Monday, September 23, 2013

Growing up (old?) with samples

I was listening to a track that samples Mobb Deep (those great voices, words and clean accapella skits) and I had pause to think about the effect of sampling. Not for the first time. 

This time, it was a more personal reflection on the way that it keeps you connected to a vague notion of a musical culture, an underground culture, no matter how that culture twists and turns through time. Despite advancing years and the distractions and responsibilities they bring, my attachment to underground music is seemingly pretty much where it was at when I was a teenager. So I frequently have to ask myself what's wrong with me. As in, 'grow up; industrial strength techno is not an appropriate soundtrack for a man on his way to pick the kids up from school.'

But, honestly. I'm okay with it.

So, aside from a lingering concern that this might be the early gestation of a future mid-life crisis, I ponder this tendency with an entirely positive curiosity.

And, although I'm not much of a fan of the artist doing the sampling in this case (Bass producer, Mosca) it seemed to me that he and I were in a sort of dialogue. Both loving Mobb Deep irrelevant of whether that passion was sparked concurrent with the Queens hip-hop duo's reign in the mid-90s or, in the case of the much younger producer, it was a discovered legacy. That's art, right? It just doesn't really give a shit about time. 

In the way he turned the sample I could hear the same reverence for their cadence, their swagger, the flow of the words and how those qualities are shot through the music that's been ground out around those samples of those voices from then to now. Time and timelessness, in order words.

But then I listened to The Martinez Brothers' H 2 Da Izzo, which takes Masters at Work's crude early garage anthem Deep Inside and twists its naive and bubbling synth melody into darker, more intense and druggy contemporary shapes. And I thought again that sampling can equally be a commentary on the passing of time and generational shifts. In this case a loss of innocence, erasing the bright eyed charm of the original in favour of a knowing appeal to the sensory experience of the contemporary club.

Finally, for about the hundredth time in the last year or so, I was locked in the raptures of Soundstream and his Dillaesque house interpretations of disco and soul edits listening to a track constructed entirely around a sample(s?) I had no knowledge of. 

So here's what was happening: In a track that I've lived in I was hearing a producer turn and re-turn a moment they loved to make a track that (Dilla again) drags he listener right down to the molecular structure of that passion.

Three different thoughts about sampling, then. Each one making me reflect on sampling's incredibly complex relationship with time. One that few other musical techniques share. 

And, as well, a little insight into how this music keeps playing in your head, regardless of time. And age.


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