Speedy J – A Shocking Hobby (2000)
Speedy J followed up the most lauded album of his career with yet another work of excellence, an album that ranges slightly farther afield than the insistent Autechre references recalled by Public Energy No. 1. After a short ambient opener, the ungodly “Borax” comes crashing through with a sound that manages to encompass terms like funky, experimental, and beautiful with equal degrees of excellence. It’s easily one of the best productions of Jochem Paap’s career, not to mention one of the best in contemporary electronic music. True, a few of the later tracks (“Balk Acid,” “Drill,” “Vopak”) are quite close to the brand of super-computing electro-techno that Autechre pioneered a few years before, but even these productions have an immediacy, an enormity of sound, quite lacking in Autechre. A world away from this music-for-eggheads sound lies what just may have been another influence on A Shocking Hobby — namely, the insanely stupid dance style named big-beat techno. These tracks don’t exactly have the can’t-miss-’em drum breakdowns and old-school samples of yr average big-beat record, but when Paap places a massive explosion of sound on the first beat of every bar, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that these songs are akin to Fatboy Slim on brainfood. Creating intelligent, difficult music that also feeds the attention-span deficit inherent in post-rave music isn’t just a good idea, it’s the recipe for another excellent album.