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Carl Stone, "Ganci & Figli" and "Au Jus/The Jugged Hare"

cover imageGiven how many years I have been actively chasing down unique and bizarre albums, it is mystifying how most of Carl Stone's oeuvre has eluded me thus far, though his recent albums have admittedly felt almost too experimental for me (and in a hyper-caffeinated way to boot). Sometimes, however, I finally hear the right song at the right time and everything clicks into place. In the case of Stone, that revelation came in the form of the Ganci & Figli EP, wherein he gleefully transforms some anthemic contemporary dance music samples into two very divergent and inventive collages. "Figli" in particular is fun and deliriously rapturous in a way that I almost never encounter in experimental music. The same is true of the even more eccentric "The Jugged Hare," which was released earlier in the year. While I am not sure if Stone has recently perfected this side of his art or if my own sensibility has finally shifted enough to embrace what he has been doing all along, this recent pair of singles feels like the work of man who is operating on an entirely different level than his peers, playfully cannibalizing pop culture to make high art that feels like a confetti bomb going off at an out-of-control dance party.

Unseen Worlds

In classic inscrutable Stone fashion, Ganci & Figli takes its title from "an amazingly scaled, 24-hour rosticceria panineria in the city of Palermo" that he once visited with composer/saxophonist Gianni Gebbia.Whatever ties a panini place in Palermo to these two pop music cut-ups is likely to remain a mystery to me forever, but Stone's stated intention for the release was to make two different yet complementary pieces from the same set of samples ("like a prelude and fugue").I suppose it is possible that the song being deconstructed was a bit of pop music that Stone heard that day in Palermo, but my attempts to deduce the song's original language have been wildly unsuccessful thus far, as his manic sample-chopping rarely allows even a single syllable to escape unmolested.Despite that aggressiveness, Stone is remarkably sensitive to both the character and inherent soul of his source material, dramatically altering the structure and the pace while making sure the fundamental essence remains vividly intact.Ganci & Figli reminds me of an inspired variation upon classic late '90s Oval albums, except Stone uses his chopped-up and skipping approach to emphasize and enhance moments from the source material rather than obscure them.

The opening "Ganci" takes the source material in a slow-motion, dreamlike direction, as two pitch-shifted vocal loops languorously intertwine over a warm haze of synth chords and stammering word fragments.It is quite a gorgeous, endlessly shifting, and sensuous piece of music, calling to mind an underexplored niche somewhere between Clams Casino-style cloud rap and Florian Zeisig’s Enya deconstructions.The following "Figli," on the other hand, has the sped-up and spinning feel of a great experimental film: just a flickering, heavenly swirl of life and color from start to finish.Stone even manages to retain some semblance of the original piece's anthemic dynamics, as the sensory overload of tumbling, chopped-up voices eventually coalesces into a propulsively thumping kick drum groove and a wild, gibbering crescendo of stuttering horn melodies.Right from its first moment, "Figli" is a dazzling tour de force in which Stone deftly steers a manic chaos of stammering, colliding, and overlapping layers into a satisfyingly tight and vibrant pop-like format.Both sides of this single/EP are great, but "Figli" is definitely the piece that reminds me why I became excited about experimental music in the first place: there are no rules and artists are completely free to twist whatever they want into wild and inventive new forms.I dearly wish more musicians were as ambitious and cheerfully reckless as Stone in exploring the limitless possibilities of sound.While Ganci & Figli is admittedly a brief statement, it is nevertheless a perfect celebration of what is possible when a suitably warped mind and resourceful nature collide with compositional rigor and an endlessly shifting, oversaturated world of cultural stimuli eagerly waiting to be hacked apart and repurposed.

Samples can be found here.

cover imageThe "Au Jus/The Jugged Hare" single, released earlier this spring, is very similar to Ganci & Figli in its compositional approach, as both pieces are stuttering and manic MAX-generated deconstructions of fare that was originally far more straightforward and melodic.

In fact, "Au Jus" is an even a more concise exploration of the same stylistic territory, resembling a mainstream pop/R&B jam that has been chopped to pieces and reassembled into a wildly different bit of dance pop that feels like it was composed by a psychedelic woodpecker.While it is far too fragmented to quite describe as melodic, "Au Jus" nevertheless feels like a coherently structured piece with a pleasingly erratic and kaleidoscopic groove.More importantly, Stone executes that groove with all the skill and finesse of a veteran techno producer, seamlessly manipulating dynamics and intensity as he builds to a volcanic crescendo of jackhammering loop assaults.The whole thing sounds like it was inspired by strobe lights, except the strobing effect is deliciously unpredictable in both tempo and intensity, resulting in a rapid series of snapshots with entirely new transitions and context.And, of course, an exhilarating sense that the whole swirling cacophony could go completely off the rails at any second.

One could argue that the following "The Jugged Hare" actually does go completely off the rails, albeit in the best way possible.Given how aggressively Stone mangles his source material, it is not entirely easy to guess what the piece originally sounded like, but it seems to have been a cheery piece of banjo- and flute-driven folk music.It also sounds like a cheery piece of banjo and flute-driven folk music after Stone's intervention, but a considerably more deranged and sped-up one, as the vocals are diced into a frenetic swirl of yodel-like fragments.Amusingly, I have seen the "The Jugged Hare" described elsewhere as "maddening," which is an understandable conclusion, as it calls to mind a children's TV show being played at double-speed while a madman mischievously plays with the saturation and hue of the bright primary colors.I quite like that effect though, as it makes for quite an unhinged and entertaining listen.Also, Stone is not the sort of artist who is content with merely creating something wildly ridiculous or crazy-sounding, as the piece's relentlessly insistent cheer gets pulled apart in the piece's final moment to reemerge as an unexpectedly poignant locked-groove-like outro.While it does not hold up quite as well to repeat listening as Ganci & Figli, "The Jugged Hare" still feels like one hell of an artistic statement, boldly stepping outside the bounds of what is cool and trendy to indulge a breathless, candy-colored plunge into surreal madness.

Samples can be found here.