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Langage Computer - Mouse Back Riding

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Artist: Langage Computer

Album: Mouse Back Riding

Label: Quatermass

Review date: Oct. 26, 2004

"We've had contact with him…for a while it came in as just some jumbled noise." The sci-fi movie dialogue sample that begins the strange experience of Langage Computer's Mouse Back Riding serves as an apt warning for hip hop heads. The few discernable samples here aren’t recognizable; the beats stutter, fade and mutate as if the drum machines are rapidly deteriorating; chimes play the scariest lullabies ever heard and when vocals actually appear, the lyrics are in French. Those who can ride out the jumbled noise will find a bizarre beat blend that, when at its best, is thoroughly intoxicating.

One distinguishing characteristic of the Langage sound is the use of turntables as an instrument rather than a display of technique (a la the X-Ecutioners) or exquisite taste in vinyl (like DJ Shadow). Turntablist Detect's only concern is how his crossfading sounds within the context of John Bloug's compositions, interweaving scratches clipped beyond recognition. Bloug, on the other hand, fights against the loop-based structure of hip hop by making the default centerpiece of any track – the beat – erratic in both volume and frequency without ever completely losing rhythm. The BOOM BOOM BOOM of "Bulle Cassée" can cause seasickness, while sheet music for "Impensable Vérité" would resemble advanced Braille – part of the reason Mouse Back Riding is still surprising seven listens in.

The record's intentionally scattershot tactic doesn't always nail its target. While tried and true accoutrements like an Earth, Wind and Fire-sized horn section would sound too pedestrian among most of Bloug’s compositions, he does rely on certain sounds, particularly twinkling tones, too frequently to keep with his ethos. Some of the shorter tracks, like "G2" and (appropriately enough) "N/A," are throwaways (their brevity is appreciated, though). And while the French rapping of Hi Tekk and James Delleck on "Petite Créature De Poche" and "Impensable Vérité" works well, Buck 65's awful spoken word ("I'd rather be strangled than a seagull than have an albatross around my neck") demonstrates one of the best things about instrumental hip hop: No wack MCs.

By Josh Drimmer

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