Groovy (*Dan Burke*) – Groovy (The Rebirth of Retro-cool) (Extreme – released 1995)
Earlier this year, this disc was repeated endlessly in my to-and-from drivings for at least one whole month with great pleasure, and recently it has bubbled back up to the surface of my pool of aesthetic lusts. Hereby I pronounce full seal-of-approval and earnestly encourage the uninitiated to seek it out.
Dan Burke is Illusion of Safety. At times with added collaborators (including James Johnson, Chris Block, Kurt Griesch, Mark Klein, Mark Sorensen, Mitch Enderle, Thymme Jones, and Jim O’Rourke), under this name he has more than 40 releases since 1983, when he began participating in the underground cassette culture. I’m fond of Illusion of Safety, and when I was informed of this weird one-off project my imagination gushed in anticipation, subsequently to be more than satisfied by its magical contents of funk-noise-art. Apparently along with being a great admirer of experimental audio, Dan is a great lover of, well, a lot of different types of music , notably including funky/groovy beats. Check out his radio program VOICE OF REASON if you please, linkable from his site, which houses plenty of info about him: http://www.danieljamesburke.net/
An aptly chosen title of course this is. It is what it says. On top of being thoroughly groovy, it’s also freely woven in magic pattern-patchworks of what I would describe as an avant-jazz-cum-80’s-tape-culture-ambient. Burke made this album in 1995 out of his love for raw funky beats. His experimental found-sound tape-head aesthetics are added, which ferments an album of unique taste blendings. The beats (including a Silver Apples snip) are in similar territory as some of James Brown’s most magically groove-potent genius strokes, and much of the primary loopage is sucked from grooves of wisely chosen old disco-funk-type vinyl, then expounded upon by other sounds, voices, rhythms and tonalities from such sources. He adds some excellent synthesizer, noises and flourishes of free form manipulative joy-gnosis here and there, compounding the wonderfully unique sensibilities of the music.
To imagine the hexagon of musical love: Illusion of Safety loves DJ Spooky loves Negativland loves loves Big City Orchestra loves groovy-trash-hip-hop loves Psychic TV? Such free love has given birth to the secret beautiful mutant life of this recording.
On a few pieces there are female vocals in the forefront, perhaps mixed a bit too hot. I think it’s 3 tracks that feature this vocalist, who performs well, but in my opinion can momentarily distract from the weirdzone. This is the only aspect of this album that I perceive to be superfluous, mostly due to the delivery being pretty straight (in a 70’s disco-pop sort of style?) in contrast to the freakyness of the rest of the stew. I alternate between feeling like the lyrics and the delivery are either a little dose of quirky subversion of hip-snobness, or just the creators having carefree fun. Unless there is a tongue-in-cheek or a wink somewhere that hides from me, I lean toward thinking that the artists were doing this obscure thing that not enough artists do; creating and performing without overt concern for how high-minded and/or HIP the creation or performance will be perceived. On various listens I find myself perceiving the voice and lyrics to be highly complimentary to the oddness; another shovel-load of kamikaze art quirkiness buttercream icing on top of a delicious, vibrantly neon spaz colored 12 foot tall kamikaze art quirkiness wedding cake. Congratulations to me. I have paid my oldest dear friend Shawn dressed as a demented dada priest version of Fred Flintstone to marry me to this album.
The album has an excellent cohesiveness; flowing smoothly to many different places, all within a dark, funky dance party vibe. To my knowledge this is the only recording of this groove-type that Dan Burke has released. I hope for the soon birth of a long gestating sequel.