one plus one equals three

This spring, after Nettle’s Boston visit, an ol’ fan of /Rupture and the Toneburst Collective told me that she still had a copy of a vintage /Rupture mixtape. On cassette! You know, from back when “mixtapes” were actually tapes.

I borrowed it and digitized it and emailed it to Jace. I also asked if I could share some of it here and whether I might throw him assorted odd questions about it. It turns out, according to the DJ himself, that 1 + 1 = 3 was his very first mixtape (!), produced sometime in the late 90s —

i actually cant remember the year i did this. that Saul Williams
track i use had just come out. i was living in central sq…

it was 2 decks, str8 to cassette, all live one-take business.

it was def my 1st mixtape. i sold it at Toneburst shows.

i did the artwork

I was enthused to hear some Toneburst-era /Rupture. Although I attended a few Toneburst parties back in the day, and picked up their comp at Newbury Comics way back when, I don’t actually remember seeing /Rupture play at any of em (or Jake or Flack for that matter). I do remember seeing We, a great favorite of mine, when they came up for a big bash at MassArt.

One cool thing about this vintage /Rupture mix (for me), as featured in the excerpt that I’m sharing here, is that — even if I wouldn’t put 1+1 together (to make 3?), and realize who he was, until much later — the one time I did see /Rupture DJ back then, he was playing Saul Williams’s “Twice the First Time” (which pegs this mix right around ’97/98). The track really caught my ear and made me stand there for a minute, wondering, among other things, who was this dude playing radical music through a decent soundsystem on the lawn in front of the the Science Center. And why wasn’t there more of that?

Even as 1 + 1 = 3 gives a sense of how much he has grown and morphed as a DJ, it still offers some recognizably rupturey maneuvers and seems to prefigure the strange melange of Gold Teeth Thief. Trad middle-eastern sounds meet modern beat science, from slurred boom-bap to minimal dancehall, rollicking jungle to proto-breakcore noise. You won’t hear all of that in these 9 minutes, but you’ll hear a lot.

/Rupture sez he may re-release the mixtape in some form soon; hopefully, this 9-minute clip whets yr appetite. After the mix link/stream-button, you’ll find a brief interview wherein W&W asks /R some funny questions about mojos and noise and math and he replies in generous, off-the-cuff fashion.

dj /rupture, one plus one equals three (side b) [excerpt]

note: this interview was conducted over email back in early April

W&W:     When’s the last time you played a jungle record? Did dubstep take jungle’s mojo?

/R:    Caracas, 3 or 4 weeks ago… But before playing that old 12″ out, I hadn’t dropped a jungle or breakcore tune in ages, like maybe 3 years. Dubstep didn’t take jungle’s mojo, which is part of its problem. although drum&bass is now a genre, its dead in New York, but many cities, especially in Europe, will have a substantial drum&bass scene that’s going strong, usually organized around a weekly or monthly party. Drum&bass is essentially institutionalized, like house or techno, it’s no longer nonstop innovation and surprises, but its still solid food for ravers.

W&W:    There’s a lot of dancehall in here. Is reggae the ultimate sonic glue? Or does the breakbeat, skittering in and out throughout at several tempos, deserve equal standing?

/R:    the exciting parts about reggae aren’t strictly sonic, so it’s not quite sonic glue — BUT reggae culture does have some powerful music values: there’s a constant emphasis on populist experimental/novelty, the incredible importance of the performativity of prerecorded music (whether dub versions or enlivened by deejays or DJs, etc), a long history of close links between audio engineer-musician-soundsystem, and lots more. All these things combine to make reggae culture central to what I do, much moreso than breakbeat (think of all the great new music w/ programmed beats instead of sampled breakbeats). Of courses, jungle’s appeal stemmed from the exuberance and shock of it, but also b/c it had all sorts of dancehall references folded up inside it.
    when i think of sonic glue, i think the the Technics 1200s themselves, the fact that since the 70s we became used to performing records themselves — its not a sonic component that drives my mix style, the sounds are always changing. for me its more of a “well, you’ve got these records made by other people. how do you combine them into something that bears your style?” and that search for a voice or style or narrative line is basically the creation of sonic glue. and i was never interested in the easiest route– just playing one style and letting it end there.

W&W:     One classic component of your mixes is a healthy dose of noise, whether as unintelligible masses of sound per se, or as when jungle tips into breakcore. Without those latter genres in the mix so much these days, how do you still manage to bring the noise?

/R:    the ‘noise’ on Uproot was the ambient stretch in the middle — noise is so flexible, so contextual. the noise on Minesweeper Suite was breakcore mixed with Borbetomagus. but listen to enough Borbetomagus records and the saxophone assault stops sounding like noise. same for breakcore. So i’m more into noise as something textural that challenges the notion of music (or beats). pulling out the beats into floating melody was more of a risky or radical gesture, for me, then slamming into breakcore — the noise that folks had come to expect. I think of noise as a moment almost outside the logic of the sound, so ambient in a beatfilled world works now as well as more traditional noise worked a few years ago.
   that said, come see me live*, i always have a few full-on turntable noise moments. I love playing w/ soundsystem dynamics and saturating the mixer and pushing records into that almost physical space where its all just noise and vibration. with the right records and the FX i use and whatnot, i push for that. sometimes it’ll just be at the end of the concert. i think its really cool to have played dance music for awhile then end with something totally other, using the decks in a completely different way, working with feedback and delay, using vinyl as percussion instrument, that sort of thing.
   playing with Andy in Orleans once we had terrible problems w/ bass feedback from the turntables — finally at the end of the concert i decided to work with it, and managed to get (and partially control) an amazing bass drone from the turntable — you can hear it in one of the tracks on Patches.

W&W:    How about the title? It reminds me on the one hand of SFJ’s great article about mashups “1+1+1=1,” perhaps expressing a sense of the greater-than-the-sum logic of DJing. But perhaps the more obvious parallel is 2+2=5, which could either represent, as for Orwell, the fascist project of manufacturing truth, or, as for Dostoevsky’s protagonist in Notes from Underground, a desire to reject cold rationality for human messiness. By asking this, have I already overdetermined the mix too much? Have you invited that? Are you now or have you ever been a Stalinist?

/R:    haha, you’re reading too much (into it)! to me 1+1=3 is the DJ’s axiom. plain as that. the work of the DJ lies in taking one record, blending another, and getting that magic moment where the sum is greater than the parts, when the ‘third’ record emerges and you can hear the two tracks individually, superimposed (if you know what to listen for) and also can hear the new thing they make when they play in unison. so yeah, rather than some call for the irrational or illogical, to me it was a simple statement of turntablist logic. it also worked with the xerox ziney stuff i was doing then, like the cover for the mixtape. with a quick cut and paste, a lot can be created.

* attn, Boston headz: DJ /Rupture (and Dutty labelmate, Matt Shadetek) will be playing this Friday evening at the ICA