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January 26, 1999 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-01-26

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 26, 1999 - 9


'Escape Mechamsm'
creates sound collage

Detroit's musical legacy continues. A quarter of
a century ago in the slowly decaying landscape of
Detroit, George Clinton transformed Motown's
soul into something known as P-funk. Then, years
later, Juan Atkins mixed technology with
Parliament's futuristic funk to invent something he
called Techno. Now at the dawn of the new millen-
nium, another Detroit artist named Carl Craig has
taken fantasy and technology to the next level of
funk evolution with "4 My Peepz."
This latest installment of music from The
. perclip People is Detroit's finest musical
moment in years. It's a shame few people realize
the amount of amazing music currently being pro-
duced in the Motor City. In the past year alone, the
funky music of Detroit's finest artists has evolved
beyond the dance floor. No longer just the sublime
soundtrack to all-night dance parties in the forgot-
ten depths of inner-city Detroit, this unique music
has finally risen from the underground, invading
the sound systems and minds of innocent listeners
ross the world.
Craig claims to be the channel through which
The Paperclip People - Dr. Eich, Me, Son and
Sche - communicate their
latest sonic experiments.
During the past decade, Craig
. * has released his music under
The Paperclip several monikers on his
People record label Planet E with
4 My Peepz The Paperclip People being
Planet E perhaps his most well known.
Communications The music defies the confines
Dalrsie r of genre classification. It pos-
Jason Birchmeier sesses the intergalactic
themes and mechanical
sounds of techno and then adds the dance floor-
friendly rhythms and disco motifs of house music.
In addition to the music, Craig also performs live as
The Paperclip People dressed in a lab coat, usually
accompanied by three dressed-up mannequins at
their own keyboards.
"4 My Peepz" may be the album to finally ele-
vate Craig and his Paperclip People project to
*served levels of critical as well as commercial

success. The songs carefully blend together the
funkiest elements of his Detroit predecessors while
still capturing an amazingly unique sound. The
multiple layers of thumping bass and accompany-
ing beats make it hard to sit still without some body
part gyrating to the beat. In addition to the essential
booty-shaking elements, the songs also include a
variety of sampled high-end melodies to mirror the
floor-shaking bass backdrop. The sum of these
rhythms pulls the listener into a world of comput-
erized bliss.
The epic length of the songs on "4 My Peepz"
also set it apart from most electronically produced
funk currently being produced. Nearly every song
on this album surpasses the 10-minute mark, with
some lasting as long as 15 minutes. One would
think that monotony may set in after awhile, but
this never occurs due to the progressive nature of
Craig's music. Every element of the densely lay-
ered songs slowly modulates, fading in and out of
the mix over the course of the song.
Craig's complex song structures take time to
develop into constructed compositions. The song
"4 My Peepz (Shot)" builds over the course of sev-
eral minutes before slowly deconstructing one
drum loop and disco sample at a time. Then just as

the song comes to a lull, the construction begins
once again. This 12-minute song is followed imme-
diately by a reprise titled "4 My Peepz (Stabbed),"
which uses altered versions of the same beats and
samples to reconstruct a minimal interpretation of
the original, focusing more on psychedelia than
Perhaps the best example of Craig's complex
song structures appears on the song "Reach." The
song opens with a sparse, repeating loop of rever-
berating drumbeats. The spaces between the beats
soon are filled with juxtaposing high-end beats,
reminiscent of handclaps. These two series of beats
slowly undergo a series of changes as reverb is
added then taken away while the beats phase to an
almost muted state before suddenly fading back.
This intro becomes almost nauseating as the song
evolves in a swirling fashion until about three and
a half minutes into the song when a third layer of
crisp beats enters. Here the song begins to get very
dense, exploding with plenty of rhythm. Then
halfway through the song, everything comes to a
halt and a sampled synthesizer loop enters. This
changes the entire flow of the song until slowly
each of the original loops fade back in for a reprise
of the intro.
Though the album, lasting only 48 minutes, is a
bit short, the superior quality of the music makes
this album an instant classic. It may be a bit inac-
cessible to those unfamiliar with this style of music
(whatever it's called) since none of the songs can be
described as simply or traditionally structured. In
fact, the sounds and rhythms of this music surpass
the analytical ability of the average human's mind.
At certain moments during the ecstatic peak of a
particular song, sounds enter, fade and mutate so
subtly that it's hard to differentiate one element
from the other within the densely layered, pounding
chaotic nature of the music.
This is music for the body. Each of the songs on
"4 My Peepz" craft audio landscapes full of emo-
tion and feeling. The transcending attributes of the
music combined with its unavoidable rhythms
allow the listener to temporarily drift off into The
Paperclip People's fantastical reality.

