A short seven months after the release of his debut record, Diplomatic Immunity, the unfathomable intergalactic negotiator and groove machine has returned with a most urgent message. You see, The Phantasmal Farm is in danger and in need of saving. The pull of the 8th Dimension has that place of transcendental epiphanies in its grasp and only you, yes you!, can save it.
The Polish Ambassador implores you to download his new release in its entirety for free, and in doing so, rescue The Phantasmal Farm from a doom most certain. By the mere act of clicking “download” and opening your ears, you’ll get the satisfaction of the knowledge that you’ve helped save an entire metaphysical journey from extinction, plus you get the opportunity to kick your heels up with the most delicious grooves in any dimension.
As an album, The Phantasmal Farm doesn’t disappoint. While quite similar in style to Diplomatic Immunity, Farm shows a clear evolution in its more complex harmonies, its layered-upon-layered rhythms and its denser arrangements. Its pulsing electrobeats will bury themselves deep in your subconscious mind, the simplicity of its electronic timbres belying a cosmic sophistication. Don’t try and fight them, for those beats are your friends.
Individual tracks can be sampled at Last.fm, but really, you should just grab the whole thing from The Polish Ambassador’s website. The seductive llamas and neon wheat will surely send you dark matter rays of everlasting gratitude.
Here’s a early favorite of mine, When The Robo B-Boys Just Kill It:
This song is perhaps the greatest mystery in the entirety of my music collection. It’s a fairly sophisticated remix of the song Twift Shoeblade from Mouse on Mars’ third album Autoditacker (1997).
The tempo is a little faster, the arrangement has a little more punch and it has been resequenced slightly. Not to snub the original at all, but I must say I pretty much prefer the remixed version.
The strange thing is, in the seven years I’ve had it in my collection, I’ve never been able to track down any information about it. If I could remember where I got it, that might help, but honestly, I have no idea where I it came from. The song is old enough that it could be from the original Napster, but either way, that wouldn’t help.
Surprisingly, because tagging wasn’t a common practice at the time, the file came with some decent ID3 information:
Name: Turn the Dark Up
Artist: Mouse on Mars
Album: mixed by the big chopper
Still, even armed with this information, I’ve been able to track down nary a clue about its origin. Google is completely useless, turning up seven results for the phrase “turn the dark up,” most of which are about theater.
Searches for “The Big Chopper” and “Mixed by the Big Chopper” don’t reveal much either, mostly with regards to motorcycles. I’ve found one music-related reference at musician and noted producer Don Flemings’ Instant Mayhem, but Surfin Halloween doesn’t sound anything close to what I’m looking for.
The iTunes Store has a rapper by the name of Big Chopper, but I don’t think that’s it either.
So, whoever you are, Mr. Remixer, I salute you. I guess this is one riddle that will have to remain unsolved.
And to all you readers, here’s a treat: Turn the Dark Up, mixed by The Big Chopper. Enjoy.
Life, kid, suck, drink from the box, the juice kicks up.
High energy and repetitive, Bruce Lee basically sounds like it was recorded on a manufacturing line. With one verse repeated again and again, Underworld performs an exercise in rhythm and variations on a theme.
Using brute force, this thing will pound its way into your head, but for a form of House music, strangely you won’t feel like dancing. So just sit back and let your brain take a beating.
What I love: That cold, industrialized beat.
Bonus Separated at Birth entry
I’ve been listening to this song for roughly eight years now, but it wasn’t until I posted the above that I noticed that the beat I’m so fond of bears a striking resemblance to Michael Jackson’sSpeed Demon from Bad (1987).
Once you’ve listened to Bruce Lee, check out this sample and then tell me it doesn’t sound a little “inspired by.”
After creating some most infectious and “warm” electronic grooves that were both danceable and singable, Mouse on Mars returned with an album of “spatial free-jazz and cocaine-fried booty funk” on the largely structureless Varcharz. But don’t take structureless to mean groundless. Beats are what MoM do best, and while the album has its share of dissonance, it’s a noise symphony built on a solid foundation.
