The Free Design CD review [Light in the Attic]



Music Reviews
The Free Design CD review [Light in the Attic]
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Aug 2, 2005, 06:25

THE FREE DESIGN The Now Sound Redesigned CD

Another dirty li'l secret—that Acid-Jazz's roots run so very deep into a substrata of utterly execrable quiet-storm jazz-lite. On The Now Sound Redesigned a host of au courant DJ's, re-mixers and indie rock hepcats like Peanut Butter Wolf, Madlib, Caribou and Super Furry Animals respectively update soft-rock schlock merchants The Free Design with undisguised reverent glee and with utterly delightful results.

Conceptually, the DIY and “punk” aesthetic was largely about discerning salvage and imaginative rehabilitation of guilty pleasures: heavy metal and garage rock at the dawn of punk for instance.  Electronica, Britrock, rap-metal, hardcore punk, ad nauseam followed suit, each sprouting their own specific transformations of previously laughable stylistic resources.

In this particular case, it's an exceptionally comfy fit.  Acid-jazz and electronica/DJ music habitually draw on contradictory juxtaposition and montage, not only in terms of audio content, but concept as well. A basic artistic precept of this world is contrasting the naive, banal and facile with the urgent, intense and worldly. The Free Design embodies the former with their sugary, swing-a-ling melodies, bright vocal timbres and Up-With-People lyric conceits. The re-mixers counter that with funky beats, pointedly mechanical instrumental voices, artful computer and turntable mangling of the original recordings. On the other hand, they're careful not to overpower the source material, conscientiously extrapolating their treatments FROM the principles inherent in them—and yet not be overpowered by those in turn.

I doubt the Free Design would ever have imagined their music retro-fitted thusly, even if they had precognitive powers and could foretell the technology and stylistic possibilities the future would hold.  But it's a gas anyway!  [Light in the Attic, PO Box 31970, Seattle WA 98103]

-Howard Wuelfing


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