May 4, 2012

Chris Daly’s traditionalism only manifests itself at Star Wars Reenactments.

I recently saw a wanna-be meme on Tumblr trying to categorize the more esoteric branches of music. I believe the original author’s point was that this music, as well as hard to fully appreciate, was somehow unlistenable too. In the furthest reaches of this chart was listed “field recordings,” alongside “whale noises.” Say what you will about Shamu singing, but one need look no further than Blocktreat’s Traditionals to find out just what kinds of laid back, melodious grooves one can create with an ear for beats and a recorder. Unlistenable. Right.

Taking his name from a silviculture (that’s forest management, for those without a dictionary handy) reference, the Vancouver beathead also known as Brandon Hoffman uses his Blocktreat alias to create a truly organic sub-strata of the beat culture. While you might know him better as Gnomegrown Music and for his work with bands like Miami Device, Colin Easthope, and Myriam Parent, Traditionals shows a much warmer and fuzzier side of the man’s palette. The source material for the album comes from field recordings of friends jamming out bluegrass standards in the back yards and living rooms of East Vancouver. Don’t be mistaken into thinking this is some mere bluegrass sample heavy cut-up job, though. Hoffman uses existing sounds to create new ones. While I’ve always considered Shlohmo one of the best in the game at this form of music, with all due respect, Traditionals takes the game to a new level. This kid captures white and ambient noise and transforms it into living, breathing beats.

Listen to the static employed as percussion on “Old Joe Clark pt. 1.” Tell me that that little kid’s voice on “Windsor Blue Number Seventeen,” played in conjunction with that harmonica lick, isn’t another instrument itself, much like the way the lapping water works in “Painted Boat, Oh Painted Boat.” And if that’s not the eeriest banjo lick you’ve ever heard on “The Game of Poverty,” well, you’re a better man than I, Charlie Brown. Sure, this stuff may have started out as bluegrass, but in Hoffman’s hands, sounds are fluid and chimerical. Fortunately, Blocktreat knows how to turn lead into audio gold, Jerry! Seriously, if nothing else, this is the most unique and interesting album I’ve heard this year. That it also happens to be one of the funkiest just makes it that much sweeter.

Blocktreat has set a new standard for field recorded beats, kids. Trust me on this one. And don’t listen to Tumblr for music advice. Use it to find boobies and Star Wars pictures, like the Based God intended in the first place.


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