The Art of the Remix

The two have also invented a program for "scratching" video.

Coldcut's favorite part of DJ culture is the idea of the remix: it

appeals to the English duo of Matt Black and Jonathan More that nothing

ever has to be the same twice, and that everything can be broken down to

component pieces and re-combined at will. Let Us Play! (1997)

came with a bonus disc of software that could be used to mess around

with Coldcut tracks at home, and this set of mixes, re-edits and

oddities is accompanied by a demo of their "VJamm" program for

"scratching" video footage. As far as they're concerned, anything's ripe

for scratching. Coldcut's basic musical approach is to take a big drum

break and dump whatever seems interesting onto it: a guest musician;

some corny sound-bites from old movies; a rant by a punk or actress;

passages of non-Western music; fragments of power-rock; or hip-hop

classics.

If this were attempted by somebody who was just trying to be "eclectic,"

it could suck beyond belief -- think bad college radio shows. Coldcut's

saving grace is that they're total music fanatics, interested not just

in the history of dance music and hip-hop, about which they know

everything anyway, but in every kind of music. More important,

they know that there's a big difference between post-modern montage and

great post-modern montage. The secret is arranging exactly the right

pieces exactly the right way, and the only way to get there is to play

and replay. Black and More are, after all, the people who came up with

the inspired remix of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid In Full" that incorporated

Israeli folk singer Ofra Haza's "Im Nin' Alu" -- one of the great

classics of hip-hop mixing, and directly alluded to in DJ Lord Fader's

mix of "More Beats & Pieces" here. Their fondness for history comes out

in the disc's guest spots, too. Twenty-year vet Grandmaster Flash

scratches on "Last Night A Cliche Saved My Life" with the vigor of a teen-ager, and they don't just sample classic funk drummer Bernard Purdie, they bring him in to play on the bizarro joke "The Tale Of Miss Virginia Epitome." If Replay! has a flaw, it's that the mixers are having too much fun; a few of them go on for too long, throwing in lots of samples that would be good ideas on

their own but grow wearying when they're all used.

Coldcut's idea of "play," ultimately, is what drives most of these

tracks: the group encourages their collaborators to make what they will

of their raw material. In the hands of Smiley (of Shut Up & Dance),

Jello Biafra's tedious Play monologue "Every Home A Prison"

becomes a crazed, funny stream of babble, circling around his bellow of

"CURRRR-FEWWWW!" Cornelius approaches "Atomic Moog 2000" as a framework for him to use the same kinds of production tricks that Coldcut might on their own, though he drops in the lush, glittery sounds he favors, as

well as tributes to the Moog synthesizer and theremin. And if you don't

like what the professional remixers have done, they offer you the tools

to play it your way.