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DJ Brokenwindow - Parallel Universe #1

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Artist: DJ Brokenwindow

Album: Parallel Universe #1

Label: Violent Turd

Review date: Jan. 12, 2003


While it may or may not be true that record collectors make for poor musicians, this axiom takes on a whole new meaning when dealing with mash-uppers, most of whose musical business involves digging deep for the hits, or at least elements of them. Most of these folks are 17-year-old digital nibblers, but an elite few, many of whom have been roped in by the pseudo Tigerbeat imprint called Violent Turd, are clearly the glasses ‘n’ suspender sporters of the bunch. Taking cues from godfather John Oswald (of Plunderphonics semi-notoriety), this fairly anonymous ilk, which includes the likes of DJ/rupture, DJ Brokenwindow and Top Turd Kid606 himself, rub it in to the simpletons by mashing up the dusties rather than the modern hits. But where /rupture and Kid606 polka-dotted their mashes with homemade beats and grime, Brokenwindow (the elder) plays it close to the vest (as close as is possible when one is mixing Cookie Monster’s vox with a German protelectro 12”). Parallel Universe #1, DJ Brokenwindow’s Violent Turd debut, is made up entirely of realtime mashes of material culled from his “ridiculous and massive record collection.” In bypassing electronic synch-ups, B.W. subjects himself to the rhythmic imperfections that would otherwise be gently erased by digital mashing programs, but at this expense comes an organic purity that allows his song selections as well as his technical skill to shine far brighter than binary ever could. At times the science of the mixup accidentally sucks out the fun or over-trivializes the source, but most of the time DJ Brokenwindow outsmarts his record collection quite nicely.

What makes Parallel Universe #1 so much fun is Broken Window’s learned ear and record geekery, although it’s often tough to figure out if his intent is to shock or to please. For a jumpy old school Real Roxanne/Hitman Howie Tee vocal track, he lays down a drum-heavy King Tubby sample f, nicely maintaining the spooky tone of the dub recording as well as the playful ferocity of the 80s-inflected flow. The combination is a sick synergistic team-up that wonderfully blurs the lines between the contributing genres. Similarly, but with less success, B.W. drops a dopey Yes vocal over an early Boards of Canada track to create, depending on your perspective, a much cooler, electronic Yes, or a much lamer, smooth-vox Boards of Canada. These highbrow mixes, however, are tempered with some goof-off vocal selections: “Ice Ice Baby,” “Me So Hungry” (a parody of 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny”), and “C is for Cookie” are all mixed with respectively unlikely instrumental tracks. They’re all funny at first listen, but they don’t match the meta-mash and sound pretty simple alongside the rest of the source-tracks. In this case the problem has little to do with Brokenwindow’s technical or creative skills, but rather with the overall mood of the album as a whole, or the lack thereof.

Whether to help the listener play along or to justify the process, Parallel Universe #1’s liner notes contain detailed information about the sample sources (a rarity in this legally dicey genre) as well as the exact pitch-shift needed to match the records together. It’s an editorial decision that is indicative of the record’s main flaw: that the mixer often seems more concerned with the preservation of his own integrity as a DJ than he does with the overall product. All of the songs are certainly clever and fun, but Brokenwindow’s unwillingness to fudge the beat or the vocal track results in a number of rhythmic imperfections that, like typos in a bound book, detract from the work as a whole and not just the immediate moment of mistake. On “Eleanor Ectomorph,” which combines an Ectomorph Rephlex 12” beat with a Turtles vocal track, Brokenwindow almost perfectly mixes the two songs into a single funny, danceable track, but briefly loses the beat when the Turtles slow it down into the chorus.

While DJ Brokenwindow has not outdone himself, he has certainly raised the bar for the many who were once content making Eminem mashup after Eminem mashup (although Brokenwindow does include a D-12 track). Parallel Universe #1 digs deep (and sometimes not so deep) to mix low-fi with hi-fi, simple with elaborate, and succeeds in its intentions to, as B.W. so loftily puts it, “be greater than the sum of its parts and recycle the music by giving it new context.”

By Sam Hunt

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