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Monday, January 29, 2007

Once Again

posted by on January 29 at 15:05 PM

Girl Talk @ Chop Suey, Sat 01/27


If someone had told me five years ago that I’d be watching 500 people lose their minds, rush the stage, mosh, and crowdsurf to one dude playing a laptop I might’ve laughed at them. Probably the first live laptop set I ever saw was Secret Mommy at the Punkin House. Secret Mommy’s Andy Dixon had some credit with the punkhouse kids for his having been in d.b.s. and Red Light Sting and for running Ache Records, so a bunch of kids who normally wouldn’t have given live electronic music much of a chance were willing to watch him do the old hunch-and-peck for an hour, but very few of them actually dance, and nobody was crowd surfing.

Secret Mommy used punk cred to sneak his laptop nerding into the basement; Girl Talk uses Top 40 pop appeal to make his productions into something like a Nirvana music video (specifically I’m thinking of the clip for “Lithium,” which when I was a kid looked like the most amazing concert ever)—dancers onstage, a sea of people moving on the floor, and an eager swarm of limbs ready to hold Gillis aloft. Make no mistake, Girl Talk is a motherfucking rock star.

But now, we must consider the Idea of Girl Talk in relation to the Idea of New Music in Time:

Gillis insists that his compositions are original music no matter what their constituent elements; his shirts proclaim, “I am not a DJ.” Girl Talk is the epitome of Charles’ “meta-music,” music which is sample-based—that is, made from other music rather than organically (let me know if I’m being overly reductive here). Charles suggests:

Burial is now the point at which the genius of meta-music has arrived from the past and from which it will depart to the future.

But Girl Talk is the absolute conclusion of meta-music, sampling, and the mash-up (a particular highlight for me was his use of the riff from Elastica’s “Connection,” itself a sample of Wire’s “Three Girl Rumba”). His work is proof that sampling and mixing are truly creative, that new music can be made from nothing more than old music, and at the same time he sets the bar so insanely high that we must consider the mash-up and the simple sample to be all but dead—a burial for Grandmaster Flash.

To see Girl Talk perform is to realize the truth of Christopher Delaurenti’s response:

Electronic-based music can be (and often is) performed live but the tools and techniques differ. Don’t ask a Juilliard trained violinist to roll off the bass, pan certain channels to the left-front and left-mid-side, re-postion the mic on a kick drum, match a beat, or hammer the faders for a lightning fast segue - all within 90 seconds in front of an eager (or at least interested) crowd.

You could hear (and from the right vantage point see) Gillis manipulating samples, matching beats, and layering sounds in real time—playing his instrument—to create new music.

Girl Talk is live.

RSS icon Comments


This is a good response to my friend who said he couldn't stand the idea of people going nuts over a dude working on his laptop. playing other people's music. I have no idea what it takes to make this kind of stuff, so I had no rebuttal, except to say that Girl Talk is better than all the other people sitting on a stage with their laptop playing other people's music.

Posted by Ari Spool | January 29, 2007 3:41 PM

It's nice enough, I think, to see people getting out from the grip of inverted-quotes-real-music.

But I wish it was over a better band.

Posted by Fawkes | January 30, 2007 12:35 AM

Abelton Live makes what this poser indie fuck from Girl Talk does very, very easy. Choose your samples, warp your tracks and play around with those samples until something sounds right. Music for uninformed, sad hipsters looking for irony and dance in the same place. At least he doesn't try to sing or play guitar (i'm looking directly at you MATTHEW DEAR and SQUAREPUSHER!)

Posted by cachoo | January 30, 2007 8:30 AM

I dare say what I saw on Saturday was "live." I like the CD, but it doesn't take a lot of talent to do what GT does. He could have just hit play and fooled us all, which is what it sure looked like from in front of the stage.

Posted by Jeff | January 30, 2007 9:39 AM

Abelton Live makes what this poser indie fuck from Girl Talk does very, very easy.

It does, yes, but Girl Talk doesn't use Ableton, he uses some kind tracker he programmed in max/msp, and from over his shoulder it was clear that he was not just hitting play and fooling us all. Dude was working.

Posted by Eric Grandy | January 30, 2007 10:33 AM

I'm a big fan of looking at the ends and not the means.

In the case of this Girl Talk show, I look at the fact that he had everyone going gonzo once the first beat dropped. Seriously. Go to Flickr and search for Girl Talk and look at the photos from this show. Everyone lost their shit.

Who the hell cares how he makes his music. The point is that people in Seattle danced like crazy at a show. That is no small feat.

Posted by Brian Connolly | January 30, 2007 4:38 PM

>Music for uninformed, sad hipsters looking for irony and dance in the same place.

You obviously weren't at the show. People were too busy having a good time to look for irony or anything else. Everyone was just going crazy. I hadn't seen people get so into it since The Go! Team came around.

Posted by DG | January 31, 2007 5:18 PM

art is about ideas and skill. the greatest guitar players in the world are oftentimes in the shittiest bands. although i think what girltalk does is skillful, if you don't, it doesnt matter. you should be listening to the music to see if you like it. also, if it's so easy, why arent you doing it and why have i never heard anyone bring it on this level before? anyone can programs electronics and make music like squarepusher, right? then do it. anyone can rap, right? then do it. god, sounds like middle school.

at that girltalk show, the entire crowd was loosing it and having blast. people from all walks of life. i didnt get one sense of "indie" "hipster"-ness or anything "ironic." it was one of the most heartfelt, sincere, and fun crowds ive ever seen. just cuz pitchfork likes the dude doesnt mean it's some stupid hipster bullshit. if this is what counts as "hipster" stuff these days, then girltalk is changing the face of the entire music underground into sincere, fun, music-loving motherfuckers. it's great

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