Last Night Once Again
posted by January 29 at 15:05 PMon
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.