Eric Copeland Waco Taco Combo

[Escho; 2011]

Styles: DJ mix, noise, daisy-age hip-hop, post-grunge, elemental, somnolent, enervating
Others: DJ Shadow, Native Tongues Posse, Mix Master Mike, Steve Reich

I don’t mind reducing and identifying it. Take this and take that, alien fuselage: this is Copeland’s sci-fi hip-hop record — a disintegrating beat-music that demands we address it in character as… a single robot. Both my “cold” listen and my focused returns imposed this figure on me, inescapably. Copeland isn’t able to do this with Avey Tare in Terrestrial Tones, or in Black Dice, but he can do it here. As he puts it, “I want people to enter into what I’m doing; I’m not trying to self-sabotage.” Instead of plumbing his own depths, he invents a character to destroy. Take my word for it. At risk of tedium, shall we follow this creature for a while? Who does the self-proclaimed maker of “visceral” music manifest? Come in.

On the title track of his last full-length, Copeland’s surrogate sample-based voice pleaded with us by way of politely minimalist phasing to “just don’t do it,” and his dollar-bin-detritus aesthetic has always promised no second comings, yet we do it again: we listen.

Reader discretion is advised: I might take flying leaps. Like Copeland, I might masquerade as a dump truck, everywhere ejecting unfiltered detritus. This is a music of baggage and excess, with sounds approximating physical weight, both hefty and liberating: “genre-defying” as a previous Tiny Mix Tapes review put it. Live, even as Black Dice’s gear fails them, they collapse mind-body dualism like no other, putting me in touch with what, I suppose, I should be in touch with: mind, body, whatever. This is music that demands imaginative taxonomy, and then shreds it, a matter of “meet[ing] za monster tonight” as Beefheart puts it, and then killing him. There is something abyssal about these tunes, but boy do they hip and hop, and even in a sensory deprivation tank or under zero-gravity conditions they retain remarkable physicality. That’s saying something about your substance when it can both be and not be.

This is flatulence and post-flatulence, a purging and cluttering in the bowels of the beast. Beck’s “Loser” and Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” decide to rain barf. Often that gassy rumbling turntable effect we’ve heard in Beastie Boys tracks from Check Your Head onward pops up unrepentantly to numb our collective colon into submission. Instead, the hip-hop here is too slow and tempo-shifting to be serious and too obnoxious (and noxious) to be funny, too buoyant to be fully plugged-up, and just jammed enough to have good jam. Did the RZA ever make as proper a doody, with as much friction and frisson? After some De La Soul “breakfast-is-on-the-table-but-so-are-the-broken-dishes” grooves, of the major-chord piano variety, plus intermittent clatter, “Land of Foot” ends with a clipped snippet of applause, asking us to consider to what or whom we are thankful, and providing an open invitation to thank at our own clip. It could be for our own biological processes. The following track, “Beatlemania,” sustains the applause, giving it momentary duration, continuity, and reality, finding its own inner strength to thank itself. It is the Miltonic invocation of the muse updated for the apocalyptic electronic age. Then, the robot cometh, romping and stomping on them claps, beyond biology, but fussing within its strictures. Even though we can’t recognize each other, our bodies, or our sounds, let’s play a game of mutual recognition as best we can.

Copeland’s always had a good sense of humor, as self-aware and musical as the “drum lessons” of DJ Shadow or a Steinski collage. “Let your internal organs dance in time, fool!” — commanded The Robot, after the fashion of the Black Dice dictate. He’s also written a soundtrack to a new Mechwarriors game. He’s been listening to all kinds of music. Copeland shared street sounds with him in Copenhagen after a delicious Smörgåsbord, which neither could actually taste, and might, in its valiant attempt at internationalism, have included the tacos that caused all that retching. “Find then destroy the beat, Robot.” Later, their airplane could neither take off nor land, which left the pair coming and going, and the accursed phase-effects won’t do it justice. Whip-crack percussion is there to get the fools back in line. On “Wao Taor Condos,” his laser-gun is fully powered up. Okay: so, Beatlemania, martial law, mass panic, genocide, crowd control, thought control — you’re bound to take over if you incorporate these strategies, Robot.

Now, that we’re dancing, let’s make a night of it, whether or not I’m appreciative of the Robot Revolution — pop a little come-hither Latin percussion into my blender on “Krankendudel.” The Beatles are back in Hamburg, and Mix Master Mike’s getting his self-inflicted seizure under control (especially at around the calamitous 2:40 mark of this gem). Vintage grooves can be EQ’d to hell for your amusement, or matched with more dialectical resolve than Girl Talk.

Memories of a defenseless Robocop being shot pop up throughout “Warbug.” This beats that Detroit class-act’s approximation on Kanye’s “singing” record. Future war is a funky future. The Robot’s birth-death cycles are sight-sounds to be-hear. Copeland knows synesthesia isn’t a consumer good, but that it’s fun while it lasts. This Robot self-identifies, communes, seduces — but, “how can a machine love?” Sometimes, he has to snarl, or self-destruct, exposing his rusty springs. He channels his inner dance-hall toaster to address the nation, leaving it to us to interpret his demands, by way of Sputnik-era feeds from around the world, over mutant disco at the start of album closer “Spangled,” as sprawling a symphony of the state as anything Ken Jacobs ever produced. Plus, it’ll make your Winamp visualizer go apes. It may sound like the droning riffs of a guitar, but Copeland and his mechanical compatriot have cultivated a healthy distrust in my ability to ID sound. It also sounds like hamster dances. The hell with continuity. To me, the album seems to end with the sound of a creaky rocking chair, plus Chipmunk hellions. Though you might peg him as attention-deficit, I believe Copeland has patience, waiting there on that porch, as innocent and impish as Alvin C. or the whittling elderly. Though I can’t be sure what he’s waiting for, he sure is committed to this. I would compare it to his oeuvre if he had one. I’ll listen when I crave anxiety or peace, and when I’m convinced they’re the same thing, a scarce but valuable thought.

Links: Escho

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