MR|Review – Girl Talk, “All Day”

You’ll find your own moment in All Day, when a favorite or long-forgotten pop hook comes at you sideways from the flurry of samples, and you smile like an idiot. That’s what Girl Talk is about, and it’s a beautiful trick.

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Owww! My ears!

Mine came toward the end of “This Is The Remix,” when the chords hits from INXS’ “Need You Tonight” took over a beat that had been built out of “Cecilia” and Kid ‘n Play.  It was a little moment of pure joy.

The pickle is, now that I’ve had it, it’s had.  The juxtaposition won’t work for me again, since I can anticipate it; I’ve internalized whatever it has to offer in that mode, and can’t discover it again.  The power – a beautiful, fun power, for sure, and the product of amazing curatorial and technical craft – is gone.

(Bit of background – Greg Gillis is a DJ who goes by Girl Talk, and makes sample-crazy remix/mash-up music, mostly rap vocals over non-rap beats, switching songs in and out of the mix every 10-20 seconds.)

Since the effectiveness of All Day diminishes quickly with repeat listens, it may be best to think of it as an ad for Girl Talk’s live show.  Having heard the record, I’d happily make the trip to recordBar to hear Greg throw down for a couple hours.  But even more than that, All Day is an argument for a hypothetical Girl Talk app.  Isn’t that the end game of this aesthetic?

Imagine; a database of drum beats, bass lines/chords, rap verses, vocal and instrumental hooks, breaks, etc., and an algorithm that shuffles them all together into and endlessly mutating stream of pop music, creating new opportunities for juxtaposition and joyful surprise every time we listen.

Then, make it tweakable; set your own preferences for beats per minute, “ADD” level (how long samples play on average before being switched out), even allow users to upload and tag their own samples, effectively crowdsourcing Girl Talk.  How fun would that be?!

Even if All Day has have a larger point about our cut & paste culture, or perhaps even can be interpreted to comment on spiritual ideas like Buddhist impermanence, wouldn’t the hypothetical app just reinforce that as well?

In rating All Day, I fell back on my own criteria; if you’re interested in music in 2010, you should check out Girl Talk and enjoy what Greg is doing, or better yet, go see him DJ live.  But along with that, this album has zero stars in my iTunes.  My preference is for work that has the potential to sustain repeated, in-depth attention with new insight and meaning.  While you could spend hours studying the taxonomy of All Day‘s samples (or just go to the wikipedia page), I don’t find much here after the bursts of pleasure at hearing things like 2Pac over Sabbath, or Katy Perry and Snoop over “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” have passed.

MR|Review directs readers’ limited attention among works via ratings, and within works via prose, focusing on works where our opinion diverges from critical or popular consensus, or we have significant insight that compliments or challenges readers’ aesthetic experience.

Re-purpose the Pain

Re-reading Heaven’s Reach this week for the first time since late high school or early college, I ran across a character development that had such a huge impact on my own growth that I’d nearly forgotten its origin.

! Massive spoiler alert !

Emerson D’Anite’s brain has been purposefully damaged – basically, his left temporal lobe removed – for reasons he cannot remember, robbing him of speech.  For a while, he cannot communicate at all.  Slowly, he re-learns how to grunt, gesture, and eventually discovers that he can express himself musically, appropriating snatches of half-remembered song lyrics to communicate with the people around him.  When he tries to remember what his life was like before his injury, the events that led to his maiming, who did it to him, or why, he suffers awful pain.

That is, until he realizes that the pain was put into his brain by the same beings who injured him, specifically to discourage him from thinking about those memories and questions.  This insight fills Emerson with a healthy spitefulness and he learns to dive straight into the pain, taking it as a sign that he is on the right track and thereby turning it against the beings who inflicted it!  Bit by bit, he wrenches some of his memories and speaking ability back as the pain – which isn’t diminished in and of itself – is tempered with satisfaction and excitement and, yes, a constructive kind of revenge.

I have taken this lesson and incorporated it into my own self and my thinking habits.  When I notice psychological pain, whether through reflection or someone bringing it to my attention, I try to counter the instinct to avoid it by going straight into it, thinking about it, writing or talking about it, making sure I don’t forget it.  There’s still the problem of noticing the pain/avoidance response in the first place, but with lots of practice I may even be getting better at that.  Through a long and continuing slog across this territory, I’ve partially re-trained my internal reward mechanisms to better support my practice of Emerson’s insight.

In a way, vengeance plays a role for me, too; on my subconscious, on natural selection, on cultural conditioning, on anything other than my conscious self that determines my behavior and experience.

Too often I forget that this is an unusual habit of thought, and when others express some kind of psychological pain or discomfort I immediately start going after it (because that’s what I do in my own head) when they would rather not.

The Uplift series made a strong impact on me in at least one other way; the relationship between Tom Orley and Gillian Baskin as an example of a highly developed, equitable and caring life-partnership.  (Primarily in Startide Rising.)  As readers of MR|link and the blog know, the author, Dr. David Brin, has contributed a lot to my general worldview, though at the moment I can’t think of an example of a specific, direct impact on my jams.  -h

But, Marty…

“You Have To Wear The Boots” tracking is finished as of 5 PM yesterday, when Tim completed flute tracks for the Cowboy and Clara’s pieces.  (In time to get down to Minsky’s and watch the Huskers’ OT win!)  Congrats to all who have sung, played, and/or supported singers and players.  Final mixing/mastering starts as early as this afternoon, and we’ll have it out before 2011, maybe even this month.  -h