Album Reviews

Jackson & His Computer Band – Smashed

(Warp) UK release date: 19 September 2005

Before you go running for your burning crosses, this is not the new guise of Michael Jackson and his new (non-judgemental) computer friends. This is the very different work of Jackson (Fourgeaud) and His Computer Band, which consists of…well…just him…and a llama.(Okay so I made that last bit up)

Disjointed splice and dice electronica from the Warp label; home of the disco-possessed and oddly outsiders. Odd to think that it took until the end of the 20th century for French music to make it into the realms of Anglo acceptance with the chilled beats of Air leading the way.

Jackson himself comes on like an autistic Prince in his jagged funk-isms and his eclectic mash-ups of influences; this could be the French spaced oddity of our own Mylo, (with no Miami Soundmachine in sight). Cheekily paying homage to all that was crap in the ’80s, and polishing it up to reveal new angles for our noughties magpie minds. Thom Yorke will probably be citing this as an influence on their forthcoming glum-fest as a signal of the increasingly alienating culture of blah blah blah.

The bludgeoning splice and dice of Utopia mashes glam breakbeats, a distinctly ’80s sounding female chorus pondering “have you ever thought about Utopia?” caught in the meshing gears of one of those nasty (but nice) Warp splice and dice glitch beat machines. This is a dense soundclash that despite the unsettling and jarring rhythms still pulls back just enough with a glimpse of a breather to not totally repel.

Jackson has fashioned this ‘antique futurist’ style from the depths of a Parisien basement, endlessly re-tooling the tracks until they almost topple over into the abyss of pure noise, before snagging on a hook or melody that draws you back into the audio fight.

Putting together polar opposites musical influences in the same track, like Boards of Canada against Donna Summer, Prince into Aphex Twin creates a musical tension and a new territory of sound that reveals not so much differences as common ground in this genre-busting palette of sound. The inspiration comes from his interest in the speed of modern day living, of info-mercials, blip-verts, being both funny and brutal at the same time.

Arpeggio comes on like the gold-chain hero movie homage that never was, tripping over its muscles and camp disco-isms in a quick synth-stomp. TV Dog sounds like Boards of Canada rubbing shoulders awkwardly with the blistered rapping of Saul Williams before sliding into some sub-funk world of George Clinton having a bad trip. The gloriously titled Hard Tits serves up the albums respite from skewed beats with this graceful Goldfrapp-esque charmer waltzing in on a sweep of woozy keys before stumbling out of the wrong door.

Like a late night session with a hyperactive friend determined to show you all their record collections’ best bits’ in an hour, this can be a thrill-fest, but one that moves at such a pace you may need to revisit it over time for the madness to give way to some sense of sanity.

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Jackson & His Computer Band – Smashed