DJ Venom: Houseblend 7

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By Wayne Franklin

Whenever the term “house music” is uttered, performers such as Inner City, Frank Ski, Martha Wash and Cajmere come to mind, along with phrases like “jack your body” and “it’s time for the percolator”. Unfortunately, thoughts of the hip-house era—a period when hip-hop music erroneously tried to merge with house music—also come to mind, but that’s a whole other music review.

Houseblend 7, DJ Venom’s contribution to Strictly Hype Records’ “Houseblend” compilation series, is not house in the traditional sense but hard house, which is, for lack of a better phrase, techno music on crack. If you are looking for horn samples, piano riffs, or plus-sized divas singing from the tops of their lungs (as I was), then you may want to skip this one.

The easiest way to describe the music you will hear on Houseblend 7 would be to call it the musical equivalent of a Red Bull martini. A Red Bull martini consists of the highly caffeinated energy drink Red Bull, and a highly intoxicating spirit, usually vodka. Clubgoers favor this elixir because while the vodka gets you drunk, the Red Bull gives you energy to keep you going. That being said, this disc is overly packed with repetitive beats that are enough to bore you into a coma, but it’s so annoying that it won’t let you sleep.

DJ Venom got his start as a part-time hip-hop radio disc jockey in 1989. In 1991, a group of his fellow DJs coaxed him to his first techno/house event. That trip had such an overwhelming effect on him that he left hip-hop behind and hasn’t looked back. In 2000, he released Straight Bangin’ (2000, Strictly Hype Records), his first mix CD, and followed up with Houseblend 7.

The disc opens quietly, with a skit featuring a waiter welcoming the listener to “Café Volume”, where tonight’s special is hard house seasoned with progressive & booty (?) with a side of retro tech. This is the first and last quiet moment on the disc. When the waiter says “I’ll have your order in two seconds”, the quiet is over.

From the opening beats of “Venom’s Vagabond Intro” to the sped-up bass line of DJ Chip’s “Pop Them Thangs” outro, the listener is subjected to 72 minutes of nerve-shredding noise carefully constructed by Venom into a mind-bending repetitive loop. It would be extremely difficult to tell where one of the 32 (yeah…32) cuts ended and the next one began without the disc’s liner card, which is a good thing as far as mix tapes (or CDs) go. The unenlightened listener, however, would undoubtedly be reaching for the skip button, exclaiming, “how long is this song?”

Though Prince once crooned, “there’s joy in repetition”, I doubt that this is what he had in mind. The beat, (that’s right—BEAT, as in only one) stays exactly the same throughout the disc. Could it be that having one constant, annoying beat makes it easier to blend songs? Or, perhaps, the pitch control switch on Venom’s turntable was broken? Who’s to say?

The only highlights that this reviewer found on this audio root canal would be, for one, the seamless blend of the songs. Venom is obviously a very good DJ, and, as a turntablist myself, I must give credit where credit is due. Then, finding actual traces of songs that I recognized, hacked up and thrown into the mix became like a little game for me. Lil’ Caesar’s “Gotta Love” contains a sample from Jomanda’s (real) house classic “Got a Love for You”, while DJ Rip’s “Hate” samples Kelis’ “I hate you so much right now” rant from her hit “Caught Out There”. You can also hear snippets of hits from Onyx, the Geto Boys, EPMD and Public Enemy on “Venom’s hip-hop Interlude”, and the oft-sampled “smack my bitch up” line from Ultramagnetic MC’s on Trajic’s “Cowboy Junkie”.

On the flip side, I did find one lowlight that stood out from all the other lowlights on this painful-to-listen-to collection. Someone by the name of Poogie Bear did a hard-house remake of the Turtles’ already irritating ‘60s hit “Happy Together”. Words can’t describe the gamut of emotions I experienced upon hearing this for the first time, nor can they relay the speed with which I ran to my CD player to skip to the next track.

Do not be duped. DJ Venom’s House Blend 7 is not for the faint of heart. Listening to it is a workout, and I imagine that dancing to it could be cause for days of rest afterwards, or perhaps a trip to the ER. Maybe if I had tried the Red Bull martini before I played it, the review would have been different, but, stone sober, this disc has “coaster” written all over it. Cheers!

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/djvenom-houseblend/