Today's mash-up craze -- grafting the a capella version of one popular tune to the well-known instrumental backing of another -- finds a "band" like Columbus, Ohio's Evolution Control Committee upping the ante beyond anything that London's Freelance Hellraiser claims to have introduced to the dance floors last year. Simply pasting Christina Aguilera's voice over the Strokes ("Genieus in a Bottle") might be fun for fans of immediately recognizable pop culture. But in the end, it's about as artistically significant as that parody of Edward Hopper's late-night diner with Elvis, Marilyn, and James Dean all sitting around, looking cool, eating banana splits.
Like looters in a sonic wasteland, true found-sound artists steal whatever the hell isn't nailed down, elevating something as mindless as a cereal ad into a thought-provoking remix with fresh hooks, a killer backbeat, and some sociopolitical significance. "Rocked by Rape," the ECC's masterpiece of disinformation, scores huge points on that front, setting the bar for what a "mash-up" can accomplish satirically. By juxtaposing CBS newscaster Dan Rather flush against snippets of AC/DC's "Back in Black," this hilarious, riff-heavy ode to current events remangles Kenneth's otherwise matter-of-fact, nightly spoon-fed atrocities into seamless, lyrical bling-hop: "Good evening /Danger/War/Killer/ Fraud/CIA/Mayhem/Crisis/Horrible/Prison/Disaster/Economic collapse/Mountains of cocaine and credit card debt/Nazi war criminals/CIA/Cancer/Time for us to bug out." Narrowly avoiding a lawsuit from CBS for issuing the song, the ECC maintains its right to recontextualize such clearance-free "property" in the name of art and research. And it even wears little white lab coats to back up its claim!
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Drawing from 15 years' worth of experience reconfiguring audio or altering MIDI files, the ECC takes the listener breakfast-to-supper with pranksterish abandon, splitting time between being civic-minded and irritatingly clever. It's funny and astonishing stuff -- right up there with John Oswald's Plunderphonics. Fifty-one million Napster cutups can't be wrong.