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April 06, 1999 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-06

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8 The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 6, 1999

'DIRTCHAMBER SESSIONS' HIGHLIGHTS HOWLET

Sugar doesn't sound
sweet on new album*

It has always been a well known fact that the
musical core of Prodigy has always been D.J
extraordinaire, Liam Howlet. Although the flam-
boyant Keith Flint and the generously "potty
mouthed" Maxim Reality have always been the
group members who have the spotlight's atten-
tion; it is the more reserved Howlet who has put
together the music of the band.
The group's massive success with the single
"Firestarter" and the album that followed, "Fat of
thle land," did for dance driven music what
Nirvana did for grunge. It helped propel a new
scene with a new name onto the mainstream.
Prodigy's dance driven music was lumped togeth-
er with music by its contemporaries like
Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim under the
monicker "Electronica."
After the massive success and endless world-
wide touring Prodigy has
had, the group has finally
had some downtime. It was
Pm ~ ' '.a this downtime that
Prodigy Presents: - got around to pro-
The Dirtchamber duce this new offering loose-
Sessions ly under Prodigy's name.
Maverick/ Titled "The Dirtchamber
warner Bros. Sessions" and denoted as
DailytReviewed t "Prodigy Presents,"
Adlin Rosi "Dirtchamber Sessions" is
not the new album by this
group (although it can be argued that Howlet is
Prodigy).
It is instead Howlet getting in touch with his DJ
side and constructing a long continuous dance
mix made up of samples and sections taken from
his record collection. The release is actually bro-

fashion, The Sex Pistols, Charlatans UK,
Chemical Brothers, Propellarheads and Beastie
Boys find their respective ways throughout this
release.
Howlet, however, does not seem to have made
too much of an effort to construct wholly new
songs from elements and samples. Instead of
"Dirtchamber Sessions" becoming a perfect
soundtrack to dancing, it resembles more of a mix
tape made by a friend. When Howlet uses "Been
Caught Stealing," for instance, the song is pretty
much played up to its chorus without any notice-
able changes to it. Moments like this occur quite
a bit throughout this release.
What results at the end is a boring exercise in
making dance mixes with your personal records.
None of the tracks ever really stand out and what
bits that do stand out do so only because you
know and love the song Howlet has chosen to
sample already anyway.
"Dirtchamber Sessions" becomes manifolds
more frustrating to listen to as one thinks about
previous Prodigy releases and the genius of
Howlet's compositions on those albums. How he
can go from adrenaline-pumping dance composi-
tions to these banal record mixes simultaneously
boggles and disappoints.
"Prodigy Presents: Dirtchamber Sessions" is
officially a sidetrack for Howlet in between
Prodigy releases. Hopefully, "Dirtchamber
Sessions" and its sedative style will remain strict-
ly in the "side-project" netherworlds and is not an
indicator of Howlet's vision for future Prodigy
releases. "Dirtchamber Sessions" is strictly for
the diehards who insist on having anything with
the word Prodigy on it.

ken down into eight tracks, however, none of the
tracks are titled and they are meant to merely
flow into each other.
This release as a solo Howlet effort is also
plainly seen as the album's artwork consists of
only him and his electronic toys scattered around.
It's a wonder the album was not just named after
him.
Perhaps the inclusion of "Prodigy" in the title
ensures better sales. Howlet makes use of a vari-
ety of beats and records for this offering. Most
notable is that unlike most DJs who use fairly
obscure records to sample and mix, Howlet's
choice of records are fairly contemporary ones
and are familiar to many. One song finds Jane's
Addiction's "Been Caught Stealing" sharing
beats with Prodigy's own "Poison.' In similar

In spite of its relentless self-promo-
tion, the local band Sugar Pill's recent
offering to the world of recorded
music, "Hope Remote," is hopelessly
marred by the stamp of mediocrity.
It's not that Sugar Pill's music is
downright terrible, per se, it's just that
it is horribly derivative. Consisting of
guitarist Greg Baker, bassist Myque
Peters, drummer Dwayne Strange and
singer Greg Epstein, the band con-
jures a generic sort of grunge-tinted
pop that tries hard to mimic REM or
Pearl Jam but that ends up sounding
more like a second-rate Matchbox 20.
The album's first two tracks,
"Sandcastles" and "Earthbound
Spirit," are tune-
ful in a bland
sort of way.
Bouncing along
Sugar Pill with knee-jerk
rhythms and
HopeRemote shimmer y
GhostModern acoustic guitar'
Reviewed by simplicities, the
Daily Arts Writer songs strive for
Steve Gertz pop appeal but
ultimately fall
short because of the dullness of their
hooks.
Things don't exactly improve from
there either. Quite to the contrary,
"Two Portraits of Fire Island," is a
lunkheaded power ballad, fueled by
"oh-so-alternative" ambiguous lyrical
sentimentality. "Diamonds," "One of
the Greatest" and "When a Girl" all
attempt at a sort of middle-of-the-
road, radio friendly sound, ala Third

Eye Blind or The Goo Goo Dolls, but
fail because of singer Epstein's insis"
tence on cramming as much of his
pseudo-poetic rambling as he possi-
bly can into each.
It is Epstein, not the rest of Sugar
Pill, that really keeps the music from
accomplishing anything worthwhile,
While some of the instrumentation on
"Hope Remote" is slightly catchy and
well-crafted, Epstein's self-indulgent
and quite tuneless vocal musings put
to the hatchet any chance that Sugat
Pill have of realizing its lofty ambi-
tions. Lines such as "when a girl has
a horror in her life, I get all in love
with her" speak for themselves.
Perhaps Sugar Pill will realize the
err of its ways and reconfigure its
sound into something inventive and
enjoyable. Until then, we can still
count on His Name is Alive, Poignant
Plecostemous and Maschina to fortify
the Ann Arbor scene with original and
interesting work. Thank God for that.

