Friday, October 26, 2012

Frankie Bones - Computer Controlled 2: Live In California (Original TC Review)

Brooklyn Music Ltd.: 1999

(2012 Update:
Mr. Bones doesn't seem as active online anymore, at least not on web forums. To be fair though, music forums in general have seen better times. Seems most online music discussion has migrated to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter ...not that I'd call what occurs there 'discussion'. As for this review, it's alright though I can't help but cringe at anything that's 1000+ words now. One of those Randoms I'd do every month, which gave me the opportunity to talk about Frankie's legacy. Yay for that. Funny seeing my musings on how to score this, considering I don't do scores anymore.)



IN BRIEF: Brooklyn’s techno son tries something different.

Unless you are new to both electronic music and the internet, there's no reason you shouldn’t heard of Frankie Bones by now. As one of the founding fathers of America’s rave scene - and the unintentional originator of the acronym P.L.U.R., incidentally - his place in techno history is already secure. However, when the world wide web grew in prominence, he not only made ample use of web forums and networking sites to help promote himself, but also became one of the very few big names who actually interacted with folks online. Whereas many of his peers will answer a couple token questions or give thanks for an endless stream of ‘awesome choon!’ comments, Bones has no trouble mixing it up with regular guys in debates ranging in topics from the state of the scene to favorite drinks, and shows no fear if his opinions spark heated arguments. It’s as though he’s determined not to be placed on a Superstar DJ pedestal, in spite of the fact he easily could through his accomplishments alone.

And this is why he garners so much respect even though his brash Brooklyn attitude should have burned many bridges ages ago. Bones strongly adheres to the DIY mentality of raves, and does everything he can to maintain credibility, even to the point of sticking with spinning vinyl despite every other DJ switching to CDs or laptops. Granted, it could be argued he sees the scene with rose-tinted glasses, a certain romanticism that belies some of the frank truths out there, but considering it’s worked for him twenty years on, there’s little reason for Bones to need to change his ways.

Of course, he isn’t one to rest on his laurels either. Bones does look for ways to innovate in his own way. Late in the 90s, he found one.

The idea behind Computer Controlled revolves around Bones taking a bunch of his own tracks, playing the vinyls out at a party, and recording the proceedings as a live DJ set. On paper, it sounds simple enough and not much of a big deal. Then I thought about it for a moment, and realized this is something rare after all. Yes, DJs play their own tracks, but an entire set of them? And nor is it to be confused with a live PA set or a sequenced studio mix; this is Bones laying down the dub plates on the fly and presenting it to us as is, warts and all.

Still, this isn’t something Frankie and Frankie alone could do. Honestly, any number of DJ/producers could attempt such a set, and even do with Abelton Live these days (although there is something to be said in doing it with vinyls rather than on a laptop, raising the question of where traditional DJing ends and live PA begins with such technology). Very few do though, for the simple reason not many can even produce enough tracks to make it work. Even Mr. Tijs Verwest - an individual who has long expressed his desire to play a set of just his material - has never actually gone through with it. Perhaps over a long career, after accumulating a large enough discography, such a set would be easy enough, but even there Bones challenged himself.

Instead of relying on past releases, nearly all of the tracks on here were produced during a year’s time leading up to the chance Bones felt he’d have to make this set. As a result, many of these cuts are simple techno bangers, with little attention paid to nuances or creativity. The beats pound, a simple hook is established, and oftentimes a nonsensical looping vocal will enter the fray as well. While it doesn’t sound dated in the slightest, there isn’t anything here coming close to a hit, much less a classic. If techno of this nature holds no appeal, you might as well stay clear. Funnily enough, even Frankie realizes the musical limitations he put on himself. In typical Bones fashion, he calls out the music critics who’d ding him for such reasons in his liner notes, writing “Anyone could make a mixed CD using other people’s records, let’s see them play a full set of their own shit and make it work. If the critics give 1/10 for the music at least give me 10/10 for the continuing pursuit to push DJ culture further...” (He also gives his rating on how critics review music, 7/10 being the verdict) Bones may have been understandably pessimistic about the critics reactions to Computer Controlled, but it isn’t warranted. Yes, the music may be overly simple but the fact remains this set does work.

Frankie often opens his CDs with sounds of a party, as though you are arriving just in time for his set, and this one is no different. It’s a nifty trick to establish the mood of the disc, effectively placing you right there amongst the ravers. And Bones gets working in short time, laying the bangers down with gusto. It’s raw DJing, with rough transitions adding charm rather than hindering. And the tracks are effective party tools, a lot of fun and energetic. A few times they are darker (like Ready For The Darkness), other times they are anthems (like On The East Coast), and sometimes just transitional (like …oh, who cares about transition tracks). It may not be the greatest techno set you’ll ever hear but it’s certainly enjoyable, obviously more-so when you’re active rather than lounging around.

Although Bones’ liner notes are adamant I should grade Computer Controlled based on its DJ innovation, the consumer is still going to be more interested in how it actually sounds. As a DJ set, it’s good. As a producer’s album, it’s satisfactory. So that places this release in the 7/10 ballpark. Coincidentally enough, that’s the same grade he figured he’d get anyways. Perhaps Bones would enjoy a side career being a music critic, eh?



ACE TRACKS:
The Way U Like It
On The East Coast

Originally Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved.

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