Take, for example, the assonantly named I Go Ego Why Go We Go. With its calculated repetition and precise layering, the song sounds like it could have been composed by some sort of JamDroid, its disruptive rhythms compelling all the other robots to abandon the assembly line and get on down.
What I Love: It’s Mouse on Mars; the beats are cold and unfriendly, but that won’t stop me from bobbing my head.
Anyone who’s been around tunequest for a while surely knows of my fondness for The Polish Ambassador, the Earth’s greatest half man, half cyborg, all electro-groovin’ diplomat. Anyone who is new around here should get up to speed by reading my write-up of his debut album, Diplomatic Immunity.
After posting that review, I sent a list of questions to the Ambassador, inquiring about his species, his adventures, his artistic methods and, of course, his jumpsuit. Read his responses below and learn about this enigmatic officer of good will and intergalactic dancetasticsm.
Are there other Polish Ambassadors bringing good will and electrogrooves to other planets, or are you the last of your species?
I choose the name “Polish Ambassador” merely so humans could better relate to me. My true name and profession exist in an ethereal sense that humans do not possess nor understand. There are many of my kind traversing throughout the far reaches of the galaxy.
Sometimes we pass each other on our cosmic voyages spreading good will throughout the universe. We’ll stop for a little while and say hello. It wouldn’t be uncommon for us to share a hot cup of mate, perhaps eat some toast covered in the finest organic mayonnaise, and reminisce about the old days and the aural orgies we shared at The Academy.
You’ve recently moved your consulate from Chicago to San Francisco. What diplomatic opportunities do you hope to uncover there?
One thing I didn’t expect coming to this planet is the havoc that the atmosphere would wreak on my delicate, boy-like skin. Most people don’t know this but I have severe psoriasis and the moist climate of the Bay Area was mandated by my dermatologist, Dr. Friezenberger. Plus, the hilly topography will only further the development of my robust quadriceps. Thusly, I will be better able to perform my diplomatic duties. “Soft skin and huge legs are what make a man,” is what my hermaphrodite wet nurse always said.
What’s the greatest diplomatic incident you’ve ever had to deal with? Did it bring you glory or shame?
Once, while rollerblading along the Pacific Coast Highway, I witnessed a rainbow trout named Mohammed and a coho salmon named Isaac arguing about who has been the most influential Canadian of all time. Mohammed argued it was Mike Myers and Isaac retorted that only a trout brainwashed by celebrity culture could believe such a thing and that Mark Messier was the greatest Canadian to have ever lived. I quelled this debate by letting them know that they were both wrong and that the correct answer is, “Who is Alex Trebek.”
They both immediately recognized that I was right, copulated at once, and began to produce a super-race of fish known today as Trebekian Troutmon.
Glory this brought to all. No doubt.
Where can all the kids get their own Polish Ambassador Jumpsuit?
You must collect 10,000 proofs of purchase from Cap’n Crunch Crunchberry cereals (part of a complete breakfast), send them into General Mills, and then in 6 to 8 months you’ll get your very own one-size-fits-all Ambassador gear. Easy, right?
Any chance of a fact finding mission with live show dates?
Yes. I will connect with Earth people at the end of this summer if the Orb of Fortune aligns with the blue diamond of Pestulan.
What kind of advanced technology goes into creating your jams?
Harnessing the infinite.
Does that bonus track at the end of Diplomatic Immunity have a name? If so, what is it?
Yes. Internet Electrocution.
Speaking of song names, there’s a little irony in that the titles to your purely instrumental songs have a certain lyrical quality. What goes into your naming process?
Where I’m from there is no such thing as free will. The names of these tunes have been ordained since the birth of time and are not up to me.
Tell me something cool about Poland.
Here’s a cool thing about Poland: It’s full of Poles. Sometimes you’ve just got to face facts. Polish folks are the ideal specimens of the human race.
