13 October, 2012

Recent Love (I'm Trying Too Hard to Make a Point Edition)

The United Sons of Toil, Forces of Production
OK, let it be known that I know next to nothing about techno.
I say techno because my "musical awakening" or whatever you want to call it occurred during the nineties and you had techno and then techno-industrial. Sure, there was house, there was garage, there was dub, I think jungle might have been around, but to a northwest Ohio teen whose exposure to music was MTV and fanzines (this was back when the internet was all html and featured all of thirty two colors, mind you), if things sounded vaguely computerized, it was called techno. There were probably hipper and savvier teens than yours truly but I never met them.
Something like White Zombie's Supersexy Swingin' Sounds? Their remix record? Yeah, that was techno. Things like that fell under the umbrella of techno.
So, when the United Sons of Toil submit their remix record? Yeah, I buckle up a little because I'm sure I'm going to be listening to techno.
Granted, techno's come a long way since its earliest incarnation in 19coughmumblejumble2 and we have things like dubstep and dreamcore and acid this and house that. To me? It's by the fault of my teenage musical tastes (not techno) that all of these things get labeled as techno.
The deal with Forces of Production, however, is that it's not a techno record. It's - and I'm sorry if this is too wordy but I'm on my second day off after a twelve-day stretch - a reconstruction record. A record where the band essentially has said, "You've heard this song, how do you think it should go?" From skimming USoT's blog (which has sadly detailed the band's recent end in the latest blog post), it appears as though the band selected a handful of musicians and other sound artists to recombinate (I heard that word in a sci-fi movie once, stop hating) their songs. Then they took the best of the batch and put together a handsome package of their songs filtered through the ears, the brains, and then the mouse clicks of these trusted artists.
Now, I like a good remix record. It's why I brought up White Zombie's Supersexy Swingin' Sounds a minute ago; I like that record. I still own the cassette. I still play it occasionally.
And if USoT will allow me to continue on the comparison between them and a campy 90s horror/groove-metal/techno outfit (born from an 80s Sonic Youth-ish noise-rock attempt at stadium metal) (don't give me that look, just listen to Gods on Voodoo Moon sometime), I'll say that what works on Forces of Production is the same thing that worked on Supersexy Swingin' Sounds. That is to say that the songs that work with rearranging the presented material work just as well with the songs that bring forth their own elements.
Maybe I should explain that.
(Maybe I shouldn't.)
The songs that take the basic, raw recorded tracks and remix them and splice them and rearrange them work hand-in-hand where the remixer arranged a whole new musical piece using the instruments and sequencers and such at their disposal.
You get me, right?
So, what you have is a collection of songs that sound like different arrangements performed by a band in a studio alongside songs that sound like they were conjured on a laptop. And it all works. The difference is that, in the end, unlike the White Zombie record I have to stop mentioning, you have a record that could stand on its own as the fourth (and sadly final) installment in USoT's catalog. According to USoT's blog, the band and the artistic community involved in this project dedicated a little over a year to get this thing put together (I think) (OK, what is up with me and the parentheses today?), so this is going to be quality.
When Russel emailed me the review copy, I told him that I would put it on my phone so I could listen to it on my bike rides. Well, honestly, the end of convention season being exceptionally grueling, my assistant manager taking a trip to Utah, work in general, those all hindered me giving this an extensive listen. I listened to it when I could, which wasn't all that often but I've made it through about five or six listens which means that I'm on either six or seven, right now. Actually, I think the number might be up to a dozen or so, really.
Either way, I was listening to Forces of Production as I went to cash my paycheck yesterday (Saturday) and I figured that since Kowalski's was right next door to my bank that I would go there instead of to Rainbow where I know the layout, the prices are good, and the cashiers are attractive.
So, I'm in Kowalski's - which, by the way, is where monied people go to shop from the looks of things - and their produce section makes no sense to me. Spinach comes in a plastic container and there are no such things as potatoes apparently. When I get over to the meat department to pick up a corned beef brisket, they (amazingly) have no corned beef. Motherfuckers have bacon-wrapped rib tips and sausage stuffed chickens and beef-wrapped chicken breasts breaded with feta and herbs... shit like that. Motherfuckers have leg of lamb.
Bitch, you ever have leg of lamb?
I've never had leg of lamb.
You know how much leg of lamb costs?
US$11.99/lb.
The gam they had on display was easily a six or seven pounder, too.
But no corned beef.
So imagine you're in some froo-froo, upscale grocer's. You can't find spinach. They got nine kinds of romaine lettuce but no spinach. They got these things called fingerling potatoes that don't count as potatoes. And they've got all sorts of red meat monstrosities aside from corned goddamned beef. (It also helps if you're like me and your half-Irish side demands a once-per-month injection of corned beef.) (Man, I'm just all kinds of parenthetical, today.)
Imagine that you're surrounded by forty-something single guys picking over the lettuces and hollow-eyed teenagers stocking shelves and fifty-something women with unconvincing blonde dye jobs and half-way-to-Jersey tans carting their baskets around and that there's a parking lot full of last year's model cars and the married couples are looking in the wine shop matching their beverages to cheeses with funny names.
Imagine you're surrounded by this. And you're in your SOHIO windbreaker with a messenger bag on your back. You've got your headphones in. You're listening to a remix record by a punk band. And, while you're looking for some goddamned corned beef, the guy behind the counter asks if he can help you. He's nice, he's professional, he's not like you in that he gives a shit about helping a customer or can at least pretend. But you can't hear him. So, you pull an ear bud out and before you can ask him if he has any corned beef brisket, you hear Paula Abdul's "Straight Up, Now Tell Me" on the muzak.
Well, he says he doesn't have that.
You thank him and put your ear bud back in and resume listening to USoT.
And, a split second later, you realize that you need to leave this froo-froo grocery store. They don't have anything you are looking for. (Yes, that includes droids.) (Parenthetical Star Wars joke!)
So you kick over the display rack of Cap'N'Crunch, you punch a cougar in the nose, spit across the register, and say, "Seacrest out!"
Well, maybe not that far. But Forces of Production definitely was, for me, the soundtrack to taking a fifteen minute gander out how the other half lives and being pretty bewildered that the monied apparently don't eat potatoes or corned beef. Well, maybe they do; I mean, they have to, right? It's just that their grocer doesn't sell that stuff.
Sometimes, all you want is corned beef and taters.
You don't want eleven-herb cod. You don't want bacon-wrapped turducken. You don't want chicken-fried rib eyes with feta crumbles and an orange-parsley glaze.
That's what's up with Forces of Production. It's free from weird bullshit. It's a rock record remixed to sound like a rock record.
USoT put together some meat and taters. Said meat and taters already had all the salt and pepper they needed. But, you know, sometimes you need something a little different. So they handed their songs to this guy who can do a fantastic vodka sauce. Little Joey Scab Knees down the way can work olive oil and garlic like you-don't-know. Sarah with the lop-sided tits is handy with a simple peanut and mushroom sauce. Guillermo, you know Guillermo, that cat that does Billy Ocean at karaoke night? Orange and cinnamon glaze. Anita can school you on the difference between the various egg dishes like Benedict, Florentine, Hemingway... all one ingredient off from the other.
And that's how this record feels. It doesn't feel like a total remix or reinterpretation, it feels like somebody added an ingredient here, made a substitution there. But, in the end, it still projects the soul of the dishes on USoT's original menus (here meaning records).
Really, you just need to listen to this record.

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