Apr 10

M/A/R/R/S – “Pump Up The Volume”/”Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance)”

FT + Popular122 comments • 7,451 views

#598, 3rd October 1987, video

“Kept the hooks flying so fast that it sounded like a pop radio hit”

This entry is constructed around ‘samples’ of other people’s blog posts or writings mentioning “Pump Up The Volume”. Even saying that feels absurd and a little pompous – they’re just links, right? In the way that samples now are just… samples. If you listen to 21st century pop you experience them as content, not as process, with the occasional exception – Girl Talk for instance. But “Pump Up The Volume” got at least some of its power from the sample-as-process, the surprise and delight of cut ups, that videogame sense of micro-events coming at you in random attack formations.

“Colourbox was the band with the drum machines and samples while A R Kane were the shoegazers, but the more I listened to [A R Kane]’s records… it makes me wonder what Colourbox contributed!

Actually “Pump Up The Volume”‘s pace isn’t particularly fast – the track feels roomy, a sandbox of possibilities bounded by that loping bassline. It’s nice to imagine that this is down to AR Kane’s interest in dub, though the participants have suggested the ‘collaboration’ was fractious and the dreampop band’s contribution to the hit side of this double-A came down to little more than guitar overdubs. Whatever the inspiration, it means “Pump Up The Volume” has aged more gracefully than some of the spatchcocked sampladelia that followed it – though I love almost all its imitator records too.

Also, those slices of echoing guitar are the ingredient that gives this single its enduring strangeness – alien noises cutting across the hip-hop and funk sources “Pump” mostly draws on: as a proportion of the record they’re minor, but they’re also what makes it special.

“some people were yearning for acid house before it was invented, almost willing it into being”

Like “Jack Your Body”, “Pump Up The Volume” was another step towards club culture’s takeover of UK pop. But while “JYB” was an unexpected shot of purism in the compromised land of the top 10, “Volume” is a wild hybrid, made by intrigued outsiders. Which makes its success even odder – imagine the Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move” getting to #1, maybe? The record is as much hip-hop as house – it owes more to Grandmaster Flash and Steinski than to Chicago musicians, and I’d guess hit bigger as a pop event than a club one.

“Ofra Haza turned out be to the Yeminite equivalent of Barbara Streisand or Celine Dion, didn’t she?”

The DJ house strain of club music “Pump Up The Volume” helped birth burned itself out fairly quickly because it was incestuous in terms of sample sources and easy to parody, and because unpredictable juxtaposition isn’t a consistently useful strategy on the dancefloor. But “Pump” itself chose its samples well and set them well too: the bassline working as a tour guide, and that sly top-end ripple on the drum track giving the record an intimacy where most sample workouts simply used novelty and brashness. We peep through a hidden door into a different record, hear Dunya Yunis sing, then shut it again and stroll on.

“bewilderment gave way to enthusiasm and we had a hit on our hands”.

Whatever its place in the wider story of dance music, for me “Pump Up The Volume” was a moment of pop crisis. I’d overlooked or ignored “Jack Your Body” but M/A/R/R/S was more strange and striking – and I despised it. Its rejection of structure, of tune, of identification points seemed close to nihilist: this simply wasn’t music as I could recognise it. This state of mind is hard to recover now – dance music and hip-hop have rewired how I hear music to the extent that it’s ended up being rock I’ve had to re-learn how to listen to. What seemed like a destruction of everything I associated with music now seems like a blueprint for so much I enjoy about it: an equal and opposite exaggeration, perhaps, but this record is still a milestone for me.



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  1. 51
    MikeMCSG on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #49 Izzy, I’m sure age does play a part in it (I’m 11 years older than you) and of course if you didn’t remember too much of what went before this wouldn’t seem so revolutionary. If you enjoy it that’s great. I am interested in why what hitherto seemed fairly essential (there were exceptions of course)ingredients to a hit record – a memorable tune and reasonably coherent words – became superfluous.

