The chill-out mix CD is the generic exotica collection of the early-21st century. Everybody's got one out, be they American, European, or British, composed in the same flaccid, modern-day-Mantovani musical and iconographical lingua franca. The vast majority of them that aren't already in heavy rotation at your local record store's dollar bin are headed for that great attic in the music-biz sky as we speak. Of course there are exceptions -- Everything But the Girl's contribution to the Back to Mine series comes to mind, as does the latest of Andy Smith's two-disc Document series, if these anomalies truly count as part of the genre. Each has something in common with aural terrorist-slash-somnambulist Weevie's new release, Nighty Night -- Deep Soul in Dub: the annexation of deep '70s soul as being the property of dance-club crate diggers as well as hip-hop experimentalists and bedroom R&B merchants. (Andy Smith's latest even shares James Brown's classic "Lowdown Popcorn" rhythm with Weevie.) But beyond that, Nighty Night has managed to prove that this strangest of '90s musical carryovers -- the chill-out -- has vast potential in the hands of an artist with the right amount of flat-out weirdness.
Yeah, Nighty Night is just plain weird. The disc's stated purpose is not to chill out but to knock out -- Weevie wants his listeners to be half-awake at most by about track four, and getting their dreams seriously fucked with by track eight or nine of this 17-track slab. The songs this largely anonymous deejay, remixer, and dub specialist uses as ammo are often familiar -- besides Brown, Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", and tracks by the Jackson 5, Beastie Boys, Erykah Badu, and Grover Washington come under Weevie's gaze. But not only are the classic songs at times only vaguely recognizable, the winding route Weevie takes the songs on involves none of the modern remixer's standards. Rather than acquiring original master tracks to dissect and re-dissect, Weevie has taken records out of his collection and processed them through classic Jamaican-dub live-mix effects -- slowed down to a crawl, washed in chemical baths of reverb and delay -- and then laid them next to, under, and over musique concrete field recordings, Bugs Bunny samples, pretty much anything he could get on his ever-present tape recorder.
Weevie's certainly done his homework for Nighty Night. King Tubby, Prince Jammy, Scratch Perry -- the originators of Jamaica's most innovative contribution to popular music, dub -- all find themselves sonically name-checked in Weevie's groundless, dream-state soul dub. Perry's delay-drenched EQ-twisting, Tubby's irreverent attitude towards the song's original arrangement in time and space -- these are the backbone of Weevie's knob-twisting approach. Thus, "What's Going On" becomes a creepy, stoic crawl, and "Passin' Me By" a David Lynch dream sequence of echo-chamber re-edits and bass-line dropouts. Similarly, Weevie's done his legwork, risking arrest in Las Vegas casinos in order to covertly record the cacophonous clatter and jingle of that most American sonic landscape, and plucking the most dream-like, confusing conversations from cartoons and movies.
But Nighty Night's risks don't always come up lucky sevens. This album is a new mix-CD direction, and the new never comes without failures. Some of Weevie's found-sound placements -- played-out waterfalls, the pot head's Cartoon Network addiction, and the sophomoric lead-off recording of a neighbor's phone message complaining about the noise -- are of the "sounds-cool-the-first-time" variety at best. But for a new way of looking at remixing, soul, dub, and sleepy-time music in general, Nighty Night fathoms great depths of herb-colored dreamlands and blanket-clad, room-spinning lullabies.
Skipping ahead, through wave after wave of Weevie's bedroom computer cutups and softly pumped-up-bass Xanax, the last track on Nighty Night -- Erykah Badu's "On and On" -- ends with Weevie's live tape of a return flight. The stewardess, whose voice is eventually reverb-and-delay dubbed (as expected), tells the listener to fasten seatbelts, awaiting landing, as Badu's wafting Fender Rhodes vibe dissipates into vapor. I'm telling you this now because Weevie has been successful in his attempt at making musical Valerian root and if I don't tell you, you'll never, ever find out how Nighty Night ends.