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Crackhaus

Spells Disaster...

(Mutek; US: 6 Jun 2006; UK: 4 Jun 2006)

When one happens upon a duo specializing in electronic music who happen to be called Crackhaus, one could understandably infer three things about the members of that duo:  One, they are German.  Two, they specialize in house music.  Three, they’re a bit whacked out.  Held next to an answer key, those inferences would score a less-than-pristine 1.5 out of 3, as Crackhaus are based in Montreal, their genre of choice is microhouse (oh, so close—partial credit), and yes, they are fairly whacked out of their minds from a musical perspective.


Of course, given that we are speaking of a genre that isn’t exactly famed for its sense of humor, a little bit of wackiness can only be a good thing.


This is the philosophy that Stephen Beaupre and Scott Monteith take with their music, as evidenced by the small pile of compilation contributions they’ve been part of, not to mention the couple of releases that have been released under the Crackhaus name—though none of those releases are purely collaborative efforts, the two fellows obviously have quite a respect for one another and don’t mind sharing digital plastic space with each other.  Spells Disaster… (originally released in 2004, now re-released on a much wider scale) would seem to be their first-ever proper full-length, as all of the tracks here are actually credited to the collective Crackhaus; even so, the two are sure to skirt such notions by proclaiming on the back of the CD, “This is not an album.”  Evidently, it’s just a bunch of tracks that the two thought were “funny”, with a few tracks tacked on to the end taking their “funny” material and making it “funnier” via a “funny” remix.  Well, okay.  Not an album.  Got it.


All told, it’s not all that funny, unless you’re high, or dim, or maybe both.  That’s not to say it’s not occasionally inventive, especially put into the context of the highly static (in all senses of the word) clicks and sparse beats of microhouse.  From an opening track that cuts up and splices a spoken sentence from none other than Matthew Herbert to more than one flirtation with genres that have no business comingling with microhouse, Crackhaus certainly know how to keep from getting bored.  “Barberchop” is a personal favorite, complete with a cut-up sample of the sort of quartet implied by the title, eventually getting enough time to spit out, “Ain’t nothin’ like living in the crackhouse”.  All electronic acts should figure out ways to namecheck themselves so inventively.  “Hee Haw on See Saw” is a fantastic seven minutes that manages to toss banjo and harmonica into the mix, and “Soggy Bottom Bass”, despite the implications of its title, actually manages to work a ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll chord progression in by the time it’s finished, complete with the cheesy bassline that implies. 


The other strictly Crackhaus tunes on the disc try similar tricks, as to the remixes, but nothing else comes off quite as well as those already-mentioned tracks.  Incongruous sampling is nothing new, really, so to add vocal samples or little snippets of electronic melody isn’t really a feat worth mentioning.  There is a fairly definitive worst, however, that being the Mole remix of a track called “Night of the Living Weedheads”, which smugly finds humor in drug addiction and the blues.  This sort of funny leaves a bad taste, and doesn’t reflect well on the other obviously talented folks involved; I’m not sure whether to blame Mole or Crackhaus, but the track is beneath both of them and should not have been included.


The main problem with Spells Disaster… is one of context.  I’m sure that in a crowded dance club, when you’ve been hearing mostly faceless house music for the majority of the night, hearing a Crackhaus tune can lighten the mood, break up the monotony a bit.  Yet, with only itself to provide context, it all sounds a bit ordinary.  Buy it for your mixes or DJ sessions ... look for something else if you’re looking for a solid hour of entertainment.

Rating:

Mike Schiller is a software engineer in Buffalo, NY who enjoys filling the free time he finds with media of any sort -- music, movies, and lately, video games. Stepping into the role of PopMatters Multimedia editor in 2006 after having written music and game reviews for two years previous, he has renewed his passion for gaming to levels not seen since his fondly-remembered college days of ethernet-enabled dorm rooms and all-night Goldeneye marathons. His three children unconditionally approve of their father's most recent set of obsessions.


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