Various Artists
blu tribunL


he idea of electronic artists imbibing the blues might leave a bitter after-taste after Moby’s Play. But, like recent works by the label Hand on the Plow, Akufen, Rip-off Artist and Freeform all play with the blues form, tweaking and oftentimes glitching it to see how far they can take the fusion of ribbon microphones and 16-bit skips on blu tribunL. This fusion doesn’t get wrapped up in early blues recordings as a form of sonic fetish; instead blu tribunL finds artists playing with what constitutes the blues. While many have been expounding the virtues of cut’n’paste cultures, blu tribunL rethinks sampling not merely as a theft of a sonic past, but also as an opportunity explore new dialogues in combining disparate music forms.

Following the concept of the excellent dub tribunL, blu tribunL gathers three electronic artists not known for experimenting with the blues. As the label owner, Rip-Off Artist is the sole returnee and appears to have learned how far he can extend the concept of the blues. This is most evident in his cover of “Must Be Catchin”, where he proposes laid-back electro-clash as the lost link between blues and dance culture.

This also extends to the stuttering, but confident “What Kind of Blue”. The song’s melody is taken apart into variations, each with a barrage of complimentary glitch-tics. Each digitized guitar pluck is intensely isolated, giving each of the song’s instrumental elements an unexpected bite. “What Kind of Blue” ends near the realm of The Books atmospheric tinkering, a place that Freeform’s contributions to blu tribunL inhabit. From “Blue Movies” to “Blue Too” Freeform uses understated atmospheres and fusion-like instrumentation. However, despite their complexity, many of his songs sound sonically slight in comparison to Rip-Off Artist and Akufen’s genetic-modifying of blues. Sadly, the interlude “Blue Tooth Blues” ends up as Freeform’s only distinct highlight buried in the jaw-dropping editing mayhem of the other blu tribunL artists.

While Akufen maintains his distinct style on blu tribunL, the infectious touch of the Canadian sounds surprisingly comfortable experimenting with different sound sources—a fact that Marc Leclair’s recent work as Horror, Inc. has also hinted at. From the glitchy ya-ya of “Ain’t Gonna Beg Ya” to the crunk-lite stabs of “The World Wanna Know”, Akufen re-forms blues in his image. He also provides the closest to a Cubist take on blues, with “I Won’t Buy You” slowly layering metronomic clicks, blues hooks and enveloping dry bass drums into an editing extravaganza.

While it could be easy to call blu tribunL hit-or-miss given some of the disc’s failed experiments, it would oversimplify the lasting effect. Instead, filtered through three different perspectives, the compilation finds success in the ability to rejuvenate both blues and glitch as genres. Not willing to be just a vogue sampledelica take on blues, the works of Akufen, Rip-Off Artist and Freeform sound fresh because of their active engagement with the structures and sonics of the blues. Instead of homage, blu tribunL instead finds both blues and glitch sounding refreshingly alien.

Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2004-10-29

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