[Raund Haus; Oct. 23]
Just before MP3s and file-sharing became ubiquitous, the 1990s marked a heyday for a certain strain of vinyl-sampling turntablist. Armed with Akai MPC samplers and enviable record collections, artists like DJ Shadow and The Avalanches assembled entire albums from samples alone—bricolages of forgotten LPs, dusty drum breaks, and disembodied spoken-word.
Twenty years later, it’s no surprise that The Avalanches—whose 2000 album, Since I Left You, is considered a high-water mark of sample-based music—has experienced something of a second life. As so much of our world goes digital, there’s a renewed craving for the analog experience these artists represent.
Said Deep is the project of Durham’s Hank Stockard, an avid vinyl collector who grew up listening to those early icons of sampling. Duck in Idaho, his first release on the Raund Haus label, is his love letter to the form, produced almost exclusively with records Stockard acquired from thrift store bargain bins and record shops across the Southeast.
But even if its aim is inherently nostalgic, Duck in Idaho doesn’t fall into rote imitation. What makes sampling so exciting as an art form, after all, is that the permutations are quite literally endless; as long as there are sounds, there will always be new and interesting ways to manipulate them.
Of course, it takes a good DJ to actually do this well, and like its forebears, Duck in Idaho is at its best when it takes two or more seemingly disparate ideas and, against all odds, makes them work together. “Flay Your Flesh,” for example, pairs a prayer-like vocal mantra with horror-movie strings and a stabbing bass line to produce one of the most dance floor-ready tracks on the album.“My Damn Self” builds its pulse around the ha-ha-has of Laurie Anderson’s experimental hit “O Superman.”
And on the otherwise laid-back “She Was a Visitor,” a twittering flute sample is interjected with an insistent blare that sounds kind of like an air-raid siren. The album highlights these unexpected affinities, yet never rests on an idea for too long.
A few tracks, like “Pushing Dope in L.A.,” could easily translate to the club; but there’s a late-night wooziness to the productions that, combined with the satisfying crackle of dust on vinyl, makes this record seem particularly fit for headphones.
If Since I Left You was a raucous celebration of sampling’s potential, then Duck in Idaho is the sound of the after-party winding down, moving from room to room as snatches of conversation float in and out of earshot. It may be an ode to former classics, but Duck in Idaho carves out a niche of its own.
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