Review Summary: A single-minded turntable pioneer - just don't confuse it with hip-hop.
The writing and the discussion is obviously well-meaning, but so much of the writing about Christian Marclay places him into hip-hop's legacy that it damns him before a note is heard. Marclay was a turntable pioneer in the 1970s and '80s, but the similarities with Kool DJ Herc and Afrika Bambaataa stop in the first line of the biography. This is very post-Stockhausen art music, and even if you already knew that, it needs to be drummed into you again. There's scratching here, and there's rewinds, but where somebody like Rick Rubin, Jam Maser Jay, or the Bomb Squad would use those sounds as percussion, here they're just another effect in a beatless collage.
Well, almost beatless. "Phonodrum" is house music for drugged-up aliens, its relentless, weird rhythm an approximation of what ridiculously old people must think nightclubs are like, and "His Master's Voice" has a Meg White-esque neanderthal drum kit playing throughout. "Jukebox Capriccio" is the sound of a literal jukebox being turned inside out, too, so naturally there's some substantial snippets of songs in there, rather than the garbled, distorted bursts that makes up the rest of this.
Maybe that's the crucial thing to understand here. Almost all of the music that came after Christian Marclay used the turntable as a means to an end, using its ability to cut between records as a new songwriting tool. You'd never know the turntable was there, really, were it not for the scratching - which largely developed as a by-product of looping samples (oh hey, if I time it wrong, it makes this noise, that's cool...). Girl Talk or The Avalanches, for instance, leave no trace of a DJ behind at all - those records could have been put together on Pro Tools just as easily (and probably were).
Yet for Marclay, the turntable itself IS the music - it's not playing records, it is
the record. The records that happen to be sitting on the turntables when Marclay does his stuff are meaningless, and if you notice them that's probably evidence of a flaw in the music. It means that, while his medium is the same as most hip-hop producers, his message and his music is not. This is just the logical progression from Etude aux chemins de fer
; the key difference is that it was recorded after punk hit, and that focus and bravery keep it much more relevant to modern ears.