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Riff Raff Almost Killed by Bag of Poison Crabs

Two weeks ago before the Ghostface show, I got suckered into eating softshell crab at this Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen–one of those situations where you order sweet and sour chicken but they bring out a bag of goddamn crabs instead, like I can’t tell the difference. (I can.)

I ate the crabs though, and right around when Cappadonna was yelling about losing his shades, my hands and feet started itching, and I realized my breathing trouble was not hyperventilation (rap excitement), just my throat closing up (dying). I paid like, $20 for those crabs too.

The way emergency rooms work, if your throat is closing up and you only have a few minutes before you die, you have to fill out all these papers before they do anything about it. Then you wait, then they make you feel really bad about eating crabs, as if this was the crab’s revenge or something, then you have to wait for several more hours before they let you leave, though not without all the “now don’t you forget what I said about those crabs” shit and a goodbye that’s less a wave and more a talking hand buh-bye type deal that–yeah–looks like a crab’s claw. You got it.

All sort of nervewracking, yes. Here are the three albums I listened to during my e-room stint, which I credit to calming me down–saving my life–when modern medicine dared fail me:

Broadcast: Tender Buttons (Warp)

Sample: “I Found the F” (MP3)
Sample: “America’s Boy” (MP3)

As they drop members, Broadcast (now a duo) somehow grow stronger–a crunchier Stereolab instead of a poorman’s Stereolab. Why this record though, for this horrific occasion? There’s something perplexing about Tender Buttons, not disconcerting though, and trying to put my finger on what exactly made for a perfect 40-minute diversion. Every aspect of this gig sounds slightly off: the overdriven production on the kiddie keyboards, the vocals with too much reverb and the guitars with not enough, the creepy lyrics, creepily couched (“Michael Michael Michael, you said remind me not to be myself”), so much more. Not a world-changer, just a Rubik’s Cube–more powerful sometimes, precisely because it’s so disarming.

Jan Jelinek: Kosmischer Pitch (~scape)

Sample: “Universal Band Silhouette” (MP3 excerpt)

A meticulous click-and-cut, slurp-and-squirm truly microhouse producer under his Farben alias, Berlin’s Jan Jelinek records jazz vinyl manipulations under his Christian name, but goes the extra step of sticking the loops with tightly wound rhythm tracks–so we get, in a very roundabout way, ambient dub. Kosmischer Pitch has a bit more of a pulse than Jelinek’s Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records, and that’s a dig or a compliment depending on the person. But I should stress that, in the emergency room, pulse is good, and as the record’s title suggests, the spacey, sometimes early computer music, sometimes 60s psych feel to these tracks can make all the goofy, clinical shit that’s happening at a hospital seem cosmically significant: nurses folding towels, sleeping patients’ chests moving up and down, an elderly man wheeling himself around the floor, screaming at everyone that he’s having a baby. I wish I could say the last thing didn’t happen.

Tim Goldsworthy and Tim Sweeney: DFA Holiday Mix 2005 (DFA/EMI)

Sample: The Juan Maclean’s “Give Me Every Little Thing (Cajmere Remix)
Sample: The Black Dice’s “Smiling Off (Luomo Remix)

Watch: The Black Dice’s music video for “Smiling Off” directed by Danny Perez. (MOV) (via the simple mission)

I just happened to throw this one on my iPod before the show, a selection of DFA Records’ tracks and twelve-inch remixes impeccably mixed by label co-owner Tim Goldsworthy and affiliate Tim Sweeney. The first ten or fifteen minutes are Goldsworthy and Luomo remixes of Black Dice‘s “Smiling Off,” a gorgeous battery of squiggly riffs and squawks and suffered screams that, not to overdramatize (but then again, to do exactly that), one-to-one scored my own panic at the time. Now what I am about to say sounds absolutely ridiculous, but for whatever reason I thought i could psychosomatize–remix myself–by listening to mix, as Goldsworthy and Luomo both smooth out the Black Dice track, disembody it. The rest of the mix works the same, more or less, and we might say as much the M.O. for most of the producers DFA tapped as remixers this year–unpacking the original tracks’ dense packets of sound, laying bare all their innards for further examination. Me, I’m just glad I got out of the damn hospital before the Cajmere remix of “Give Me Every Little Thing” hit–“calms me down” doesn’t come to mind there.