Eric Copeland Jesus Freak [EP]

[L.I.E.S.; 2015]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: techno, noise, industrial, “hypnagogic pop”
Others: Black Dice, Beat Detectives, Bookworms, Dan Deacon

On my first listen to Eric Copeland’s Jesus Freak, I think the turntable is broken. The record starts with a schiz of broken beat, a footrace through jarring samples that could easily mark a needle bouncing out of groove, a receiver wrongly-EQ’d, a mid-range rattle easily pummeling my cheap speakers to a pulpy mess, mangled and dripping in a muck of filtered Agbekor rhythms and thick 303 bass. The new EP from Black Dice member and sound auteur Eric Copleland is a dense collage of how dance music travels, a spectral sieve through aural traditions peppered with thick polyrhythms and iconic synth sounds, defining dance music throughout the ages.

The release follows Copeland’s work with DFA Records and Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks, which found the musician pulling scattered sounds through spectral loops and slowed-down, stereophonic delays. In 2014, Copeland put out the remarkable Logo My Ego on L.I.E.S., a record whose haunting loops and eternal effects felt perfect for the label’s notorious blend of in-your-face amateurism and rough New York noise. Tracks like “Trophy Nuts” and “Workin” delved into coarse, cartoony chaos, with drugged-out tape samples and 808 boom bap that built into something dope — something reminiscent of Beat Detectives’ incredible ASSCOP tape that year — while other tracks like “Uncle Sam’s Blues” and “Beat Box” layered thick effects over playful micro funk.

For his second release on L.I.E.S., Copeland again returns to the samplers, coating thick polyrhythms with low-end acid 303s and tight, textural effects. The record props up the gruff backbeat of “Elephant” with the industrial kick of “Multiball,” grasping at endless dance traditions with every sound. The whizzing synths and one-shot hits of “Reheated” swell into the skittering post-quantization of “Jamaican Neighbors,” as the record evolves into a dizzying pastiche of globalized, ahistorical rhythm. “Elephant” becomes a chaotic breakbeat cacophony, blurring sampled drums and rhythmic chants with looped basslines at garish speeds unmatched elsewhere on the record. “Jamaican Neighbors” offers low-end chaos, riddled with thick delays and bubbly phasers as it slows to a rolling Raheem powerwalk.

Maybe L.I.E.S. is starting to rub off on Copeland — the thick texture of “Reheated” reminds me of Bookworms’ “African Rhythms” from the label, and “Multiball” would probably fit nicely next to Svengalistghost’s “Marathon,” a B-side from his Mind Control 12-inch from 2012. In contrast, “Billy Goat” becomes something loaded and new, blanketing phased drums in noisy cartoon tinsel like some later Afrika Bambaataa or Juan Atkins tracks — broken beats of an era stretched far past coherent recognition.

Jesus Freak is rife with wide-eyed exploration, pilling samples into endless effect chains, processed past all logic and dripping with campy luster. The record splits atom after atom atop screwed chaos and bombastic bass, tapping into a lost history with every drum machine hit, every sampled era, every effect chain, all pulled into a carefully-curated sonic history, every ounce fresh, bold, and exciting. With each hit riddled with an inescapable narrative, Copeland becomes a master curator, certainly indebted to dance music history while still astoundingly able to leverage sounds from every era into noisy, campy euphoria.

Links: L.I.E.S.

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