Wasteland: Amen Fire

Amen Fire

Wasteland retools Timbaland's metallic marching music for Thunderdome. On Amen Fire, the duo (featuring DJ Scud and I-Sound) locates a latent cyborg dread in tracks like Jay-Z's "Jigga What, Jigga Who" and amps it until it spits fire and belches smoke. They strip away the fluttery euphoria from Aaliyah's "One in a Million" until it seethes with abject longing. The end result is something like the current playlist of B96 remixed by Cabaret Voltaire.

Scud and I-Sound's previous EP (with fellow traveler Errorsmith), Roots Rock Ravers, starved drum 'n' bass with a bread and water diet, removing the plodding breaks and impenetrable wall of distortion. Using the techniques of dub, they sent beats and riffs echoing around the mix, ghost traces of giddy rave wilting before your ears. On Amen Fire, they subtract hip hop's funk until nothing but jittery skeletons remain, then fill them in with ISDN crackle, toxic jags of noise, curdling synths. But for all the abstract crunch on display, there's still something groovy here, maybe even--dare I say it?--sexy.

Chalk it up to the fact that Scud and I-Sound also pick up on Timbaland's less heralded asset: space. Unlike their doom-hop contemporaries--Kid606, Techno Animal, Dälek, El-P--they don't feel the need to flood the stereo field for impact. Contrast and dynamics can be just as unsettling as unrelenting extreme noise terror. And unlike Scud's own blistering Amen-break workouts, the slower tempos seduce and destroy, commanding your waist to twist around rather than bludgeoning you with dominatrix beats.

Amen Fire is also the most accessible thing either DJ has ever done--although, with their brand of uneasy listening, that statement is relative. But even in the era of Clipse's "Grindin'"--which itself comes somewhere between War's low-riding funk and early D.A.F.'s hardcore electro--Wasteland is still a few steps away from being Clear Channel-ready. For now, Amen Fire is the quiet electrical storm, slow jams for the Merzbow set.

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