As the digital ragbag of chopped-and-screwed mixtapes continues to swell, it’s becoming apparent that shifts in creative trends happen more abruptly with curation than with mixing technique. Source material has always been key, but as the number of recognized internet musicians is destined to increase, methods used to rework long-form samples aren’t developing as quickly as the desire to experiment with running themes. LAMPGOD and **Ł_RD//$M$ are hardly looking to fill stadiums or smash the charts with their lascivious and dreamy cuts, but on **$$EXT8PE, they have created one of the most undoubtedly standout mixes doing the rounds right now, and the project’s success is largely indebted to the diversity of their sample bank as opposed to the manner in which the artists dice their tunes.
Released alongside a messy VHS porn collage trailer, the tape compiles 33 tracks of displaced exotica (“**$$eX$$WING??”), burned-out soul loops (“**CA$$TINGCOUCH??”), and Sims 3D-esque soundtrack files (“**NUBED$$HEET$$??”), packaged in a pastiche roll call of bargain basement XXX search results. The track names have seemingly nothing to do with the music, but they do serve as a disconnect between the original recording artists’ intent and the handling of an outrageous juxtaposition: the concluding scrunched-up 404 beat bundle “**VIRGINBUKKAKE??(FIN))***” is so called for reasons that go little beyond tepid provocation, but that doesn’t get in the way of how impressive the mix sounds. **$$EXT8PE launches with a low quality YouTube rip, resonating as deeply as some pining public access talent show entry. The singer croons, badly and with awkward gusto, about a young lady he’s entranced with, vocalizing admiration through a worn and hopeless melody. Like their introductory performer, LAMPGOD and **Ł_RD//$M$ tackle their distinctive approach head on, regardless of how broken and hacked apart the final product might sound.
The accompanying visual component fits nicely alongside those track titles, but it also complements techniques for treatment. Each movie scene is gritty, blurred, and cavalier, hinting at an erotic core, but screwing instead with the mundane farcical whims of internet porn. The subject matter disappears beneath rough jump cuts and popping static; it’s a fanciful mashup that wouldn’t normally be associated with a music trailer (a man eating take-out and watching a quad job), but it distinctly reflects the manner in which the samples are treated. With simple fades and heavy loop manipulations, each chunk of sound comes across as being scavenged from the digital scrap heap. They are thrown together in a way that allows the tapes’ principal guiding aesthetic to soar. There is no real care taken in handling these samples, and they sound all the better for their abundant neglect.
**$$EXT8PE isn’t the first record we’ve heard this year that’s bent on sampling exotica and stock music. On his brilliant Cover Versions, Andrew Pekler explored the genre’s anonymous nature, pulling apart ideas of pseudo-adventurism that exist within selected pieces and tweaking them to forge his own soundworld. LAMPGOD and **Ł_RD//$M$ turn that idea on its head and apply techniques embellished by the delightful Warm Thighs/Susan Balmar SLF collective, not to mention ahnnu and Heat Wave. The major difference here is that **$$EXT8PE meets these two styles half way, deciding not to mangle each number to the point that it’s unrecognizable or to alter its state in the serene fashion that Pekler did. Throughout “**CREAMPIE??:),” for instance, a 15-second fragment of “I Can’t Get Over You” by The Dramatics is looped to create a disorientating interlude while the essential components remain entirely intact. On “**EXPLORINGEACHOTHER??” and “**NUBED$$HEET$$??,” the sampled material is left almost completely untouched; the sheer fact that it makes an appearance is enough to strengthen the tape’s bizarre aesthetic premise. The presentation of these recordings is so obscure that listening becomes addictive; the tracklist is wholly unpredictable, but also technically inspiring, especially on a song like “**CA$$TINGCOUCH??,” which is remarkable in its tender abuse of “Inseparable” by Natalie Cole.
**$$EXT8PE is rife with snappy interjections and unlikely snippets, and that’s what allows for such a captivating listen. This is particularly interesting when fragments crop up that are difficult to place but are instantly recognizable; “BABYSITTER” loops Bobby Womack’s “You’re Welcome, Stop On By” into oblivion, and Tim Maia’s “Azul Da Cor Do Mar” is extensively ravaged on both “**A$$IANMA$$TERBATION??” and “**ATM??.” It’s fascinating because the samples are unexpected, and when they do complement the style of bracketing tracks, that’s when the technique comes into its own. Sure, the methods utilized here borrow from projects past, but on their inaugural collaboration, LAMPGOD and **Ł_RD//$M$ have adopted the finest possible strategy for stamping their mark in an arena that is already packed to the rafters. I guess nobody told them they didn’t need a young girl masturbating with her sunglasses to grant them the upper hand.