The Dirtchamber Sessions, Vol. 1
Eclectic sources fused into a fabulous mixBy Daniel J. Katz
Liam Howlett, who writes and performs most of the music for electronic act Prodigy, reportedly has not been thrilled with the fact that most of the group’s fame has been attached to the front men, Keith Flint and Maxim Reality (they’re the ugly gentlemen in the music videos). Liam’s desire to create a solo album has resulted in one of the most innovative dance recordings to hit stores in a long time: Prodigy Presents: The Dirtchamber Sessions, Vol. 1 (XL-Recordings).
Dirtchamber Sessions is a continuous dance mix (although it is divided into eight tracks, the segues between them are very fluid) of a startling array of songs by about forty different bands and artists. These songs are all sampled and laid over a thumping big beat rhythm line, and only few seem out of place, primarily thanks to Howlett’s adept mixing skills.
The sources range greatly in genre. Howlett utilizes a lot of hip hop, ranging from LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys to old school material, such as Grandmaster Flash and Herbie Hancock. Also present are all the stars of big beat, like the Chemical Brothers, Fat Boy Slim, the Propellerheads, and, not surprisingly, Prodigy. Most surprising is the inclusion of many more rock-oriented acts, such as Primal Scream and the Charlatans. The combination of all these styles is what makes the album a trip to listen to, with or without the insert, which lists the songs sampled and acts as a track-by-track road map.
While the album is best listened to as a full cohesive unit, I do have a quite a few favorite tracks. The second track includes “Bomb the Bass” (a.k.a. Tim Simenon), the Depeche Mode producer, whose DJ work is difficult to find in American stores. It also features one of the most shocking moments on the album, when Prodigy’s “Poison” abruptly shifts into very familiar “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addictions. Near the end of the fourth track, there’s a great groove achieved by weaving Beastie Boys vocals with the Propellerheads’ “Spybreak!”, which may be familiar to moviegoers: it is played behind the intense gun battle in The Matrix. And, finally, the fifth track cleanly incorporates most of the Sex Pistols’ “New York”, illustrating that even though 1980s punk and 1990s dance sound nothing alike, the spirit is the same.
The Chemical Brothers, who have nothing to prove in the genre, released a disc like this a few months ago, called Brothers Gonna Work It Out. While the Chemical Brothers mix was decent, Howlett’s is excellent, and it proves that not only he is the driving force behind Prodigy, but he’s also an excellent remixer in his own right. Anyone who appreciates variety in their music should get this album and listen to it straight through. It’s truly an experience.