Volume 93, Issue 80
Thursday, March 2, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Spooky, Scanner expand horizons
DJ Spooky vs Scanner
The Quick and the Dead
The Quick and the Dead is the combined effort of DJ Spooky, a post-rock dub-scratch experimentalist and Scanner, whose style of integrating pirated phone conversations into his downtempo DJ mixes has attracted much attention from both mainstream record producers and the authorities.
On their own, each has made their mark on the underground scene by influencing the genre and pushing the limits of what music is.
DJ Spooky is often credited as pioneering the trip-hop movement, made popular by the likes of Portishead and Sneaker Pimps. But together, they have produced an album which holds a certain strength neither possessed individually.
This is the type of music causes a listener to do nothing but stare at the wall and listen. What Spooky and Scanner have created is not typical DJ dub-scratch fare. It's an ambient and progressive sound, pulled back and forth by building and releasing its intensity.
At the centre of the album lies "Guanxi," a distinctly beautiful song heavily influenced by East Indian sounds. Other notable tracks such as "Snowshore" and "Dialogic" contain faint samples of strange instruments and sounds which create an impressive meld of music and life.
While all the songs on The Quick and the Dead are enjoyable and complement each other well, at first listen, it is difficult to distinguish one from another. To stave off boredom, the album was edited down to just over 30 minutes. Unfortunately, this means it is over before the listener has had a chance to get into the music.
In addition to the short length, a few tracks, especially "Uncanny," feature unfriendly sounds and jagged cuts that break the uniformity crucial to a good ambient album.
All in all, DJ Spooky and Scanner have made an excellent attempt at co-producing a moody and atmospheric album, which unfortunately, didn't quite get it right. Barring lack of uniformity and length, The Quick and the Dead could have been at the top of many underground hit lists.
Friends and Lovers
As the curiously mute yet somehow electric lead guitarist for Suede, Bernard Butler co-wrote and co-produced the band's first two albums, both now regarded as classics.
After a rift with Suede's lead singer drove Butler to leave the band, he forged a career as England's most famous rent-a-collaborator, lending his production and guitarist services to a handful of fledgling UK acts. After a brief hibernation, he stunned the indie scene by revealing that, yes, he could in fact sing. The release of his debut solo record, People Move On, subsequently saw Butler reinvent himself yet again, this time as a solo singer/songwriter.
His sophomore effort, Friends and Lovers, picks up largely where the debut left off, eschewing Suede's trademark glamour and tired-eyed desperation in favour of a more accessible and straightforward approach. However, Butler's penchant for dense instrumentation and meandering guitar interplay is still evident this is an epic affair.
Unfortunately, Butler's earnest and often banal lyrics cripple the emotional intensity of these uncommonly huge songs. Butler is a man of many talents, but his songwriting is often lacking in structure and emotional integrity.
While there are a handful of worthy sing-alongs here, Friends and Lovers is largely an overblown and contrived act of musical masturbation which does nothing more than make one wish for old-era Suede.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000