I got a phone call from my wife recently and it went something like this:
Her: “Hey honey, we got another CD in the mail today.”
Me: “Cool. What is it?”
“It’s the new Kid 606.”
“Sweet! How is it?”
“It kicks major ass... like it better than his last one.”
“But his last one was really, really good.”
“I know. Let me tell you, I think I’ve figured out what he carries in his record box when he DJs.”
“Well, he’s got some old school Prodigy in there—you know, ‘Ruff in the Jungle Bizness’, ‘Fire’, ‘Death of the Prodigy Dancers’. He’s got some DJ Assault in there, some real hardcore ghettotech stuff. Maybe some gabber, maybe some dancehall. But most importantly, I know he’s got to have a rabid weasel in there somewhere . . .”
And who am I to argue with such an authority?
The fact is, last year’s Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You was one of the most enjoyable records to come down the pike in quite some time. It was just sheer fun, a trip in a time machine back to the halcyon days of the early ‘90s, when acid house/rave became ‘ardcore, a gleefully fun and irresistibly fast super-mutant bent on world domination. Of course, the fun didn’t last very long, and most of the acts (with the exception of the Prodigy) who could reasonably be described as ‘ardcore were also one-hit wonders, furious musical delinquents with the collective attention span of a gnat. One of these days, probably in about a decade or so, someone is going to make a concentrated effort to archive and compile these things, in a similar manner to what was done for late ‘60s psychedelic-garage bands with the seminal Nuggets compilations. Until then, we shall have to be satisfied with rather dodgy UK import compilations to keep alive the memory of such deathless acts as Bonkers, Helter Skelter and Fantazia.
But I digress. The fact is, ‘ardcore is just one of many genres in electronic music history to have disappeared beneath the sands of history, or at least to have been put into a very deep coma. Rave-house quickly floundered and splintered into dozens of sub- and micro-genres, such as drum & bass and the so-called “happy” hardcore. The swift and punishing beats morphed into violent gabber and the Teutonic offshoot of Alec Empire’s “digital” hardcore. But for the most part, the speed and the joy of the initial ‘ardcore revolution was trampled and forgotten by the endless procession of genres fated to be born and die in the ultra-Darwinistic world of electronic music.
Who Still Kill Sound? is the classic “odds & sods” set, a disc filled to the brim with effluvium from the recording of Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You. The album picks up pretty much where the last one left off, with a pair of mercilessly fast and irrepressibly fun ‘ardcore tracks (“yr inside the smallest rave on earth” and “slammin’ ragga bootleg track”). The first wouldn’t have been out of place in a 1992 rave, right down to the cheesy dialogue samples and the frenzied musical cannibalism, the kind of shifty restlessness that inspires the sampling of recognizable bits from last week’s best records (I picked out bits and pieces from Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock as well as a more obscure track from Da Juice). The latter is the first of a few tracks on the album to blend the hardcore sounds with the more domesticated strains of ragga dancehall, to predictably schizophrenic effect.
“Phat with a PhD” is one of the biggest surprises on the disc, a crunktastic Dirty South call-and-response bass jam in the grand tradition of 2 Live Crew and 95 South that somehow got lost in a neighborhood filled with pasty white IDM guys. There’s a track very aptly titled “Cex remix I forgot to finish”, which is pretty much exactly what it says, a short snippet (1:24 long) of an unfinished remix for Cex’s “Texas Menstrates.”
“Live acid jam” is one of the better tracks on the album, a slower acid house track that gradually builds from simple beginnings into increasingly more elaborate and psychedelic programming. Two tracks feature Gold Chains’ female rapper Sue Cie - “Ladies” and “Roll with it”—rapping and cheering on the virtues of being a slutty, manipulative, superficial whore. There’s something deeply satisfying about hearing a chirpy female voice shouting the lines “We cheer and we lead/ We act like we’re on speed/ Hate us ‘cause we’re beautiful but we don’t like you either/ We’re cheerleaders.” Reminds me of old-school Lords of Acid, before they became a self-parodying parody band. The “Pregnant cheerleader theme song”, despite the obvious thematic link, really has nothing to do with the previous cheering sections, as it’s another hardcore pseudo-gabber ragga jam.
From the absurdly fast to the absurdly slow, Kid 606 mounts a tribute to Houston’s ultra-slow “screw” impressario, the eponymous DJ Screw. “Robitussin motherfucker (DJ Screw RIP)” is basically one of the Kid’s hardcore jams (“ecstacy motherfucker”, off Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You, to be exact) played at 33 RPM, slow and syrupy like the cough medicine that gives the screw scene its sickly torpor. The winner of the “Best Song Title of the Year” award goes to “ass scratch beaver”, the most classically IDM moment on the album. It’s filled with the kind of frenetic cut & pasting you would expect to hear on an Aphex Twin record, only with Kid 606’s library of rave sounds as the fodder. The album ends with “wicked megamix”, a gabber track purportedly designed for the express purpose of destroying the house sound system during a live performance. Kill Sound, indeed.
Thankfully, Kid 606 (known to his mommy as Miguel Depedro) knows how to put an album together. Even on a disc filled with punishingly fast material, he varies the track listing in order to make it a more modulated experience, balancing the speed-ragga jams with smaller, more melodic tunes such as the unfinished Cex remix and the Future Sound of London-esque “all I wanted for Christmas was my braces off.” It’s perhaps a more enjoyable listening experience than Kill Sound, simply because it ebbs and flows with more ease, instead of simply pummeling you into bruised submission and stopping for a cigarette break when it’s over. Even Alec Empire’s The Destroyer, as brutal and unforgiving an album as exists, knew to vary the tempo. You can still be a hardcore motherfucker at a slower tempo.
Kid 606 creates incredibly fun music. Sometimes you get the idea that he’s just pulling these tracks out of thin air, creating at such a rapid pace that he probably forgets what the beginning of the song sounds like before he reaches the end. Sometimes he might even surprise himself: there’s a track on this disc that culminates in a very recognizable, very blatant and very fun sample that you know he didn’t get permission to use (I’m not going to tell you what it is because it’s a great surprise). If he had thought about it for two seconds, he probably wouldn’t have used it—but if he had the attention span to think about anything for that long we probably wouldn’t be here discussing his second near-masterpiece in the space of only nine months. It’s not the kind of masterpiece you’ll hear discussed in hushed, reverential tones on NPR, and it’s not a record that most lay people will even be able to discriminate from blood-drenched white noise. But it is the kind of masterpiece I’m going to want to listen to over and over again in the many years left to me before I go deaf from too much loud music.