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Published: 2002/08/24
by Jesse Jarnow

Drop The Needle: illy B Eats remixes and breakbeats – Billy Martin and various artists

Amulet Records 008

Drop The Needle has a concept, one which drummer Billy Martin lays
out in the liner notes. In 2001, Martin released Drop
The Needle, a vinyl only disc of breakbeats intended for consumption
by DJs. The beats were mixed linearly by Martin and Scotty Hard, and are
quite listenable on their own. There was also an open call for remixers to
go at the tracks, to slice 'em up and reorganize 'em. So, the submissions
started rolling in. Martin also culled contributions from a number of New
York musicians, including Calvin Weston, DJ Olive, Miho Hatori, as well as
his mates in Medeski, Martin, and Wood.

The diversity of the remixes is pretty wide open, from the fantastic
dub-jungle sonics of Spacefuzz's "Out Of Your Mind" to the crazy operatic
yodeling of Calvin Weston on "Madd Ladd" to the space-pop acoustic guitar on
Monk One's "Sun Flower". The common thread, of course, is Martin's drumming,
which keeps things tied together pretty effectively. "There was only one
rule," Martin writes in the liners, "it [had] to groove". Since Martin's
original record – which is included, for the first time on CD, as a bonus
disc with Drop The Needle – did that pretty effortlessly, that one
rule assured that Martin would remain at the heart of whatever the results
were.

With the foundational grooving taken care of, everything else is, moreless,
decorative. And since everybody was working from the same source material,
helpfully included, the resultant Drop The Needle is basically a
document of how people listen to music: what they hear and what they
conceive. Being aware of the common denominator, the beats, one can almost
tune them out and just listen to the voices on top of them — the strings,
the samples, the production. If one listens to how they're constructed, he
gets a sense of how the music was made emotionally based on how the remixers
have reconstructed the music.

A notable track in this regard is Sex With Robots' "ModerndicKsealand",
which features layers of bicycle horns and squeaks and bleepy mechanical
exhortations to round out Martin's rhythms. The violin part dips from
Americana into more Asian-sounding modes and, abruptly, back. Likewise, Monk
One's "Sun Flower", the album's closer, is downright countryish — which
certainly isn't something that I would've previously associated with
Martin's beats.

Drop The Needle is dense, exciting, and adventurous — a great
addition to the canon assembled by the extended MMW family. The vibe is
atmospheric without being ambient, grooving with being rigidly obvious, and
experimental without being frustratingly abstruse. It is, in short, worth
listening to.

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