Req
Car Paint Scheme
Warp
2003
A



req is better known as a graffiti artist. His new album, Car Paint Scheme, is filled with references to his graphic art. A few tracks on the disc feature emcees rapping about their day-glo outlines and contain field recordings of spray paint culture. But Car Paint Scheme reveals another side to Req: he’s a drum machine fetishist.

Each song on Car Paint Scheme is based on a single, devastatingly programmed drum track. There are a few crusty old breakbeats ripped from vinyl; there are a few glitches; and there are a few turntable scratches. But most of the time, the beats are simply low-resolution drum samples from ancient drum machines. For the most part, these are not the analog 808 drum hits of a Chingy single. The titles of his beats name-check both famous and obscure drum machines alike: the Oberheim DMX, the Rhythm 77, and the Yamaha RY series. Req dredges up some of the most grainy, aliased, stylized drum whacks you are likely to come across in modern music.

And, as such, the strength of each song lies in the drum track. Laid atop the beats are keyboard noodles, weird atonal string swells that sound like Rick Davis in his 3070 persona, smudgy monophonic bass warbles from Req’s venerable Wasp synth. The basslines have that same busted-ass-speaker feel that’s all over Missy’s newest release. But the melodies and basslines are in the background. In the foreground are the sparse, deft and phenomenal drumbeats.

Which, of course, leads us to the process. How did Req get these unique sounds? It seems that Req has put together most of these tracks using a sampler, because his drums sometimes pull off lightning rolls and glitchy edits that would be impossible to program on the original machines. But, importantly, he has been wise enough to preserve the strangely quantised grooves of the old machines, which impart a decidedly antiquated, anti-computer feel to his songs. Req doesn’t spend time drawing complicated drum-and-bass fills into a sequencer. He simply samples the old machines and punches straightforward drum beats into his sampler. Whether the drumbeat changes a lot or just a little in the course of his track isn’t important. It remains head-noddingly catchy.

And while it’s not a hard thing to learn to program a drum machine, to come up with a drum beat that is simple and classic and catchy – a drum beat that is strikingly original and comfortably familiar at the same time – is something that is extremely hard to do. It’s not impossible, but if you program a hundred drum beats, you might come up with two or three like this. If you’re lucky.

Anyway, most of what I’ve said here is merely descriptive. What matters are the beats. I got this album a week ago and I have listened to nothing else since. Literally nothing else. I don’t want anything else. They are glorious beats.
Reviewed by: Francis Henville
Reviewed on: 2003-12-09
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