  2. 52
    MikeMCSG on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #50 Yes good answer. As someone who didn’t go out much at the time I probably underestimated the expansion of the clubbing demographic. Would people then buy the single to re-create the thrill of the club in their home ?

  3. 53

    I’m not that convinced that it’s just a matter of age: to me what’s arriving now is the half of music that had been acting as incontestable and undeniable backline for most of what counted as meaning in rock, since around 1965 (and in pure groove terms 1969 or so). No James Brown: no Stones. And what was taken to matter in the Stones wouldn’t have registered or arrived at any peak of importance without the palpable spectre of what it drew from and played with. So now that rhythm and gameplay* become the hook, instead of melody and meaning, this isn’t the emergence of something new and vanishing of something old, more like the tilting back towards the key element that had been simultaneously present and overlooked for so long.

    *This record is gleeful and witty and knowing at one level — a playfulness aimed at the high cognoscenti of dancemusic — as well as actually and effectively rhythmically constructed and delivered; post-punk often achieved the knowingness but it rarely had the chops too…

  4. 54
    MikeMCSG on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #53 But was there any particular reason why that tilt happened at this point in time ?

  5. 55
    wichita lineman on 7 Apr 2010 #

    I think PUTV is a great noise, has worn very well too, but…

    Didn’t anyone else feel at the time it came out that the ground had been broken long before by Grandmaster Flash’s Adventures On The Wheels Of Steel? THAT was a record that I couldn’t make head or tail of when I first heard it in 1981. It sounded like a joke I didn’t get, and it took a few plays (by David Jensen and John Peel both) before I realised the bursts of laughter, self-referencing and sense of reckless fun was the whole point.

    Pump Up The Volume sampled stuff like Time Zone’s Wild Style which sounded dated to me in 1987. A great record, but 3 or 4 years old, so not old enough to be old school (an expression that I don’t think existed in 1987), just old fashioned. Maybe this explains the “inauthentic” tag?

  6. 56

    “the key element” should i think be “a key element”

    here’s koganbot on the unresolveable core of james brown’s music (haha quoting me, but he explores it much more clearly)

    what i’m suggesting is that the coming tilt over towards “dancemusic” was a correction — perhaps an overcorrection — in respect of two contradictory but necessary constituent parts with pop’n’rock as a whole: focus on one without the other and you’re missing more than half the picture (because the picture is the interraction)

    agewise i was 27 in 87; kogan is older

    ps also: i thought of this last night — this is the actual arrival of the idea of club music that trevor horn was dreaming with frankie; this really is a crackling marriage of ideals not a purity of distillation…
    pps: ok i think my various arguments contradict one another but i’m on deadline with a film review and basically procrastinating by posting at all

  7. 57
    punctum on 7 Apr 2010 #

    It is at this point that I feel the urgent need to balance out the largely dismal picture of 1987 as painted by its number one singles by stating that 1987 was in fact one of the most exciting of all years for music. Scarcely a day passed without some new and unexpected perspective on rap or rock or pop or dance music or (insert Dewey decimal system classification category of your choice) catching my ear. Hip hop in particular was in the midst of its most golden of ages; Public Enemy had emerged out of a blackened hole in the collapsed centre of nowhere, providing the most startling use of random noise in pop since Pere Ubu; Eric B and Rakim were stretching the syllabic flow of rap into new, indeterminate undulations of whimsical and pointed length; Schoolly-D had moved into the previously undefined arena of nihilist rare groove; Boogie Down Productions were finding new ways of minimising minimalism; LL Cool J was angling to become the first hip hop superstar (Cut Creator, rightly described by Reynolds as the Jimmy Page of scratching, makes LL’s Berry-citing “Go Cut Creator Go” sound like the violently exuberant Lazarean resuscitation of rock). Meanwhile, dance music, principally in the form of House (and nascent techno), was conquering and redrawing everything we might illogically wish to expect from a “pop record.” Somewhere in between lay what the NME hilariously dubbed “sonic theft merchants,” those DJs, pranksters and activists who, in those accidentally halycon days just prior to the tightening-up of laws on sampling and copyright infringement, were happy to throw in elements from dozens or even hundreds of other records to embellish, centralise and strengthen their own. Sadly the latter, insufficiently brave new world soon caved in on its own wearisome tribal insistence on “identity,” such that sampling was soon reduced to the same half-dozen James Brown and Led Zeppelin quotes rather than the diatonically shattering embraces between Bartok and Slayer which would, for example, underline the pioneering work of Switzerland’s Young Gods. The extra ounce of courage was lacking…though the good humour of “Bits And Pieces” by Coldcut, themselves less than a year away from their own number one, must not be overlooked, nor the surprisingly successful fusion of cut-up and indie snarl achieved by the first incarnation of Age Of Chance.

