Monday, January 24, 2011
DJ/RUPTURE & MATT SHADETEK: Solar Life Raft
Based on a sci-fi concept laid out in the short narrative in the liner notes, Solar Life Raft is set adrift in vast floods over the post-civilization East-coast. Scavengers discover sounds, the last remnants of dead cities now up to their penthouses in melted polar ice. Survival and loss haunt every moment, and so does hope.
The mix was put together by turntable theorist DJ/rupture and his Dutty Artz co-founder Matt Shadetek. Starting with an imagined setting and then selecting music to score it sounds like a recipe for contrivance, but /rupture and Shadetek select songs that suit the narrative abstractly. You won’t hear them spinning Peter Gabriel’s “Here Comes the Flood” or anything like that. Like any good musical project, this leaves room for your imagination.
Listening to music is better than watching movies. Movies (with a few rare exceptions) constantly tell me exactly how to feel about everything, employing a million trite manipulations (the most egregious of which is, ironically, the musical score) to force everything into a tight interpretive box. Some music does this too, and that music is boring to hear and boring to write about. Solar Life Raft is exactly the cure for that tedium.
There is a certain wobbly, sea-sick quality to Dubstep that fits in with however you imagine this particular post-apocalypse: Tempos are slow and swaying, with deep foghorn synthbass, sounds reverberate across the endless waterscape and the sampled or dubbed vocals (like the snippethook in Babylon System’s “Get On Up” and the mournful singing in Pulshar’s “Mr. Money Man” respectively) sound preserved or submerged, echoes and ghosts of prophets whose warnings went ignored. When Nico Muhly’s Lanskyesque piece “Mothertongue: Pt. 1” makes an appearance, cutoff and resonance knob-twiddling is creatively employed to simulate what it sounds like when you bob up and down in water, your ears submerging and emerging, sounds muffled and then clear again.
This mix was made the old-fashioned way: in real time, on actual turntables. It’s seamless and technically perfect, other than the occasional moment where two records in incompatible keys are layered, (although that clang of dissonance may be by design, or a happy accident accepted for the extra ear-tension.) The peaks and valleys are sequenced perfectly, like a tightly structured film. The most emotional moments come at just the right time, and the ratio of blissed-out mood beats to sing-along moments is perfect. When it ends, I feel like I've had a complete experience, adrift in the dubby floods.