People Like Us

Abridged Too Far

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Abridged Too Far was originally released in 2004 as a free download courtesy of UbuWeb, Kenneth Goldsmith's vast, indispensable online archive of the avant-garde. The album consists primarily of pieces sound collagist Vicki Bennett recorded for freeform radio station WFMU and as a session for the late, legendary DJ John Peel, as well as a handful of other tracks from limited vinyl releases. While that might make Abridged Too Far seem like an odds-and-sods type of release, it's actually an incredibly cohesive work, and the most enjoyable entry in the entire People Like Us discography. A decade into her career by this point, Bennett had completely mastered her art of slicing and dicing fragments of familiar pop songs, film and television clips, and pure kitsch, resulting in absurdist yet accessible collages which trigger memories and elicit a wide range of emotions. One of her favorite tricks seems to be looping a passage of music and cutting it off right as the singer is opening his or her mouth. She also likes to get as much mileage as possible out of just a few notes or phrases from easily recognizable songs. "I've Got You" ties together loose fragments of "The Girl from Ipanema," "Que Sera Sera," Frank Sinatra's rendition of "I've Got You Under My Skin" (just the first three words, of course), and a breezy bit of Santo & Johnny's "Sleepwalk," among other tunes. It's all jumbled and chopped and glitched out, yet it makes some sort of hard-to-explain sense, and it all sounds glorious. "Dolly Pardon" builds a melody out of a montage of "ummms" and "uhhhs," eventually joined by the country star alluded to in the track's title. The album has plenty of nutty, humorous selections (most of which are downright hilarious), but there's several genuinely affecting moments, such as the heartbroken waltz "Swinglargo." Composed entirely from samples of songs downloaded from the original, illegitimate incarnation of Napster (all of which could probably be found for pennies in the vinyl section of your local thrift store), Bennett glitches a sorrowful voice into oblivion over swelling strings and a gentle choir. Just as devastating is the playful yet sinister "Do or DIY" (also the name of Bennett's WFMU radio show), a duet for a disembodied children's choir and a robot who who proclaims "All things shall perish under the sky/Music alone shall live, never to die," before flipping the script and changing the lyrics to "Music will kill us all, we will all die." Innocent and twinkly with an apocalyptic undercurrent, it perfectly sums up Bennett's warped sense of humor. She is a true genius, and Abridged Too Far is not only her best album, but a high-watermark for plunderphonics. [The album's 2017 vinyl issue only contains ten of the original digital edition's 21 tracks, and while it seems to live up to its title, it's still an incredibly high quality release.]

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