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Published: 2007/03/21
by Josh Potter

San – DJ Klock

San – DJ Klock
West Side Cabin EP #1 – Reminder

Ropeadope Digital

It's been a while since "new music" meant "new ways of listening," but this is, like, the Aquarian Age or something, so clean out your earholes. While most labels weep over the "death of the disc," Ropeadope has spawned a new paradigm from the industry's ashy remains. Enter Ropeadope Digital, an online label featuring cheap downloads that cut distribution costs, nix the middle men, and, most importantly, give otherwise unheard artists the exposure they deserve. Not surprisingly, the label's inaugural batch of artists represents some of the newest frontiers being explored in music.

If Reminder's lush, polyrhythmic beat-scapes conjure memories of Prefuse 73, this is not coincidental. Otherwise known as Joshua Abrams, Reminder plays bass in the glitch-hop pioneer's touring band. With his hands on more than just the low-end (namely an MPC), Abrams approaches beat construction with the same drummerly instincts that have recently liberated the genre from its rote break-centrism. Like a cyborg Art Blakey, he runs enough triplet figures against his foundational 4-feel to disorient, but never enough to drop the pocket. True to his first love, the bassline is his anchor but not his end-all. Percussion and atmospherics orbit the bass in a manner that can stomp, shuffle, sway and stutter, all at the same time. The result is a spacious, pastoral electronica, off-kilter like Prefuse, but more patient and sparing with synthy chirps.

While textural, Reminder's compositions are also architectural. Tracks like "Space Aviary" and "Days of Awe" seem to employ a sort of inverted improvisational form. Rather than using the song structure as a point of departure, the tracks wander in with loose, lilting Sun Ra percussion (similar in ways to Colleen) before establishing thematic structure. "Look At Your Left Hand If You're Dreaming" invokes the lucid dreaming technique of self-awareness in musical form. Underneath the flit of fireflies, shudder of flying-fish, and within the cavernous hum of digital space there is subtle melodic motion that begs to be seen if you can find it.

As for the Japanese DJ Klock, "digital" is not a quality that readily applies to this, his first full-length American release. While glitch-hoppers scour the cracks of the electronic sidewalk for overlooked crumbs, Klock has an overwhelmingly analog feel. Breathy and downright lo-fi at times, it's as if he's been hiding in the closet at Middle School band practice with his tape-recorder, amassing raw, humble instrumental fragments to exploit in his beats. As confessional and almost voyeuristic as he sometimes sounds, the mood is always innocent. Melodic themes unwind on piano, flute, or horn, rambling listlessly like a child practicing arpeggios. Meanwhile warm, almost reedy drums push insistently from behind.

The title of DJ seems, at times, misleading, as this is not your grandpa's turntablism. And Klock's association with DJ Krush's brand of trip-hop is even more misleading. On tracks like "Flute Sings," Klock sounds almost twee, like it was Architecture in Helsinki's closet that he'd staked out. On "Niji" there's laughter, Japanese counting, baby talk, dogs barking, clicking tongues — basically everything that hiphop needed to integrate that only Klock could have prescribed. I'm just not sure I can rightly call this hiphop. "Los Valadores" seems to be built from the concept of a word losing its meaning with repetition. "Return of the MPC Freak" is what Steve Reich would have been composing had he grown up on sushi and Grandmaster Flash.

New horizons, fresh air, greener grass — it's all there. So long as we can find it and wrap our ears around it, it'll keep coming. And vice versa.

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