Nocturnal Emissions

Collateral Salvage

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Nigel Ayers has been recording under the truly charming name Nocturnal Emissions since 1979, operating almost entirely under the radar of the commercial music business, which seems to be just the way he likes it. The title of the 25th Nocturnal Emissions album is both a bitter pun on a military euphemism, and an artfully apt representation of the album's content; musically; it refers to the fact that all 15 compositions on the program are made up entirely of "salvaged" bits and scraps from other recordings, most of them too brief, too decontextualised, or too radically altered to serve as anything other than raw material for something entirely new. Ayers takes scraps of vocal lines, shards of breakbeat, a marimba here and an mbira there, and creates from them a completely new kind of thrift-shop funk that is by turns light and delicate, and always sturdily danceable. When he harvests vocal lines the effect is even more interesting, as on "Pulsar" (which is what Enigma would have sounded like if they knew what they were doing), and the magnificent "Sag Alu" (which draws heavily on an old recording by the Qawwali king Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan). Other highlights include the moment that acoustic guitars and big, dumb beats take over on "Daisycutter," and the glorious Frankenstein hip-hop of "Going to the Edge." Collateral Salvage is at once one of the most intellectually stimulating, funkiest, and funnest albums of 2003.

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