Boomkat Product Review:
Incinerated minimal dub dirt from Michael Beckett (aka kptmichigan) that reinterprets Harry Smith's iconic 1952 "Anthology of American Folk Music" as Chain Reaction-esque soundscapes. It's a wild idea that's executed with rare skill and restraint - fans of Vladislav Delay, Rhythm & Sound, Gas, or even Fatische boss Jan Jelinek, you won't wanna sleep on this one.
Who would have thought that using Harry Smith's 1950s Folkways recordings - a defining set of American musical history culled from the filmmaker's extensive 78RPM record collection - as the basis for a dub techno remix project would birth good material? It sounds like a comedy project, not least because Beckett remixed every single one of six-album set's 84 tracks on the record's original 2013 cassette release. But this new reissue, handily pared down to just 13 outstanding cuts, is proof that occasionally, a hilariously high-concept idea can reap rewards.
On the original release, Beckett translated the title of Smith's set into his local "Low German" dialect, and used a sampler and effects pedals to disassemble the material, sometimes banging out multiple remixes in a day. Interpreting the recordings in this manner - turning crackling folk into cavernous dub and undulating ambience - Beckett makes an interesting statement about the evolving back-and-forth between Europe and the USA. Music that was rooted Europe and transformed by the influence of enslaved Africans on American soil is shuttled back to Europe, where imported Jamaican recording processes are employed by a German producer. It's almost poetic.
There's little left of the dulcimer, zither, fiddle, banjo and harmonica sounds that populated Smith's anthology. But the texture of the sounds is just about recognizable in Beckett's slim, rhythmic variations. He takes the hum of these vintage recordings and fashions them into looping tracks that mirror Basic Channel or Rhythm & Sound at their most abstract or Wolfgang Voigt at his most uncompromising. It's distinctly German music that's inspired, directed and buoyed by African and European folk traditions, and there's really little else like it.