By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
The Evolution Control Committee
Plagiarhythm Nation V. 2.0
DJ Mark Gunderson, a.k.a. the Evolution Control Committee, knows what the American people want: a cookie. A break. A raise. A fuck. And by appropriating media tools from television sound bites to voicemail messages and vintage records, Gunderson creates all of these things in a hyper-realistic world of his own. His ghostwritten narrative speaks for a tech-savvy generation easily swayed by advertising: With Plagiarythm Nation V. 2.0, the second full-length work from ECC (following numerous cassette and vinyl releases), Gunderson combines a 1982 assertiveness training cassette by specialist Susan Cocco with a looped Sammy Davis Jr. yelp. The result not only echoes the plight of Ms. Suburban America, but also of a culture turning anxiously to the infomercial for advice. Sammy's shout in the listener's ear resonates as a wake-up call, like a remix of the famous method-is-the-message mantra. The watchdogs may call Gunderson's creations culture jamming, but I call it "Me and Marshall McLuhan Down by the School Yard."
With Plagiarhythm Nation, Gunderson perfects the art of tape manipulation, following lawsuit-dodging peers like Negativland and the Tape Beatles. Gunderson created what is arguably the first mash-up track with "Rebel Without a Pause" from 1994's Gunderphonic, pitting a sample of Public Enemy's Chuck D against one from trumpeter Herb Alpert. The rapper's famous bellow, joined by sidekick Flava Flav, provides the antagonistic balance to Alpert's staid performance. And Chuck D makes another cameo appearance on Nation's "No Time for Yes": When a simple yes from "Don't Believe the Hype" minces words with Joe Beard's children's recording "It's Okay to Say No!" you have a nation of millions who can't make up their minds.
Gunderson's predominant theme here is dissent, the act of perverting or rearranging familiar cultural touchstones to make them his own. The national anthem appears on album opener "Star Spangled Bologna," but it's overlaid with a deadpan presentation of the Oscar Meyer wiener song. "Spandau Filet" reconfigures Spandau Ballet's soft-rock mall classic "True," into an aural hologram, and "Sex Re-Education" smartly reworks a Ward 'n' Wally-type birds and bees discussion using words unspoken in the Cleaver household. Gunderson follows it up with "Dinner," another satisfying meal of "chicken livers and pork chops" as narrated by Vincent Price. The Limelighters, the Muppets, one very disengaged Dan Rather: They're all fodder for Gunderson's bite.
If art clarifies reality, and the absurdity of reality makes us laugh, then Plagiarythm Nation is a comedy album. Poking fun at our cultural customs, it reminds us that we, the people, are a collective punch line.