The Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post Disco Crash
s IDM has been refining itself into a stupor, there’s something refreshing about Jason Forrest. From the first sample of The Whisper’s “And the Beat Goes On,” (or most commonly known as the backing track in Will Smith’s “Miami”), Forrest doesn’t appeal through any method other than trash. A thin ironic sheen couldn’t explain the bombast of The Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post Disco Crash. Instead, this is an aural assault on taste—not too surprising from an artist who first dubbed himself Donna Summer.
Forrest describes his music as “Cock Rock Disco”—a tag far removed from the religious pursuit of forgotten vinyl with DJ Shadow starring as the ‘sample savior.’ Forrest disregards turntablism’s cultish fetishization of the obscure. Instead, we’re offered a mad-man braving the line of kitsch and plunderphonic high art. When Forrest rides out CCR’s “Run Through the Jungle” on “Satan Cries Again,” the uneasy line between rip-off and brilliant merges in the dubbed-out landscape of John Fogerty singing “Two hundred million guns are loaded / Satan cries.” Needless to say, this is a moment that is better experienced than described.
Trash cinema (or paracinema) has become the vogue topic for film scholars, and there’s a certain kinship that can be found in Forrest’s work. While Unrelenting could snugly fall under the category of mash-up, Forrest instead offers a formation of paramusic—a style that not only uses mash-up’s direct and exploitative sample techniques but also undermines elitist sensibilities. Undermining sensibility isn’t a new phenomenon, but within the sample-based medium of mash-up, expressions of taste are amped to 11. Forrest has achieved the filthiness of Pink Flamingoes’ Divine among glitch-aesthetes.
Pierre Bourdieu’s famous phrase “tastes are first and foremost distastes” is thereby given new light with Forrest’s cache of disco re-workings and power chords. Disco and cock-rock become very incisive points for re-working taste. Whether via Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park or Kurt Cobain, both genres have been deemed revolting within popular culture. But Forrest revels in the fact, if not openly celebrates it, especially with songs like “Why I love ELO” (a presumed homage, with accompanying organ-freakout).
None of Forrest’s ‘trash’ would matter if his music didn’t force a re-evaluation (or rejuvenate) the material it was employing. For “Big Outrageous Sound Club,” Forrest reconstructs Elton John’s plodding (and tedious) piano from “Bennie and the Jets” against a clunking bass swing and glitched percussion into a glam-electronic stomp. With “Big Outrageous Sound Club” and the rest of the album, Forrest’s rapid-fire editing never holds on any idea for longer than a couple seconds. The music becomes animated in itself, using an over-load inducing pace traceable back to Looney Tune-composer Carl Stalling. Unlike Stalling’s focus for visual medium, Unrelenting uses those familiar booming rock riffs to tempt the listener through the album.
Unrelenting takes a comic tour through genres a la DJ/Rupture and Prefuse 73. But Forrest distinguishes himself by creating music that appears to borrow nothing from the nostalgia of his sampled material. Instead, the cockrock-cum-disco king unwittingly uses sampling as a critique of taste that is jaw-dropping and, more importantly, booty-shaking.
Reviewed by: Nate De Young
Reviewed on: 2004-06-04