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Christian Marclay - djTrio

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Artist: Christian Marclay

Album: djTrio

Label: Asphodel

Review date: Jun. 16, 2004

Christian Marclay began to use skipping records as the rhythm section of an early performance duo in 1978. Since then, his technique has developed tremendously, but he continues to use a turntable as far more than a listening device. Also a visual artist, Marclay has consistently approached his music as conceptual material in which the creation of the sound’s source is as much a part of the finished product as the music that leaves the speakers. Some of his most famous record reconstructions involve LPs sliced like pizza and reconfigured as Frankenstein discs of sectioned colors, or records intentionally marred by the feet of gallery visitors.

More recently, however, Marclay has distanced himself a bit from some of his more extreme musical tactics, and, though he still utilizes multiple turntables, and continues to use stickers and other implements to encourage skipping and “incorrect” playback from his LPs, Marclay’s newer music is built much more around typical mixing and placement. Solo performances have been rare; Marclay has preferred to work in duo or trio settings, the most prolific being his ever-changing DJ Trio, in which Marclay improvises with two other turntablists, often of differing backgrounds and styles. This disc documents live recordings of Marclay’s work with the group, collaborating with NYC’s illbient DJ Olive, fellow big apple residents Toshio Kajiwara and Marina Rosenfeld, and Erik M (or, eRikm, as he’s sometimes known), one of France’s most notable avant-garde vinyl manipulators.

In the trio setting, it’s often hard to define where one musician’s contributions begin and another’s end. Some of Marclay’s signature samples of thin, trebly horns can be heard, but more often than not, the music is a stew of sounds whose origins are hard to discern, and it’s perhaps better that way. Even when watching the music performed live (something I was lucky enough to experience at the Andy Warhol Museum, the source of the disc’s first track), trying to keep track of who’s doing what can be a fruitless task. Now, with no visual cues to offer help, it’s even tougher. In digesting djTrio, it seems, the best course of action is to absorb the whole, rather than pick out its parts. \

The DJs on the disc construct the music with a holistic approach, though their choices of companion noises don’t always meld easily. But, when Marclay, and whichever two of these collaborators, are weaving intricate webs of sound and operating on the same wavelength, the results can be quite interesting. Track six, recorded at the Centre Pompidou in February of 2000, contains some amazing, static-riddled alien music that’s some of the album’s best. The spooky fluttering of the third track, from Detroit in 2002, is also a highlight.

This meeting of old and new is a document of over three years of music made by Marclay and the DJ’s who make up the other two-thirds of the trio on each track. The mix of musicians creates an expected variety in both approach and quality, though not so much that djTrio ever feels like a compilation. Marclay may not be quite the iconoclastic artist he once was, but the niche he occupies is still undeniably his own, and while his more recent work can be a bit spotty in places, this disc is decidedly more hit than miss.

By Adam Strohm

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