Released in 2001, 10,000 Hz Legend is Air’s first proper follow up to their smash Moon Safari. Coming three years after taking the world by storm, the record was much anticipated. Air had carved out a particular niche of upbeat, laid-back retro-electro-lounge and the fans wanted more. MORE!
Sadly, anyone who was expecting that was sorely disappointed. Including myself. I admit, it took me a long time to fully appreciate this album. I didn’t even pick up my own copy of it for months.
Gone is the light, airy feeling that made earlier works so attractive. In their place is a decidedly denser, darker, more down to earth record. It is less electronic though there’s still plenty of it; more organic and human. Yet, it is simultaneously both more conventionally pop and more experimental than the easily digestible tunes of Air past releases. And that is the source of frustration with it.
Yes, there is a certain je ne sais quoi that brands this as distinctly “Air,” but at times it just proves hard to listen to. Don’t Be Light, for example, has its moments, but it is so spastic–just all over the place–that it can’t muster up more than three stars. Wonder Milky Bitch plods along, like the soundtrack to a demented home on range, and is just downright weird. Conversely, Radio #1 exudes pure cheese: an over-the-top, over-produced mélange of sound, but it really isn’t that bad on the ears.
But for all its stubbornness, 10,000 Hz Legend is the kind of album that benefits from repeated listening. Layered and complex, the album reveals new tangents every time. The more I listen to it, the I want to listen to it. This stuff is ponderous; it get stuck in your head.
But it’s not all deep-thinking intellectualism and satire. Radian, the disc’s highlight, is pure pleasure. With a lofty flute melody, sensual strings, and a wonderful accompanying guitar, the song harkens back to the kinder, gentler Air from the past.
In retrospect, 10,000 Hz Legend is probably the best career move the band could have made at the time. It deftly avoided pigeonholing the band as a novelty lounge act and showed that they could use a larger aural canvas and think big. It reminds me of how Nirvana decided to, with In Utero, make a record that would discourage their new-found fans in the wake of Nevermind’s success. But they ended up cementing their reputations as the leaders of rock. Likewise, 10,000 Hz Legend pinned Air with lasting artistic credibility.
When I was in middle school, I became a big fan of the first few entries to the Mega Man series of games for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Game play was straight-forward. The stories were fairly one-dimensional Mega Man good; all others bad, but exciting. And each level, named for an element or mineral (Bubble Man, Heat Man, Air Man, etc), proved to be a uniquely constructed world, incorporating imagery and themes related to the mini-bosses’ namesakes.
But the best part was the music, especially Mega Man 2 and 3. I enjoyed the music so much I put together a compilation of songs from the various levels by holding a cassette tape recorder next to the TV speakers and precisely pressing buttons on the controller at the same instant I pressed “record.” Despite being constrained to the NES’s primitive sound capabilities, the music from those games showed a compelling attention to rhythm, melody and harmony.
Which brings me to The Polish Ambassador, who simultaneously hails from both the farthest reaches of the known galaxy and Chicago. He is a musical envoy on a peaceful mission to evangelize his Polish heritage and electrify but not electrocute you with his powerful outer space grooves.
I’ve been keeping tabs on him since I stumbled across one of his songs at Last.fm several months ago. So when he asked me to review his recently released debut album, Diplomatic Immunity, I said that I would be thrilled to do so. And today, I got my very own cosmic Valentine’s Day present in the form of a compact disc.
Which is appropriate, because I *love* this record.
It rocks in a way that only multi-layered synthesized jams can. Much in the same way that working with a limited sonic palette forced early NES composers to rely create complex tonal patterns and melodies, The Ambassador bends the electronics to his diplomatic will, creating deep, engaging arrangements that belie the simplicity of its timbre.
The influence of early game music and culture is unmistakable here, from sounds themselves (Infiltrating the U.N. features a direct SFX sample) to the bit-mapped pixel art that adorns the disc and jewel case. These instrumental tunes could almost be the soundtrack to their own game, circa 1985.
