Girl Talk – [Album]

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Given the method by which Gregg “Girl Talk” Gillis makes music (sampling every CD in creation, chopping them up and then filtering them down to their greatest, most recognizable moments before assembling original records from the diaspora), each release could be viewed as a variation on a theme when one boils it right down. There isn’t much chance of a remarkable shift in the producer’s sound because he’s still bound by the constraints of the style he’s working in and, given he’s an admitted fan of pop and that’s what he samples, what he’s making will inevitably be in 4/4 time, the shifts in dynamics need to be achieved by combining sources as far flung as Nirvana and Deee-Lite on “In Step”), and there isn’t a single listener not playing "Name That Tune" within seconds of the album’s start. The concept is the height of simplicity, but Gillis elevates it to the level of an art form by not only making the mixes coherent, but making each track sound like it’s progressing as it runs.

Okay, all that has now been said and out of the way—and listening to Feed The Animals reveals how great a syllogism the above statement is. While there are obvious stylistic similarities between 2006’s Night Ripper and Feed The Animals, the truth is that Girl Talk's first release back after appearing in the congressional Fair Use hearings last year can only be characterized as a reasonably straight faced dance record. The surface differences, in this case, make all the difference; while Night Ripper literally threw everything at the wall and made it all stick, there are several levels to Feed The Animals. Song-defining samples from rap, hip hop, R&B, urban pop and soul are placed squarely at the front of and dominate the first two thirds of the record and while rock content still appears in songs including “Still Here,” “Give Me A Beat,” “Shut The Club Down” and “Like This” (which, laughably, an unpaid-for Metallica sample) it is usually brief and always incidental; unlike Night Ripper, the focus is removed from the novel pastiche approach Gillis utilizes and placed squarely on killer beats to move the dance floor and, by manipulating the samples (pitch and speed shifting are regular occurrences on Feed The Animals), the tracks begin to more closely resemble Fluxus art-inspired songs than just mixes.

As was the case with Night Ripper though, at around “Let Me See You” the tempo begins to get more manic; building to a climax. The samples start flying faster, but not at the expense of the fluid mix that Girl Talk has labored so carefully to manufacture – while the album as a whole attempts to concentrate on building conventional song structures with peaks and valleys, toward the end it seems as if Gillis is trying to erect a cliff from which to hang with Elvis Costello’s “Turn It Up” and “Jessie’s Girl” (on loan from Rick Springfield) that works brilliantly as Gillis recycles similar themes from the opening track for “Play Your Part part 2”. The two book-ending tracks also successfully manage to loop the proceedings for continuous play as well.

In a painfully critical moment, it has to be said that there’s no sure way to know how long Gillis’ shtick will hold listeners’ attention. Electronic music, like any other genre, and the performers that make it have to continue to evolve or risk being left behind. How Gillis will evolve—what changes he’s make to continue surprising and captivating listeners – remains to be seen. For the moment though, he’s done himself proud with Feed The Animals and illustrated that pastiche doesn’t have to be two-dimensional; it’s actually possible to reach into these fourteen songs and pull out all sorts of curiosities.

Feed The Animals is currently available for pay-what-you-like download HERE.

A hardcopy of the album will be released via Illegal Art on September 23, 2008

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