Saturday, July 5, 2008

Monopoly Child Star Searchers - Gitchii Manitou (12 Step Retrance Program for Troubled Dream Warriors (New Age Tapes/Pacific City Studios CD-R)

Here's another Skaters side project I've been digging of late. Monopoly Child Star Searchers is the pseudonym of Spencer Clark, and this set is more in line with what he played that night long ago up in Albany, incense a blazin and hatted head a bobbin. While the man is clearly versatile (Vodka Soap, another project of his, is much more minimalist and blatantly pretty), this might be the sound of his I like best, rhythmic and endlessly chugging, well, tropical style.

Using one of those Casio loop keyboards along with some other homemade mechanically manipulated stereos and paraphernalia, Spencer's sound is shockingly full for a one man band. Using various world music loops along with his voice, he's able to create a kind of jungle music that somehow, despite the vast differences in approach, is closer to the spirit of those African drum circles than so much of the theoretical world music hoopla coming out now. If anything, this music is about overwhelming oneself with so much interlocking rhythm that it becomes, on the one hand, trance inducing and even spiritual, and on the other a completely zoned out soundtrack to your wildest bubbler fantasies.

Finding highlights on an album like this is all but impossible; the aesthetic is too fixed. Which isn't to say that every track sounds like every other one--rather the feel of the album is continuous and quite easy to get lost in. There are actually eight different tracks on here, totaling about an hour of music, but the point doesn't seem to be to notice. Moments in track two stand out for their fullness and the complexity of their structure, and the thudding deep-sea bass on track three is a marker to be sure, but really each track is just as well conceived as the next.

As for the sounds, considering the amount of world music hijacking as of late (partially some Konono No. 1 feedback, me thinks) it's pretty clear that Spencer is way ahead of the pack. Rather than creating electronicized world music with samples, he instead redefines it, creating his own definition of primitive fireside build-ups. It's as if he's using electronics and the ambiguity of improvisation to look back while also pointing towards a kind of future world music--the date on the album is 2027, but I doubt the planet will be hip enough by then for this. For that to be the case, a whole lot has to be eliminated, and a whole lot has to be embraced.

As I said before, rather than looping African rhythms with his own chants and odd tinkly high-end noodlings to create something that sounds like some cheap rip off of the real thing, Clark reconfigures it, making it so dense and loping that it's as if all those high-life percussionists were actually playing with Native American chanters as some Tibetan ritual was performed around them. It's a beautiful sound, and completely his own--really has to be heard to be understood.

The meandering, drugged-to-hell liner notes say that the album was "sponsored by the Ancient Skywatchers of California and Shamans for Levitated Coconuts." It's a joke of course, but the sense of natural wonder is there, and it feels all too real and organic. This is some celestial stuff--dance music for Sun Ra's Egyptians. It just goes to prove that no matter how far we come musically, the basics always work wonders and rhythm and chant can still hold the power that they have since the beginning. With every whisp that accompanies a change in the loops, we're taken deeper into the forest and into our skulls. It might be scary (peyote quesadillas will do that) but at least there's a fire and plenty of drums. And coconuts, of course.


Smooth Tapes said...

rad reviews dude

Henry Smith said...

thanks man, glad you're enjoying it! i'd love to be able to access your blog if you'll let me in.