    The British duo Colourbox had started playing around with the notion of placing samples at centre stage and eliminating the tangible author as early as 1982; such 1985 efforts as “Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse” with its shoot ‘em up cowboy film cut-ups, construct a template which a dozen years later would belatedly detonate into the mainstream in the form of Big Beat. As an electronic dance duo they are the direct antecedents of the Underworlds, Leftfields, Orbitals and Chemical Brothers who would briefly, or not so briefly, rule the world at various stages throughout the nineties.

    In the meantime rock had also set about reinventing itself, and not just in the form of the Rick Rubin-produced Cult joyfully and unapologetically bringing back the delicious indulgence of Zeppelin, after a decade of enforced denial, with the fantastic and defiantly shallow “Love Removal Machine.” Steve Albini’s Big Black built upon 1986’s revolutionary Atomizer to produce the stuttering sweep of Songs About Fucking (Robert Plant’s top album of that year), Throwing Muses and the Butthole Surfers methodically broadened out their appeal via their own divergent paths, Hüsker Dü (alas unsuccessfully, since they had split by 1987’s end, leaving behind Warehouse: Songs And Stories, the polished bookend to Zen Arcade) and REM were preparing to pierce the mainstream, Sonic Youth gained a temporary definite article and produced maybe their masterpiece with Sister, Dinosaur (then still without the legally-imposed “Jr”) and the Pixies emerged with their entirely unanticipated takes on guitar music – all of which centred around the reinvention of the role of the guitar in rock, the realisation that textural innovations and perspectives were entirely possible without the need to use the guitar as a cock substitute, in its commitment to sonic and aesthetic equality demonstrating significant markers leading towards a “feminisation” of rock. In Britain C86 had been revealed as an endearing dead end, with only the Wedding Present making any real advancements (the tremendous George Best album of which, amongst many others, the teenage Kurt Cobain would take careful note) My Bloody Valentine were already preparing, with “Strawberry Wine,” to make tentative moves towards breaking the mirror and stepping through to the other side, but they were still a year away from their real breakthrough. Spacemen 3 and Loop were already halfway there – their respective 1987 album releases, The Perfect Prescription and Heaven’s End, were milestones (and for the acts themselves, their best work) largely missed or dismissed at the time, but their combined influence on subsequent developments in rock falls perhaps just one horse shy of incalculable.

