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Wednesday, Aug 27 2003
Billy Pollard is a 22-year-old white kid from Toronto who lives with his parents and has been making beats on his computer as Knifehandchop for the past seven years. On his second album, Rockstopper, he's crafted a masterful collection of bass-heavy gabba -- i.e., extra-hard, extra-fast techno -- that integrates aspects of other extreme-dance genres: the stuttering drums of jungle, the whiny synths of gangsta hip hop, and the hyper electro sounds of ghetto tech. He even throws down some quality midtempo funk with jangly acoustic guitars. While all of this is difficult listening, the album's most challenging feature may be the questions it evokes about sampling and cultural appropriation.

The identifiably black vocal samples from hip hop and dancehall songs that Pollard uses -- none of which is credited -- reverberate with a rawness that's exacerbated by their repetition within his relentlessly pounding tunes. Pollard builds his edgy "Down With the Technics/Don't Sweat the Scene" out of gun clicks and a vocal "pow" taken from a dialogue in which one black male cautions another who's playing with a gun. He sprinkles the distorted keyboards on his electro-funky "Hooked on Ebonics" with spliced vocal samples of words like "black," "bitch," "money," and "Benz." And for his charmingly titled, straight-ahead gabba tune "I Hate Your Fucking Face," you're left wondering what's more unnerving: Bobby Digital's abject tune "Domestic Violence" or Pollard's looping of an abusively misogynistic line from it.

Widespread sampling introduced the theory that if you can lift sounds from any recording, cultural context becomes flexible -- any sound is fair game for use by anyone of any color. Indeed in the early '90s, both black and white jungle producers in London spiced their tunes with "gun man" vocal samples from dancehall records. But that died down after enough inner-city jungle raves were shot up, literally. Hopefully, neither Pollard's largely middle-class global gabba circuit nor the expanded audience afforded him by an album on Tigerbeat6 will experience any consequences of the literal rage he digitally flogs on the undeniably exciting Rockstopper. And hopefully, Pollard has thought about where that rage comes from.

About The Author

Ron Nachmann


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