Hypnostrolling Down Under
Given that the Extreme label once released Merzbox, a 50-disc set by Merzbow, it might seem glib to state that they have for more than 20 years been a haven of quality, intellect and accessibility. Doubters unfamiliar with their quality catalogue should listen very carefully to this four-song EP, Extreme’s first digital-only release, by Mr. Geoffrey & J.D. Franzke. The duo (DJ and sound designer, respectively) have teamed up with musician Mystic Moose—multi-instrumentalist, member of the band Crackpot, guitarist on the soundtrack to the great Australian film The Castle and tour guitarist for Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Be Comin opens and closes with two new tracks, sandwiching a pair from their well-received 2006 album Get a Room . Insanity beckons anyone trying to locate the origin of many of these sounds, but I have it on good authority that Isaac “Redd” Holt’s introduction from the album Isaac Isaac Isaac and David Ruffin’s album Me and Rock’n Roll Are Here to Stay were used for the two new pieces, along with other music played by Mystic Moose, then cut up and folded in. The definitions of words like “soul” and “dancefloor” need to be stretched beyond comprehension if the contents of this EP are to be included. After some tension-relieving bongo action, “Bourke Street Mall” mutates into the Sutherland Brothers’ 1970s song “Sailing”—yes, the same “Sailing” Rod Stewart turned into a mawkish mega-hit. I‘d thought it impossible that anyone could (or would attempt to) recover the song, but here, cloaked in strings and chatter, it becomes something urgent, distant and feline, as if sung by Randy Newman’s piano-playing cat from atop a high wall.
In the hands of Mr. Geoffrey & J.D. Franzke, music and sound become dynamic narrative voices moving the action. Where it moves to (and from) is uncertain, but it engages a listener’s intellect and emotions. As Sam Tyler is told by Nelson the soothsaying bartender in Life on Mars, “When you can feel, then you’re alive; when you don’t feel, then you’re not.” Waves and a female voice speaking of positive thinking introduce “Shyness”. The voice slows and a goose bump-inducing perambulation occurs via accordion, violin, piano and bass and waves. Imagine “Feed The Birds” from Mary Poppins rearranged to accompany the beach kiss scene in From Here To Eternity.
Naming precisely what occurs on be comin’ is unnecessary and elusive. This is not “plunderphonics” in the original sense that John Oswald coined to describe his music created out of samples from a single artist. Nor does it approach the scale of megaplundermorphonemiclonic, Oswald’s later term to describe Plexure, his 20-minute piece derived from approximately 1,000 tiny samples from different artists woven together. It is also removed from Christian Marclay’s actual vinyl-slicing cut-and-paste version of “turntablism.” At the other end of the scale, Mr. Geoffrey & J.D. Franke’s creativity exceeds both the gleeful crash of a mashup and the high subjectivity of a mix tape, and the term “mixscape” seems too stationary. These tracks seem to have been downloaded directly from someone’s dream of strolling through a shifting terrain, rather than from a fixed or framed composition.
The feeling I get from Be Comin is like Sudden Sway’s “Hypnostroll”, with its feeling of temporary immersion in another place, or that band’s concept of Klub Londinium: after completing a questionnaire, walkers were assigned a map and headset according to their designation as Hedonist, Materialist, Mystical or Outsider. They then set off on walking routes, unsure how the landscape had been altered by Sudden Sway, which people were actors, and which were real. Mr. Geoffrey & J.D. Franzke create a more musical but equally fascinating and unpredictable environment. Listeners need not tread carefully though, there is no sonic dog doo ahead.