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Monthly Archives: January 2003

From Russia, with Filial Love

Andrei Tarkovsky, the Russian film director, is a familiar name these days. Steven Soderbergh has remade his film Solaris and science-fiction novelist William Gibson references him in the first chapter of his new book, Pattern Recognition. (Gibson can currently be heard reading the chapter on the New York Times’ book-review site, here or here.) Artemiy Artemiev is the son of Edward Artemiev, who scored various Tarkovsky films, including Solaris. Artemiy runs a record label, Electroshock, from Moscow. In 1999, Electroshock reissued cues from various Tarkovsky soundtracks, and it has released four albums by Edward, who also contributed to several of the label’s compilation CDs.

Electroshock, now in its eighth year, has released Visions, an “homage” — according to its subtitle — by Victor Cerullo to Andrei Tarkovsky. Visions takes the form of a dozen tracks, ranging from brief efforts in full-on musique concrete to 10-minute-long swaths of synthesized ambience. Elements of classical music, including samples of work by Modest Moussorgsky (Boris Godounov) and Luigi Nono, shift in and out of focus amid blankets of long, sinuous sound and bracing real-world elements, like breaking glass and water drops. The effect is at times consternating, and at others thrilling. Overall, however, the record emphasizes expanses of like-toned source material, which reflect Tarkovsky’s reputation for painstaking pacing and metaphysical contemplation.

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Amon Tobin v. Amon Tobin in Russia

Word of a CD-length mix of music by Amon Tobin arrived over the holidays from a Russian-language Internet service provider. The mix, a 105MB, hour-and-a-half-long MP3 file titled FINtastik LOoM and credited to DJ U-Ra, strings together various Tobin cuts, from his cut’n’paste reworkings of classic jazz, to his drum’n’bass takes on Brazilian percussion, to his affectionate, Mantovani-style string sections. Tobin, with a few exceptions, tends to prefer his albums as collections of individual tracks, heard in a specific order. However, DJ U-Ra’s seamless format on this mix is very much like how Tobin presents his music in front of a live audience: a blending of individual elements that are considerably more discrete on his original recordings. In fact, U-Ra’s mix may come close to how Tobin’s music sounds in the memories of Tobin’s fans: the driving rhythms of the Piranha Breaks EP melting ineffably into the Bollywood remixes of his recent Out from Out Where album.

“Mash-ups” have made headlines for overlaying snippets of songs by Destiny’s Child atop Nirvana, and so forth. Perhaps the best potential mash-ups, though, are those that pit musicians against themselves, instead of against one another. For the time being, U-Ra’s remix is available here. The 17 original tracks used in the mix are listed in the MP3 file’s “comments” field as follows: “Stoney Streets,” “Toys,” “Nightlife,” “Like Regular Chickens,” “Yasawas,” “The Nasty,” “Subtropic,” “Escape,” “Deo,” “People Like Frank,” “Dream Sequence,” “Mission,” “Golfer vrs Boxer,” “Reanimator,” “Fast Eddie,” “Daytrip” and “Keepin’ It Steel.”

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Hip-Hop Producer Hides Electronica Album

Often enough, the best electronic music lies just below a single track of vocals. Often as not, those vocals get the music filed in record stores under “hip-hop” or “r&b.” Case in point, the collected rap of the group Cypress Hill, who under the guidance of producer DJ Muggs coughed up album upon album of dense atmospherics. Cypress Hill’s sound was thicker than the marijuana smoke the group rapped about incessantly. Where Public Enemy’s producers, the Bomb Squad, achieved density with head-on sonic collisions, Muggs favored overlapping veils.

Muggs has a full-length solo album, Dust, due out March 21, 2003, and it’s not what Cypress fans might be expecting — all in all, it’s a rock-pop album, 14 tracks of moody, downbeat emoting, including singing by Joshua Todd (of the defunct metal band Buckcherry, which rocked harder than it got credit for), Amy Trujillo, Everlast and Greg Dulli. Much of this will appeal to fans of Tricky’s brand of trip-hop, but for electronic aficionados there are also four experimental vocal-free tracks on Dust. (By the way, Tricky and Muggs both record for Anti- Records, which is also home to Tom Waits and to Nick Cave, whose band includes Blixa Bargeld, of Einsturzende Neubauten — now, isn’t that a label whose Christmas-party jam you’d like to witness?)

Collected as an EP, the four vocal-free tracks from Dust would have made a nice little electronica set. Instead, they serve as interludes, each at less than two minutes in length:

Track three (“Niente”) finds common ground between the Beatles’ psychedelic studio antics (a la Revolver‘s “I’m Only Sleeping”) and the melodrama of Angelo Badalementi’s soundtracks (Twin Peaks).

Track six (“Shadows”) is water torture with a heart-pounding back beat and an underlay of intimate but undecipherable ham-radio jabbering. It closes with a bell ringing and a door opening: a self-deprecating maneuver that turns the track, de facto, into elevator music.

Track eight (“Cloudy Days”) starts with sci-fi noises and segues quickly into a “Dust in the Wind”-style guitar exercise. Of the four vocal-less tracks on Dust, this is the only one that is remotely unsatisfying, and then only because the guitar melody demands a vocal that never arrives. When the song modulates down a notch midway through, it sounds like it could be a Guns N’ Roses cover, but instead it’s a nice bit of electro-acoustic noodling that might appeal to fans of Fennesz or Greg Davis.

Track 12 (“Blip”) opens with the sound of a computer keyboard being pecked at. Muggs quickly matches that casual rhythm with Aphex Twin-style computerized percussion, which he proceeds to tweak until the sounds are about to disintegrate.

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