Pinch: MIA 2006-2010
So. I was asked to review something called ‘MIA 2006-2010’ by someone called ‘Pinch’. I hadn’t heard of this particular purveyor of electronic ‘dance’ music, so I decided to start my research by reading the titles of the tracks. A subtle sensation of trepidation washed over me as my eyes passed over monikers such as ‘Chamber Dub’ and ‘Cave Dream’. This feeling intensified as the mindscapes suggested by ‘Motion sickness’ and ‘Deserted Island’ began to permeate my psyche: I suspected I was about to pass through the dark mirror into….. Dubstep territory. Thus, with mild consternation I position myself on the sofa, don my best pair of headphones, dim the lights, and press Play…..
The first track is Qawwali Vip. It starts with some crisply synthetic percussion elements sparsely distributed over a noise that sounds a bit like electric smoke inside a collapsing lung. Basically, not much happens; until 49 seconds in, where we are treated to an economically menacing two note instrumental sample. Then, absolutely nothing happens, until 6 seconds later, when, crawling up from the horizon of this desert-scape of the soul, we have it: the first Wub. Followed in a relaxed fashion by a couple more wubs, and accompanied by a simultaneously spacious and intricate beat. By now I have realised that we are in strange territory indeed. Referring back to the press release I realise that Mr Pinch probably wouldn’t classify the music he makes as Dubstep. It’s definitely wubwub of some sort, and it’s quite dubby, but it’s not very steppy. I can’t really imagine any way of dancing to it. So, for the sake of genre classification, let’s call this ‘SofaWub’.
Qawwali Vip continues to bowl moodily through the tundra of my mind, occasionally getting a touch more wubby, and at one point a modified string sample suggests that something’s about to happen. But it doesn’t. And then, after a couple of minutes, it stops. For me, listening to this track was like the experience of finally encountering another human being walking through an empty world, but the cool motherfucker just walks past without saying hello. Although he does stare at you quite a bit.
Now, all of this apocalyptic rambling might make you think I don’t like this music, but this is not so. It’s very well made, and it touches me deeply, like the ghost of Jimmy Saville. The only problem I have is that I don’t know what I’m supposed to DO to this music: You can’t dance to it, and it has a dark potency that means having it on in the background while you get on with other stuff would have a strange effect on the activities you were involved in (more on this later).
Most of the tunes in this collection are a touch more lively than Qawwali:
Chamber Dub introduces itself with more of an air of intention, formed by a glitchswing kik drum beat and a generous smattering of silvery handclaps; then, again at around the one minute mark the wubs arrive, and so do a flock of echoing synth stabs and something that sounds like the noise a robot bat would make if it was the size of a dog.
136Trek even has a tempo that you could regard as 140.25BPM, depending on how you look at it.
But I still don’t know what I’m meant to be doing to this music. Mutate(ed) also registers as 140BPM, but the muted kik combined with the gamelan-spider-funk clickings, and the general air of nonchalant malignancy, would leave me baffled in a club-style situation: I’m still on the sofa, but now I’m starting to feel anxious. Indeed, this tune has a sound reminiscent of a heart monitor announcing palpitations in a spectral hospital. I feel like I’m strapped to a stainless steel slab, having been diagnosed with a chronic case of mild peril.
E.Motive is possibly the most interesting so far. It’s like waking up alone in a void-theatre where John Cage and Aphex Twin are playing a one finger duet on a treated piano, and then a hologram of your great uncle starts playing the spoons in a rotating swimming pool of android hair gel. Or something. I’m beginning to think this music is having an effect on me.
Attack of the Giant Killer Robot Spiders starts off in the increasingly familiar doom-shuffle vein, but there’s something slightly carnivalesque about this one. It’s like a Day of the Dead procession performed by the shadow images of Terrence Mackenna’s hyperdimensional insectoid machine elves. And, either in an act of glorious self indulgence, or as a gift to the bass fanatics to thank them for their perseverance, at 2:45 a continuous wubwubwub appears, lasting for a full two minutes and 5 seconds, sounding like a large calibre machinegun firing jellyfish directly into the ground.
My plethora of mental images suggest to me that I am a fan of the works of Pinch, and mostly I would agree. The remix of Rise Up seems a bit pointless. It commences with some standard skiddlywiddly reggae vocals, and then continues to do not much;
The Double Edge remix lacks the depth and fattyness of the original by Emika;
But the rest of the tracks, such as Deserted Island and Elements purvey the same notions of finely crafted alienation. And Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mali (a remix of a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan tune) is achingly soulful.
Yet the problem remains of what one is intended to get up to whilst listening to this collection. Having gone on quite long enough, I will quickly terminate this review with a list of suggested activities to which this would make an appropriate soundtrack:
1) Going on a bike-ride at 3am through a disused industrial estate wearing a scarf soaked in ether.
2) Allowing an elderly cybergoth to dose you up with daterape drugs and have his/her/its way with you
3) Hosting a dinner party for your least favourite friends, and serving up a hearty repast of electric eels and pints of nitrogen
4) Going to Lidl on a speed comedown, only buying items from the non-food aisle in the middle, and attempting to assemble your accidental purchases into some kind of useless machine.
I have never done any of these things, but now I have this album, I just might.