Tuesday, June 1, 2010

UTAH SAINTS: Utah Saints (London, 1992)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

Utah Saints (London)

Song for song, this duo's seven-track, forty-minute "EP" from last summer, Something Good, provides more hooks per sampled dancebeat than this longplayer does. Both feature the transcontinental hit "Something Good" and its likely follow-up, "What Can You Do for Me," but whereas the EP's filler holds its own at least as tenaciously as the hits, the filler on Utah Saints demonstrates all too well what can happen when two British DJs who "use samples to free [themselves] from the confines of popular instruments" run out of stuff to sample.

In other words, most of the songs here whose sole songwriter credit reads "J. Willis"--a.k.a. Jez Willis--don't shake half as much technobooty as the ones credited to Willis and someone else, a conundrum that reveals exactly what kind of genius Willis and his partner, Tim Garbutt, possess: the eclectic, parasitic, cyberpunk, postmodern kind, where survival doesn't belong to the fittest so much as to those for whom fitting life's pop-cultural fragments together in new and wondrous ways represents survival.

If all that sounds rather dense for dance music, wait till you hear the music itself. In the best of it, bits of everyone from Annie Lennox to Gwen Guthrie to Candi Staton to Sylvester to Slayer bump up against each other in a kaleidoscope of sampled blips and programmed bleeps.

The Slayer sample shapes up into "I Want You," a disco-metal jackhammer that outpummels almost everything by Ministry. "New Gold Dream" finds Willis and Garbutt sampling everything from Simple Minds' original but the tedium. And "Something Good" turns Kate Bush into the Cyndi Lauper of the Arthur Baker-remixed "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Therein lies the genius.

Then we get five Willis originals, none of which turn anyone but Willis and Garbutt into anything but Philip Glass gone house.

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