Dabrye: Additional Productions Vol. 1
James T. Cotton: The Dancing Box
2 AM/FM: Pt. 1
The term 'brilliant' is sometimes thrown about casually when discussing a particular artist, but if there's one who merits the appellation, it must be Tadd Mullinix. He's been issuing advanced material of stunning imagination and originality for years now (in fact, 2001's Winking Makes a Face was Ghostly International's first full-length release), a feat rendered even more impressive by the effortlessness with which he appears to do so, whether it be the psychotropic hip-hop of Dabrye or the acid physics of James T. Cotton. The release of two EPs—Additional Productions Vol. 1 and Pt. 1 by 2 AM/FM, a collaboration with D'Marc Cantu—affords a prime opportunity to sample his latest work and cast a look back at two amazing full-lengths, 2002's One/Three and 2004's The Dancing Box.
At thirty-five minutes, Dabrye's One/Three debut may be short by CD standards but the detail fades once its ten cuts work their seductive magic. The collection's seeming minimalism and sketchy character belies its wealth of ideas, like the incredible array Mullinix concocts in “The Lish.” He opens it with a weird, hollowed-out scraping noise that resembles a distressed talk-box, then underlays it with buzzsaw bass lines before see-sawing a feathery sax line over clipped beats; on the one hand, the piece appears nonchalantly assembled yet also sounds like nothing you've heard before. Similarly, he does incredible stuff with only beats and voices in “Smoking the Edge,” warping the voice to suggest some mutant progeny of a frog and Jew's Harp. Among the signature characteristics of his style, Dabrye often anchors material with the crisp snap of a regulated snare pulse, freeing the kickdrum and bass to funkily swing. Groove as well to the lulling, dub-wise “I'm Missing You,” and the jazzy dimension vibes bring to the bass-bleep of “Truffle No Shuffle.” Interestingly, the collection is surprisingly restrained in tone, especially when heard alongside The Dancing Box.
The James T. Cotton sound is thunderous, a dizzying maelstrom of jacking beats, Detroit techno, and acid pulses that grows ever more hallucinatory as layers and loops accumulate. The hour-long album is a magnificent, maniacal ride from start to finish. In the opening cut, a sensuous female voice endlessly breathes the orgasmic mantra “Press Your Body” over vertiginous swirls before a surging bass pulse rumbles like an awakening giant. As they unspool, pieces like “Press Your Body,” “Blood Red,” and “H.D.F.K.” grow ever more delirious—an effect pushed to its zenith with the disorienting edits of “We Still Expect Freedom.” Witness the incredible psychedelic storm raging throughout the nine-minute “Buck!” and the blistered acid squelch stomping through “Saavy” and “The Dancing Box.” It's not the sounds themselves that distinguish the album—familiar acid signifiers like handclaps, rubbery synths, and ringing hi-hat patterns are all present—but instead the hypnotic labyrinths into which they're built that makes The Dancing Box so mesmerizing.
Which brings us to 2005 and 2 AM/FM, a new collaborative venture with D'Marc Cantu. Though it's designed to extend the acid house style of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the duo's sound doesn't depart dramatically from The Dancing Box—though that's hardly cause for complaint. Each of Pt. 1's five tracks offers variations on a shared stylistic theme. “Silencer” races at a breathless gallop through a whirlpool of gobbling synths and staccato claps while voice snippets babble over bumping pulses in “CTB.” Strafed by a ricocheting voice fragment, “Deadly Dawn” brings the disc to a roaring close with a grinding pulse of colossal proportions. 2 AM/FM's sound (like Cotton's) references the past but projects it into the future with multifarious detail and intricate layering.
Given its stylistic sprawl, it hardly surprises that Additional Productions Vol. 1 has a rather odds'n'sods feel, with Dabrye lending his Midas touch to pieces by Bus, T.Raumschmiere, and Trans Am alongside a few bits of his own. Even so, there's more than enough brilliance on display to slake one's thirst for Two/Three—the opening cut “Nite Eats Day (Money Mix),” for instance, where MC Beans, egged on by a flute-playing pied piper and chirrupy chorus chant, throws down over a splattering snare. Like a strung-out junkie obsessively picking a scab, Dabrye's burbling bass stutter arrests the smooth flow of Bus's “Keep Life Right” while Ill Suono's “Angel Beat” is re-imagined as an hypnotic field of feathery voices and bell ostinati. Some of the material is only tangentially Dabrye-like (Nomo's “Not Wisely”/“Too Well” sounds like Ammoncontact imitating Herbie Hancock's Headhunters), though that hardly matters when a crunk-hop makeover of T.Raumschmiere's “Monstertruckdriver” drops.Though clearly different from Mullinix's earlier material, Pt. 1 and Additional Productions Vol. 1 show no diminishment in the sonic alchemist's talent and merely deepen one's lust for the material to come. No doubt the man's name will be shouted from the rooftops when Two/Three appears next year.