Title: Investigates Strange Weather Patterns and the UFO Cults of Cold War Nevada
Artist: The Fucked Up Beat
Release Date: 2014 March 20
Genre: Noir Schizo Hop
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Pricing: Name Your Price
Label: Self Release / Bandcamp
So, if the original [Ed. Note: revised in 2018] title of this article (UFO Cults Investigate Strange Weather Patterns of Cold War Nevada) isn’t long enough for you, you can go with the actual title for this release: The Fucked Up Beat Investigates Strange Weather Patterns and the UFO Cults of Cold War Nevada. From a purely artistic standpoint, the title for this release (as well as all of The Fucked Up Beat’s titles) is a truly eye-popping, curiosity inducing artistic masterpiece. From an online writer’s standpoint, it’s a monstrosity that needed to be shortened, and hence the word play in the title for this review.
It was also difficult to explain in a concise phrase what genre this release fits into. The categories as listed on the release page include: 1950’s science fiction experimental avant-garde downtempo future beats jazz noir old samples sci-fi sound collage tape loops. This is actually probably the most concise and accurate description of the music on this release, of course it is also extremely verbose and not well suited to a short genre description.
But, if those things were difficult enough, there are still more things about this release that make it a tricky review. For example, take the track titles: ‘Subterranean Homesick Oil Fields/ Bordertown Medium’, ‘In The Fallout Shelter On Typewriters Dreaming/ Bounding Toward The Snowy Horizon’, and ‘Los Alamos! Los Alamos! We’ll Return Again! When Broken Hearts Have Lost Their Relevance’ for example.
But the crowning achievement in making this one of the most complicated releases to review has to be the fourteen different versions of this release. Literally, there are fourteen different versions of this relasse. Each release bears different artwork, and just to frustrate a reviewer, the last track is different on each release. (Fortunately, the “B-Side” tracks have been compiled into a single release available on FMA: The Fucked Up Beat: Investigates Strange Weather Patterns and the UFO Cults of Cold War Nevada (B Sides)).
Okay, if you couldn’t tell so far, I am actually having a bit of fun with this release. All of the unique challenges it poses are just part of the terrain with Eddie Palmer and Brett Zehner unique artistic vision. So, on with the review.
UFO Cults Investigate Strange Weather Patterns of Cold War Nevada
When I tripped across this release by the Fucked Up Beat, I was immediately intrigued after listening to just a few samples of some of the tracks. But, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had heard something similar to their work before, but I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. Then I found a reference to a side project of Palmer & Zehner called ‘Sunset Boulevard‘, released under the name Studio Noir.
At the time I focused my review on being disappointed with the Creative Commons license used given that the sources were from the public domain. However, I felt that it was a really fascinating release, and had hoped that the person (or people) behind it would actually continue to work with that style of production.
Well, as it turns out, as The Fucked Up Beat Palmer & Zehner are doing more with the music than they did on ‘Sunset Boulevard’, and they are releasing their public domain based works under a less restrictive Creative Commons license.
Where this release differs from ‘Sunset Boulevard’ is in transformation. While the samples used on this release are recognizable, they are woven into a complex tapestry with new beats and sound juxtapositions that they do become their own works.
I easily found myself thinking of these works as their own compositions. I find myself engaging with them on a completely different level than I would the original pieces. And, what’s more, I find that I am paying attention to the mood that is created by the pieces, not just listening for the samples. This is what the art of sampling and transformation is really all about.
So, here we have a work that is at once a real challenge and yet is extremely listenable. What? How can I say that? Well, the idea of using public domain samples as the basis for a sound collage is not new. The idea of making these sound collages into new pieces by supplementing them with new beats, and using some production tricks and techniques is where this release excels in breaking new ground.
However, where this release does challenge the listener is in understanding the titles of the pieces. As I mentioned above, the titles are extremely long, and bear the hallmark of understanding a lot of background material about the subject matter at hand, in this case UFO cults, the Cold War, Nevada and weather patterns. It’s all very relevant to a specific time period (in this case it would appear to be the late 1940’s through 1950’s — although many consider that the cold war didn’t end until the 1960’s, and yet other consider it to have ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union).
It’s this density of subject matter, the complexity of the concept being presented that can make this work a bit tricky to grasp, even while it is excellent listening. I feel that the musical quality of this work trumps the complexity of the subject matter, and actually makes me want to understand a lot of the topics being explored even more.
In closing, I have to point out a couple of favorite tracks on this release. The opener ‘Subterranean Homesick Oil Fields/ Bordertown Medium’ sucked me in immediately. The reference to Subterranean Homesick Blues immediately pulled me in, but the music was totally different and still stood up to the reference. ‘Does Capitalism Isolate You’ just grabbed my mind — it’s not the music so much as the thought of a construct of modern society being a limiting factor to our personal growth. Finally, ‘Thirteen to Centaurus / Weird Fish Found in Sargasso Sea’ is just a haunting piece that is stuck in my mind.