For a few years now, a handful of musicians have been trying to translate DNA codes as directly as possible into electronic music. Letting biology sing is an interesting concept, but the results so far have been a little placid. On his third album, Chopped Zombie Fungus, Otto Von Schirach has taken a literal approach -- his digital beat music sounds like it's merged with the chaotic natural world and lost complete control of its genetic makeup.
The Miami-based Cuban-American sprays normal dance music arrangements with a sticky foam of gurgling, whooping electronics, and his own dadaistic vocals. "Laptops and Martinis," for example, wraps a sheen of electro-bestial grunts and belches around a booty-bass techno rhythm as Von Schirach chants commands to "Touch your booty/lick the floor/let your butt grind buttah/gimme some more." But Chopped isn't all mutant-ass-in-your-face: The mangled exotica of "Pelican Moondance" and burbling Latin shades of "Madame Queef Blizzard" bring nicely paced respites from the otherwise dizzying barrage.
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Von Schirach has enriched the Chopped experience by commissioning some astounding, Breughel-like illustrations for the album's artwork by Brooklyn-based digital artist Arnold Steiner. His richly detailed nightmare visions feature suit-and-tie figures supporting snake or fox heads, or acne-ridden giraffe faces festooned with bird beaks, crocodile teeth, and extra ears or horns. These mutants linger in normal-looking parlor rooms or stroll through post-nuclear cityscapes, making the pieces perfect visual companions to Von Schirach's freaky hybrids of spliced animalistic sound and careening rhythm. DNA may sound nice on its own, but with depleted uranium and bio-threats part of the global scene, Chopped Zombie Fungus offers a surreal soundtrack.