Every band has underlying theories.
about how to make music, whether they
realize it or not. Escape Mechanism has
chosen a dangerous theory to use. The
self-titled debut boasts that it is a "sound
collage." And here we reach a potential
ethical problem: If you have taken the
sounds from others, have you made
music merely by combining the sounds?
The music on
s.%2' "Escape Mech-
anism" is subdued
and almost ambient,
Escape although not exactly
Mechanism quiet. Bass heavy
Escape samples tend to-
Mechanism wards the subdued;
Reviewed by the music is not dis-
Daily Arts Writer tinct from song to
Ted Watts song. It is almost as
if to stand out would
mean stealing too much from a source.
The voice samples therefore become
the tags by which songs can be told apart,
and the vague themes they present
become the melodies that identify songs
instead of the normal musical cues.
"Digital Occasion" contains a sample
that talks about the dichotomy; how
lyrics become dominant when music is
marginalized. It also talks about the use
of the voice as an abstract instrument
itself, illustrated by the occasional choir
or cheer on the album. Seemingly identi-
fiable voices (was that Springer?) work

against that abstractness, carrying mean-
ing separate from the sound itself.
There are also less abstract samples;
however. "Why Does the Light Fall?'"
contains an identifiable snippet of dias
logue from the film "2010." "Draining"
has longer portions from a Sesame Street
album and a zoned out Mr. Rogers
monologue, with a rhythm track that
sounds stolen from Siouxie and the
Banshee's "Peekaboo" and a melody
from a toy piano or a xylophone.
The words keep the songs in line.
Would Escape Mechanism be as creative
if it sampled familiar materials? Maybe it
would induce that creepy feeling you get
listening to a Puff Daddy song. But until
such time as the band is powerful enoug'r
to pilfer stuff you've already heard, they
sound pretty good.

Gaze shakes the usual
bubblegum-group style

Imperial reteaches facts of life

The next time someone uses the
words "cute" "kiddie" and "girl pop" to
describe Gaze, bust out the handcuffs
and throw the offenders in the indie pop
slammer. The little-known Vancouver
trio has consistently been reduced to lit-
tle more than an adorable girl group - a
patronizing description of a band that
deserves so much more than a conde-
scending pat on the back.
A souvenir shop of lost love, Gaze's
"Mitsumeru" was a stellar debut stocked

The 1950s teen guide "Facts of Love and Life for
Feen-Agers" states, "The boy who recognizes his crush
ione of his buddies can make honest efforts to
'ecome active in sports, mingle with the crowd, engage
n *ial affairs where girls are..."
rial Teen would get big, big laughs over such
ockamamie - not only because it's absurd, but
ecause the band loudly and proudly embraces male-
male crushes.
Three years ago, Imperial Teen
released its first album,
"Seasick" slipping sexually sub-
Imperial versive lines into the perkiest
Teen anthems. With boy-sung lyrical
What Is Not To Love teases like "You kiss me like a
London/Slash man, boy" and "The prince wants
Reviewed by to be a queen," the music was so
Daily Arts Writer infectious that surely even the
Jimmy Draper homophobes sang along before
realizing what they were saying.
aside happy-go-lucky hooks, the songs tackled painful
sues like suicide and homosexuality.
This time out, these San Francisco co-eds ask "What

Is Not To Love" - and with 11 new spit-shined gems
under their belts, members Roddy Bottum, Lynn Perko,
Will Schwartz and Jone Stebbins leave listeners with
few complaints. While initially the band seems to fol-
low the same rambunctious, mile-a-minute formula of
its debut, subsequent listens to this follow-up suggest a
new, slower-burning subtlety.
First to sear themselves into the memory bank are the
rockers that threaten to careen off the tracks. Hitting the
pop jackpot, "Year of the Tan" and "Yoo Hoo" success-
fully intertwine male and female vocals, creating chaot-
ically fun songs that live up to the demands of the for-
mer's chorus, "We gotta dance!" And after hearing the
pop-perfect beats of "The Beginning" and "Lipstick,"
listeners won't ever accuse Imperial Teen - or its fans
- of passing up a good, down-and-dirty boogie.
After several listens, however, it's clear this album
maps out new Imperial Teen territory, too. The band
often opts for a mid-tempo pace that succeeds with a
fuller, more fleshed-out sound. "Open Season" rambles
pleasantly and seductively, and the seven-plus-minutes
of the Sonic Youth-ish "Alone in the Grass" create and
enticing invitation for a romp in a field. Demonstrated

