Capitalizing on an old idea by Coldcut, Pennsylvania-based laptop musician Gregg Gillis, disguised under the moniker Girl Talk, offered hyperkinetic and hyperdemented "plunderphonics" for the dancefloor (in other words, infectious dance music created from snippets old pop hits) on a series of albums starting with
Secret Diary (2002).
Solex and many other musicians had done this before
(and probably a lot better) but Gillis was the one who turned it into a new genre.
Night Ripper (2006) possibly represented the peak of Gillis' collage art.
His gimmick works best when it transforms a genre into another one, for example
Once Again turning hip-hop music into progressive-rock
Bounce That turning orchestral disco music into heavy metal,
or Smash Your Head turning rap-metal into a pop rhapsody,
and when it amounts to a rhythmic effect, as in Hold Up,
Ask About Me,
and especially Hand Clap.
It was Freud's free-association technique applied to a turntable.
The difference with John Oswald,
Solex and all the others who tried this
idea before is that Girl Talk music was pure fun for clubbers, with no
intellectual or existential frills.
The biggest limit of his method was the over-reliance on hip-hop beats and raps.
Feed the Animals (2008) used more than 300 song snippets, and the
juxtapositions were even wilder, with, for example,
Nine Inch Nails
pasted next to
Yo La Tengo
next to Beyonce (Like This).
At the same time the collagist seemed to organize his sources in an
emotional palette. Thus the whirlwind of Play Your Part (Pt. 1)
ran the gamut from Merseybeat to
Sinead O'Connor in a way that created a
sentimental mood and not just a goliardic gag,
just like the disco delight of Set It Off represented a tribute to
Shut The Club Down went back and forth between jovial and sinister
simply by juxtaposing and sequencing stereotypes of each mood.
The Procol Harum's anthemic organ
immediately propels Still Here into a tragic territory, and
the disjointed montage that follows only adds to the poignancy.
More tension builds up in What It's All About, sandwiched between the
driving progression of the
and metal riffs.
Here's The Thing exudes romantic strain via a progression from shrill
Sixties bubblegum (prominently the Mysterians' 96 Tears)
to a cubistic deconstruction of more recent hits.
Even when the message remains
cryptic (as in the way vocal harmonies evolve into a techno apotheosis in
Give Me A Beat,
or in the way In Step drops the ultimate grunge anthem,
Nirvana's Come As You Are, into
a jungle of disco anthems),
one sense a dark intelligence at work, not just a court jester.
The fragments on this album are more "classic", thus making it easier for the listener to
identify with the emotional shifts that they represent. At the same time
the whole album flows like an organic unit, and the separation into tracks
feels largely like a recording artifice.
All Day (2010) was another
hyperactive danceable collage and mock opera,
packing 373 ephemeral samples in 71 hectic minutes, beginning with
Black Sabbath's call to arms in Oh No
It is still terrific party music but obviously the novelty is gone as is the
magic as is the sociological underpinning.
Jay-Z is the protagonist of Let It Out. And so forth. There are uplifting
moments here and there, as a popular hit pulls out of the crowd and invite you
to hum along. Then, of course, anybody can make this "music" as long as they
have the right software on their laptop (and have studied the history of rock and dance music).
The main reason to listen to This is the Remix is to listen to
Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia and dance to Inxs' groove.
On and On begins with the classic riff of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love.
Down For the Count has the charming idea of coupling
Belinda Carslile's Heaven Is A Place On Earth and the piano melody of Derek & Dominoes' Layla.
And Keith Richards must be delighted to hear a rap superimposed to his guitar work in the Rolling Stones' Paint it Black.
But for each moment of genius like this one there are several minutes of irrelevant mash-up.
Often Gillis seem to enjoy juxtaposing the rock music of the 1960s/70s and the
hip-hop music of the 1990s/2000s, two generations that have little in common but
that his sampling machines can synchronize and harmonize.
Lowest point: ending with John Lennon's Imagine.
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