Amen-ities

Jungle revivalists Broklyn Beats and SoundMurderer bang their heads on the crunk rock.

RECONTEXTUALIZATION makes for a tricky disco. The tools of digital production have allowed a legion of kids to remake "other" cultures in their own slanted-and- enchanted image. At its least problematic, you get artists like Kid606 pulling N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" apart like a shredded wheat biscuit, more "killing the fathers" than blackface pose. At its worst, you get things like that man Kid606 again, sampling an answering machine message in which a grainy, menacing voice avers, "I'm coming for you tonight, nigga." Nice and ambiguous, it's uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons.

Founded by punks-turned-DJs Heather Leitner and Criterion Thornton, Broklyn Beats reinject that context, usually messily. White punks on hope, the duo offer a sacrifice to their home city (Broken beats from Brooklyn, geddit?) with splintered dub, grungy jungle, and porous hip-hop: the sound of rumbling subways, trundling automobiles, boomin' systems. You know, real "I can't live without my radio/dirt under my fingernails" stuff.

Thornton has called N.Y.C. "the only place left for me in the U.S.," which non-New Yorkers might find a bit overstated if not chauvinistic. At the same time, their records are very much in line with what their pal DJ /rupture calls "strikes against geography." Poverty, police brutality, racism, and gentrification exist pretty much everywhere now. Broklyn deal with the thorns thrown up by the revolutionary road via explicitly political packaging and product, a multiethnic roster, and plenty of good old-fashioned mid-frequency noize.

The political angle is what situates them away from both their equally noisy American glitchblotronica peers and a band like, say, No Doubt, who manage a similar multiculti fusion on a much larger scale. But not an obviously effective scale, since there's no guarantee the millions of kids at the putt-putt golf grooving to "Hey Baby" are going to mobilize. Marginal out of equal parts necessity and invention, Broklyn make community music. In a way, it's a step toward a completion of the prematurely stunted revolution of rave (illicit parties, local sound- system culture) but with a sober romanticism and humble scale at odds with MDMA- fueled delirium.

The Broklyn Beats 7" Collection (Broklyn Beats) collects eight of the label's seven-inch singles released, and while all of them more or less slot into what can now be called the "Broklyn sound," the range is pretty stunning if (bathos alert) not particularly conducive to a relaxing bath or cocktail party. Doily's broken washing machines clank out the inverse of the starched dub of German producer Pole. "Popxplosion," by Donna Summer (the tongue-in-cheek alias of New Jersey DJ Jason Forrest), skewers both '80s AOR bombast and hardcore gabba's no-women-allowed macho pose, coming off like Rotterdam Termination Source filleting the Flashdance soundtrack. Criterion's "Race Traitor" samples an incensed Dick Gregory over tinder dry beats and autistic bass line. Experimental New York producer I-sound rewrites old-school rave as a Tales From the Crypt episode.

But best of the lot are the two contributions by /rupture, "Rumbo Babylon" and "Descarriada," in which scoured hard-drive sounds join hands with the block party, the rave, and the ethnographic recording. While still nominally influenced by jungle, dance hall, and Timbaland, they don't sound much like anything else around right now. "Rumbo" might be the burial tune of the whole comp, sounding like experimental artists Oval trapped in Kingston for a week surrounded by restless, riddim- hungry natives.

SPEAKING OF SOUND bwoy murder, Detroit jungle DJ SoundMurderer's new Wired for Sound (Violent Turd)an old-school jungle mix of questionable legality (so buy, borrow, or steal on sight)shows the tangled, gaudy roots of the Broklyn sound. The aptly named SoundMurderer (taking off from the Remarc tune that appears early on, known as Todd Osborn on his birth certificate) mashes up 60 ragga-jungle tracks in 60 minutes. Hooks? Blurts of keyboard, natty-dread catchphrasesotherwise it's just rain-on-tin-roof drums and endless bass bombs tripping up your good foot.

SoundMurderer reminds why early jungle was so shocking when it emerged in the early '90s: No other pop music had or has focused so obsessively on rhythm and percussion. Or filtered funk through the escape velocity of speed metal, for that matterimagine standing in a room, two tape decks at either end, one blasting dance hall, the other hip-hop, both at double speed. For an hour.

But early jungle wasn't just one long rinsethe part where the snares go nuts, especially the driving pattern sampled from the Winston's "Amen, My Brother," which gets plenty of airtime here. The half-speed moments that allowed you to wind your waist are mostly excised here. The closest reference is Detroit ghetto-tech DJ Assault: so goddamn fast you can't possibly dance to it. The only response is to vigorously shake your ass. Or bang your headit's instructive to remember that when the masculine bonhomie soured, the ladies disappeared from the floor and jungle withered on the vine.

Which is precisely why Wired for Sounddespite its surface reverence and referencesis still a bedroom electronica take on hardcore dance. While never dragging whimsical and wacky along for the ride, the record does cop English IDM godhead Squarepusher's finger-painting-without-your-Ritalin vibe, his relentlessness. I've never been sure exactly why relentlessness is so prized by a certain stripe of music fan, since you can't really do anything with it once it gets goingexcept stand there and look suitably impressed, I guess.

Still, with house music at one of its not-infrequent lulls, U.K. garage having gone back deep underground, and electroclash smelling like the day-old fish it invariably is in 2003, this is about the only place to go for those who like their beats fast 'n' electronic. And the three 20-minute mini- symphonies on Wired for Sound can be a hell of a rush, like chasing a pot of coffee with two liters of Jolt cola and jumping up and down on the bed. A lot. Compared to the dead end of funkless rhythms and stifled exuberance drum-and-bass has driven itself down following its mainstream crossover, these two albums still sound like the future, 10 years later. Amen.

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