09 December 2014

Straight Off The Philip K.

At some point, someone eventually uploaded the full clip of this thing, with only bits & pieces of it turning up on tubeage before. A dozen year hence, and it seems a peculiar doco of a time and the times since.

For starters, a time before the music industry changed radically, and it was still possible to run such a by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants label, forming a network and forging a closely-knit alliance with like-minded artists and collaborators, getting the product made and out on shelves and into eager hands, etc..*

Secondly: El Producto who initially seems a little nervous and unsure about what to say to a Dutch film crew invading his home studio.

But mainly: 2002, and the sound of the times. El-P had been developing a certain sound for several years -- dark, heavy, laden with off-kilter bumps and lo-res atmospherics. Sounded like a offspring of 1990s NYC “illbience” at its most dusted and paranoid; sounded like what would’ve happened if the unlikely collab of Throbbing Gristle hooking up with DJ Premier had ever transpired and been disseminated via 2nd-gen cassette bootlegs. But it eventually ended up sounding like the most appropriate background mood music for post-9/11 New York.**

At one point, El-P confesses to be obsessed with the film Bladerunner (major 90s fixation, that), and with Philip K. Dick in general. Revisiting the Instrumentals version of CannOx’s The Cold Vein, there’s a number of moments when you might sense a Vangelis sample being grafted over the beats. Case in point, “Iron Galaxy,” with its hazily-filtered, proto-vaporwave melodic synth component...

Turns out it’s Giorgio Moroder circa 1981, pulled from the soundtrack to the Nastasia Kinski vehicle Cat People. A quick check of the "Who Sampled" site reveals that the most frequently sampled artists throughout the rest of the CannOx album were Brian Eno and Philip Glass.

Also in the course of related stumbling upons, I belatedly discover that this exists. Someone giving Aesop Rock’s None Shall Pass LP the “Grey Album” treatment, grafting the vocals over reconfigured Tom Waits tracks. But really, considering the beats and track Blockhead put behind Aesop back on 2000's Float, it feels like recognizable terrain.

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* And now, I look on certain websites to see how much of the label or artist’s product is still in circulation, and see that some people are asking baffling high prices for a vinyl edition of Funcrusher Plus; high enough to be just a few dollars shy of what other people are demanding for - say -- an old vinyl edition of Ornette Coleman’s The Empty Foxhole, and I have to wonder wtf. And wonder how many other records of not-so-throwback vintage I own that some people think that are worth well over a hundred bucks.

** Or, really, any major city that may have considered itself a potential target in the days moths or weeks thereafter. A quiet after the snowfall suddenly dropping, because you never realized how much low-level noise came from above until the skies went silent as all commercial airline traffic ceased; except when a military suddenly cut shriekingly low, startling everyone on the street, their heads suddenly whipping round and their anxious gaze going up. The looks on the faces being those of genuine fright if this sort of thing happened downtown, in proximity to skyscrapers.

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