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DJ Sniff: EP

John Eyles By

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DJ Sniff: EP EP is a fascinating disc on several levels. Its title is not short for "extended play"---how many people today remember those?—but for Psi proprietor Evan Parker. The disc is an elaborate hommage to Parker. Its front cover photograph shows DJ Sniff holding up an LP; close inspection of its label reveals that it is Parker's Monoceros (Incus, 1978). Inside, a second photograph (both by Caroline Forbes) shows Sniff against a pale background, with the mouthpiece of a sax arranged behind him so that it appears to protrude from his head like a horn—owing an obvious debt to Roberto Masotti's well-known photograph of Parker that appeared on the back cover of Monoceros.

Given that Parker recorded Monoceros using the direct-cut process (bypassing tape, noise reduction and editing), so that "the sound of the saxophone in that room was reproduced most convincingly," it is an intriguing choice. The music on EP is its complete antithesis, having been completely created in STEIM studio in Amsterdam, and so not the faithful reproduction of any performance.

As well as a DJ, Sniff is a student of the phonograph, of DJ history and performance. EP is his attempt to play Parker—as Sniff himself says, " trying to reflect the liveness of Parker's solo recordings." EP was prompted by a meeting between Sniff and Parker at a festival in Warsaw; Parker asked Sniff if he wanted to work with his—Parker's— records, and subsequently sent him a packet full of records—doubtless including Monoceros.

Sniff combines short excerpts, from Parker's records, with electronics into elaborate sound collages. Often the sound of the saxophone is interspersed with the telltale scratching sound that, from Grandmaster Flash onwards, has been the trademark of a DJ at work. The pieces largely retain the sound of Parker's horn playing, yet have structures and dynamics that are very different to any Parker piece. It is tempting to go back to Parker's original recordings to try and track down the origins of the sounds that Sniff employs, but a moment's reflection suggests that would be a time-consuming folly. Better to savor the end results in the spirit in which they were created.

A good point of comparison is what John Oswald did to the Grateful Dead on Grayfolded (Swell, 1995), sampling and editing together sections of many different Dead performances of "Dark Star" into a version lasting nearly two hours, the end result being the epitome of the Grateful Dead. The Dead's Phil Lesh said it was an Oswald record; others thought it was quintessential Dead. In contrast, EP does not typify Parker. Sniff does not create a "new" Parker performance that epitomizes him, but one that re-imagines Parker's playing into something new and distinct—and exciting. To Parker's credit, he instigated the project at that meeting in Warsaw and has released it on his label. But the music on EP is far more Sniff than Parker. Fascinating, nonetheless.


Track Listing: EP1--dj sniff plays Evan Parker: One; Two; Three; Four; Interlude 1; Interlude 2; Five; Six; Seven; EP2--dj sniff plays Evan Parker and others: Moers; Itchy Throat; Or Beats.

Personnel: DJ Sniff: turntables and electronics.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Psi


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