The Dits

The White Album

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Basing a recording project on another one that already exists, especially one of historical importance and mass popularity, creates something of a comparative coat of invisibility for the new artists. The identity is hidden under an imposing shroud, while the creative end result can, at least as a possibility, be appraised according to the standards or philosophy of the original, as if one were gazing at distant shores through the wrong end of a telescope. In a sense, for the Midwest experimental recording lab that is the Dits to fashion a project after the illustrious Beatles hodgepodge ensures that no listener will take the gesture at face value, as it is more fun to read all kinds of possible subversive meaning into it. Overshadowing the entire relationship between the Dits and the Beatles is the fact that the latter megastars had a huge, hungry audience awaiting their White Album, while probably very few people care if they ever hear the the Dits' version. Anyone who has heard a cover band take on the entire Beatles double album set will be relieved to hear that this is not such a project. In fact there are no Beatles songs at all featured here. The actual chasm between the White Album -- created almost independently of each other by Beatles, who were losing interest in their group efforts -- and the work of the Dits is wide enough to stash several dozen home studios in, and deep enough to ensure they will never be found. The Dits actually want to get together in the studio and record; in fact, they probably look forward to it all day long. They are not sneaking out the back door the moment one of the others takes the lead; in contrast, what the group's music is all about is a co-operative effort in which the sound merges into a single force. While the sound collage "Revolution Number 9" was certainly an influence on music listeners of the '60s, inspiring some to check out Edgar Varese or avant-garde electronic music, the type of free improvisation featured on this album is much more spontaneous, sensitive, and exploratory than anything John Lennon tried to do in order to impress Yoko Ono. Residing in a quite boring part of the United States near the town of Normal, IL, the members of the Dits are motivated not by a pop star's greed for product or the '60s competition to make the most far-out statement on a pop record, but by the normal human urge to be creative. This massive work features two extended suites, hilariously titled "Revolution Nein!" and "Hitler Skelter." Quite a large battery of instruments is used, although there are no credits for who played what or what it was exactly that was played. The instrumental shifts are so frequent and drastic that it almost sounds like a series of performances by different groups rather than the work of one trio. Some of the passages involving what sounds like short-wave radios is the kind of music made by groups that spend one hour setting up at music festivals, plays for 20 minutes, and nobody can remember anything about it the next day. In another section, the organ takes off as a soloing instrument with drum set backup, bringing to mind Brian Auger or Allman Brothers jams. There are many different moods and approaches here, which is about the only thing the recording does have in common with the original, besides the obvious matter of the artwork, including a well-done color montage poster.

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