Review: "Weapons Of Mass Percussion"
The anticipation of hearing new music from The Process came loaded with expectations based entirely on 2002's "Blood & Bones", a great collection of reggae gems that I put among the best local records I've heard in the past ten years. So I couldn't help but hope for a repeat performance on their 2006 follow-up, "Weapons of Mass Percussion". And a repeat performance is pretty much exactly what I got - just not in the way I expected. -Mitch
Band: The Process
Recording: Weapons of Mass Percussion (2006)
Members: David Asher (vocals, guitar, keyboard, programming, FX), Garrick Owen (guitars), Bill Heffelfinger (bass, keys, programming, stick), Gabe Gonzalez (drums)
Produced by: Gee Pierce & The Process
Mixed by: Gee Pierce & David Asher at UBeU Productions, Saginaw (except track 1 mixed by Lavel Jackson, tracks 12 mixed by Albadore Sound Systems, track 13 & 14 mixed by Gabe Gonzalez)
Mastered by: Horst @ Studio Germany
Expectations & Fresh Ears
Instead of a collection of entirely new songs, The Process offer only one, a gem-worthy opener (albeit a poorly mastered one) called "Rasta Soldier" which easily holds up among their best songs and has already been nominated as a Grammy contender (whatever that means). What's left are thirteen tracks of re-mixes, mash-ups, extended cuts, techno flirtations and "dubs" - almost all of which rely heavily on previously released material from "Blood & Bones" and "Craven Dog" (you can read a review of "Blood & Bones" here). I have to admit being bit confused and disappointed on first spin, but that's because I have no experience with "dub", a sub-genre of reggae that builds on instrumental versions of existing material. According to Wikipedia, dub mixes add percussion and sound effects to 'da riddim' so as to take advantage of bass-heavy sound systems. Singer David Asher says he wanted to do all that and more."I wanted to take a chance on this release and try something brave, something unique from plain old remixes, " Asher explained in a recent message. "Thats why I gave some other producers free reign on some tracks."Those other producers include Albadore Sound System (Flint's own Michael Absher) whose remix of "Run Them Down" reminds me of late-night liquid radio jams and G-Dub's back-to-back Old School and Techno remixes of "Rising Up" which are geared more to the dance-club on Ecstasy crowd.
Techno-Battery Operated Drop Machine
In addition to the various samples and synth patches on nearly every track, electronic drums are featured prominently on this record - as you might expect from the title. That theme reaches its apex on "Weapons of Mass Percussion Pt 2" (track 10) on which drummer Gabe Gonzolas unleashes a battery of synthetic steel, squishy sound-effects and pressure-relieving sighs. Geek t.v fans will appreciate the sonic americana included on this disc, such as drops from Star Trek's Jean Luc, Battlestar Galactica's vocally-challenged Cylons and even a quip from The Transformers. And where else but a dub mix could you find The Three Stooges sharing time and space with what sounds like an auto-tuned Muslim call to prayer? Probably the most unique sample on the disc (visit http://www.theprocessonline.com/ to hear it loop).
Weaponized Planes And Misguided Aims
Perhaps the most memorable moments for casual listeners will be the haunting voices of 9-11 air-traffic controllers whose voices appear on "Osama Forgotten" (track 2) and "Evil Doer's Stamped Out In Dub" (track 8). Both tracks revive the surrealism and confusion of that strange day when our skies went quiet and our future seemed completely up in the air. But the defining moment of this disc is the title track, "Weapons of Mass Percussion", in which hypocrisy-exposing sound-bytes of George Walker Bush and Donald Henry Rumsfeld are juxtaposed to illustrate their disdain for the truth and the American people. It's a necessary reminder of how scare tactics and outright lies led to the illegal occupation of a foreign country in the name of pre-emption, or regime-change, or liberation, or promoting democracy, or whatever this week's "official" explanation is for that resource-grabbing, treasury-looting, grunt-abusing, civilian-shredding debacle in Iraq. Whatever the reason, you certainly can't pretend it had anything to do with Saudi nationals flying planes into buildings.
Conclusions In Food Metaphor (or "Gimme the usual, Mr. Phillips")
So if the music were a meal, "Weapons of Mass Percussion" would be a stew of choice ingredients borrowed from previous releases and invigorated with fresh, exotic spices, its many flavors only revealed with time and attention. But like most dishes made from leftovers, it's never quite as satisfying as the original feast (with the exception of "Rapdown" which never tasted so good). Though it may not inspire the private highway sing-a-longs I enjoyed so much with "Blood & Bones", in its proper context, say attending to some repetitive task in the privacy of your own room while enjoying your favorite controlled substance, "Weapons of Mass Percussion" will certainly keep you company and add a rebellious flavor to your buzz. So unitl The Process whip up their next fresh batch of songs, which I'm told they're already cooking up in their brand new studio, you can certainly chew on this.
Mitch Track Listing:
1. Rasta Soldier (radio) - great tune but over-driven mix challenges my ear.
2. Osama Forgotten - FAA recordings of Air Traffic Control over Rasta Soldier rhythms and Garrick Owen's shreddings.
3. The Logic Probe - Cylons dub over "Run Them Down" beats.
4. Metatron's Cube - More space-cadet samples over back beats with a promise to challenge ALL terror.
5. Tetragammatron - More Rasta Soldier rhythms under sound effects, synths and samples.
6. Subsonic Temple - Rasta' beat continues while a ghostly call to prayer is bracketed by sci-fi-ish effects.
7. Vortex 4 - Spread The Money" serves as sound bed for echoes and sound effects. Ghostly call to prayer returns.
8. Evildoers Stamped Out In Dub - Midi-trumpets by Stamp'D climb over rasta beats and various synth stabbings.
9. Weapons of Mass Percussion - Direct confrontation of The Big Lie using hypocrisy, humore & hyer-percussive beats.
10. Weapons of Mass Percussion Pt. 2 - Gabe Gonzalez plugs in and goes bananas on the Pintech Drums.
11. Rapdown - (extended mix) Gets me to dancing every single time - even if I'm sitting.
12. Run Them Down - (Albadore Sound System Mix)
13. Rising Up (G-Dub - Old School) percussive, herky-jerky robot dance mix.
14. Rising Up (G-Dub - Techno) hyper-percussive gallop propels this version along a time-lapsed technicolor freeway. Shouldn't forget to mention Michelle Shaw's amazing back-ups on this track.
©2007 Mitch Phillips, Michiganbands.com