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
David Edwards and Jason Forrest are not kindred spirits. Though both make electronic music you don't dance to ("can't" is overstating things), each inspires a far different lack of motion in the listener. Edwards, doing business as Minotaur Shock, is your prototypical diffident bedroom composer. Bloc Party and Super Furry Animals are the sorts of bands who seek the pretty nuances of his remix services. On Maritime, Edwards's tracks are modest, detailed, and slightly cartoonish. By contrast, Forrest, who made his name as DJ Donna Summer on North Jersey kitchen-sink radio station WFMU, is gregarious and trashy, generating thrills out of a tumble of clashing dumb-ass rock samples. Shamelessly Exciting is just what it says.
Unpretentious as they are, though, both men are progeny of those ponderous DJs who used to call their sets "journeys." They bust open the circular unity of funk in favor of beat compositions that stretch forward--in fact, these tracks move so that you don't have to. Edwards soundtracks a sort of conflict-free video game, where pixels politely make way for each other. On Maritime's opening track, "Muesli," synth clarinets bob up and down like pistons, their tones gradually coloring over one another, before a xylophone pattern nudges in to provide counterpoint. Then, horns explode into a bright carousel melody. Forrest is more direct about getting from A to Z. "My 36 Favorite Punk Songs" is, again, what it says: three dozen snippets stitched into a hardcore herky-jerk. As critic Rob Sheffield once pointed out, the Ramones' m.o. paralleled that of early hip hop--you strip your favorite songs down to their coolest parts and cut off the rest. Forrest one-ups 'em all.
Edwards's arrangements are firmly classicist; each Minotaur Shock track builds with a sense of purpose Jimmy Page would envy. But that doesn't mean he's predictable. "Mistaken Tourist" runs generic "ethnic" polyrhythms overtop a Casio beat for a spell, then blurts into Georgio Moroder electrodisco, swiping fake strings from a Commodore 64 commercial. And since a video game would be a linear bore without some wrong turns, Edwards isn't above designing blind alleys like the wimpy Daft Punk of "Vigo Bay," which feigns interest in below-the-waist activity just long enough to trick you onto your feet. Yet his new-wavey referents are always carefully integrated into their surroundings. "(She's in) Dry Dock Now" staggers like a drunken robot waving his arms to bat away the waves of disembodied Kraftwerk, while "Six Foolish Fishermen" laces an A-ha synth riff through one of those swinging bottoms that Paul Weller convinced the U.K. is what Motown sounds like.
Forrest's use of kitsch is both gaudier and more explicit--on "New Wave Folk Austerity" he turns Blondie's "Call Me" into the DOR battering ram it always dreamed it would grow up to be. But though he sometimes courts the "Hey, I recognize that crappy song!" response for snark's sake, he's well aware of the subtlety required to be effectively crass. And if his new full-length isn't as exciting as last year's The Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post Disco Crash, it's equally shameless: When "Skyrocket Saturday" smooshes Seals & Crofts with Starland Vocal Band, this is Big Beat carried to extremes even Norman Cook never envisioned. Of course, Fatboy Slim albums were (and theoretically, still are) designed to instigate dancing, where Forrest's music seeks more often to collect interjections of "Whoa, cool!"
Like the Big Beatniks before him, Forrest stumbles when he crafts some catchy simulacra of songs. "Nightclothes and Headphones" shows that FMU pal Laura Cantrell is not quite a Beth Orton in the making. He doesn't need a discrete verse 'n' chorus to structure his music anyway--one rhythm building off another does the trick. Edwards wisely avoids voices, though the temptation must be strong; since Maritime often flutters somewhere between Pet Sounds and Pet Shop Boys, a pedigreed vocal could conceivably turn Minotaur Shock into the kind of synth-pop that folks might have to pay attention to. But I mean, really--songs? How hopelessly 20th-century can ya get?