Friday, January 27, 2006

Aphrodite's Aphrodite

Drum and bass appealed to me in the mid-90s as this new, crazy sound: the drums were crawling out of the speakers and cramming themselves down my throat. It was a needed surge of energy relative to all the trip hop that was coming out at the time, more complicated than most the house/electronica that dominated the clubs, and more reminiscent to the frenetic jazz drumming than any of the other electronic music forms. Drum and bass, simply, was a great curiosity, and the early years of LTJ and Goldie were great to observe, even in hindsight.

It wouldn't take long, of course, for somebody to fuck it up. As every genre has its cheese element, so too must drum and bass/jungle. Witness, then, Aphrodite's North American debut on V2 records.

Granted, Aphrodite's fun for sample-checking. A little Bob Jones here, a little Public Enemy there, but for God's sake, a jungle cover of Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze"? The bass lines may rumble, but in the most synthetic, ringtone kind of way. Listening to the entire album is akin to ordering Velvetta, and I'm somewhat lactose intolerant.

It may not be any coincidence, then, that around that same point in time (1999 or so), drum and bass/jungle just fell off completely and became a parody of itself. The beats became formulaic, the vocalists became cliched, and all of the original sexiness inherent to it dissipated. It wasn't until High Contrast's debut album on Hospital Records three or four years later that any semblence to the original inventiveness (or sheer listenability) came back to the genre. Is it Aphrodite's fault? Probably not, but his album doesn't indicate anything otherwise, either.

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