Saturday, January 10, 2009

Getting Instrumental, Part II


(Audio Dregs)

Amateur Dramatics
(Audio Dregs)
Music aimed at children too often makes the mistake of aiming low. Underestimate a toddler's ability to grasp the esoteric pull of say, The Monkees over The Doodlebops, and you run the risk of raising a gibbering idiot.

While it's not clear who the intended audience for these two new-ish Audio Dregs recordings is, bet on the kindergarten set giving these discs two enthusiastic thumbs up. Also, please know that's meant as an endorsement from The Typing Monkey as well.

Dim Dim wins the duel with his ceaselessly bright, playful tunes. Jerry Dimmer, the Belgian musician behind the moniker, builds his songs around programmed drums and synthesized instruments -- including some fairly deep bass -- then lets weird vocal samples, melodic percussion and the odd guitar line strum run rings around the affair.

With any luck, some smart teacher or savvy babysitter is tiring out the kids by hosting playtime dance-a-thons with this stuff.

Minotaur Shock (aka David Edwards) stretches some of the cuts on Amateur Dramatics a tetch too long. Drawing from a broad emotional range and using the occasional vocalist
("This Plane is Going to Fall"), Edwards creates songs that alternate between nimble psychedelic pop and introspective digital oddities.

Various dance-music rhythms abound, but never long enough to really box Mr. Edwards' tunes into a specific genre. Shouldn't instrumental music work that way all the time? And what music isn't dance music? Wait. Why are we questioning our own critical position?

Enough. Here's one possible use for Amateur: Dig up a broadcast of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. Look for something aired on PBS for a reasonably faithful presentation. Start at Act II, or perhaps the end of Act I with "Waltz of the Snowflakes." Hit "mute" on the TV, crank up Amateur on the "random" setting, and enjoy a bit of cross-pollination.

Yes, Christmas was last year. We said this is one possible use. Make your own fun.

Reference materials: Dim Dim should be filed alongside Gershon Kingsley, Jean-Jacques Perrey and Looney Tunes. And if you really need to pinpoint Minotaur Shock's contemporaries, White Williams and Realistic come to mind.