w/PR1M35, DJ Fucking in the Streets, DJ Robb Green
Tues Jan 11, Neumo's, 8 pm, $5.
Noted avant-rock satirist Frank Zappa once asked if humor belongs in music. Usually, the answer is negatory. But when you have a wiseacre like Secret Mommy (Vancouver producer Andy Dixon) at the controls, the aural comedy flows like vintage spiked Kool-Aid. The resultant fizzy glitchtronica triggers a rush of rarefied lunacy. If we must have humor in music, let it be as unhinged and absurd as Secret Mommy's.
"I never want to come across as the Weird Al Yankovic of the electronic world or anything," Dixon says. "I think that even though my music might [sound] pretty out there, it's always a commentary on something (namely the current state of pop music), and I think there's always a lot to think about while listening to my music. I think I would be going too far with goofiness if I made something silly for the sake of being silly, like a comedy record--which I don't do."
Punters stupefied by the stoic demeanors and earnest meanderings characteristic of many laptop gigs will be jolted from their glassy-eyed states by Secret Mommy's playfully spasmelodic emissions. "Secret Mommy stuff always pokes a bit of fun at those über-serious techno dudes," Dixon asserts, "and I will continue to make fun of them, because I think taking yourself that seriously is a bit silly."
Though Secret Mommy's music possesses a mad, slapstick quality, it isn't created with a slapdash recklessness; far from it. Dixon applies a rigor to his productions that's as concentrated as Autechre's--only it's put to much more lighthearted intentions. Dixon's tracks take the Dadaist electro babbling of Blectum from Blechdom and the quick-cutting digital pop of French quartet DAT Politics into even more ridiculous realms.
After a decade of playing in punk/hardcore bands, Dixon dove headlong into Vancouver's thriving computer-based music scene. "I found myself searching for new and exciting forms of music--getting into more experimental punk stuff," Dixon says. "But it was when I saw Mouse on Mars play live that I really got excited about electronic music."
Thus inspired, Secret Mommy unleashed two masterpieces of ADD-afflicted glitch pop for the Orthlorng Musork label: Babies That Hunt (2003) and Mammal Class (2004). Their fungus-friendly vibe is highly addictive. Secret Mommy's latest release, the Hawaii 5.0 EP (on Dixon's Ache Records), is a transitional disc, signaling a desire to impose a conceptual framework his work. Here he uses a trip to Hawaii as an excuse to feed the state's slack-key guitar, steel drum, beach balls, birds, fruits, and drinks into his sampler. The result: an orgy of staccato, computerized beats, and DSP (Digital Signal Processing) tomfoolery.
"During the creation of Mammal Class and Babies That Hunt, I really didn't have any criteria," Dixon says, regarding his sampling approach. "It was one part malice, one part homage. I would just sample anything I thought would sound cool, either because it would be funny, or because I genuinely liked the sound and thought it would be interesting to make a track out of it. But… I've developed a need for making myself a set of rules before each track. I can't make a song for the sake of making a song--it has to be something specific now. I'm finding that I enjoy creating music under strict sampling rules. My new record will be less slapstick, but still kind of nuts."
Secret Mommy's new album, Very Rec, which Dixon is currently shopping to labels, consists of field recordings from recreation centers. "It's a lot more 'serious'--but still maintains a certain Mr. Mommy playfulness."
Despite what his recordings may lead you to believe, Secret Mommy doesn't subscribe to the Cex school of live performance. Dixon won't be dashing around in his skivvies like a caffeinated dweeb. "It's me with two laptops… no visuals or antics," he explains. "There's a lot of electronic artists who spend most of their live set running around, and I find it just comes off like an apology for what they think is an otherwise boring medium for a live show. But I think there's nothing boring about an artist who is concentrating on actually playing their laptop like an instrument, because that's what it is." Secret Mommy's music is so animated and full of lightning-fast edits, any movement by its creator is superfluous. He turns that Apple logo on his laptop into a deranged smile.