James T. Cotton

The Dancing Box

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The Dancing Box involves confusion on many levels. First, there's who it's credited to -- another one of Tadd Mullinix's pseudonyms, not to be confused with the wild bluesman of the same name. The album is brought to you by the same person who produces wracked IDM under his government name, dazed hip-hop as Dabrye, and hyper-intense drum'n'bass as SK-1. As James Cotton, Mullinix makes these personalities coalesce to a certain degree, though it's all more or less in the name of house. Mullinix is even more successful at welding the discards from the first several years of house music history (if Jesse Saunders' "On and On" is considered ground zero), piecing the scraps together in ways previously unimagined while also twisting the used elements beyond recognition. Mullinix's knowledge of the past evidently reaches far beyond reissue culture, yet there's an absence of reverence for what preceded him that keeps the album from resembling an homage. One of the best examples of his impiety can be heard in the Chuck D-sampling "Buck!," which seems to hack elements off Phuture's "Acid Tracks" and Mr. Fingers' "Can U Feel It" -- the former's whistle chirps and bass drums whipped into a frenzy, the latter's moody watercolor chords shaped into prodding weaponry. On "H.D.F.K," a sea mutant escapes from Porter Ricks' aquatic dub pool, discovers that it's suddenly landlocked, and responds by wiping out anything within striking distance. "Saavy" crosscuts bad-trip acid house with the adrenalin rush of electronic body music, containing keyboard patterns so tight that they must be on the brink of snapping. There's a sleazy, deranged touch to each track on the album, but it gets no more raunchy than "That's How I Like It," in which a lecherous male voice -- a phone-sex operator? a stalker? -- guides the listener through a tracky maze of deep-pressure keyboard globs, distant handclaps, and hallucination-inducing background effects. In fact, the album as a whole is nearly as disorienting as it is deranged.

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