Sampling, at the end of the 20th century, had gone from “revolutionary” and “the future of music” to stale and uninteresting. If Fatboy Slim hadn’t hammered a thousand redundant sampled hooks into our brains, P. Diddy (then Puff Daddy) certainly had. But for the entire realm of dance music, it seemed that every frontier had already been conquered, even though few had actually been mastered. The 808 had served the genre well, as did the 1200 and the Akai. And certainly, the smart ones set up shop and worked on the intricacies of each, while others merely treaded water, pursuing more gangsta tripping, popping out more block rockin’ beats. But there were still some ready to venture boldly into uncharted territory, to leave the familiar snippets of pop songs behind and take on the transformation of found sound into a danceable, or at least listenable, art form. Matmos tried medical instruments on A Chance to Cut Is A Chance to Cure, while Herbert used exactly what the title of Bodily Functions implied.
There is a strong argument, though, that bodily functions and liposuction are pretty disgusting sources for sampling. An old roommate of mine was horrified when I played him A Chance to Cut Is A Chance to Cure, in fact. But Vancouver’s Secret Mommy has taken this concept to a more lighthearted and amusing place, primarily because he has chosen to sample leisure activity, rather than laser eye surgery and rat cages.
Secret Mommy’s new album, Very Rec, is made up of a dozen selections that take sounds from various recreational activities, ranging from soccer to yoga to ice skating to a swimming pool. In certain cases, like “Tennis Court” and “Soccer Field,” SM turns the percussive sounds of the court and field, respectively, into beats. On other tracks, like “Squash Court,” the zen-like sound of the smacked ball against the court is merely a backdrop for the ambient, almost rain-like sounds that are layered on top.
A song like “Music Room” is titled dubiously, mainly because it sounds more like an old school Roland than anything resembling band practice. The sound actually comes from SM attempting to play trombone for the first time, which gets processed into lots of other choppy bits of sound. On “Weight Room,” however, one can hear the sound of a dude counting off his pushups over a spastic IDM beat. And Secret Mommy uses a meditation CD and kung fu movies to create “Yoga Studio” and “Dojo,” respectively.
In sound, Very Rec has quite a bit in common with records by Herbert and Matmos, only the source material is decidedly different. Instead, we have the idea of leisure and fun being processed into various curious songs, all of which are fun to pick apart, but still accessible enough not to need to.
Matthew Herbert – Plat Du Jour
Matmos – A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure
Plaid – Not For Threes
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.