Sunday, October 03, 2010

Blixaboy's "Kliks and Politiks"

I was reading Lloyd Bradley's Bass Culture and listening to lots of dub (as previously noted), the Flaming Lips' Embryonic, and Gorillaz' Plastic Beach (out now on vinyl; are you listening, Doc's?), when Mwanza Dover of The Black Dotz (ex-Mazinga Phaser/Falcon Project) sent me a link to Kliks and Politiks, the latest release under his Blixaboy nom de disque.

Discussing dub, Bradley notes that the popularity of "versions" or remixes came about in part as a result of the Jamaican Minister of Trade and Industry enacting a law that put a ceiling on the price producers could charge stores for pre-release records -- which were highly desirable in a market that valued novelty and exclusivity -- around the same time musicians' session fees increased. Bradley quotes producer Rupie Edwards' observation that "reggae is two or three, occasionally four chords, so it don't leave you a lot of choice -- some of the nicest sounds from that era was two-chord songs. So it's the drum pattern that decides it..."

This reminded me of classical-jazz-experimental bassist extraordinaire Paul Unger's recent drinkie-talkie observation that all Western music basically works off a drone (the tonic), with other chords only added to create tension. In fact, most of the music we listen to (with the exception of classical and Tin Pan Alley pop) lacks harmonic movement. So, absent that, how do you create tension or interest in your jams?

Nowadays, of course, technology has made every home a potential recording studio and every muso a potential producer/auteur. Few have realized this ideal to a greater degree than Dr. Dover's son, who has an omniverous ear for left-of-center sounds from punk to Krautrock to dub to minimalist techno, and is conversant in all of these musical languages as well. Mwanza calls his current musical direction "futro" (opposite of "retro"). On Kliks and Politiks, he uses a varied array of rhythmic patterns and instrumental textures, including silence and space, to create tension and engage the listener's attention. You can hear the influence of Jamaica via the Bronx (Wanz might say Detroit) in these grooves, as well as echoes of Fela's riotous tribal funk, but these sounds are all made by one man, not an orchestra.

The tracks flow seamlessly, like a good DJ mix should, whether you're moving your body or only dancing in your mind. Minimalist this ain't; rather, these tracks feature ever-shifting soundscapes over the basic riddimic racket. Midway through "Ruby," he overlays lush, languid chords to provide contrast with a taut, tense rhythm bed, and he makes good use of negative space on "Kliks," which follows. The vocal by The Angelus' Emil Rapstine lends "Lion Eyes" an Indian vibe, while on "Icey Hot," the percussion groove builds from simple to complex beneath swirling chords.

Blixaboy saves the best for last. Mwanza wrote "I Will End You" after someone commented "Wanz Dover I Will End You" in a thread on (RIP). He calls it "my personal tribute to Bernard Hermann and the soundtrack to my own murder" -- a disturbing concept. Imagine a Hitchcock soundtrack from the techno era. You can almost see the maestro's cameo in your mind's eye.


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