Well, well, well... oh, well... few days ago while writing a piece about Barry Adamson - Amanda Earl reminded me of one of the most fascinating artists out there - John Oswald. It's a challenge to write about him since there are so many things to mention - it is easy to get lost. But i'm not an ordinary person. So - Get ready for a ride!
John Oswald is one of those composers who pushes boundaries with such ease that it looks like a joke. But it isn't. In fact his sonic experiments are amongst the most daring in the century of daring experiments. And that is saying something. From the very start he was dead-set on making something that was not only fresh and exciting but also been capable of exploring and analyzing the depths of our culture. And it all came together in the form of Plunderphonics - recorded music chopped and screwed and recontextualized to make new. entirely different kind of music. The one which is impossible to make otherwise. The one that takes a precious fluids out of all sorts of sounds, mixes them together and makes it's own brew. Not just another variation on petrified structures as modern EDM, R'n'B and Hip-Hop usually does.
That's what makes the concept of "plunderphonics" so fascinating. It makes the point that recorded music is not the same thing as "regular music" thus regular rules of composition and harmony don't apply. As Brion Gysin said "everything is permitted - nothing is true" (it is out of context but fits anyway).
It all depends on a particular piece. Once you get Led Zeppelin groove and evangelist ravings in a loving embrace. Another time you make Dolly Parton's voice to morph through all the sonic spectrum, sound like a man, sing duet with herself and slowly amuse null and void besides. Or make Jim Morrison really deliver "Hello, I Love You" in a sort of Butthole Surfers "chaos reigns" mishmash bish-bosh manner. And then you get your hands on Stone Cold Crazy by Metallica and Queen and make it really Stone Cold Crazy. Or make an ultimate jamming trip out of Grateful Dead's Dark Star.,,
Of all this goodness - "Plexure" stands apart. It is not just a neat combo with a twist and some cunning stunts. It is ear-to-ear razoblade smile with colombian necktie and blood eagle. It is more. It is immense. It is beyond comprehension. It is also better than the real thing - if you know what i mean. It is an ultimate Plunderphonics. Oswald's definitive work. Amped up to the eleven...
In short - it's a rapid fire patchwork mash-up kaleidoscope, confetti explosion and underwater fireworks of several thousands of various pop songs. A little bit of this and a little of that ten thousand times in a row with no particular order. "Plexure" is an attempt to document a point of time it was made but in way that made it essentially timeless. Basically this is how music sounds like if you overexpose and overconsume it. That's how the music sounds in a seasoned DJ's head.
Cloud-like utterly vague sonic entity moves into your attention span. You definitely recognize it, at least generally - but you can't define it. But you feel it is familiar. But it slips away and slips away and slip away - constantly changing, never taking any particular shape. .
That's what Plexure is in its core. It is impossible to describe it in any comprehensive way. But you can dance around it.
On the other hand - it's a critique of the entire concept of pop music and its thorough and eminent overexposure. It's all too much. That's why the majority of pop music is interested in sounding as the only thing in the universe that matters while refusing to accept the fact that in reality it is mostly a one-off bubble gum and that it actually matters pus. Another preemptive final word on the subject until the next comes around. Together they all make a big grey blob-globster nothing-really whatsoever. That is what "Plexure" represents. But it also defamiliarizes it.
Sheer amount of used materials and intensity makes it almost impossible to listen the "usual way". You can't really hear if you're trying to listen to it. It's a disorientating blur, devoid of any traditional dynamics. Big black magnifying blot. It is everything that is more like nothing in particular.You need to learn to listen to it on your terms. You need to stop worrying about getting it all at once and relax and then gradually go with the flow. You will get your singular experience. Let yourself phase in and out of it - spot various curiousities - little moments that only you can spot and that can mean whatever you want.
Some pieces you can recognize. Some don't. But everytime you do - it goes something like this "oh! I know! Yeah! Oh, well... eh... what? Hey! cool! Huzzah! Wait a minute?! What? ...um... Why? oh! great! holy wookie shampoo! saint jumping george! for ragged joseph sake!". then flatline and beep beep beep.
And if you find certain elements of it confusing - just listen to it again and again until your mind will work out its own solution. With all that being said - I think "Plexure" is at its most effective when the listener is entirely unfamiliar with the source materials. This was it is truly different, alien experience.
"Plexure" is designed to tear apart a delicate fabric of your perception. Listening to it is a blast. You can't help but get bedazzled and quite frisky by the ways Oswald manipulates sounds, the methods he uses and the compositions he ends up making.
It's good to have it at hands reach. In moments of doubt or boredom - it's a mighty cure.