V/A, Electric Ladyland: Clickhop Version 1.0

Michael Heumann The Library Discography Haunted Ink Haunted Ink Review Archive The Inkbottle

Mille Plateaux
Released: 2001

     If, as Dan Abrams notes in Grooves #7, "glitch" music is not so much a genre as a language of musical sounds and possibilities, then Mille Plateaux's Electric Ladyland: Clickhop Version 1.0 could easily be called Volume Three of the "glitch" dictionary, with the first two volumes being MP's Clicks & Cuts series and 12k's Between Two Points compilation. If you want me to be more exact, think of Clicks & Cuts as the "clicks" or glitchy noise volume; think of Between Two Points as the minimalist, silent, ambient volume; and think of Electric Ladyland (at least this incarnation) as the "cuts" volume. Now, by "cuts," I'm referring directly to samples, the mainstay of hip-hop since the beginning of time (or so it seems). And that's really what you get here--hip hop tinged with the kind of experimental, abstract, aberrant noise we've come to associate with Mille Plateaux. If anything, this disk proves once and for all that what we originally started calling "glitch" music or "clicks & cuts" music is no more. Abrams was right: this is a language and artists from all over the world are finally figuring out ways to give this language life.
     Now, part of the reason this disk works is, simply, that it is founded on a formula that has been successful for the hip hop and rap world for two decades: creating beats anyway, anyhow you can. What is added to this formula, really, is simply a few new elements: a few new sounds, and a few new ways to approach the arranging and organizing of those sounds. Perhaps the best example of this is "Little Hop of Horrors" by Akufen. It begins with a sample culled from a radio dial as it spins around, making that static noise we all know so well. But the artist then takes that static sound and layers it within the rhythm itself, so that the noise acts as a sort of snare drum that accentuates the beat. The static is also used as a melodic element, where it is coupled with snippets (vocal samples disrupted by noise) from various radio programs. The effect is to create a song that sounds, on the whole, like someone shuttling through a radio dial, hearing snippets of voices and noises that all, somehow, manage to stay together in time and in tune with a consistent, propulsive, melancholy beat. It's a clever song, but beyond that, I think it exemplifies exactly what makes this disk so interesting. Hip hop is, of course, no stranger to experimental beats and samples. And I've even heard radio static and snippets from radio signals figured into rap songs galore (I think Ice Cube has a song like this, and, no doubt, DJ Shadow or one of his clones has used this motif as well). But I can't really remember a rap or hip hop song where this motif is used exclusively to drive the song along. There is no other context for this song but the melodic development of the noise, the beat, and the effects that the two produce. The song does not develop along any other lines--it begins with radio snippets and a beat and ends with radio snippets and a beat. It is, then, a minimalist hip hop track, and is, to that extent, certainly in line with the larger aesthetic sense of many Mille Plateaux releases. And that's what you get on this disk: minimalist, theoretical hip hop, German-style.
     Having said all this, I think it's fair to note that the artists here are culled not simply from the hip hop universe but also from other realms of electronic music, techno, experimental, hardcore, and anything else you might think of (well, except drum 'n bass, I guess). Along with the straight-ahead rap and hip hop tracks by artists like High Priest of the Antipop Consortium and M2 featuring Chef (who raps in praise of Force Inc), we also get more traditional Mille Plateaux offerings from the likes of Andreas Tilliander, Jetone, Alva Noto, and Frank Bretschneider, a few more esoteric offerings by renown artists such as DJ Spooky, Kid 606, Auch, and Safety Scissors, and a number of tracks (by Spectre, I-Sound, and others) that wouldn't be out of place on one of the MoWax Headz compilations. In short, there's a huge amount of variety here--not only in the styles of music (from laid-back digital soul to hardcore electronic, from improv jazz-rap fusions to manic rap cut-ups) but in the sounds used to create the songs. As I said, this "volume" of the "glitch" dictionary covers the sound of "cuts" in all their glory, and, as you can imagine, "cuts" is a really broad category (far broader than "clicks"). A "cut" can range from a simple melody and beat loop to a frantic, distorted tape noise to a vocal sample from FDR--and just about everything else in between.
     Despite the many sounds you'll hear on these two CDs, despite the many different styles that the individual artists use to craft their songs, one thing remains constant here: the spirit of hip hop. Hip hop, to me, is a musical vision that is focused exclusively on crafting beats of all shapes and stripes, beats that can be created and manipulated in any of a billion ways, beats that have not race or origin, beats that express the very passion, brutality and absolute fucking awareness of the variety of life. Electric Ladyland: Clickhop Version 1.0 does as good a job as any compliation at making this spirit come alive.

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