C L E A N E R S - REAL RAGA SHIT VOL. 1 | Album Review | By Volume

Holding on too long is just a fear of letting go, because not every thing that goes around comes back around, you know. QOTSA - ...Like Clockwork



Play it again.

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Author: on March 7, 2014
Bootleg Tapes
January 7, 2014

REAL RAGA SHIT VOL. 1 is playing in an infinite loop. It is one of very few records that makes sense of that ridiculous proposition hiding away on your mp3 player: repeat the whole album. Not because you want to, but because you must. Its final declaration -– a sample that asks you to play the whole record again, “until you really know the song” – is an assignment. C L E A N E R S have set you avant-homework. Tick these endless samples off like a checklist; make sure every sound you hear matters. The grainy sample cuts in and out, like someone’s been following its instruction until the tape has all but burnt up, and the record starts again.

REAL RAGA SHIT isn’t asking you to remember what sounds it makes, though: it’s just asking you to remember. C L E A N E R S make pure memory music, caring less what you think of their record and more what it reminds you of. Their record calls back songs you aren’t hearing it sample, teasing out your subconscious rather than feeding it new information. When I listen to “TIJUANA BLUES”, I hear a collage of songs it doesn’t feature, each of which feel bizarrely and embarrassingly inappropriate for this experiment. From an anonymous guitar sample, I imagine Audrey Hepburn sitting on her fire escape and plucking “Moon River” to herself, an orchestra playing overhead in the world’s prettiest continuity error; in the aggressing piano notes that follow, I hear Tim Hecker’s Virgins, which thrummed its way into my brain as recently as last year; a sudden sample of one of Casablanca’s classic scenes, shared between Rick and reluctant pianist Sam, rings around me like a small fragment of a Stars of the Lid record; a bell that rings through the track brings to mind Los Campesinos! in their glockenspiel glory days; a muddy percussive groove, which the track enters for a quiet stretch, disguises what sounds awfully like a Tim Hardin song; and the very last moments of the record sound like the very first moments of Battles’ “Atlas”. I hear all these things without them appearing at all.

What C L E A N E R S do echoes The Avalanches and their party plunderplonics. In particular, it recalls their live mixes, which stitched together a patchwork of songs, playing each out in full as a tender tribute to their influences. The approach on REAL RAGA SHIT is what’s different – C L EA N E R S give less of a shit about what they extract, and whether or not they do their samples justice. It’s a muffled and unforgiving record, presenting what it picks up in a neutral shade of lo-fi grey. The Casablanca sample is redacted before Sam even gets started playing “As Time Goes By”, as if to declare pissed Rick’s snarl of “play it, Sam!” with as much significance. Later on, “TIJUANA BLUES” inserts dialogue from Shadow of a Doubt that, stripped of any context, sounds unflinchingly sinister: “What do these wives do, these awful women?” / “They’re human beings!” / “Are they?”. As a set-piece, it’s left to speak for itself, but it’s also rendered meaningless without a listener.

Beyond that, the track busies itself with mixing and mashing unrelated sound snippets: jazz percussion, a hook from an Illa J cut, and Paul Anka’s crooning voice skipping on a 12”. All of which makes REAL RAGA SHIT fall somewhere between R Plus Seven and the kind of sound experiment Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood tried out with “Just” – whatever tricks you’re playing with, try and throw in as many of them as you can. Give a shit about how it sounds later. And so REAL RAGA SHIT can be beautiful, but only accidentally.

That’s its charm, of course – that it creates reprieve for its own ugly static, that it gifts its listener with gorgeousness for two seconds. “SLUMTOWN SYMFUNNY” begins with an oscillating, glass-whistling loop which carries on longer than any of the record’s other quickly culled motifs, traversing through foreign dialogue and distantly layered songs before the track melts into a stuttering and impenetrable drone. C L E A N E R S are on a mission to self-sabotage, laying down sounds on the other end of  “SLUMTOWN SYFUNNY” that greet their moments of lucidity with the pockets of dissonance to match. The endlessly looped squawk of “HI!” makes the track, for a good two minutes, utterly repellent. But it ends, because something else has to begin.

The delight of plunderplonics is that it feels triumphantly genreless. REAL RAGA SHIT should be recommended alongside the other tapes released on Bootleg Tapes, or compared to records like it – ones that play like an archive of personal field recordings, such as Zahava Seewald and Michaël Grébil’s From My Mother’s House. But the truth is From My Mother’s House, with its floorboard-creaking aesthetic, reminds me more of Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House than anything that matches it for avant-garde savvy. And REAL RAGA SHIT, which exists by picking up anything on its radar, is more related to a bunch of relative memories: listening to pop songs in the car with my family, watching films with repetitive-as-fuck soundtracks, falling asleep to skipping vinyl and waking up scared shitless. It’s as special for the impressions it leaves as the sounds it makes. It brings about a succession of sounds, even if the record can only capture a dozen of them. The rest will come to you.

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