The Allies

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Sometimes a reasonable body wonders if turntabilism at the end of the '90s hadn't already begun to turn into the late-century equivalent of the theremin, a musical technology that revolutionized the experience of sound but reached its expressive limits.

The Allies

Reviewed by Joe Lockard

Monday, August 14 2000, 6:57 PM


Sometimes a reasonable body wonders if turntabilism at the end of the '90s hadn't already begun to turn into the late-century equivalent of the theremin, a musical technology that revolutionized the experience of sound but reached its expressive limits. Sound technologies like the early Soviet-sponsored theremin and hip-hop turntabilism assume an ideological cast that corresponds with an aesthetic. For the theremin this ideology was futuristic and supposedly revolutionary; for turntabilism, the ideological reliance is on street hip-hop and an underclass confrontation with state power. Still, just as the theremin found itself demoted from the revolutionary communist vanguard into a Hollywood sound signifier for the weird, turntabilism with attitude seemed doomed to serve other purposes, like selling Pepsi to whoever in the world didn't need it.

Not now, not yet. Its day will disappear too, but an album like this shows that turntabling is doing more than thriving in a commercial sense. It's still scratching for meaning.

This is an 'invasion album' for The Allies: they know what they are doing. The album mixes the aesthetics of hip-hop and electronica, featuring both the band and tracks by its individual members. Three of the nine tracks are by the entire crew. Style and sound production devices mutate through the course of the album, but it remains close to the group's central crossover effect. The Allies, all championship DJs, share a common energy that echoes through their crew's work.

The leadoff song "D-Day" with the full band establishes a quick pace on an excellent track. Canadian DJ A-Trak follows with a paen to his hands, although he could be referring to either scratching or the joys of onanism. Develop's solo track, 'Myfunction', displays an inventive composer's instincts. Cut and edited voices interweave with discordant but flowing sounds and scratches over heavy background percussion.

Spictakular's 'Gotcha Covered' is the most lyrical rap of the album, one that talks about songwriting as a retreat from daily abuse. On J-Smoke's contribution, 'Ready for War', the heavy-beat music is better than the song's lyrical sentiments. J-Smoke's music can make a spine-bone move. Two live session tracks give a terrific sense of what The Allies can achieve in performance. In 'The Anarchist Movement' Infamous uses sampling and a convincingly resonant voice-over to suggest that "you're afraid of us", that fear of disorder is the prevailing social order. The final track, 'Freedom of Speech' delivered by Craze, lays down constantly shifting rhythm tracks in the course of the song, while telling folks "nobody likes me, but that's okay, 'cause I don't like y'all anyway." No whines please, Craze, because the music is fine even if you feel abandoned.

The Allies have landed and their music is good.

D-Day is an Asphodel Records release 

Copyright © 2000 by Joe Lockard. All rights reserved.
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