Being a DJ primarily involved with experimental music, I have the opportunity to hear a lot of strange recordings. I’m not so full of myself that I will say “I’ve heard it all,” but I will admit that as I move forward, it gets more difficult to hear something new. Thankfully, there are discs like the Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas release “27 New York Antisonnets,” that remind me of how incredibly weird music can be.
In fact, “weird” is the best description I can come up with at the moment. I can imagine this even being the guiding principle– “Hey guys? Let’s make a disc that is just completely WEIRD, okay?” Seriously, I doubt it was anywhere near this simple– the worthless results of self-consciously weird musicians litter the experimental landscape. No, Little Ricky’s is more than just weird; they’re marvelously original, seriously talented, and delightfully comic to boot.
Let me stop here for a moment, and make a small announcement. I don’t generally like “funny” music. For all his talent and intelligence, every Zappa album I’ve heard leaves me cold. In other words, I won’t forgive silliness for talent– if anything, it just makes me more turned-off. So although I’ll use a word like “comic” to describe “27 New York Antisonnets,” I want to remind you that it is not a silly album.
Starting off with some Debussey-ish keyboard work, and Stefan Paolini operatically exclaiming “preek preek preek” over and over, it’s definitely a jarring effect when suddenly listeners find themselves in black metal drum-land– and just as quickly, launching over into layers of squished vocal mutterings that wouldn’t be out of place in the “Weeping Demon” portion of Akira Kurosawa’s film “Dreams.”
With crashing percussion and tortured howling, scat vocals and something like the “Brazil” bassline propels listeners headlong into the Super Mario Brothers theme. It’s unexpected, to put it lightly– especially given the belches, sax skronk, and warped trumpet noises forming the background. “Mushrooms,” someone exclaims, which is as much an explanation of events as it is perfectly appropriate for this videogame hero overdose scenario.
For nearly 30 minutes, “27 New York Antisonnets” follows this form, moving quickly from one eyebrow-raising idea to another, acrobatic enough to walk the thin line between Zappa-foolery and a needlessly-lurching prog exercise. After this the album changes, shifting from the more live feel of the first portion (called “Dinner”) to the more cut-up, electroacoustic studio work of “Movie,” which incorporates samples of live performances to create a more polished, jazzy spin on the Little Ricky’s aesthetic. Although this section of the album is well-constructed and enjoyable, it seems unnecessary and disjointed in relation to the bulk of the album, creating an ironic end to such a kaleidoscopic work.
As for the sound and quality of the album, I’m mostly pleased. It is obvious that a large amount of sound sources from many separate occasions were used overall, which can sometimes result in sound problems. Instead, “27 New York Antisonnets” seemed clear of these scars. However, on my copy, the first 13 tracks retain the noticeable micro-pause that can plague users unfamilar with cd-burning software. As OKS Recordings of North America co-owner Bill Byrne is an experienced digital artist, I’m surprised at this oversight, and hopefully assume it is due to the fact that promotional recordings DJs receive are often of slightly lesser quality in appearance and construction.
Update: I was right– the problematic gaps were confined to the promo copies.