazzle in its few minutes as most LPs, and it ends as it begins: with a massive swell of strings.
Recorded For: Dave Kellman (but never sent)
Roxy Music – “Street Life”
Primal Scream – “Get Duffy”
Candido – “Jingo”
S.O.U.L. – “Burning Spear”
Blixa Bargeld – “Bassthema”
Superpitcher – “Shadows”
Black Box Recorder – “Uptown Top Ranking”
Tindersticks – “Paco’s Theme”
David Axelrod – “The Mental Traveler”
The Walker Brothers – “Nite Flights”
Steely Dan – “Show Biz Kids” The Tony Williams Lifetime – “Some Hip Drum Shit”
Urban Tribe – “Covert Action”
The Crusaders – “Street Life”
And it’s another swell of strings that begins the Walker Brothers‘ ‘Nite Flights,’ one of the weird dark (not quite death) disco numbers from their album of the same name. It’s funny how that top-heavy record has songs that inspired Brian Eno and David Byrne (and some neuromantics), and then there are songs that seem to have paved the way for Glenn Frey’s ‘You Belong to the City’ and Foreigner’s ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You.’ (Gary Walker, the finger is pointed at you.) What business these stage siblings had making this type of music is beyond me. How this particular song fits into the pseudo-scheme of things of this CDR is also beyond me. It just sounds right
– the mood, the velocity, those strings – even if I have no clue what Scott means when he sings of glass traps, broken necks, feather weights, and blood lights (sp?).
Like Arab Strap and ELO, you either love or hate Steely Dan, and I tend to love ’em despite the fact that they’re a couple of know-all jazzbo snots. They remind me of a couple of my uncles, and in fact it was a couple of my uncles and my dad who exposed me to these crotchety muso bastards. I wish Becker and Fagen would have made more songs like ‘Show Biz Kids.’ It’s a simple pop song without a great deal of flash and showmanship. No matter how low the volume is on the stereo you’re playing it on, it’s all but impossible to ignore it. Oh yeah, I forgot about the handclaps. Pretty much any song with handclaps is a good song. When I was little, I used to get them confused with Jimmy Buffett. Are Steely Dan fans dildo heads?
During the scene in which a scuffle of some sort takes place, the Tony Williams Lifetime‘s ‘Some Hip Drum Shit’ would play rather loudly. It’s a violent 90-second percussion cluster wankfest for Williams, Don Alias, and Warren Smith. All I can see when I try to put an image to the song is a bunch of flailing limbs – they’re either playing all sorts of percussion devices or rib cages and abdomens. Attempting to pick this mess apart would be like hopping into a tornado to retrieve some post-it notes.
Immediately trailing ‘Shit” is the less frantic ‘Covert Action’ by Urban Tribe, the ridiculously overlooked Sherard Ingram project that released a spectacular full-length on Mo’ Wax. This one, however, dates from a 1990 Retroactive release that also featured Underground Resistance and Carl Craig, who mixed this track. Out of the all the compilations I’ve put together, I’ve probably used this track the most. I’m convinced that in 20 years it will still sound like something lunar, something from the future.
Ending the disc is the aforementioned ‘Street Life’ by the Crusaders, featuring vocals by Randy Crawford. It sounds rather displaced after ‘Covert Action.’ Indeed, the Urban Tribe track would have been a fine way for Qt of Blood to end, but I had to follow through on the concept of opening with a
‘Street Life’ and closing with a ‘Street Life.’ (Plus I have this thing for making mixes with an even number of tracks that last just a shade over 60 minutes.) The somewhat tacked on nature of ‘Street Life’ can actually be justified by the fact that a lot of non-imaginary soundtracks end with a song that sounds little like anything else on the record. At any rate, the Crusaders bring the disc full circle in a way that neither Neil Diamond nor the Geto Boys could have. For me, this is an indivisible jukebox.
Andy Kellman, February 2002