Density. Denseness. Densosity. Densitude. Uh, je ne soi densis? Most of these fabricated words aren’t really very helpful in describing a whole lot of sounds smashed into one place, but neither is saying “there’s a whole lot of sounds smashed into one place and uh, it’s cool and stuff.” But that’s basically the deal here – catchy whisps of melodic themes smothered by choppy beats and booty-ish bass. Not Breathing (Dave Wright and collaborators, including Jack Dangers and Mark Spybey on this release) has followed a long chain – at least a decade – of progression from a mutated technoid existence to a stunning array of modified toys, drum machines and home-brewed synths. This process has left us somewhere at the intersection of breakcore, 3rd wave industrial and IDM, which is about as helpful as saying something is “not meat.”
This is not meat.
The Black Old Pueblo opens with “Rotorhator Blackrider” which lays down exactly what “not meat” is – the is-ness of meatless-ness; dancing about architecture blah blah blah, etc. It opens on a Speak n’ Spell flipping out – you can hear snatches of it throughout the track – before launching into a electro-glitch beat occasionally interrupted by great bursts of noise and semi-melodic flourishes. As the rhythm section flails about, this gritty synth swell starts to peak out from the backdrop, and by the end every element has run together into a crunchy, broken finish.
The connecting thread is that while Not Breathing may be harsh or disjointed, the music is also deeply catchy, if melodically simple. There’s enough bass and melody to sit above and below the crunchy, fucked-up middle, and the hooks keep looping around your brain. “Chain of Warlocks” is nearly a glitch-pop tune, with a funk bassline and a fuzzy 8-bit melody fighting it out for control of your brain. A similar flavor to what we might call “DIY improv electro-funk-breaks” (if we were a total asshole and/or worked for Other Music, zog bless their souls; great store, decent prices, generally nice people, but the little teaser cards in the stands are utter pants and I’m pretty sure they know that) can be found on “Batterfunk” and “Pepito & the Casiophone.” There’s less of the “icy ambient” than on earlier releases, outside of “Monsoons with Kraid”
The final song stands out because it’s rare these days to hear Warren G. (or whomever he sampled originally) chopped up while a broken subway speaker voice asks you what your mom’s “got on her ass.” The track is called “What’s Your Mom Wearing?” and is nothing if not a straightforward description of the contents therein.
So to sum up: not meat; funky beats; catchy and harsh; snappy hooks. A great gift for the folks in your life who dig on breakcore and other post-IDM mish-mosh genres but are tired of the faceless artifice and want something where a personality shines through.
Sidetrack: Especially those poor nerd-fashion victims who love the bit-reduced rawness of chiptunes but should be forced to listen to something other than revamped NES soundtracks. The mean, horrible truth is that those soundtracks were generally just biting Kenny Loggins‘ 80’s movie-score jockstrap, so with a few exceptions (ok, basically just Nullsleep) we’re going to hear a whole bunch of young kids biting Mr. Loggin’s snausage roll for the sake of barely-remembered – and perhaps entirely fabricated – nostalgia. Hot Topic is bad enough without having its own spiritual twin manifested in the indie music world.
The Black Old Pueblo is the freshest album I’ve heard all year and makes me hopeful for an emergent current of new electronic music that’s a little bit of everything but not quite anything else, and immediately recognizable as a Not Breathing production. It a great privilege to pronounce this album “totally hot” and give it five dancing guidos:
Disclaimer: I do often leave the last track off my playlist; frankly, I have no idea what my mom’s wearing, and even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.
Bonus: Anyone who can peep the gigantic modular synth he built and not get an emo-boner is probably dead inside.