    But the most remarkable group of them all may have been AR Kane. In an age where we were guiltily forcefed the soulful, passionate honesty of Jackie Wilson and Ben E King, the East End trio of black musicians had other priorities. They began 1987 with a one-off single for the One Little Indian label, the promising “When You’re Sad” which seemed to announce the first true advancement on the sonic parameters suggested by the Jesus and Mary Chain (by 1987, the Mary Chain themselves had abandoned feedback and structural experimentation in favour of the dour balladry of Darklands). But even that didn’t prepare us for the shattering three-track Lollita EP which appeared on 4AD a few months later. Produced by Robin Guthrie with a force and fire temporarily absent from the Cocteaus’ own work of the period – they were just about emerging from their meditative, New Age-y Victorialand phase – the record laid out new possibilities for British rock music. The title track itself sees Alex Ayuli’s beautifully dazed voice flow over barlines and across syllables in the manner soon to be made familiar by the Kevin Shields/Bilinda Butcher approach, while the group’s guitars alternately caress and howl imperiously. It is a luxurious swoon of a minor key song – hear how Ayuli sighs the line “oooh my head slides and slips” like a jetstream vanishing into a seabed of snowdrops – but the title gives the subtext away; this is illicit and dangerous love, and the frustration gradually mutates, via the smoothness of the second song “Sado-Masochism Is A Must,” into the open, horrific violence of the closing “Butterfly Collector,” culminating in Ayuli screaming “I’m gonna KEEP you!” over and over while we experience the most hostile avalanche of white noise heard in British rock since the Buzz’s “You’re Holding Me Down.” This too cuts off suddenly, as knife slits water.

    4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell was very keen on seeing his label’s artists as part of a communal family and encouraged collaboration between them, mainly via his successful ongoing This Mortal Coil project, and dreamed up the idea of a collaboration between Colourbox and AR Kane. Unfortunately the two sets of musicians found little common ground, and arguments swiftly ensued, with the result that each group ended up working separately and passing their work to each other for adaptation and embellishment. Thus “Pump Up The Volume” is mainly Colourbox with some occasional strata of AR Kane guitar, while “Anitina” is principally AR Kane with additional Colourbox drum programs and samples.

    It was “Pump Up The Volume” which sold the record, of course; but it has been its fate to become one of those tracks which, though indisputably radical and immeasurably influential from the moment of its appearance, has long since been superseded by subsequent developments, and therefore now sounds rather old-fashioned and musty, even though it can hardly be blamed for the onset of bad impersonations which appeared (and continue to appear) in its wake. It is best heard in its original and relatively sparse 12-inch version. Featuring live scratching by DJs CJ Mackintosh and Dave Dorrell in addition to Colourbox themselves, it builds up its few ingredients steadily and logically and its snakelike groove works well with all the space left around it. Samples are comparatively few; Rakim rapping the title, the soon-to-be-obligatory James Brown snatches, a spot of Trouble Funk Go-Go percussion in the centre, some distant female soul group harmonies, and a couple of others – Mackintosh and Dorrell’s scratching is largely abstract, their whooshes bodilessly floating through ghost spaces like Grandmaster Henry James. In the track’s second half the cap is appropriately doffed to Art Of Noise – but note the cumulonimbi of AR Kane guitars which systematically drone and cut through the beats at highly irregular intervals.

    The track was remixed for the American market, using a substantially greater number of samples, and the 7-inch edit of this mix is the famous version which pushed it up through the clubs and towards becoming the first independently-distributed number one single. Maximalist where the original 12-inch was minimalist, we are now bombarded with waves of familiar and not-so-familiar samples, including some up-to-the-second Public Enemy (the “Brothers and sisters!” intro to “Rebel Without A Pause,” then only available in Britain as a white label 12-inch import), a snatch of the Last Poets to remind us that PE didn’t quite come from nowhere, a speeded-up section of Ofra Haza’s Yemenite wailing (which Coldcut subsequently adopted into their far more classicist approach to sampling in their “Seven Minutes Of Madness” remix of Eric B and Rakim’s “Paid In Full,” a Top 20 hit later that year which led to one of the most surreal of all TOTP appearances since both DJ and rapper were clearly unaware of the remix’s existence) and sundry others, turning the track into a sonic theft bombardment which would be endlessly replicated over the next generation. Coupled with MARRS’ staunch refusal to appear on TOTP – a musician-less video was shown instead, but since neither half of MARRS was talking to the other it’s unsurprising that they wished to keep a low profile – “Pump Up The Volume” had a profound effect on how pop and dance singles would henceforth be constructed. Sonic theft bombardments inevitably mean legal action, and several court cases came up, most notably from Stock, Aitken and Waterman, who objected to an uncleared sample from their rare groove scam hit of the time “Roadblock” being used; this section had to be withdrawn from later pressings of the single, but it is worth noting that the bassline of Sybil’s “My Love Is Guaranteed,” a big SAW-written/produced club hit of the same period, owes more than a little to “Pump Up The Volume.” The remix now sounds cluttered and overly boisterous with more than a laddish hint of “look how many records I can slot into these four minutes” and in itself wouldn’t require much evaluation in 2007 apart from its undeniable historical significance.

