“House isn’t so much a sound as a situation,” whispers DJ Sprinkles before lunging into a dizzied and drunken sprawl of epistemological house tracks, laying out the “sound” and “situation” of house as a generic form — its very ontology. DJ Sprinkles here is my guide, the keeper of all knowledge of house music. Therefore, any mention of house music thereafter must refer to him and his endless knowledge and experience. Interplanetary Prophets, then, will be called a clone, a mimetic, cybernetic retelling of the story that DJ Sprinkles told in Midtown 120 Blues. Zero Hour only has few words, a single theme — time — whereas Midtown 120 Blues was an epithet, the absolute guide and authority of house, preaching its ubiquitous gospel and creating a grand narrative. Zero Hour acts within this narrative, but never directly refers to or abides by it. This is house music now.
Ital, real name Daniel Martin-McCormick, has made it his business, in an internet archaeology kind of way, to burrow into the known depths of house music, exploring how soul is expressed through rhythm. With tracks like “Doesn’t Matter (If You Love Him),” Daniel managed to collage various generic forms into a smeared and digitized version of soul, sampling both Lady Gaga (a transgressive analogue to DJ Sprinkle’s lamentation of Madonna’s popularity in New York clubs [she’s merely a parody of the essence of house]) and Whitney Houston — though employing her only briefly, squeezing out her most high and celebrated musical moment. Martin-McCormick’s brand of house is strictly about the surface intentions colliding in such a way that it is “all of house music” at once, immediately signifying every experience and influence both prior to and after it. Out of New Age meditative synths and Italo disco rhythms being crammed together with samples of crying women and Steve Harvey lectures emerges a soul fully aware of its history, reflecting but never intensely nostalgic.
On the other hand, Jamal Moss, a.k.a. Hieroglyphic Being, is avant-garde, dealing only with the infra. He is concerned with time, the immediacy of the beats and rhythms, the monastic origin of the soul that we assume is in house music. With house music as an anchor, a point of trajectory — due its steady, soulfully enforced, and inflected downbeats — Hieroglyphic Being is able to deconstruct and manipulate the rhythmic patterns (the soul incarnate) in time, their infinite permutability; which is in contrast to Ital, who sanitizes and then brutalizes the soul circa DC Punk ethos: one calculates it, the other bursts it open.
Under this conception of the artists, Interplanetary Prophets start to resemble a machine, inputting and outputting. Collaboration here is intensely personal, revealing, and binary: artist 1 must both be on the same page as and have a compatible expressive palette with artist 2, together creating something that is both of and beyond them. One could refer to aleatoric music — music that is defined and built by chance — with both seeing house music as a basic model for expressive routing, a vehicle for their other impeding influences. The combination creates a wholly out-of-time, delirious sonic product. The entire A-side is filled in with angular, overdriven melodic lines scraping against the fluctuating, back-and-forth, beat. This plays out like a more giddy and trigger-happy Container track with blissed-out punk-techno numbers.
The EP slips along at a pace that is simultaneously solid and liquid, drudging but smoothly so, like working one’s way through Jell-O. All of the structural developments are formal unravelings of that established structure; chords swerve out of place, while new, somewhat incongruous rhythms and beats are introduced, interwoven, and then removed, showing off how much space and flexibility each track has. The music is not bound to any context but its own. Geonic structures as a point of reference, surfing cluster chords filtered through cylindrical retrofuturist prisms. The song’s narratives in this way become even more convoluted than, say, Stellar OM Source’s recent attempts at “permutative expression.” Tracks like “Zero Hour” anchor onto a jacking house tempo as a means of creating perfect rotations of destroyed acid house textures and developments: a divorce of context to create a whole form.
Although nothing entirely new has been done here, Zero Hour is nonetheless a genuinely fascinating development. To reiterate DJ Sprinkle’s quote above, Zero Hour as a collaborative work is house music’s future (just as it is techno music’s past): the sound and situation being a dystopian sensuous trip, the converging of destroyed context and significant forms.