Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson: John Somebody

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By looping fragments of speech to build constantly shifting rhythm tracks, then layering these broken-up patterns with energetic parts for electric guitars, electric bass, and percussion, Scott Johnson created his sensational hybrid of minimalism and rock, John Somebody, a seminal work of the early '80s. Such sampling and looping of voices was not itself novel, and similar ideas may be found in earlier music, from Frank Zappa and the Beatles to Alvin Lucier, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. What was significant, though, was Johnson's recognition of this agglutinative technique's potential for rhythmic development in extended works for live performance, and of the endless possibilities that a marriage of the avant-garde with rock experimentation might bring. In a time when commercial pop, rap, and techno thoroughly rely on sampling, Johnson's groundbreaking efforts might seem old hat and more than a little arty, like many other experimental artifacts by his cohorts at The Kitchen. But John Somebody and No Memory still have an air of excitement that time has not dissipated; and this remastered reissue on Tzadik makes the 1986 Nonesuch album available once more, with great sound and the addition of the previously unreleased Ur-piece, which led to Johnson's later discovery, U79.

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