    “Anitina,” however, is a different story. Quite possibly the least heard of any single track to reach number one – other than the stalwart John Peel and Janice Long on evening Radio 1, it received zero radio airplay, and due to the messy legal battles initiated shortly thereafter regarding rights to the MARRS name, as well as AR Kane’s angry walkout from 4AD, it has (in common with the Lollita tracks) yet to be reissued on CD (unless anyone knows different; a CD version of the single certainly came out at the time because I’ve got a copy) – it is also one of the greatest; the record was specifically conceived as a double A-side, and thus both sides were credited in the chart listings, which means that this glorious blast of futurism can legitimately be termed a chart-topper.

    “Anitina” is brilliant, from its intro of handless, attack-free guitars into which Colourbox’s gigantic drum tracks (doubtless influenced by Keith LeBlanc’s contemporaneous work with Tackhead and Mark Stewart) slam like gods. Soon the hurricane relents to let in a Human League-ish bassline, and Ayuli’s voice shimmers out of the dub tangents to say much the same as he said in “Lollita” – “Little dolly…follow…I’ll feed you sugarkane.” As he pleads “Keep me close/Hold me tight” the guitars float back in with immaculately immense majesty – a chorale which again predicts the pink canyons of Loveless. The song sets up its protagonist as a child-catching pied piper: “All my little dollies, follow…follow, hollering…play the pipes, follow?” while the sexual urges cannot be suppressed (“Ooh sweet, sweet/Touch me where it’s forbiddden”). Ethereal venality, the clean dagger concealed beneath the satin duvet cover.

    Beats crumble up into multiple assaults midway through as Ayuli intones a lament: “Crackle’s sick,” to which Colourbox immediately respond with a barrage of “SICK!” voice samples. Then the storm once more breaks to let in a backwards drum track with scratchily lyrical guitars over which Ayuli works on the syllabic implications of the words “follow” and “holler,” before the final, apocalyptic onslaught which he rides with fearless, aqueous joy. Harmonically the guitars augment and ascend, and then with one final feedback-meets-voice squeal – orgasm of causes ambiguous – the song drowns itself to its own fade.

    As I mentioned, serious disagreements, both with Colourbox and with Robin Guthrie, ensured AR Kane’s premature departure from 4AD, and their two historic albums, Sixty-Nine (1988) and “i” (1989), each of which proposes an entirely new future for rock and neither of which has ever been properly followed up (although if the various contributors to Screamadelica had not listened intently to “i” I would be extremely surprised – the Primal Scream of 1987 still faithfully tethering themselves to the Byrds of early 1966), appeared on Rough Trade and, though doing little commercially, happily remain in print. Given some of the lamentable experiences through which 1989 Popular will be obliged to wade, AR Kane’s gain was the public’s loss. But for such a wonderfully radical record to get to number one practically via the back door – and not even intentionally, in the manner of “God Save The Queen” – was enough to remind this (then) 23-year-old writer that marvellous miracles could still occur, and that music of quality and adventure was still able to scythe its way through the assorted film themes, AoR balladeers, coasting megastars and dismal cover versions and reveal what the true music of 1987 really was like – though of course, those with open ears and generous minds were glad to be caught in its entrancing embrace.