Bands lose pow
The "Family Values Tour '98" comes straight
from Arenas across the country to the comfort of
your living room. The multiple band tour of 1998
was an undertaking organized by Korn to appar-
ently bring diversity and excitement back into
arena-sized concerts. Incubus, Orgy, Limp Bizkit,
Ice- Cube, Rammstein and Korn collectively
shared a single stage, performing their respective

-*
Various
Artists
Family Values
Tour '98
Epic/Sgny/Immortal
Reyiewed by
Daily Arts Writer
'Adlin Rosli

music to massive crowds over
a series of dates last fall.
The tour could have also
been dubbed, back then, a
showcase of groups who
would eventually rule MTV,
as Korn, Limp Bizkit,
Rammstein and Orgy now
regularly grace the channel's
musical and non-musical
shows. Also sufficiently
hyped was the tour's alleged

er in ' mFa1ly
Starting things off on a strong note, Incubus
delivers a rousing rendition of "New Skin," the
group's only song on the album. Orgy follows this
with three songs, "Gender," "Dissention" and
"Blue Monday" performed energetically and
keeping in time with some Incubus-established
momentum.
The CD soon after loses its vision with Limp
Bizkit's tracks. The band's set of three songs,
including previously unrecorded "Cambodia" and
two popular cover tunes "Faith" and House of
Pain's "Jump Around," simply fail to please.
Singer Fred Durst sounds out of breath, gasping
and whiny on all three numbers. The rest of the
group's performance sounds tight however, but
Durst's weak vocals negate whatever impact the
songs might have otherwise had.
Thankfully, Ice Cube and Rammstein's contri-
butions appear after Limp Bizkit's, and manage to
pick up the CD's pace.
Ice Cube only managed to get two songs on the
record, but the notorious rapper's in-your-face
charisma and aggressive performance is sure to
rip through your speakers loud and clear, deliver-
ing "Fuck the Police" and "Natural Born Killers"
with the NWA attitude Cube is known for.
Rammstein's performance, however, was limited
to one song, and the group's Ministry-like assault
of "Du Hast" does enough to cause serious dam-
age.
Just like the concert, the CD ends with a mini-
set by the tour's headliner, Korn. Although the
group has a respected reputation as a killer live
act and has proven so recently while on tour with

diversity of acts selected to play.
After"listening to the CD, however, musical
diversity seems to have been a very subjective
term, considering the album (and tour's) line-up.
Although all the groups on the bill claim to have
radically different sounds from each other, Korn
and Rammstein do not quite count as bands from
radically different schools, what with the shared
ethics of loud guitars and mosh-friendly sounds.
The only clearly unique member on the "Family
Values" bill was Ice Cube, and the same can be
said of the resulting album.
Similarly uneven are the performances by the
like-minded musicians that grace this CD.

Rob Zombie, its performance on the disc can only
be described as rather reserved and lifeless. Korn
seems to be running on automatic pilot as it plods
through "Chi-Twist," "Got the Life" and the ill
chosen "Shot Kidney Medley."
There are very few bands that manage to pull
off medleys without churning out a cheesy result,
and Korn, unfortunately, is not one of those
bands. The group's emotion-heavy songs sound
like cheap knock-offs, strung together in medley
form.
The Family Values Tour '98 CD is an album
meant as a souvenir for fans that went to the show
and as a teaser for those who did not make it.
What it ends up becoming, however, is an
unstable mix of short and solid performances by
some bands, and long, boring performances by
the others.

De Babalon invites
listeners into his world

Pizzicato Five produces frivolous pop in 'Playgirl Record'