I say almost because the passage of 20+ years means the The Ambassador is not restricted to the meager capabilities of an ancient game console. Where those compositions would end, Diplomatic Immunity takes off, adding fantastic beat after fantastic beat. This stuff is so groovy that each listen has the potential to kick-start the best damn dance party this side of Canopus.
Clocking in at 20 tracks running over 56 minutes, the record doesn’t disappoint on both substance and variety. And while there’s not a bad song in the lot, the real standout is Earth versus the World, which also happens to have a pretty nice video. Also, for pure dancetasticism, it doesn’t get better than the album’s finale, Crunching Numbers. You’ll swear you’re dancing in the middle of a laser battle.
In addition to their world-sized beats, The Chemical Brothers are generally known for their world class videos. I stumbled across this video to Star Guitar from the duo’s 2002 release Come With Us while perusing the ol’ Google Video/YouTube library this afternoon and was quickly fascinated.
It was directed by noted film dude Michel Gondry, who’s done some impressive work, including intriguing videos for Bjork, Beck, Radiohead and many other musicians, as well as numerous innovative television commercials. But he’s also responsible for pioneering “bullet time” cinematography, so negative points there.
Of course, the concept of synchronizing visuals with the rhythm of music isn’t exactly new, but the execution here is clever. Though by the end of minute three, you’ve pretty much gotten the point and are ready to move on.
Star Guitar is an awesome song and the video is pretty cool, so enjoy it:
One cold night, during the very cold December of 2000, I found myself at the original Handle Bar myspace warning in downtown Pensacola. Dilapidated doesn’t even begin to describe the place, but its rundown condition gave it the perfect character to be a favored destination for the town’s surprisingly robust hipster set, until it burned down in 2001. don’t worry, the handle bar was rebuilt in a new larger building in the same location that’s actually a much better music venue.
The venue was, and continues to be, an iconoclastic home to PBR drinkers and is one of the handful of places in town where independent, unsigned and local musicians can perform their music. On this particular winter’s night, I and a friend from high school (as well as some of her friends) were in attendance of this band who were touring in support of their debut album. Their name was Japanic, a strong enough band name, though I had never heard of them. That night, I wasn’t all that interested in live music, as I was enjoying a mellow hang out with friends. So I was a bit irked when the band started playing and my companions started moving away from the corner Gauntlet machine and toward the stage. Though, the performance space was so small that it was only a matter of steps from the arcade to the stage.
The band rocked pretty well, a quintet producing a kind of keyboard/synth-laden funk rock, like if The Breeders were new wave and danceable with perhaps a hint of Pink Floyd sprinkled into the delivery.
At one point during the set, while the band was breakin’ it down, Tex, the singer, hopped down from the stage and started dancing among the 20 or so gathered people. He also happened to be dancing right next to me. The beat was infectious, and so was the fun he seemed to be having. But I can’t dance, at all. So I upheld the dignity of us both by maintaining my “stoic music appreciation” headbob-and-stare.
All in all it was a very good show, but as is the case with so many upstart bands, I expected to never hear of them again. Thus, it came as quite a surprise that, a week later, I was riding with another friend and discovered Red Book, Japanic’s album, while flipping through the CDs in her car. She was bummed when told her that they’d been in town and she had missed the show, but she let me borrow the CD, a favor for which I am infinitely grateful.
After that, the rest is history. I never did hear anything more of Japanic. At this point, it’s incredibly hard to dig up info about the band, but Space City Rock’s Houston Band Graveyard tells me that the group broke up sometime in 2003, after releasing a second album titled Social Disease. i’ll have to track down a copy of that.
Still, these six years later, that short-lived band continues to fascinate me.
Presented for your enjoyment, Japanic’s signature tune: Orpheus Express, which sounds like the funnest damn trip to hell and back there ever was: