The UK’s mischievous Dada alchemist, brews up some strange, yet moving tributes to familiar pop and indie tunes from the 80’s and 90’s; delivered with wry tongue in cheek humour, crossed with a healthy slice of the Bozo Dog Do-Dah band.
- Ergo Phizmiz himself steering the Dada ship ever forward.
Ergo Phizmiz (& The Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine) – ‘Dadaphone’<aAvailable through FMA (Free Music Archive)
1. The Bomb
2. It’s A Sin
3. Saturday Night
4. Karma Police
5. A Little Respect
6. Lets Get Ready To Rhumba
7. Turn Around
8. Slap My Bass Up
9. I Think We’re Alone Now
10. That Bassline
Ergo Phizmiz is the modern day equivalent to the Surrealist Max Ernst and Fluxus movements La Monte Young.
His work across installation, sound and performance pushes the ideals of Dada to more extremes with his nonsensical and childlike approach to sometimes-heavy themes.
An in demand composer who has had work commissioned for numerous art institutions as well as the BBC, his back catalogue is far and wide in range.
The common thread that runs throughout is that he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, a joyful abandon cannot be contained no matter how stiff the subject.
I actually briefly contributed to one of his projects a while back. At the time he was artist in residence at the Dimbola Lodge gallery on the Isle Of Wight, famous for being the home of Victorian photography pioneer Margaret Cameron; the Annie Leibovitz of her day hanging out with Tennyson and Darwin among many other renowned characters.
Ergo weaved a set of recordings around the history of the place with his storytelling sound collages, I found myself taking part with a conversation piece between us being cut up and added.
Anyway I’m diverting attention away from the album, let me continue back on track so to speak.
This ten track scattering of covers entitled ‘Dadaphone’ is a strange mix of Nineties commercial dance anthems, Eighties pop and some more credible labeled songs such as ‘Karma Police’ by Radiohead.
Erasure, Pet Shop Boys and shopping mall teen queen Tiffany all spring up and receive a tongue in cheek deconstructive form of dismemberment.
Ergo’s brand of medicine produces a mix of Captian Beefhart era ‘Electricity’ and Bonzo Dog band ‘Gorilla’, which on the Ant and Dec adjusted titled song ‘Lets Get Ready To Rhumba’ is evident in the Bonzo’s Cambridge Footlights vaudeville humour.
The stand out tunes include The White Stripes style trash of ‘It’s a Sin’, which erupts into a slavishly grinded out blues number via the sonant ‘Greensleeves.’
As I mentioned before Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police’ is given the Ergo treatment, though his version becomes a jaunty polka knees up that drops a lot of the original sentiment out yet still captures some of the soul.
‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ is now a romantic mandolin led waltz through medieval France in the age of Chretien De Troyes. Both pleasant and joyful his appropriation of this Eighties pap actually lends it some gravitas that the original never envisioned.
By far my most favourite cover is Erasures classic ‘A Little Respect’, which in the hands of Ergo becomes a maelstrom of raw emotion played out by krautrockers noise merchants Faust.
Heavy yet not ridiculous it is a pretty deserving tribute.
Lesser highlights yet still worthy of your attention is the broken down cacophony of ‘That Bassline’. The bass line in question is Chic’s, which is accompanied by a mash up of competing riffs and refrains. Pure Beefheart in approach and spirit everyone sounds like they’re playing completely different tunes at the same time. It amusingly starts to work and instead of falling completely apart resignedly triumphs in its chaos.
Also on the album there are experimental nods to dance acts such as the Prodigy and pop princess Kylie as well as a sea shanty inspired rendition of the annoying hit ‘Saturday Night’. I can’t for the life of me remember who had the original hit but she was defiantly Dutch.
All of the tunes are freely available on the music site Free Music Archive, where you can choose at will or download the lot. My advice is to grab them all as everyone eventually grows on you.
God bless you Ergo Phizmiz! May your avant garde ship of tomfoolery continue to set its course through the oceans of mediocrity and boredom.
Not too strong I hope!