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GUM, "Vinyl Anthology"

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Gum was the late 1980s project of two locked groove-obsessed Australian youths. Seduced by the sounds of their warped and scratched records, Andrew Curtis and Philip Samartzis developed a conceptually challenging way to harness the hidden and embarrassing music of phonographic media gone wrong.
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They, along with people like Christian Marclay, Emil Beaulieau, and Boyd Rice, became the first to take a turntable's archaic playback mechanism to task as an instrument, capable not only of an easily-manipulated and virtually inexhaustible bank of noise, but also of almost automatic syntactic headfuckery. The plunderphonic, Negativlandian impulse had already begun to assert itself in 1987, but Gum's purely phonographic stance brought that same brand of pop culture commentary and exploited sound-bytes in immediate collision with things purely visceral. The duo scratched, sanded, baked, burnt, and otherwise mutated their thrift store finds, assembling a collection of locked grooves and blasted sound chips that essentially gave forgotten records new life, fodder for a kind of surreal puppet circus where strung-up corpses grind out stunted, nervous repetitions of a living dance. Gum's trajectory moves from something like a punkier incarnation of the plunderphonic phenomenon, to amateur industrial klang, to wildly successful sound collage efforts that in many ways predict the sounds of today's turntable namedrops: Philip Jeck, Martin Tretault, Janek Schaefer. Curtis and Samartzis put more emphasis on the process end, that is the abrasions and mutations of the records and their precise recombination, than on any kind of re-contextualization of recognizable sources. The few tracks to actually show their age are in fact the ones where the duo's intent appears too transparent, their motives too easy: phone-sex dialogue featuring Curtis set to an effected Super Fly soundtrack or a live set where the Bee Gee's Saturday Night Fever becomes the rhythmic template. Elsewhere, the simple and arresting power of the duo's surface scavenges, and their queasy track titles ("Testicle Stretch," "Smooth Torture in Exile," "Arm Fuck"), become more than adequate in communicating a hilarious, dystopian, and ultimately beautiful worldview. Especially on the longer tracks like "Banning" or "Melted Limp Fallout," Gum achieves mysterious and immersive sound environments that feel perfectly suited to the present day and help to explain Samartzis' future work as an accomplished sound artist. Vinyl Anthology collects everything Gum released plus several unreleased and live tracks; it is indispensable document for fans of turntable-based music, punkers, noisers, and pop theorists worldwide. - Andrew Culler

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Last Updated on Monday, 18 July 2005 15:08  


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