It Is The Best Ones (freakytigger) wrote,
It Is The Best Ones

100: 90s No.99 - The Invisibl Skratch Piklz Vs Da Klamz Uv Deth

What you hear is not a test - the Invisibl Skratch Piklz are junkyard jazz, the perfectly po-mo sound of pop culture in meltdown. One of the great ear-boggling pop statements, Vs Da Klamz Uv Deth is an absolute triumph of technique, the band having won the World DJ Championships so often they were banned from competing and had nothing to do but head for the studio (where they remain - the drooled-over album still uncompleted).

The turntable workouts of the 80s (by Grandmaster Flash, Steinski, etc.) were tricksy enough, but their main focus was on the soundbite-galleries which unfolded in real-time before gasping listeners. The Invisibl Skratch Piklz know that that particular game is up with the coming of the sampler - their weapon of choice is the scratch, refined and developed to an esoteric degree. In a Grand Royal interview, the DJs making up the Piklz demonstrate their special crabs and flares like an arcane gymnastics: on record the sound is compelling, swatches of abused record noise twisting and angling out of your speakers at headwrecking speeds, but it's also utterly uncommunicative. The little space-skits at the start and end of the record, the content of the sampled discs, are as goofily irrelevant to the Piklz experience as the 'atmospheric' decor in the queue of a spacey rollercoaster ride.

All this gives rise to the worrying thought that the Piklz' music is off-the-wrist in more ways than one, virtuosity winning out completely over content. That's maybe why no turntablist album I've heard yet has really satisfied. But then listen again to the scorching velocities the scratching achieves towards the end of the 12", listen for the uncanny newness of the textures the Piklz unleash, and compare it to the smug, limpid nonsense that passes for 'content' in most music, and you'll start scratching your head over why we keep privileging meaning over wonder in the first place.


I haven't listened to this in years either - you can tell by the third paragraph that my faith in turntablism is somewhat shaky and the low placing on the list is a giveaway: this is a duty entry, not one from the heart. Also the first sentence of this write-up is possibly one of the worst ever written! Things do get a little better - I like the rollercoaster decor metaphor (at least I know what *I* mean by it) - but this is very generic. The third paragraph, again, is my post-Reynolds dogma (boo hiss to the 'text'!), filtered through some kind of incipient 'poppism' - I think I wasn't specifically down on lyrics, simply aggravated that so many people used profundity in general as a critical yardstick. I can't remember what the big hypes of autumn 99 were, so I'm not sure what precisely had got my goat. Beck??

This spring I was at the EMP conference and accidentally wandered into a paper on Filipina turntablism: the crowd for it was so minute that I didn't feel I could sneak out so I sat through the whole thing. One thing that struck me was how all the famous turntablists interviewed seemed to be the SAME famous turntablists I'd read about in Grand Royal back in '97: the culture never really seemed to achieve breakout, though clearly this particular community found it really valuable and expressive. The other thing that I realised was that I'd totally forgotten HOW to listen to turntablism, if I ever knew. And by listen to I mean "tolerate".

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