    (Oh, and Rick Astley? Lovely lad, lovely number one hit, more Michael McDonald than Luther Vandross to my ears and probably more Craig Douglas than either – and that’s all I have to say about “Never Gonna Give You Up” at the moment other than it sounded great on a sunny Friday afternoon on the M25).

  8. 58

    We’re only saying the “tilt” happened now because now is when a very rich and well-made expression of it got to No.1 in the UK: in other words, its presence became something even its opponents could no longer ignore. But it had been gathering the momentum to become a tilt for years. Cabaret Voltaire’s track titled “James Brown” came out in 1984: one their first (?) LP for Virgin; ie — for them — the moment of shifting above ground.

    At some point round now — might be some years earlier, might even be later — the network of clubs and labels that served UK dance audiences became extensive enough to hit critical mass in terms of charting material. Changes in the nature of radio earlier in the 80s — simply the number of stations, and how they were encouraged to define themselves and their brand niche — also plays a massive role.

  9. 59
    punctum on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Jonathan King on Round Table in 1984 reviewing “James Brown” by Cabaret Voltaire in an outraged splutter: “This will never be a hit if I have anything to do with it!”

  10. 60
    wichita lineman on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Re 57: “number one practically via the back door”. I feel like a killjoy, but AR Kane only reached number one on paper (ie Music Week) didn’t they? In the same way The Fatima Mansions and Jesus Lizard would later score unlikely hits.

    It feels vaguely appropriate to don my vinyl nerd hat and list the genuine (as in both sides have received significant airplay) double A sides that have been missed on Popular:

    1959: Elvis Presley – I Need Your Love Tonight/ (A Fool Such As I)
    1961: Everly Brothers – Ebony Eyes/ (Walk Right Back)
    1961: Shirley Bassey – Climb Ev’ry Mountain/ (I Reach For The Stars)
    1961: Elvis Presley – Little Sister/ (His Latest Flame)… one of the best double siders evah!
    1962: Elvis Presley – Rock A Hula Baby/ (Can’t Help Falling In Love)
    1963: Cliff Richard – Bachelor Boy/ (The Next Time)
    1971: Rod Stewart – Reason To Believe/ (Maggie May)

  11. 61
    Tom on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #60 I still plan to do a “Popular Special Edition” at some point covering these off. But then I plan to do a lot of things and they don’t actually get done.

  12. 62
    wichita lineman on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Well, I’m intrigued to know your thoughts on Ebony Eyes, but I’m happier to read your thoughts on AR Kane : )

  13. 63
    punctum on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Vinyl Nerd (Chelsea Division) Replies:

    “Reason To Believe” technically speaking listed as A-side for first two weeks of chart run only then flipped since all DJs were playing the other side. See also “I Talk To The Trees” by Clint Eastwood, listed as a double-A for the first fortnight of “Wand’r’n’ Star”‘s run.

  14. 64
    MikeMCSG on 7 Apr 2010 #

    # 56 Good article, thanks. I think the loosening of R1’s grip on the nation’s music consumption habits probably is a key factor.

  15. 65
    Erithian on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr Jones?

    Well, melody and meaning meant a lot to me and still do – which is why the main things I recall with fondness from 1987 were “The Joshua Tree” (unapologetically), the Christians album and “Wonderful Life”. And, as mentioned before, I was 25 at the time and several of the people mentioned by Punctum in his survey of the 1987 musical landscape might as well have been on another planet. But you know what? – I do have a lot of time for this record.

    Perhaps it’s the relentlessness of the riff that grounds everything – speaking to Rosie in another place I likened it to the marching synths in “Are Friends Electric?”. Maybe it’s the sheer inventiveness of the samples being worked into the mix (where in many other cases samples just seemed a lazy way of using other people’s music instead of making your own). And possibly it was that almost accidentally fantastic video: just as those Old Grey Whistle Test archive films coloured your perception of the tracks they were used to provide illustration for, the NASA archive footage as a signifier for space-age and up-to-the-minute (even if they were 20 or more years old even then) helped the viewer to accept that this was something new and exciting, even if the makers of the record hadn’t had those images in mind.

