• Published 17th Jan 2017
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A Survey of the Work of Vinyl Scratch (Abbreviated) - Meta Four

“Make no mistake: DJ PON-3 is the most important dance musician—and perhaps the most important musician—working today. But first, let me tell you about my childhood …”

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1. Pedestal

From Sound on Sound, 9 April, 1000 issue:

Electroconcerto EP

Label: Canterlot Records
Release date: 04/12/00

By Spilt Ink (staff writer)

It would be easy enough to attribute her success to the ongoing “white ponies are best ponies” narrative. Easy, and wrong.

When I was but a lad, years away from my own awakening to the joys of music, sex, and journalism, my mother saw fit to subject me to that stupefying convulsion of civic pride, the great Summer Sun Celebration in Canterlot. While “Opportunity (Let’s Make Lots of Bits)” and “What Time Is Friendship?” blared from every jukebox and dancehall soundsystem across the country, simultaneously embodying electronic music at its creative peak and foreshadowing the utter ruin that would befall the genre in the decades to follow, I likewise approached my own personal apocalypse at our nation’s capital. I still thought my hometown of Baltimare a mighty metropolis, so the sheer scale of our capital city—the overwhelming masses of ponies, those phallic minarets that so inspired Mic Drop and DJ Nasty, the vertiginous panorama just beyond the city walls—had a profound effect on my eight-year-old psyche, and not a positive one.

But the most precipitous shock was yet to come, and with it a revelation—not one my mother intended, doubtless—for which I count that whole trip a felix culpa. It manifested when that great throng gathered to behold Princess Celestia raising the sun, and cheer her on. As Tenner sang, “What did I do to deserve this?”—to me, the sun was just that thing that made my summer vacations hot and miserable, and gave me sunburn if I stayed outside too long (I suppose I was pining for Princess Luna’s return all along, though I couldn’t have known it at that time. Praise the moon!)—but everypony around me was shouting their lungs out, stomping enough to provide percussion for a Cut Hooves concert, so excited were they to see our tall, white, subconscious dam-archetype doing her thing. Contemplating this discrepancy between my ambivalence and their enthusiasm eventually uncovered the simple formula behind the thought process of those great unwashed herds:

(Pony doing a job successfully) x (white pony) = cause for perversely overblown celebration.

Once this truth crystallizes in your mind, further evidence is everywhere you turn. Why else did the tabloids go gaga over that Captain of the Guard romancing Princess Mi Amore Cadenza? Why did the sports pages follow First Down’s hoofball career so obsessively? Why does the fashion world lose its collective mind over every half-baked idea Rarity tosses off?

In a world that’s growing increasingly hectic, increasingly depersonalized—where, thanks to our programming from the mass media, simple pleasures are denigrated if they’re thought of at all—things like gardening or cloudscaping or writing 100-page overviews of the gender dynamics of bicycle pop songs—where the dignity and self-respect of so many ponies are ground underhoof in the never-ending quest to earn a few more bits … what makes those white ponies so damn special?

And with that in mind, what of Vinyl Scratch? She’s the paler half of DJ PON-3, the ironically named dance music duo whose debut EP has so utterly dominated the music discourse of late. It would be easy enough to attribute her success to the ongoing “white ponies are best ponies” narrative. Easy, and wrong. I don’t say this lightly, but both members of DJ PON-3 deserve every bit of praise that’s been slathered on them, and an extra helping on top of that. Their goal is nothing less than to save dance music from its self-imposed march to chthonic oblivion—and all evidence suggests they actually have the know-how to pull it off.

The aforementioned Vinyl Scratch—turntablist, synthesizer maestro, sample manipulator, and songwriter—brings a lifetime’s worth of proletariat passion, frustration, and lust to this EP. She doesn’t need to brag that she’s spilled more sweat and blood on the dancefloor than a DJ like Squirrellex or Modulator has in their whole body, because these four songs embody that sentiment louder than words ever could. And Vinyl’s partner in crime, Octavia Melody—songwriter and cellist—is the dark horse of this ensemble. Her cello only graces the unforgettable title track, but the hoof marks of her formal training in modern classical are all over the EP; in the dance club she’s conjured up, you can’t swing a conductor’s baton without hitting a clever reference to the compositions of, say, Counterpoint or Half Glass.

On “Electroconcerto”, Octavia saws at her cello with both fastidious precision and the fury of the insane; the track would sail upwards and light the sky on fire if not for the army of silver frogs that Vinyl summons from her synthesizers. This digital immediacy gives way to analogue expectancy on “Komfowler,” as a trail of neon breadcrumbs leads the listener deeper and deeper into a strobe-lit forest, where the bass and sub-bass manifest a cyclopean predator that pursues you relentlessly while also hiding from you in fear. Taken back-to-back, the overall effect of these tracks is like Brass Valve from an alternate universe where he took up the keyboard rather than the trombone, and also he played anything besides dirges, and he didn’t hate his audience.

Side 2 begins with “Syde Tooo,” which brings to mind nothing less than that vision from Wild Drummer (dance music’s last true philosopher and all-around cheeky bastard) of a future in which all music consists of identical drum machines playing identical four-on-the-floor bass drum hits at identical BPM—yet the critics and listeners still argue over which umph-umph-umph-umph is better. Not because DJ PON-3 literally go that minimalistic—quite the opposite, in fact; one suspects that a complete list of all the synthesizers and effects pedals on this track would have turned the liner notes into a short novel—but because on a superficial level this is indistinguishable from the pablum that DJ Snufflepuff and Groove Grove are cranking out, except that Vinyl’s and Octavia’s big, beautiful souls shine through every bass wobble, and that makes all the difference. If their love doesn’t save your soul, it’s because you have none.

Finally, on “Halcyoff,” belongingness transcends into becomingness, manifested not in the fractured half-beats or the almost ersatz Joy Order-esque bassline or the robot mountain goat climbing a mile-high trail of exploding synthesizers, but in the gestalt in the nonexistent space between. It’s the most transcendent affirmation of life since “(Come on, Colt) Do Ya Wanna Ride?”—without the crutch of lyrics to seduce your head, Vinyl and Octavia invite your heart and stomach into an alternate universe where every molecule is a slice of delicious key lime pie. There’s a party in your brain, and your ass is invited.

Everyone’s asses are invited. The mares of DJ PON-3 have stared into the abyss of modernity’s industrial-magical-sexual-psychological nexus, and they’re here to light the path to a saner existence, and for that they deserve more than our respect. Music will save us all, and these two are the great white (and gray) heroes we didn’t know we were waiting for.

Staff rating: 9.7
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