Music Reviews

Artist: Jess Rowland (@)
Title: Spambots
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Rated: *****
Jess Rowland is an experimental electronic musician/composer from San Francisco. Here on this recording she is joined by drummer Pete Stalsky. 'Spambots' is not Jess's first walk in the park though as she has a number of releases preceding this one. Let me quote from the accompanying one-sheet "The Spambots have been tagged and released into the sonic ruins of consumer bliss point singularity... With! Many text-to-speech Spambots, Corporate Mascots, Smooth Jazz Damage, Data Mines, Foundation Pits, Melodies without notes . . . . and then the spambots attack." That might give you a better idea of what you're in for...sort of.

Opening track makes copious use of 'Mittens' Romney's infamous "corporations are people, my friend" soundbyte juxtaposed with the bizarre Chinglish "Exterminate Capitalism Lobster Package" phrase rendered by a female voice, both diced, sliced, slipping into an off kilter semi-melodic rhythm, and mixed with a cacophony of babbling voices towards the end. "Whose Pockets" features alternating two-tone bass, chewy electronic noise, weirdly melodic random sample & hold and another cacophony of babbling voices towards the end. Transmuting pop culture soundbytes into incoherent babble offset with quirky rhythms seems to be Jess's modus operandi here evidenced to the max on the title track, "Spambots". Hmmm...a new musical form out of media garbage? Maybe.

On "Plastiglomerate" Jess gets down to some serious electronic composition. Bass tones take the melodic lead in whalish sort of way while other echoed sonic effluvia bounces around it. Kinda psychedelic. "Invisibility" is an eerie, minimalistic piece with bass again taking the lead against a slow, repetitive sine wave tonal phrase. Minimal drums just sort of marking time from middle to end. Nice! "Hot Dog Acid" repeats the sampled phrase "I first dropped acid..." amidst a choppy, chaotic free jazz improv. We hear more of that acid story as the piece goes on. Part2 of "Hot Dog Acid" samples a loungey instrumental version of "Satin Doll" which morphs into an aural LSD trip as the acid hot dog story continues. "Satin Doll" makes a cameo reprise on the outro.

This kind of musical mayhem - cut, paste, staple, fold, mutilate, speed-up, slow-down, repeat, add weird electronics, abstract percussion, etc., carries on for the rest of the album, but you get the drift. It would be an interesting experiment (and I'm not advocating you should personally try this) to play this CD at a party where the guests are all imbibing hallucinogenic substances and see what reaction you might get. But perhaps 'Spambots' is hallucinogenic enough on its own, no drugs required. Interesting in small doses, unpredictable when swallowed whole.

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