Just when you thought that you had heard it all!
Even before we get to the specifics of the music, there is plenty to talk about. First of all, the name. If you think that DJ Tronika sounds like the final word in manipulating music samples and instrumentation, a blender of cutting-edge sonics, a juggler of beats, you are in for a beautiful surprise.
This is because, rather than weaving existing samples of instruments, lifting well-used grooves from classic tracks, rather than reworking what has gone before, as most DJs do, he opts for something different. Very different.
Every beat, sound, strange musical inclusion, noise, and lyric is all him. More specifically, it is all his voice. Beats are made from throaty pulses, grooves forged from strange vocalisations, and melodies seem to float around partly designed, partly due to overspill and echo from other elements.
And then there are the lyrics, a combination of the odd titular phrase as a chorus and verses made from half-heard conversations and humorous asides. Throw in some impressions of sheep bleating and whips cracking, and you have it. Although what “it” is will be debated for many years.
It’s both an a capella piece, in the broadest sense, and a DJ manipulating sounds and samples, which, after all, is their stock in trade, but here those sounds and samples are all made through voice and vocal impressions. Where it fits into the musical landscape is anyone’s guess, but the one undeniable thing is that it is unique.
It is also a remarkable act of rebellion, a DJ subverting the form, it’s like the sonic building process is totally recognisable, but the building blocks he uses are just plain weird. Weird in a good way, weird in a genre-breaking way. Weird in a way that makes you rethink what music-making might be about and, more importantly, where it might go.
It is also, perhaps unintentionally, an interesting sonic experiment. There was once a musician-philosopher, the name escapes me, who tied a violin to a piece of string and dragged it along a gravel path and invited us to discuss why this might not be considered music every bit as much as a Bach Sonata. After all, it was a human using an instrument to make a sound. Is music defined by the process or the result?
DJ Tronika begs the same question. Is Cowboy Outfit Designer a dance track? And if not, why not?
When I first played this track, I wasn’t sure if DJ Tronika was a genius to be carried shoulder high through the streets in celebration or if he was a menace to society who we need to keep a close eye on. Now, I’m even less sure, but anything that makes you think this hard about the nature of music has got to be a good thing, right? And when was the last time you got all of that from a dance record? (If indeed a dance record, it is.)