From the Archives: Around the World with Clarence Baxter

Arling and Cameron
Music for Imaginary Films
Reviewed by Clarence Baxter in Barcelona

We disembarked in Barcelona at the crack of dawn. My crew of music radicals had dwindled due to attrition, disease, and tinnitus, but the core was in full force: DJ EZ-FU, former yurt dweller and post-rock pioneer, Akbar X and Shenard Rodriguez, the ‘brothers’ from another galaxy who got turned on by internacional pop, and Master Fung, former red Army commander turned Drum n Bass aficionado. We were a motley crew and morale was low.

Akbar X and Shenard Rodriguez

In fact we hadn’t had a truly epic mission since our adventures in Moscow in late 1999. The new millennium had brought us bad weather, blaster malfunctions, and too many run-ins with customs to mention here. Still, we remained dedicated to the cause: to open up minds through the guerilla tactics of high volume.

We spent the first day in Barcelona in a cheap pension near Las Ramblas. Shenard passed around some hashish as we chatted idly, repaired our blasters and tested out some tunes for our street mission the next day. I was working on a slick little Technics EP-XR I had picked up in Tokyo. It was a tight machine, but the volume was still a little low, so I was jacking it up with an additional amp and a compact bass bazooka to give it that extra oomph that is so necessary for street conflict.

Master Fung

Through the white noise of blaster squelches and Master Fung’s omnipresent Drum n Bass, I detected something unusual. Someone was blasting some 70’s ultracheese, some of the very music that had set me on this seemingly never-ending quest. I turned down my box and listened harder. A man and woman were singing about the days of the week, and I couldn’t help but smile, as the next track kicked in. It was an exceedingly ridiculous theme song about a drug-sniffing dog named Hashi. I ordered the crew to turn down their sound, except for Akbar, who was playing what turned out to be Arling and Cameron’s Music for Imaginary Films.

The record is one of the most mimetic you’ll ever hear, jumping from genre to genre with surprising skill on every track. Each song manages to capture a certain kind of film (or television) score or theme to a ‘t’ without being overly self-conscious about it– call it post-irony, something Japanese artists such as Fantastic Plastic Machine and Cornelius have been exploiting for much of the late 90’s.

The songs move from French 60’s gangster (Le Flic et la Fille) to synthed-out moderne disco/house (1999 Space Club) to pure 70’s cheese, be it easy listening (W.E.E.K.E.N.D) or disco (Let’s Get Higher). The sound is dead-on just about every track, and each can bring a smile to your face, either in derision or appreciation, depending on your disposition to that particular genre. But these are happy songs, meant for happy and mindless days in the media-saturated western world, where we’ve heard everything before, but still like it served back up periodically.

Usually my crew likes to challenge people by confronting them with incredibly loud music that sounds like nothing they’ve probably ever heard. But as a good leader I know that too much dogma can ruin even the fiercest army’s taste for battle. It was time for us to break out and just blast some funky shit into the sky for people to enjoy. Armed with 4 hastily-dubbed mixes of Music for Imaginary Films, we set out into the city in our finest 70’s and 80’s gear, with our biggest and showiest blasters strapped jauntily to our sides.

Clarence Baxter

I don’t think I have to tell you that we were a huge success. We didn’t blow many minds, but Spaniards of all ages gathered around us for impromptu dance sessions with outrageously happy smile-split faces. Parties were breaking out spontaneously everywhere we went, and as I looked over my usually stolid crew as they breakdanced, jived, and twirled their blasters above their heads, I knew I had made the right decision.

The next weeks would be hard as we headed to the French countryside to introduce the locals to some old-skool rap, but I knew we were ready. The revolution is now, brothers and sisters, play it loud!

Clarence Baxter, Barcelona April 21, 2000

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