To be lost in the forest, to be cut adrift…
Although the above words are from Bloc Party’s “This Modern Love,” they could easily fit the feeling one gets when listening to New York (though now living in Berlin) music mosaic artist Jason Forrest (though he briefly went under the name Donna Summer—no joke). You could easily get lost in Jason Forrest’s tune-filled tapestries, trying to place samples, somewhat of a musical version of “Where’s Waldo?” At times, one could really use one of those outlines of group pictures, everyone numbered and catalogued underneath. But after the initial shock of information overload, one begins to hear the music created by samples, to recognize the whole as the sum of its parts, to stare hard into the Magic Eye poster to see the figure cleverly hidden. Or is that vice versa?
To listen to Jason Forrest’s CD’s is like having an iPod with Tourette’s. As opposed to the concept of the `mash-up,’ taking two distinct songs or styles and making them one (a la the great “Can’t Get Blue Monday Out of My Head”), and the sampling of mostly obscure old records by mix wizard DJ Shadow, Forrest takes recognizable tunes, usually ones that could be considered `uncool,’ cuts them up into small bite-size pieces, and then melds them together into the dance floor anthems of the year. On his breakthrough album, The Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post Disco Crash, Forrest would use samples of the likes of Elton John and ELO. On second track of Exciting’s “New Wave Folk Austerity,” Forrest uses bits of Blondie’s “Call Me” for the hyperactive moments, and chunks of Yes for the more subdued bridges, not to mention the samples of classical guitar interspersed.
My favorite track is “My 36 Favorite Punk Songs,” both a high energy song in its own right, but also an exercise in riff identification. I have to admit, I couldn’t get all 36, but that’s almost what makes it fun, like working on a Sunday crossword puzzle in bits and pieces. I’ve picked out the Ramones, the Clash, the Sex Pistols and then I started to get bogged down. The great part is that Forrest takes those snippets, no more than four beats each, and mimics the punk song aesthetic, making it only just over two minutes in length. Another great one is “Nightclothes and Headphones” which features guest vocals by Laura Cantrell. Its lyrics are a tribute to the late John Peel, a DJ whose inspirational effects remain largely uncharted. Songs like this one take Forrest out of the `underestimation’ category, proving his abilities as a songsmith of the first degree.
“Dust Never Settles” ramps up the BPMs to dizzying heights, rivaling some of Shadow’s best, throwing in the riff from “I Love Rock and Roll” for good measure. “Dreaming and Remembering” and “Skyrocket Saturday” mine the depths of seventies soft rock including Gerry Rafferty’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” and “Baker Street.” “War Photographer” takes cuts from Blood, Sweat & Tears (such as “Spinning Wheel”) and turns them into a hard hitting song filled with menace and dread, followed shortly thereafter by party revelry. Further musical mastery can be heard in closer “Evil Doesn’t Exist Anymore” which boasts the use of experimental music by Norway’s underground composer / performer Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje (say that ten times fast!), who can sound like a sampled bit of soundtrack from a Bombay musical.
Shamelessly Exciting is exactly that, and more. It works on multiple levels, as party game, party music, and party to ensuing mayhem. You can now feel free to throw out your Prodigy, Fatboy Slim and Crystal Method CDs. After all, you sometimes can’t see the Forrest for the trees. (Commence groaning now, and hey, I could have said Paul `Oak’enfold). Shamelessly Exciting is, simply put, one of the most enjoyable records of the year.
The Avalanches- Since I Left You
2 Many DJ’s- As Heard on Radio Soulwax, Pt.2
DJ Shadow- Endtroducing…