Imagine you have a pasta maker. You know, one of those clever devices where raw materials go in one end, and extruded strings of pasta come out the other. Well, imagine throwing DJ Shadow and Mr. Bungle into that pasta maker. Upon turning the handle, a most marvellous spaghetti will be extruded, which you should scoop up and boil, being careful to add salt so that the flavour isnít leeched from the pasta.
Then, take the finest rock elements, mince them, and mix well with a jazzy tomato paste. Sprinkle country and classical styled parmesan on top, and serve with the spaghetti. This meal is Mike Patton Vs The X-Ecutioners. Hopefully this insanely obtuse and wacky analogy made your mouth salivate over such a sound, or even just because you are really, really hungry. The former should keep reading, the latter should eat something now!
It is odd that this collaboration flew under the radar in 2005, considering the artists behind it. Indeed, it may be that the sum of the parts was truly greater than the whole, since neither Mike Patton nor the X-Ecutioners need an introduction. However, I shall give you a brief history.
Mike Patton is regarded as one of the best vocalists in the rock/alternative/metal genres. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that he is idolised by thousands as the ultimate frontman; zany, experimental and charismatic. Despite his fame, or perhaps because of it, he is a reclusive person when it comes to publicity, interviews, etc, and yet he is also one of the most successful musicians in the modern era. A collaboration with other musicians is also by no means unique, since he has not only fronted 4 separate bands, but collaborated with acts like the DEP, Dan The Automater, The Melvins and Sepultura.
Similarly, the X-Ecutioners, a trio of hip-hop DJs hailing from New York, have worked with a large number of acts in their career, including Cypress Hill, Linkin Park, Rob Zombie, and Xzibit. Originally starting as a 11 man group called the X-Men, they soon changed their name due to a copyright suit by Marvel, and have gradually lost members over their 9 year career. Working on the album were: Rob Swift, Roc Raider, Total Eclipse.
Now that thatís out of way, letís get our teeth stuck into the meat and potatoes (again, if you are salivating at that mention of food, then stop reading and eat!).
One thing that strikes the purchaser of this album, before they have even listened to the musicÖ this album is damn
cool, at least presentation wise. From an awesome jacket featuring metal foil in all the right places, the martial theme of the songs is carried throughout the package. The songs are simply numbered, however, each number responds to a military manoeuvre detailed on the back cover. Similarly, (and taking a cue from Lost Horizon, I might add) the instruments have been renamed, in this case to make them more martial. As such, we have Mike Patton Ė Vocal General: Keyboard, Guitar, Bass and Percussion Strategies and The X-Ecutioners with Tactical Turntable Offensive, Phonograph Exploitation Brigade, and Scratch Artillery Operations.
Very clever. And did I mention it has a completely nonsensical map of the world detailing their various incursions, battles and retreats? Itís interesting enough to hold your attention for a few minutes, before you even start the album.
Whatever you thought before, however, is taken to the next level by the music contained within. The first two songs, 1
incidentally, are a beautiful intro to this album. Featuring a rather amusing conversation between a military instructor and his student, interspersed with enjoyable hip hop beats, it sets the tone for the entire album; Frivolity in a martial setting.
And this theme is continued, with a break from the hip hop to showcase some Flamenco guitar and Jazz music in 7
, to what I can only call a Bollywood soundtrack in 15
, and the ďDuelling Banjos" interlude in 8
, we are treated to some delightful chaos.
The album can almost be thought of as a slow descent into experimentation, with the coherent parts of each song, such as a standard hip-hop or rock tune, becoming shorter and layered with more samples as we progress through the album.
And what great samples, as we are treated to pop culture highlights from across the decades. I wonít spoil anything, itís up to you to find the gems in the rough, the plums in the pudding. (EAT SOMETHING!)
However, there are serious (well, more serious then usual) moments on this album. For example, my favourite track from the album, 3
begins with a bowel shuddering bass beat which leads into what is probably the most rock-like song from the album. This style will no doubt sound familiar to fans of Mr. Bungle and Faith No More. It is also more structured than the others, which lends to it a more serious tone. It also introduces my favourite sequence also, which continues to the rather amusing 6
and ends with 8
Despite my glowing review of this album, I must admit that it is not a groundbreaker that will bring new fans to any of the genres within.Haters of hip-hop will most likely hate it, and likewise I donít think it will garner experimental rock any new fans either.
Regardless, you should at least check out General Patton Vs. The X-Ecutioners
; one of the most criminally overlooked (as Mozza would say) albums of 2005. Itís not an easy listen, for all of itís at times beautiful music, rather it is an album deserving of your full attention, for a time when you are doing nothing but concentrating on the soundscape presented to you. So take the plunge into a world of strange noises, driving beats and catchy as hell sounds, and see if you can climb back out.