[20 August 2003]
San Francisco’s Erase Errata have cultivated a jagged mystique since their inception, releasing the jarring, raw-boned, neo-new wave album Other Animals (which they claimed was largely written in quick improvisational spurts) in 1999, and then going on to rip through venues across the world with a notorious live show that led to a bold resurgence of under-appreciated “F” words like “frenzied”, “frantic”, and “frenetic”.
Erase Errata have said that their erratic, glass-shattering noise is meant to be dance music. Don’t believe them. It’s panic attack music. It’s epileptic seizure music. Their songs usually start off with a kinetic, repetitive guitar, bass, and drum interplay that for awhile almost seems like dance music. But at some point in pretty much every Erase Errata song, something gives. And that’s when the train veers off of the tracks and careens into a cracked universe where madness steps into melody’s shoes. You could dance to it, yeah; but it would be like dancing to the sound of two cats mating. You’d feel stupid doing it, and you’d look even stupider.
However, on Dancing Machine: Erase Errata Remix Record, the participating DJs take Erase Errata’s sputtery, unwieldy noise forms and sculpt them, by and large, into club-friendly jams. One notable exception is Kevin Blechdom’s brutally abstract interpretation of “Rat Race”, which bears scarcely any resemblance at all to the original song—or to anything else in the world, for that matter.
In fact, Kevin Blechdom (don’t be fooled by the name; she’s a girl), one half of the wise-ass IDM/noise duo Blectum from Blechdom, pulls of a show-stealing coup with her impressionistic take on “Rat Race”. Rather than a remix, it’s more of a complete rewriting, and an improvisational one at that. It’s not so much music, as it is a tripped out tone poem written by a cough syrup addled toddler. Yet, among all of the dippy synth tomfoolery, abrupt tempo and pitch changes, and a generally frivolous tone, there is something bizarrely and deeply compelling about Blechdom’s revision of “Rat Race”. Best of all, her irreverent, slap-happy approach to electronic music tastes sticky sweet, while the output of other humorless, self-serious IDM artists goes down bitter, salty and dry.
Although none of the other contributions on Dancing Machine are as delightfully cockeyed as Kevin Blechdom’s, none of them suffer from too severe a tone—there’s plenty of playfulness all around. Still, Kid 606’s remix of “Retreat, the Most Familiar” plays it surprisingly straight, gilding the songs hard edges with a fat bass riff, simple drum samples, and intermittent, non-invasive synth noise. He switches things up just slightly at the end, so that when Jenny Hoyston channels Kim Gordon, yelling repeatedly and accusatively, “Specter! Specter!”, it’s damn near poignant.
Matmos gives “Other Animals” an almost silky sonic texture, beginning with a tight, mid-tempo drum and bass loop, paired with disembodied, fifties-era filmstrip voices alternating words and constructing sentences like “Evolution means natural efficiency.” The track builds to a startlingly discordant crescendo mid-way through, then comes back down, resets with the bass and drums, and begins slowly building again.
The synths get their most extensive workout from Adult., who take a stab at the excellent “Marathon”. Rather than supplanting its original ingredients, Adult. just supplements it with twitchy, persistent percussion, flickering and fluttering synths, and some vocal rearrangement. It’s the most redundant, dead-end track of the four, and feels, frankly, as if it was hastily tossed off.
Other than Adult.‘s contribution, Dancing Machine is plenty strong, and it owes its strength the to the artistic daring of both the ladies of Erase Errata and those who’ve reshaped their songs. The giddy nonsense of Kevin Blechdom, the economical and surgical wizardry of Matmos, and the wry sonic poetry of Kid 606 all make excellent complements to Erase Errata, who now have some veritable dance music in their repertoire after all.