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The Bran Flakes – I Have Hands

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The Bran Flakes – I Have Hands (Illegal Art; released February 9th, 2009)

Don’t be misled by the dubious term “mash-up”; turntablism/laptop-sampling is an art form, and as long as it’s around artists like Girl Talk and Steinski will have jobs (and a home at Illegal Art) as well as The Bran Flakes. Based on the company they keep, you can kind of guess what you’re in store for: it’s a pastiche of disco tracks, public service announcements, funk bass lines, early-70s AM radio, dance jams, Brill Building-era jingles, hip-hop break beats, video game soundtracks and Looney Tunes’ cartoon dialogue; all blended together in a hilarious 30-song mix-tape.

Constructing an entire album from samples and “found sounds” can be more difficult than sitting and actually playing with a full band; first- you have to have both an extensive record collection (or be willing to go crate-digging early and often) and a vast, Rob Gordon-like knowledge of what’s on those records. Second- the task of assembling the actual recorded pieces of music; which means hours of syncing up and matching all that music to other samples; sequencing it until everything fits seamlessly. You also have the roadblock of dealing with the RIAA and their bullshit “all samples cleared” rules- it took Steinski almost 25 years to get his stuff commercially released (thanks to obscure “fair-use” laws) and Girl Talk basically couldn’t charge listeners for his Feed The Animals record, offering a Radiohead-esque “donation” system on his website.

That similar fate has also tripped-up The Bran Flakes (Otis Fodder and Mildred Pitt, who make a habit of going through thrift shops and out-of-the-way record stores with a fine-toothed comb to secure little-known and quirky LPs), so most of their recorded output is still of an “unauthorized nature” that hinders wide commercial exposure. Hell, I just heard of them for the first time last year and they’ve been at this for eleven-plus years. The album is also available here on a pay-what-you-want sliding scale.

The thing that jumps out about I Have Hands is the samples; some are instantly recognizable (Dolly Parton‘s 9 to 5 on Stumble Out Of Bed, Barry White‘s intro drum break to I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby on Dance Of The Sugarsnap Fairy) but the ones that kept me listening were the ones obscured by my faulty memory- just as I’m about to identify it (four more bars, please!) it’s gone; replaced by another equally befuddling snippet as my mind trips over itself in search of the sample in its original context.

While not as interesting as Girl Talk‘s work or even The Go! Team‘s Thunder, Lightning, Strike- it’s super entertaining; evoking and honoring both of those artists as well as early Stereolab and DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist‘s 45-rpm only, tag-team mash-fest Brainfreeze.

Since the album plays like one long track, it’d be foolish of me to offer up any kind of play-by-play on it- I’ll just say the choicest cuts are the two I already mentioned, What It’s All About and If I Loved You.

Tracklisting:

01 Hi
02 Rodeo Butterfly
03 KLAM
04 Stumble Out Of Bed
05 I’m Not Feeling Very Well
06 Marchy March
07 Don Knotts
08 The Girl That I Used To Be  [with Matt Bomarr]
09 What It’s All About
10 Dance Of The Sugarsnap Fairy
11 Singing Dogs
12 Make A Funny Sound
13 You Can Do Most Anything
14 Do You Want Salad With Your Taco
15 Mini Mountain Queen
16 The Sidewalk Song
17 I Wonder Where My Grandmother Is
18 Mr and Mrs Footsie
19 Funky Feeling
20 I Comb My Hair Sideways
21 Van Pop
22 If I Loved You
23 Fifty Four Fifty
24 Jump Up
25 Beat Head
26 The Crickets Ditty
27 Sunshine Country
28 I Am A Promise
29 I Have A Friend
30 Bye

Since this album is available for whatever you want to pay (you can choose to pay nothing if you so desire…) I’m not going to stream it to you. Just go HERE and download it, if you like it make a donation later. If not, delete it off your hard drive and we’ll forget the whole thing ever happened.