    Maybe melody and meaning are to an extent analogous with representative painting in the 20th century – granted, they weren’t being made obsolete by some new-technology equivalent of cameras, but increasingly there were alternatives coming down the road. If you buy the analogy, “Pump up the Volume” and the like were audio Jackson Pollock, or sound collages – not to everyone’s taste but there was room for it if you were in a broad-minded or receptive mood. Not that I liked a huge amount of what it spawned though. Before long a few seconds of Funky Drummer or that bloke going “I know you’re gonna dig this” would have me wincing and switching stations. For now, though, I could live with this one.

  16. 66
    wichita lineman on 7 Apr 2010 #

    I knew I could rely on you to spot another! I Talk To The Trees possibly received as little airplay as Anitina. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it.

    Did no one else think PUTV sounded a little dated re samples (Wild Style, Pump Me Up) in 1987? Curious to know if I’m on my own here

  17. 67
    MikeMCSG on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #65 The Tubeway Army analogy is interesting because at 14 I did feel AFE heralded something new and exciting much in the same way younger people responded to this. Perhaps I was just too grumpy – I was starting my accountancy course which I really didn’t want to do at this point – to accept that what I still thought was exciting didn’t turn “the kids” on anymore. Strangely enough “Freak Like Me” is just about the only record where the sample doesn’t automatically make me want to put the source record on.

  18. 68
    thefatgit on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #66 I think it was PUTV that got me hunting the bargain shelves for Time Zone, which somehow passed me the first time round. In the same way, that “Paid In Full” 12″ encouraged me to seek out Ofra Haza. It didn’t matter if it sounded “dated”. The rules were being ripped up and re-written. How many DJ’s looked at their Rare Groove collections and thought about what would sound good over a generic “Funky Drummer” or “When The Levee Breaks” break?

    Once a cherrypicker, always a cherrypicker.

  19. 69
    Tom on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #66 obviously at the time I had no idea about that stuff! Now? Well, I take your point, but what makes PUTV work is the frame around the samples as much as the chosen snippets themselves*. Adventures Of G Flash is more eclectic (and would also have been a good shot for a 10 in the amazing parallel world in which it qualifies) but also a lot more lurch-y: I’m not sure there’d been a ‘sampladelic’ record as smooth as PUTV before this.

    *and “dated” is a relative term here too, we’re not in “Uno dos tres QUATRO” territory yet.

  20. 70
    swanstep on 7 Apr 2010 #

    @Tom 69. It’s not *exactly* the same thing, but Eno/Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was pretty sample-tastic, and it absolutely programmatically pushed found sound and timbre and rhythm as an alternative musical focus to melody + unified meaning/singer. The original vids for Jezebel Spirit and America is Waiting, which aren’t available any more it seems, were pretty similar to PUTV’s nifty vid IIRC. At any rate it was Byrne singing the praises of Public Enemy that first put them on my and lots of other people’s radar late in 1987.

    One way to look at things: Eno was everywhere – behind U2, behind the ambient/chill-out side of club music, which was also starting to get big in its own right (it was on sunday nights on triplej in Sydney), and with byrne behind the sample-arama/rhythmic globalizers.

  21. 71
    Tom on 7 Apr 2010 #

    I love MLITBOG to bits, and it’s definitely another ancestor, but the smoothness there is a bit easier because they’re building each track around an individual sample source, no? All the stuff in “America is Waiting” (say) comes from the same broadcast right?

  22. 72
    Lex on 7 Apr 2010 #

    A lot of the comments here are sort of weird in all directions to me!