Christoph De Babalon proves that
extreme music doesn't require any gui-
tars or vocals. Armed only with drum
machines, synthesizers and other com-
puterized music machines, he has pro-
duced a very dark album full of somber
intensity. His music is at times more
eerie than Black Sabbath's most fore-
boding songs and at times more fero-
ciously aggressive than Kom.
Re-released on Digital Hardcore
Recordings, "IfYou're Into It, I'm Out of
It" stands as one of the most dynamic
releases yet by the
German label.
**** Unlike previous
Christoph De releases on DHR
Babalon such as Atari
ab'r nt Teenage Riot and
If You're Into It, EC80R character-
I'm Out of It ized by sonic
Digital Hardcore drum attacks,
Reviewed by overdriven guitar
Daily Arts W riter fedb cn d
Jason irchmeier ack and
angry shouting
vocals, Christoph De Babalon creates a
very listenable musical experience.
The juxtaposition of ambient string
soundscapes and chaotic drum 'n' bass
orchestrations create a fluctuating emo-
tional state for the listener. De Babalon
complements these juxtaposing atmos-
pheres with drug motifs.
"Opium" welcomes the listener to De
Babalon's world of forbidden pleasure
with its sedated ambient resonance. For
15 minutes this song calms and com-
forts, invoking feelings of being unable
to wake from a misty, inescapable dream
as it drifts towards nightmare. The serene
tranquility of De Babalon's "Opium"
dreams concludes violently with the first
few seconds of "Nostep."
The dissonant melodies and unstable
rhythms of"Nostep" and the three songs
that follow it inject musical ampheta-
mines into the mind of the listener. The
abrasive drums beat relentlessly as"
basslines swirl in the subterranean
depths of each song. Refreshing ele-
ments of ambient sounds filter into each
of these short songs along with sparse
computer bleeps, creating a structured
frame for the frantic drums and
basslines.

"Pizzicato Five is a joke. It means
nothing," Yasurharu Konishi once
said about his band, and listening to
"The International Playboy and
Playgirl Record" often feels like the
Japanese duo is pulling a fast one on
their audience.
While enjoyable and fun, the
music comes off as little more than
frivolous pop revelry - an in-joke
for clued-in hip-
sters who appre-
** ciate the band's
Pizzicato Five supposed pop
The International culture subver-
Playboyand Playgirl siveness.
Record A glittery,
Matador shimmering
Reviewed by sound collage
DailyArts Writer s o m e w h e r e
niwimy raper between dance-
pop and cocktail
lounge groove, Pizzicato Five is the
audio equivalent of Andy Warhol's
pop art: campy and kitschy, often

annoying in its superficiality and
glamourous attempt at irony. It's not
difficult to imagine the band playing
invitation-only soirees, and in the
highly fashionable world of P5, one
must always be ready for a close-up.
Which is not to say they completely
eschew music for style - but, sim-
ply put, one wouldn't exist without
the other. It's as important to listen to
"Playgirl Record" as it is to be seen
listening to it.
Even still, fans of Deee-Lite and
Saint Etienne will be more than
happy to strap on go-go boots for a
wild romp on the dance floor: Its
spic-and-span gloss is perfect for a
night on the twwn. These off-kilter
boogies may sowid like broadcasts
from Planet Claire - their out-there
tongue-in-cheekiness seems partially
inspired by the kooky camp of early
B-52's -but they often blur the line
between B-movie novelty and true
inspiration.

Playboys? Playgirls? Ignorance may
be for the better, though, as past
albums have featured such hokey-
jokey lines as "Groovy, the world is
quite groovy."
Regardless, PS clearly has a
bizarre sophistication that - while
inconsequential - is alluring in its
self-consciousness. Nothing on
"Playgirl Record" sounds out-of-
place, as if the duo spent years slav-
ing over precise arrangements and
sounds.
But it's hard to decide how to take
P5's hard work - is their music sim-
ply a slick-sounding hoax, or is it
serious? Should it matter?
In any case, perhaps Konishi spoke
a little too honestly when he called
his band a joke.
With all the fun but repetitious
sounds and too-cool-for-school atti-
tude, "Playgirl Record" is, ultimate-
ly, a gag that wears a little too thin.
Warhol would be proud.

Midway through the album, De
Babalon gives listeners a seven-minute
rest period with another one of his fore-
boding ambient pieces, "Brilliance." A
cheery song relative to the rest of the
album, it functions as hope in an other-
wise depressing musical world De
Babalon has crafted for his audience.
Intensity then returns with three more
drum 'n' bass songs before the album's
most haunting work appears. Titled"
"High Life (Theme)," these 11 minutes
of ambience sound similar to some of,
Brian Eno's ambient experiments pas;
sessed by Satan. An evil swirling soundT
commands the foreground of the song
while a background of nearly inaudible
synthesized strings lingers.
This mellow dirge then shatters as the
final track takes over. Built upon a.°
swarming locust-like choir of computer-
ized sound, "My Confession" tells its
dark mystery not with words but instead
with the non-stop rattle of drums and the
tolling of a somber bell. One can onl@
wonder what De Babalon's dreaded con-
fession might be as it continues on for
nearly10 minutes before concluding
with dead silence.
The solemn nature of De Babalon's
"IfYou're Into It, I'm Out of It" makes it
a very emotional album. The juxtaposi-
tion of serenity and extremity provide
listeners with a rare musical experience
recreating the highs and lows of De
Babalon's forbidden pleasures
Definitely not an album for people int
traditional or happy music, but a master
piece for those able to appreciate the
poetry of extreme emotional expression
through technological means.

Perhaps because most American
listeners won't understand the most-
ly Japanese-sung words, the lyrics
function more as part of the sonic
landscape than actual lyrical turns of
phrases.
Even when singer Maki Nomiya
gleefully spouts English words, she
doesn't offer g-e'at insights into the
minds of P5. Rolls Royces?

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