Samplerific records — that is, discs that rely in a heavy and obvious way on clips from other albums — present listeners with an unusual accreditation problem. Listen to the Rolling Stones, and you know who played that riff on "Satisfaction," but think back to the first time you heard, say, Beck's Odelay (or the Avalanches, featured elsewhere in this issue): Without looking at the credits, could you figure out if there were any "live" instruments at all on a given track? Most likely, you just danced and were grateful that the music gods allowed the disc to come into existence.
But the "who did what, when" question is begged when the participants are locals you see around town, especially when one of the featured performers is known for creating soundscapes with only two turntables — Mike Pendon, aka DJ Jester, aka the Filipino Fist. Jester's debut disc, River Walk Riots, was trumpeted in those avant-garde magazines (England's Wire, for one) that just adore one-man, Powerbook carrying orchestras, so you might expect him to continue in this vein.
Introducing the Neat Beat, though, has two other names on it — Quad Rod and Smarty, participants in the Mechanical Walking Robotboy — and claims only to "feature" the Filipino Fist. It's something the trio refers to as the Genuine Latin Love Machine.
Call it what you will. According to Pendon, "It's sort of hard to explain. Basically, Smarty, `Quad` Rod, and I got together at Rod's house every week for about six months and screwed around using my turntables, Rod's computer, and Smarty's records ... Very interesting recording process, as one person did not do more than anyone else. It's the most 'teamwork' I've ever had on anything, really. I did the scratchin', Rod played most of the instruments, Smarty helped edit."
So it's not enormously specific. Let's just consign Neat Beat to that category of projects like Bullfrog, the band based around famed DJ Kid Koala. The important thing is that, however the sound waves made it from artists' brains to your ears, it rocks. Full of compelling beats patched together from innumerable sources, the kind of weird thrift store samples that become forever engraved in your head (as I type this, a little kid's voice is yelling, "D! The letter's D!"), and joke breaks at all the right times, the disc is certainly a work of assemblage as much as it is a turntablist feat.
As far as jokes go, the funniest thing on the record is Track Four, "Edgar," which employs the Macintosh's Simple Text speech synthesizer, an electronic voice that has turned up on countless records in the last few years. Here, Edgar is a real, and really sad, personality, locked away in your hard drive somewhere behind last year's tax spreadsheets. Quoth Edgar: "Hello ... it sucks to be me. I am overused and under appreciated. Many artists use me to make their records sound important and cutting edge ... it sucks to be me ... Do you know that I have never been kissed? I am so alone."
The only spot in which the record falls short of virtuosity is "Dates," on which SA's favorite deejay steps up to the mike. Jester's emcee skills don't match his fader prowess, and though the track doesn't kill the flow, it doesn't help it either.
But that's a minor complaint on what is one of the coolest bits of dance bricolage to be produced anywhere, much less in our own back yard. However it was constructed, this beat is undeniably neat.
Introducing the Neat Beat
Genuine Electric Latin Love Machine featuring DJ Jester, the Filipino Fist