Not to act like it’s 1984 now, but 1 + 1 = 3. Or as my big bro informed me mid-Indian rope burn, combining two systems (two hands) creates a third (burn). Two turntables are a microphone. Even as intellectual-property thought police loom, mash-ups and bootleggers play with fire and burn the CDresults.
Recontextualizing instantly recognizable artifacts only shocks Western conceits, though. In Jamaica and Africa, contorting melodies, integrating foreign layers, recycling beats, and then dancing to it all is a given. Such alchemy also appears in avant-garde music and folk forms. Call Charles Ives, John Cage, or Bascom Lamar Lunsford sound selectors, but outsiders and expats can see through borders to make new connections too.
Turkish-born composer Ilhan Mimaroglu came to the States to study electronics and tape composition alongside Edgard Varèse and Vladimir Ussachevsky at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Center during the ’60s, before concocting flummoxing jazz hybrids at the start of the ’70s. He draped creeper vines on Mingus, foretold no-wave funk with Sonny and Linda Sharrock, and disrupted Freddie Hubbard with Brahms, Vietnamese poet Nha-Khe, and frightening elegies for Sharon Tate.
For his two dense, disorienting tape compositions from the ’70s, Tract and To Kill a Sunrise (now compiled by Locust Music as Agitation), Mimaroglu scratches maxims of historical figures into sound. Tract quotes not just Rosa Luxemburg and Mao Tse-tung but Nixon too; domino theories get sold alongside 8-track clubs and pimple cream within the bricolage. National anthems are mocked, and singer Tuly Sand wishes aloud: “I wanna be a super-duper star, like Virgin Mary/but something a little less than Carole King Tapestry.”
In To Kill a Sunrise, subtitled “A Requiem for Those Shot in the Back,” Kent State’s names are memorialized and Che Guevara’s writings are sung even as his autopsy report gets recited. Voices don’t sound outraged as much as resigned to sorrow, but the electromagnetic tapes and synthesizers grow queasy from injustice before melting into screams. English, French, and Turkish throats collide, conspire, echo each other, finish ellipses.
Harvard graduate and current Barcelona resident Jace Clayton sees soundclashes as a way to free your ass so your mind will follow. Making mixes as DJ /rupture, he named one of his earliest tapes 1 + 1 = 3, but what brought him world citizenship was Gold Teeth Thief, a compacted genre-less mix that had Missy and Nas bumping in Egyptian jeeps while North African noise met drum ‘n’ bazaar splatter beats. Tellingly, he has Project Pat holla at apartheid exile Miriam Makeba by way of Mimaroglu himself.
For DJ /rupture’s first non-copyright-infringing album, Special Gunpowder, he spins people like records, layering them into configurations not unlike his mixes. As Yale prof Elizabeth Alexander reads her poem “Overture: Watermelon City,” you could hear where a Hendrix whammy or the Bond theme could back the a cappella, but the fanfare is all flesh, not wax. He mashes Montreal producer Ghislain Poirer’s beat to Abdel Hak’s modal violin; and while Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson sounds like Adam Sandler’s Cajun Man, most alloys hold strong, and lines in English, in French, or heavy with Jamaican patois ring out.
The best voice pulled from the crate is dancehall chanteuse Sister Nancy, she of the blessed “Bam Bam.” Producers Kid606 and Kit Clayton provide the thump and trumpet that /rupture then matches to her solicitation for a “Little More Oil.” Don’t everybody like the smell of gasoline? In such resilient voices lie real revolution, and Sindhu Zagoren’s demure wish to be Lunsford’s “Mole in the Ground” is only a stratagem “to root that mountain down.” It’s not quite dance howl, but definitely thought grime. And resistance holes up, proclaiming that “Noise is Music.”
DJ /rupture spins at Rothko January 28 to benefit humanitarian relief in Southeast Asia.