Glitch is the art of exquisitely manicured accidents; it sounds fantastic between your ears, but how cool would it be if you could dance to it? While Dabrye's 2001 debut album isn't strictly glitch, it does have one foot in its abstract, frosty-grey tones, and the other foot in '80s electro — and both of them are electric boogie-ing to Remain in Light-era Talking Heads. Dabrye is one of the many guises of Michigander … read more »
Glitch is the art of exquisitely manicured accidents; it sounds fantastic between your ears, but how cool would it be if you could dance to it? While Dabrye's 2001 debut album isn't strictly glitch, it does have one foot in its abstract, frosty-grey tones, and the other foot in '80s electro — and both of them are electric boogie-ing to Remain in Light-era Talking Heads. Dabrye is one of the many guises of Michigander Tadd Mullinix, who has explored ragga-jungle (as SK-1), techno (as James T. Cotton) and IDM (under his own name). His IDM bites from jungle, his brainwashingly hypnotic techno more than nibbles on early Trax sounds, and here his glitch-funk makes vague allusions to hip-hop that he'd make good on, five years later, with the acclaimed Two/Three.
With Dabrye, it's all about spare, kinetic juxtapositions. He latches onto a few cool ideas on each track and plays them out for just as long as they keep your interest — "Smoking the Edge" (possibly a reference to the U2 guitarist's treated vocal turn on "Numb") foregrounds a funky Vocoder-like scramble and not much else besides turntable-scratch bass, a strict backbeat and eventually the polyrhythmic chatter of eighth-note triplets on a hi-hat, but the sonics are so delicious that it doesn't overstay its 3:15 welcome. The wall-slapping ambience of live drums, a backwards keyboard sloshing between downbeat and upbeat and a sound like a disgruntled didgeridoo make for a pleasing harmony of timbres on "I'm Missing You"; at various points in the track, Mullinix isolates each element, just to underscore his alchemy. Most impressively, "The Lish" melds three intersecting dimensions: a damaged, alien sample that forms a blithe obbligato, a slow, discoid drum and synth-bass line and a wayward sax with emphatic quotation marks around the word "sultry." Each is as contrapuntal in rhythm and timbre as in melody, ineffably wending their way around the other like choreographed sleepwalkers wandering the stereo spectrum.
But it's also about memory. "With a Professional" glides on a lazy handclap track and a bumptious, Moogy keyboard bass line topped by aqueous chords so diaphanous they're almost invisible. Like so many tracks here, it's a distant recollection of dancefloor daze gone by — here, the kind of the same Zapped-out party jamz that De La Soul's "Me, Myself and I" cited back in the day, but through a mirror, darkly. "How Many Times" builds on an oblique slice of an acoustic guitar sample, elusive yet sensuous, just like the gracefully stumbling pirouettes of the tweaked kick-and-brushed-snare sample behind it. Like so many of the tracks, it's incantatory and evocative, a memory-recollection machine, perhaps of memories you don't even really have.
The closing "Hot Mating Ritual" welds everything into one uncanny whole. A constantly shifting combination of parts — including the only relatively unmolested human voice sounds on the album, a small chorus of baritones chanting "ah-oo" like lounge lizard foghorns — it's a shape-shifting 3:12 mastermix held together by tonality and a rhythm track for a through-line. Again, it has that elusive flashback feeling — not just because the keyboard pointedly recalls '70s jazz-funk or because the last few bars tip a Kangol hat to old school Bambaataa-esque electro — and you can easily spend far longer than the track trying to remember what time or experience it reminds you of.
Precise, meticulous and yet comfortable with a touch of chaos, Dabrye will often rip up the beat and start again, breaking the spell just so he can recast it. It's enough to start the mind — and the body — dancing in a state of reverie.