I was concerned when I listened to the first track of the album… “Nitro” was something of a jumbled mess to my ears that really didn’t go anywhere. I was left thinking, “sheesh, this might be the first time I write a negative review, and here the artist actually approached me and several others to write reviews!” But, the second track “I SuJAZZt you” somewhat revised my opinion of this release.
Not quite dZihan & Kamien, not quite Thievery Corporation, or even Kruder & Dorfmesiter. Once I got past the first track, I was instead reminded of James Hardaway, A Forest Mighty Black, Jimpster, and Taran — all of whom have worked in a more groove oriented style with very raw samples (scratches and all) used as the basis for their pieces. (I am thinking specifically here of a compilation called After Hours: Miles Away which remains one of my all time favorite discs.)
That being said, I won’t say that this release is in the same category as any of the artists I’ve listed above. There are too many differences between what Bielebmy does and what any of them are doing. But this isn’t necessarily bad.
The Good and The Interesting
What this artist does is to take a lot of different source materials and re-mix and layer them in ways that are at once unexpected, and yet somehow natural. He does this with a higher density of sample layering than most others in this genre tend to do. Several of these pieces I could have sworn there were no less than 7 or 8 simultaneous samples being layered together.
Another thing that he does, and is quite effective at, is making changes within his piece. Several tracks present the listener with one set of sequenced samples, which are replaced with another set of sequenced samples, then change back to the first set. At first, the affect seemed somewhat jarring. However, the rhythmic ties kept the effect from being un-listenable, and eventually made sense as a method of presenting a kind of sampled “theme and variation” within the pieces.
And this is where I think the main point of this release is that makes it worthwhile: the artist is treading into new territory here. He apparently isn’t completely satisfied with the way we have come to expect samples to be used. He wants to find a new way of layering these textures to create something new, and he wants to be able to play with them and switch them up to invent new structures.
I’ll single out a couple of the tracks as being the most interesting ones on the recording:
“Opus” may be the most ingenious sequencing and layering of samples on the whole recording. This song has several sections to it, tied together by a common rhythm. The whole piece works, and makes you smile when you hear the third section which includes a sample of a Symphony (Mozart or Haydn, I believe — but don’t quote me on that).
“I want my pony back!” is possibly the most unusual transformation I’ve heard on a trip hop / funk recording yet. Heavily layered and dense, it moves along a breakneck pace through most of the song. The samples come from hard rock and pop rock recordings. It’s almost a cacaphony at first, but things seem to align in ways that work well.
And finally a little shout to “She Said.” Unlike others have done, this track only uses a quote of someone saying that phrase at the very end of the piece, as if the whole song that came before it was what “she said”. Almost like a meta-fiction in sound form. At least, that was my impression and I’m sticking to it.
There are multiple parts to a piece of music: rhythm, harmony, melody, tempo, and other elements make up a piece, give it shape and form. When these elements step aside and allow other elements to step forward there is a bit of imbalance. This can be a good thing: there are pieces that are primarily driven by their rhythm (look at much of the Drum And Bass or Techno styles for general examples of this).
However, those elements still need to be present in some form or another. Even dense 12 tone pieces, or “minimalist” pieces have those elements.
And that is where this release suffers the most: in trying to find a new way of working with samples, and making them fit into a style, the artist doesn’t do a good job of giving us either a sense of melodic line that gives the listener a sense of direction to the pieces.
The license chosen for this release is a BY-NC-SA. Nice choice as it allows others to build on the work, while preserving a shot at a revenue stream if someone wants to use it for commercial purposes.
This is an interesting recording. Not something that I would expect most people to want to listen to all the time. The density of the samples and the sudden changes can be somewhat jarring for casual listening. The lack of, or even an allusion to, melody took a bit away from the pieces. These pieces don’t seem to have a clear line that would give the pieces a sense of direction.
However, there is a level of experimentation going on in this release that makes it worthy of multiple listenings. This artist is definitely pushing the ideas of form, texture and structure in a new direction, and it will be interesting to see where he goes with it.
The Review: Bielebny – Punxsutawney by The CerebralRift, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.