    Personally I like it but don’t love it; my opinion’s fairly close to Kat @8 and Kogan @15. I obviously wasn’t aware of it at the time, and only heard it for the first time at some point in university. I guess at the time it’d have the thrill of the new but it’s not a particularly exciting dance track to me (and there’s a ton of dance from this era, and before, that I do find as thrilling as though no one had ever made sounds like that before, so it’s not just that). It’s more like a hip-hop instrumental (which makes me want to hear the full MC vocal) with a few cut-and-pasted samples. I’d file it under “nice to hear at a house party” but if I was the DJ I wouldn’t play it. Then again, I was never into the Avalanches either, who are pretty obvious descendants of this aesthetic.

    AndyPandy @29 provides some useful context which pretty much explains why I’m not totally into it! Really not surprised that it didn’t gain significant traction with the actual clubbing community – I’ve long had an antipathy to music made by “intrigued outsiders” trying to replicate someone else’s scene.

    But all these comments about how this track marked “the death of the charts” or that it’s too far from “traditional structure” (wtf does everything have to be a three-minute verse-chorus-verse pop song now?) or that insinuate that dance and hip-hop music are responsible for the abandonment of “melody and meaning” are even weirder! W/r/t “melody” – that bassline is definitely a melody to my ears, and in any case it has rhythm. “Meaning” – I don’t know what this even refers to, tbh, I don’t know what it means that a song “means” something.

    @52 it depends on the track – when I listen to dance music at home, sometimes it’s to recreate the club experience, sometimes because you hear the track in a different way in a home-listening context.

  23. 73
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 Apr 2010 #

    @70: yes, the great lost* project in respect of the MM canon that punctum is repping for — not wrongly — is the harmolodic collision funk that laswell** and ronald shannon jackson were exploring on the back of the no wave thing in nyc 79-85: material — feat.whitney! — prefigures and creates the context for eno/byrne

    *by “lost” i mean that MM — having shed its jazz coverage — was allergic to the point of bigotry*** about this entire zone: i was soon off wire-wards to work on MY version of the meaning of 1987; i am probably sourer than punctum is abt the MM achievement bcz for me, then (at wire) it wasn’t a reliable ally, it was part of the problem (but i should also note that — as a very busy editor — i was picking up information second or third and at best; when you’re putting a monthly together with a tiny team, you just don’t have TIME to keep up with where everyone else is at…)

    **played in new york gong = as ever the centre!

    ***this is a strong word and of course doesn’t apply to everyone at MM, but i did write for MM very briefly, and i know whereof i speak

  24. 74
    swanstep on 7 Apr 2010 #

    @Tom 71. I think you are right that most of the found sound on any one track tends as you say to come from single sources (there was lots of diverse sampling for rhythmic elements). But let’s face it, the effect is ominous with Eno/Byrnee rather than playful the way M/A/R/R/S have it. And as I recall, when Byrne was talking up PE as literally the future of music he was referring to songs like ‘night of the living base heads’ where there are 20 or so recognizable samples – and other tracks that combined slayer and jamees brown. Byrne defintiely thought this stuff was a useful step beyond what he and eno had done.

  25. 75
    wichita lineman on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Re 68: My point was that the rule books weren’t being ripped up and re-written, because that had happened years before. Wild Style may have been unknown to you but it had been a huge electro favourite (if not much of a chart hit). It wasn’t crate digging in the way Paid In Full’s use of Ofra Haza was. Not sure what your cherry picking line means.

    Re 69: Yes, PUTV is much smoother structurally isn’t it, and the repeated use of the title is effectively a chorus; bassline aside Wheels Of Steel doesn’t have a major hook. From memory you’re right about MLITBOG. I remember Was Not Was’s Tell Me That I’m Dreaming (with its similar “out of control” space race sample) coming out pretty much simultaneously.

    The big difference of course – and I don’t think I’ve been citing obscure precursors/samples – is that PUTV got to number one! Amazing!

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