Shake the
K Records
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Jimmy Draper

full of songs about
broken hearts,
failed romances
and disappoint-
ments. Its dead-on
lyrics rarely
missed the mark,
and the trio's
razor-sh arp
insight and wit hit
harder than a
sucker punch.
Yet the band's

by that song's hot-and-heavy feedback frenzy, the band
has clearly improved at crafting some mighty big turn-
"Sound counseling help is also needed by the boy
who has been inducted into homosexual activities and
has become deeply involved emotionally," states the
same '50s romance guide. Debunking such sexual mis-
conceptions, singer Will Schwartz mocks, "Why you
gotta be so proud?/I'm the one with lipstick on"

L+ suffers from sophomore jinx with 'Hempstead High'



There has always been room in the
music industry for child prodigies. Year
after year, record companies invest in
developing the next young superstar, in
hopes that they will achieve the immedi-
ate success of a Brandy or Monica, and
ultimately have the staying power of a
Stevie Wonder. A couple of years ago,
Kedar Entertainment made just such an
investment in Long Island native A+.
Executive producer Kedar
Massenburg did everything in his power
to make this a memorable second outing
for A+. Some of Universal Records'
biggest names are featured, and A+ more

than holds his own when paired with
them. In fact, the best songs of the album
feature A+ combining forces with the
Lost Boys and Canibus, among others. It
becomes obvious

Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Quan Williams

that he is at his
best when he has
another artist
around to draw
inspiration from.
The rest of the
album pales in
"Gotta Have It"
and "Parkside

Gardens" are entertaining, but "Price of
Fame" is tolerable at best, while "Uptop
New York" and "Understand The Game"
are both bland (don't be fooled by that
"featuring Erykah Badu" line. It's a sam-
ple). "Don't Make Me Wait" and "Enjoy
Yourself" are the two most formulaic,
corny, and boring songs on the album.
Luckily for A+ there aren't many rap
albums released in January, otherwise he
would get lost in the shuffle of higher
profile (and probably higher quality) hip-
hop releases. Just like in his debut, A+
shows flashes of brilliance, but for the
most part delivers an average package.

disarmingly catchy pop jingles tended to
camouflage the lyrics' emotional depth.
This is not cutesy, junior high bub-
blegum. Whether lecturing misogynist
boys or stitching their hearts back onto
their sleeves, the women of Gaze always
bring a whip-smart maturity to their
sing-songy verses and bouncy beats.
On their second album, "Shake the
Pounce," members Miko, Megan and
Rose continue to play the same heartfelt
music that made "Mitsumeru" so
With conversational and matter-of-
fact vocals, Gaze's keen knack for nar-
ration gives the songs the feel of touch-
ing, and often humorous, mini-stories.
"Mr. Oh So Suave and Debonaire"
chastises a sketchy boy, and "He Makes
All The Girls Smile (With His Smile)"
is even more engaging with its descrip-
tions of dimples and piercing eyes -
but it's not all adoration. "He pretends

he doesn't notice just how cute he is,
Miko coos before revealing a hint of
bitterness. "We wait for it to come back
to him for cosmic destiny/For him to
meet his match one day and get kicked
in the knee."
"Shake the Pounce" could easily be a
starter's kit for mending broken hearts,
complete with how-to survival tips and
advice. Not that it's an easy process,
mind you. Miko's and Megan's timid and
bittersweet voices often sound on the
verge of tears, and on the plea for atten-
tion "Noticed Me," Miko laments,
"Silence always sounds so noisy to my
ears ... I can hear my fears:',
Despite the jangling rhythms and
rhymes, "Shake the Pounce" doesn't
fully live up to the immense potential
promised on "Mitsumeru." A few gems
sparkle and charm, but many songs
sound like carbon copies of each other.
Gaze has already proven it's got the
goods, so it's a shame this album doesn't
build on the debut's fantastic love letters
and kiss-offs.
Even still, fans of intimate pop music
will happily make space on their record-
shelves for Gaze. After all, even for a
slight letdown of a follow-up, it's still
difficult to resist a band that sings, "Let's
get out the Twister again and get down
on all fours."

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