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Mix Master Mike | Bangzilla | review | electro | Lollipop

Mix Master Mike

Bangzilla (Immortal)
by Tim Den

It's not easy to constructively criticize Mix Master Mike. After all, he - along with DJ QBert and DJ Shadow - is all but an untouchable giant in the world of turntablism. His skills are unquestionable, his palette broad and always used intelligently, and his imagination gold-worthy (see Beastie Boys' Hello Nasty). So how do we approach Bangzilla, then? Do we focus on his proficiency, his choice of samples, his structural process, his choice of beats? Perhaps all of the above. Let's begin.
Proficiency: It'd be redundant to point out Mix Master Mike's chops. In every song, there are multiple counter rhythms playing off of each other, as if six hands are constantly working. Of course, he didn't lay down all the scratches at the same time, but their construction and anatomy prove that not only can the man come up with this stuff, he can execute 'em perfectly as well.

Choice of samples: As always, the quotes are b-movie hilarious, the beats explosive and groovelicious, and the chopped up orchestration (title track) and instrumentation devilishly fancy. There are hooks made out of swear words, nursery rhymes, and random sci-fi catch phrases, yet nothing overstays its welcome within the short (smart move!) songs (average length: Two and-a-half minutes a piece). The breaks hit you hard, then leave you wanting more. The way it should be.

HOWEVER, something must be said about the uniformity of Bangzilla's tempos. Whereas DJ Shadow almost never repeats BPMs, Mix Master Mike and DJ QBert (specifically, Wave Twisters) seem to have an addiction to one specific tempo. Most of Bangzilla - with the exception of opener "Trigger Man" - floats atop a quickly-paced tempo that, as much as its snare/bass drum pattern changes throughout the album, stays hypnotically unchanged. The result is the feeling that the album is just one long song. And maybe that's what Mix Master Mike was going for, but it's just too blaringly apparent to not point out. There are hundreds of fluttering cuts and breaks happening on top of the beats (samples, scratches, etc.), why didn't he try messing with the foundation once in a while? Maybe play with the beat's panning, or even scratch it instead of the icing on top? Sure, he inserts different breaks and introduces new drum sounds from time to time, but those are aesthetic differences, they don't change the fact that the tempo is still the same. It's as if the metronome got stuck on one setting during the making of the album.

So what can we conclude about Bangzilla, with its plethora of inventive ideas but repetitive tempos? Perhaps that even geniuses can be flawed, but not enough to disrupt the art's cohesion and enjoyability.

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