Drop the Needle: Illy B Eats Remixes and Breakbeat

Various Artists

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Drop the Needle: Illy B Eats Remixes and Breakbeat Review

by Robert L. Doerschuk

Whatever you think of this twin-CD release, it establishes that old ways of making music are morphing, if not disappearing altogether. It all started with Illy B Eats, a vinyl-only collection of breakbeats released by Martin in 2001 and included with Drop the Needle as a second CD. Each copy included a note that invited the buyer to lay other music on top of the rhythm bed and send it back for review. Martin received more than 100 replies from which he blended, pureed, mashed, and otherwise assembled these tracks. Each contributor had something unique to say; certainly you can hear the differences, in vision as well as competence, between Miho Hatori's amateurish, flat vocals on "Double Game" and the manic genre-jumping on Sex With Robots' treatment of "Moderndicksealand," which spins crazily from a flea-market Celtic hoedown through a mutant Mexican episode and into several directions after that. Spacefuzz turns "Out of Your Mind" into a Fripp-like acid house meditation, while Martin's bandmate, John Medeski, anchors "Sleeptalker" with old-fashioned hot blues keyboard licks. Some contributors deconstruct with imagination; others sing or jam along. Yet for all the evident variety, what surprises most is how smoothly everything flows. Removing barriers to listener input leads to a paradoxical homogeneity in the product -- a point made clear by the fact that the most distinctive cut, "Sun Flower," had the most apparent reference (a sampled John Fahey performance) and fewer elves (Martin alone) tinkering away than anything else on the album. Viral creativity, like sequential novels written a chapter at a time by sequence of authors, erodes the mark of any single individual. In this sense, Drop the Needle is, depending on your point of view, a techno-populist celebration or an elegy for dehumanized times.

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