Let's get D*I*R*T*Y
[Another reprint from my URGE blog today, for you non-PC types.]
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but D*I*R*T*Y is cooler than you. First of all, they're French. And like their compatriots at the Tigersushi label, the folks behind D*I*R*T*Y—a website, soundsystem, and occasional record label—have collections so deep that just moving from the Krautrock to space disco categories could give you the bends. As if that weren't enough, their Pilooski Edits series—the work of the mysterious Pilooski--is steadily reissuing some of the more delectable gems from their stacks, edited and extra-funked for demanding dance floors.
Truth be told, they're cooler than me too; I discovered all this only last week, and a visit to the official Dirty Edits website reveals that all but the last installment of their limited 12-inch singles are already sold out. Sadly, that means missing out on Alan Parsons Project's "I Robot (Pilooski Edit)," a bizarre, grinding number that's like Moroder made for slowdancing. (You can hear the original version in the playlist on the URGE page; Pilooski's edit, along with a few others, is on the series' Myspace page.) It means missing out on the drone 'n' roll shenanigans of the Human Beinz' "Nobody But Me (Pilooski Edit)." (Does anyone else find it weird that with that track, D*I*R*T*Y becomes the lone degree of separation between video artist Pipilotti Rist and ESPN's The Greatest Crowd-Rockin' Anthems of All Time?) Worst of all, it means missing out on Pilooski's versions of both Edwin Starr's "Get Up" and Can's "Mothersky." The former rolls out its bass line like an undulating strand of DNA that pulls together acid, disco and the flangy twang of a mouth harp; Starr's grunts and shouts are dubbed to hell and back, with a drum break so slow you could churn butter to it. On the latter cut, motorik, proto-Stereolab rhythms purr away amidst thunderstorms of toms and lightning flashes of white noise: pure drama.
Fortunately, the fourth record, still available, might just be the weirdest yet. There's a grinding (yet again—dude likes his tempos s-l-o-w) rework of Cat Stevens' "Was Dog a Doughnut," long a crate-digger's gem—more mercury-and-molasses than "Fire and Rain," for the skeptics among you. There's a chunky remix of "Euro vs. Dollar," by the great French act Octet, to please all the Lindstrøm and Who Made Who fans out there. And finally, Pilooski tackles none other than freaking Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Check the original of "Beggin'" on the playlist at URGE, then listen to the edit. What might be most shocking is how little Pilooski actually does. Sure, he more than doubles the tune's length, from 2:50—par for the course in 1967—to a more DJ-friendly 5:37. Thanks to the magic of mixing and mastering, the edit is definitely beefier: the low end more solid, the handclaps and tambourines brighter, everything a tad more separated. But structurally, it's almost impossible to tell what's been changed—the chorus has been stretched out and looped, but it's done so naturally, so seamlessly, that it doesn't detract from the deep blue heartbreak of the original composition. (That's the magic of edits, of course: unlike remixes, they never call attention to themselves.)
But what really makes D*I*R*T*Y cooler than any of us is that they chose this cut at all. Any wannabe Disco Stu with a Giorgio Moroder CD and a copy of Ableton Live can churn out a workable Italo edit, and that's precisely what can make the whole nu-disco scene occasionally rather dull—everyone's jacking the same sources. But this is more than just digging: it takes nerves (and ears) to bust out 40-year-old top-20 hits and make them relevant to young listeners today. Counterintuitive poptimism: the new rock snobbery! (But way cooler.)