Elysia Crampton Spots y Escupitajo

[The Vinyl Factory; 2017]

Styles: severo, sample pack
Others: uhhhhhhhhhhhh

“To move forward is to also return.”
– Elysia Crampton

Spots

1. Spots y Escupitajo is Elysia Crampton’s third LP.

2. Seven “Spots” of only a few seconds lead side A, with one more at the beginning of side B. The opening flurry feels something like keying down a list of samples in a DAW toolbar.

3. The album is described as the hybrid inheritance of “American club culture” and “sonic miniature compositions” — anyone familiar with Crampton’s work will anticipate that very little is actually “inherited” of her perspective on either of those.

4. Some of the record’s few referential touchstones are among the “usual suspects” for Crampton, and others aren’t. The dizzying and dynamic “Spots” sound like isolated examples of the DJ tags she ordinarily peppers her tracks with, presented with the split sense of having meant to be creatively repurposed by the listener and of still pointing back to Crampton and her unmistakeable take on the radio and “mega DJ” sound of Central and South America.

5. Especially compared with the maximalist, syncretistic aesthetic of her previous work, even the Escupitajo is a little “Spot”-like in its devoted palettes. “Battle & Screams” is a bitrate-muddied pool of war sounds;

6. “Spittle (Safeway Parking Lot),” a singular development in an already-singular oeuvre, carries you for nine and a half minutes with the lone backbone of a sampled piano, meandering, hammering, sometimes playing in reverse.

7. Officially referred to varyingly as an “album,” “art project,” and “sample pack,” Spots y Escupitajo is vulnerable to the confused accusation of being nothing at all.

8. But it isn’t; it’s a vinyl record that plays like a disordered list of files.

Escupitajo

Elysia Crampton has continually exploited and undermined the feeling of discomfort accompanying the idea of an artist’s identity from the critic’s point of view. It has been generally considered a bad idea for a critic to get to know artists as people, as if the special talent of the critic consists in a kind of separating discourse that wedges itself between art and artist. Using music both to signal and to feign identification, Crampton mixes text narrative with popular forms and icons in an ongoing and complicated act of situating her own place on the lines between conventional markers of identity within the context of more universal ideas of indigineity and migration, constructed nebulously and differently through the course of her works. She scans the Americas with a discriminating eye for interesting sonic and topological features, blending what she finds into powerful statements on belonging without ever fully betraying her own coordinates. Often misidentified by music writers as Latinx, Crampton is in fact a Native American whose sensibilities, forged in the Andes and Southern California, have much to do with Spanish dance and rap music.

In an interview about this record, she remarks on the process of re-identification ongoing in “communities that used to define themselves in terms of Spanish domination” and the definition of the Native American along the lines of a contemporary presence rather than a past presumed “vanished.” Although critics have mostly been at a loss for words outside of them, the links she forges between music and identity are not clear in the frameworks of identification readymade for our language of critical reflection. A new form and understanding of identity, rather, shape themselves in the dancing reflection of Crampton’s multidirectional gestures.

Spots y Escupitajo marks her most significant stylistic change since shedding the E+E moniker in 2015, as then deconstructing and recombining elements of what came before, like in zig-zagging continuity. Spots zags most in its abandonment of the epic, collage-like structure of pieces like American Drift and Dissolution of the Sovereign: A Time Slide Into the Future; where each of those tells a single, if multi-faceted and illuminating, story, Spots has the brilliant potential to create a lot of different stories. Its biggest risk and longest period of concentration, “Spittle (Safeway Parking Lot),” is probably its biggest reward. For me, the more distinctively hers of Elysia Crampton’s sonic trademarks than “THE DARKEST HOUR”, “DJ Ocelote,” etc. has always been her persistent, controlled, and still wandering manner of playing the keys, pretty much laid bare on that track, which has more in common with 20th-century American modernist and minimalist composition than Bolivian radio. Here, Crampton has managed to both arrange all of her old tools in a new way and challenge an already imaginative audience.

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