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Only the final, hidden, track, which chimes in at almost 47 minutes, asks the hard questions. Called "Load of Noise," it's just that. Occasionally a reference point ekes throughthe sitars from "Freak" slowly mutate into distorted stoner guitarsbut mostly it's a throwaway. Any attempt to draw meaning from it is met with implied laughter. Yet of the bunch, "Load of Noise" is the most challenging by conventional standards. It denies its source material; it has no hope for borrowed cred. It makes fun of the quest for narrative even as it proffers a new one.
Since all glitch hipster roads ultimately emanate from Virginia Beachhome to Missy, Tim, and the Neptunesthe use of "Get Ur Freak On" to kick off DJ /rupture's three-turntable mix Gold Teeth Thiefmight seem perfunctory. But /rupture (born Jace Clayton) likes the sound of the Freak more than 606 and friends. He enthusiastically speeds it up a few notches, every tabla and snare hit registers crisp, and the sitar licks pack more punch and, crucially, bounce than ever before.
The laptoppers tend to conflate reverence with irony, eager to either stamp source material as indelibly their own or use its power as a drawing tool. More often than not, they lose sight of the elements that made the song great in the first place. Not only does Clayton, a black expat raised in New England and living in Spain, get his freak right, he uses the song's post-rap pan-ethnic fusion as a starting point and statement of purpose for his border-skipping mix. (The initial, limited run of Thief is long gone, though it will be reissued on Violent Turd this summer, or can be downloaded free from www.negrophonic.com.) "Freak" bleeds into the is-it-Middle Eastern-devotional-music-or-is-it-Peking-opera instrumental from last year's most compellingly ignorant rap song, "Oochie Wally," by QB's Finest featuring Nas, then slaps in ruff dancehall chants from Bling Dog. Queensbridge, Bollywood, Trenchtown: one blood.
Violent Turd import
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Violent Turd import
Everywhere else on Thief are artists who themselves slur their stylesDJ Scud rams dancehall into gabber with military industrial force; dead prez do their best more-fire versioning on KRS-One; El-P's beat on Cannibal Ox's "Vein" is like Vangelis crunk; Rude Ass Tinker (another Mike Paradinas/µ-ziq alias) gets his glitch on in an effects-thick but weirdly faithful rendition of "U Can't Touch This."
But when the artists themselves stay in one groove, Clayton fucks them up, pulling the best from each and demanding diaspora. Swedish electro-acoustic composer and trumpeter Tommy Zwedberg shares soundspace with Kid606, fellow chopper-upper Venetian Snares, and musique concrète innovator Luciano Berio. Classical plunderphonist John Wall rubs up against Spanish chanteuse Mercedes Ferrer. Oval's click-moods drone with Nettle's dirty dub and the sounds of Turkish composer Ilhan Mimaroglu, who in his day worked with John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman and was responsible for the score to Fellini's Satyricon.
While 606 and friends are in lust, DJ /rupture is in love. Good Teeth Thiefinherently respects the architects. Every blend is careful and flawless. Even the album's enda plaintive arrangement of Muslimgauze's ambient dub "The Taliban," Miriam Makeba's "Djiguinira," and "Homeless," Paul Simon's transoceanic hit with Ladysmith Black Mambazoshows a beautiful confluence of progressive cultural politics and sonics; the colonizer, the colonized, and the anti-colonial warrior all act in forward-thinking musical symbiosis. When Ladysmith chanted, "homeless, homeless," alongside Simon, it was a dead-on lamentation. In the hands of DJ /rupture, it's a statement of pride.