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Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting, "Bubblethug"

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cover imagePat Maherr is best known for his dark ambient detournements of Wagner cassettes as Indignant Senility, but his Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting project is probably as far from dwarves and valkyries as it is possible to get.  In fact, the only common ground between his two guises is that something is being unrecognizably mangled and that there are probably some tapes involved.  The "somethings" in this case are: a bunch of hip-hop songs, DJ Screw's legacy, and the whole mixtape tradition. Maherr has mischievously stripped 13 unnamed hip hop jams of everything fun and vibrant and turned them into the soundtrack for a slow-motion house party of the damned (which, of course, is perversely fun in its own right).

Weird Forest

Bubblethug is an album that makes an immediate impact.  I was passingly familiar with DJ Screw's codeine-fueled chopped-and-screwed aesthetic before I heard this album, but that did not quite prepare me for what Maherr has done.  DJ Screw merely made songs sound a little drugged and eerie—Pat has gone so far down into the rabbit hole with slowed tempos and pitch-shifting that it is almost impossible to imagine what these hapless songs sounded like before they were "remixed."  All that is left is a glacial beat being buffeted by impossibly slow, deep, and incomprehensible vocals that bubble, shudder, stretch, crackle, and quaver nightmarishly.

The overall effect lies somewhere between "sounds like a tape that has gone through a washing machine and possibly a fire" and "demonic possession."  The songs all sound fairly similar to one another due to the nature of the project, but Bubblethug works best when Maherr takes on songs with strong hooks, like he does in the sixth song.  When an actual vocal melody is ruined, the effect can be quite spectral and disquieting—it sounds a lot like my stereo is haunted.  Most of the time, however, Pat just opts for straight-up rap vocals and the results vary a bit.  Often, they are just disorienting and a little creepy, but sometimes they can get pretty phantasmagoric or even outright disturbing…like the vocalist is desperately trying to communicate something important to me while they are being dragged underwater.  Maherr also makes an amusing and effective stab at the genre's trash-talking convention, as the seventh song actually allows an understandable line to slip through the maelstrom: "everybody's thinkin' they twisted."  They are not twisted.  Not like Pat.

The only catch is that Maherr did not fare quite as well at maintaining my attention as he did at grabbing it.  After the initial impact of the audacious wrongness of this album subsided a bit, it started to yield rapidly diminishing returns.  The reason for this is that Maherr simply did too effective of a job in his destruction of the source material—very few hooks survive and nearly all lyrical content is obliterated.   Bubblethug is almost an hour of slooooooow hip hop beats and garbled, ruined voices and little else, which becomes grueling after a while.  On rare occasions, like on the excellent opening song, enough of ravaged original melody and beat survive to carry the song, but too often Maherr relies solely on mindfuckery.  Taken in small doses, this is a thoroughly ingenious and entertaining effort, but Pat needs to find something else to fill the inherent void if this project to going to have much long-term potential.  That grievance aside, Bubblethug is still striking and deranged enough to wind up being an influential work.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 26 September 2010 20:15  


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