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Fog - Pneumonia

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Artist: Fog

Album: Pneumonia

Label: Ninja Tune

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

Minneapolis must be a vacuum. How else could a song like “Pneumonia” exist for two years and stay under the radar?

Fog, a.k.a. 22-year-old Andrew Broder, is a local legend in the St. Louis Park area, famous both for his writings in Life Sucks Die and, more importantly, his near-transcendental use of the turntable as a musical instrument.

Broder originally produced his Ninja Tune full-length back in early 2000, to the jubilation of the local press and a few WFMU DJs. Pulse, a Twin Cities magazine, hailed the album, calling it futuristic and one of the best records of the year.

Apparently, Matt Black and Jonathan More were listening. They are now are set to release the work on their definition-of-cool Ninja Tune label. In order to spark interest, Ninja Tune has released the album’s premier song “Pneumonia” as an EP, packaged with a Coldcut remix and a B-side featuring Anticon’s DoseOne.

Born from Broder’s own battle with the deadly disease in 1998, “Pneumonia” captures the hopelessness, vulnerability, and eventual enlightenment of the near-death experience. From behind turntables and guitars, Broder recalls images from his personal purgatory, reciting: “In the bathroom / with the shower running and my clothes on I figured out that I hate you all.” This epiphany is less than grandiose, but the experience obviously marked a turning point in Broder’s life, and apparently misanthropy can be an inspiring force in artistic creation.

“Pneumonia” is a magical blend of acoustic and wax, meshing strummed melodies with turntable maneuvers to create an innovative pop masterpiece. Unlike most (maybe all) self-proclaimed "turntablists," Broder uses his SL-1200 as a musical instrument rather than a display of masculinity. His vinyl manipulation echoes the range and agility of a theremin, buzzing with the bass of a baritone yellow jacket, then leaping to the song’s cathartic climax.

At “Pneumonia’s” center is Broder’s disease-induced cognition: “I’m hard to fix because / it took me so goddamn long to figure out that I broke down.” This confession of sorts adds a human element to an already stunning arrangement of drums, guitars and turntables, propelling the song to new levels when the life-affirming conclusion marks a return to optimism and hope.

The Coldcut remix removes the original’s rough edges and adds a catchy string progression that renders the song’s finish even more uplifting. Overall, an exciting introduction to what promises to be one of the better albums of 2002. It’s just a shame it took us this long to hear it.

By Otis Hart

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