Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Drink Me

Artist: Burger/Ink
Album: [Las Vegas]
Source: Promo

At the moment that the debut Burger/Ink disc landed on my desk for review, I'd only had one serious encounter with electronic music. During a stint living in Scotland, some local buddies brought me to a late-era rave. This being 1995 or so, the thing was no longer an illegal, secretive dance party in the middle of nowhere, but an official/officious money-making cultural event in an established joint. The main draw was either The Orb or Orbital (I honestly can't remember which) and hours of fun were to be had by all.

And I do mean hours.

This thing went on for-freakin'-ever. I guess the first 3 hours or so were OK, but after that it dragged just a wee bit...nevermind that I didn't really have an ear for all-electronic music and I might possibly have been the only person in the entire cavernous expanse of the Barrowlands not floating on some sort of trip. Like any too-old/not-hip-enough person hearing rock or rap or whatever is outside of their frame of reference, it just all sounded exactly the same to me, hour after hour.

At one point, a Scottish friend asked me what I thought. I sagely opined that it was OK, but I was dying for someone, anyone, to play an instrument. "They are playing instruments," he said, pointing to the shaved-headed wonksters hunched over the racks of wires and switches and gadgets. "This is totally live!"

I thought he was either confused or just chemically touched, but I now see what he meant. It was a live show. From after sundown to just before sunup, these people were creating music not by creating the sounds themselves, but by manipulating and organizing them. When your main point of reference is hitting a drum once and hearing it make one thwok, the idea that a hard drive of existing sounds and geegaws of preordained pulses could be subject to the same sort of moment-to-moment impulses is one hell of a conceptual hurdle to leap over.

By now, I get it; it just took awhile. [Las Vegas] helped a bunch, if only because it showed up via the venerable Matador label. If those guys heard songs amongst the bleeps and blips, well then it stood to reason that I could figure out how to hear them, too. And yeah, the tracks are a little same-y (probably unintentionally) and thoroughly repetitive (totally on purpose). But a few spins pointed me towards the melodies, the structures...and most importantly, toward the craft. These nameless/faceless technicians were drawing from the same broad well as label-mates like Pavement and Guided By Voices; that guitars and choruses and humanistic imperfections weren't part of what they concocted didn't devalue the beverage. They were, like any other musicians, people who put forth a bottle labeled Drink Me, and promised a tiny bit of transformation of you gulped it down.

SISOSIG? In the decade-plus since I wrapped my behind-the-times mind around Burger/Ink, I've developed a decent ear for electronic music. In fact, I've found a lot of stuff that I like a whole lot more than [Las Vegas], from some of Darla's Bliss Out participants to the downright humanistic efforts of folks like RJD2 and Deadalus. But this one still sounds OK, and it was nice enough to hold the door open for the rest of its future(istic?) bretheren.

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