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Published: 2001/06/19
by Jesse Jarnow

The String Cheese Remix Project- DJ Harry

The String Cheese Remix Project – DJ Harry

Instinct Records 569-2

"The String Cheese Remix Project" was put together by DJ Harry, a
dready looking fellow who seems to have wandered in from the deepest wilds
of tour Wookiedom. I won't delve into deconstructions of the liner notes, of the
statements like "I wanted to share my discovery with the tightly knit
community of mountain freaks who lived for the outdoors and were genuine to
the core", but these best left for the first sociologist with some time on his hands.

The discovery, in this case, is house music. And, as much as I hate to admit
it, DJ Harry has a point: there are numerous striking similarities between
DJ culture and the head scene, in the relationship between the dancers and
the groove. Harry's goal is a noble one: "to finally blur the line between
the two genres". Fine, but, first point: live bands like the New Deal,
Sector 9, Lake Trout, and the Ozric Tentacles have been doing this for
years. Second point: this album just comes off like a hippie band with a
thumping electronic beat placed behind them. Any fusion involved is utterly
transparent. In ten years, this will sound like one of those terrible disco
remix albums from the late '70s where classical music is set to a synth
groove.

Where a live band relies on linear change to keep a set interesting,
intelligent dance music is intentionally repetitive, relying on depth and
the constant introduction of deeper sounds to keep it sonically exciting. A
lot of that has to do with the bringing in of new samples, beats, and
sounds. By limiting himself to one band – albeit one with as a diverse as
musical palette as String Cheese – Harry poses a challenge which he
ultimately fails to meet. The music is mostly flat. When the vibe changes,
it sounds all too much like a live band changing (or a guest sitting in with
the band) — which is essentially what it is as one realizes that all the
major changes in the music come when Harry changes the song from which he is
drawing his samples.

On top of that, the samples have no edge. The back cover sets itself out to
be badass with a mock warning label: "This is HOUSE MUSIC... a continuous
mix of bumpin', psychedelic dance music for your groove pleasure." In this
case, piano, world-beat drums, acoustic guitar, and mandolin don't make very
convincing fodder. The samples speed up or slow down or get louder or softer, but – all in all – they're
still a buncha heady folks playing heady music. In a club setting, the high,
lonesome samples would sound thin and disappear into the thick air.

The sound quality is great, so I'd imagine this'll make for good listening
by folks who are already into String Cheese, but it just tends not to hold
up as dance music. It also presents an interesting progression. Maybe.
Especially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Grateful Dead were one of
the most forward-looking groups in American popular music, playing truly
weird atonal improvisations within the context of a rock band. Through
"American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead" (fine albums, to be sure) and
Garcia's eventual work with Old and In The Way, they introduced a new
generation to traditional American string-band music.

It made sense in the context of the whole back-to-Gaia movement that people
would latch onto it. It was perceived as genuine and authentic — the music
of the People, as it were (despite the fact that bluegrass itself was a
technological innovation that came about as a direct product of
industrial-technological development). In any event, it'd be fair to say
that the resurgence of bluegrass among hippie-folk ultimately led in a line,
straight and true as an arrow, to the formation of the Blue Cheese String
Band — a group of Telluride ski bums that eventually morphed into the
electrified String Cheese Incident.

That's a little bit of a one-sided version of the story. Heads didn't
entirely abandon weird music just as the Dead themselves didn't entirely
abandon out explorations. There was a split though, mostly between America
musicians and British and European musicians, who seemed more willing to
push on the idea of new psychedelic music (as opposed to just refining the
initial innovation, as the Dead ended up doing).

DJ Harry is right. Electronic music and the jambands scene are blood
relatives, and it makes sense to somehow fuse them. To his credit, DJ Harry
doesn't compromise, making a more literal fusion of the two elements than
most of the live bands out there. It just doesn't work, though, for all the
reasons stated above. Harry doesn't give in enough to the spirit of
electronic music, to the idea that it is undoubtedly at its best when it is
drawn from a melange of samples, just as jamband music is drawn together
from a variety of genres.

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