Donna Summer
This Needs To Be Your Style
Irritant
2003
B+



jason Forrest aka Donna Summer, writing about the first track on his newest album This Needs To Be Your Style, states that “I really like the idea that sounds manifest their cumulative associations”. In this case, Forrest is thinking about the large amount of associations that can be had with one record or song. Forrest then goes on to remark that he hopes to be able to create new listening associations by using the sampled bits of other songs that already have these cumulative associations attached to them, thereby playing with the preconceived associations that have already been built and placing them in new contexts.


In undergoing this process under the auspices of plunderphonics, Forrest is able to use nostalgia that has already been placed in one context by the listener and force into a new arena, displacing it and transforming it. It is precisely this form of song construction, though, that also severely hampers Forrest’s ability to construct any sort of deep emotional response in most listeners because of the inherent reaction by most to this type of music. As the breakbeats pile up on another in spastic post- drill ‘n bass combinations little time is left for associations to accumulate, let alone for the music to often be appreciated properly. But that’s not Forrest’s fault entirely. He is using completely copyrighted samples that will most likely be challenged in court if he ever is found on the relatively obscure Irritant label.


But this is perhaps what Forrest wants. As he states in a recent Wire interview: “John Oswald is my heartthrob.” And besides, as the Beastie Boys once famously said, “What’s cooler than being sued by the Beatles?” Maybe being sued by 300 other acts at the same time?


It could certainly happen. This Needs To Be Your Style is composed entirely out of sampled music taken both from Forrest’s private collection, as well as the WFMU studio at which Forrest hosts a weekly radio show. While most times the samples are cut up beyond recognition, at times extended samples can be heard as well as the occasional intact riff. This is why Summer’s brand of plunderphonics tends to work better than most works of the same ilk being produced right now- his continual obligation to creating songs, rather than experiments. Because each track on this album is, in its own right, a self composed discrete unit that stands on its own, rather than being weighed down by its constitutive parts or given short shrift because the samples are too disjointed.


Instead, Forrest has constructed, perhaps, the first truly enjoyable plunderphonics album length work, rather than the occasional great songs that have emerged from this movement.


“We Call it “the Box” works as the middle of the album as the kick-off to the party section and is followed by a number of up-tempo tracks that demand either head nodding or ass shaking. “Melodrama in Transformation” takes the proceedings down a level from the previous hyperactiveness and is filled with a simple grace that echoes Cornelius’ “Tone Twilight Zone.” Near the end of the album, the second to last song trails off in a long winding measure in a truly album closing moment before the grand finale, “The Man Who Was Thursday,” which tops the album off with nothing less than a distorted tribute to Supertramp.


And that’s what this album is perhaps best described as: a tribute album to all of the music that Forrest has ever heard- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thank goodness he has molded into all of these things- making this an experience that yields more than the usual “oh...that’s cute” response that is most frequently associated with plunderphonics.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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