DAT Politics
Plugs Plus
Chicks On Speed COSRECS06 CD

Not for the first time, Marx's cliche fails to hit the mark. Tragedy isn't repeated as comedy, it chooses to reinvent itself as comedy, as a necessary means of survival. If skipping laptop composition initially scored through its austerity, it didn't take long for the smartarse electronica set to grasp how ridiculous such granular music could be.

Perhaps it's a fear of being taken too seriously, but a lot of granular music is currently closer to regression therapy than to the avant garde. Hence G4s are as much toys as instruments, and should be treated as such; and hence the pleasingly regressed fourth album from Lille quartet DAT Politics. Released and beautifully packaged by Chicks On Speed, Plugs Plus makes explicit connections between European sound art, the pranksterish Bay Area scene and the electro-naivety of, say, Nobukazu Takemura.

And DAT Politics's emphasis is decidedly on the pranksterish and naive aspects. Much here sounds like they've metaphorically split Sunny Delgiht over their keyboards. Their music is made out of malfunctions that are hyperactive rather than dystopian, built more from squeaks + squits than clicks + cuts. Frequently, it's just fine: "Re-Folk" and "Nitpickers", for instance, reconfigure the glitch aesthetic as kidergarten Gabba, more or less.

Of course, the danger here is that enjoyment of its jokes might be lost on outsiders. Plugs Plus perpetuates the sense of sniggering juvenile elite by enlisting Kid606, Matmos, Blectum From Blechdom, Felix Kubin and Sclammpeitziger. Mostly, their contributions consist of treated vocals -- Kubin makes like German one-hit gagaists Trio obliterated on "Morgens, Mittags" while Blectum add their usual deadpan absurdism to "Food" and "Lovenoodle", the latter curiously like an electro-pop version of Brian Wilson's hypnotically dumb "Vegetables".

On the last track, "Pass Our Class", Matmos's Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt turn up to chant, "If you want to pass our class/You have got to show your ass", coming over like bright kids misbehaving in their music lesson, even as the authorities they're blowing raspberries at are cheering them on. But as children and DAT Politics know, coming over simultaneously brilliant and immature is immensely gratifying.

- John Mulvey, The Wire, Issue 218, April 2002