imputor? Press Clippings

DJs On Strike :: Too Hot For Solid Steel Review

XLR8R #67 May

Is Too Hot For Solid Steel the ultimate mash-up, or the ultimate DJ-culture political statement? It would be easy to argue both points, but there's something much more gleeful going on here.

On a basic level, Too Hot is a fine example of mash-up -- that curiously broad music genre where bits of recognizable nostalgic pop song are mixed with an equally recognizable dance beat to form an ironic concoction; i.e. a Nirvana hit mixed over a Run DMC drum sample.

Crafted by the deft hands of DJs On Strike's Johnny Kawasaki and DJ Suspence, Too Hot bears all the marks of protean mash-up masters Coldcut and DJ Food -- for whose Solid Steel radio show it was originally produced -- including quizzical cuts from TV shows, pop and R&B anthems of yore, and a gazillion other sound samples. All this fodder is, ostensibly, collated through rough sequencing and a little turntable magic to produce a sound-collage you simultaneously recognize but don't recognize. A funky '70s break collides with Phil Collins' "Tonite," then glances off Berlin's Top Gun love anthem "Take My Breath Away," only to run head-on into the front grill of Bryan Adam's sap-fest, "I Do It For You." And that's in just under a minute.

Too Hot's easily on par with LA-UK collective Mash Up Sound System (who recently released D.I.M., a gem of a gabbercore compilation) or the original perpetrators of the genre, Planet μ's pseudonymous μ-Allstars and their vinyl-only Criminal comps from 2000 and 2002.

There's also a great argument to be made that DJs On Strike and Too Hot are the ultimate package for sabotaging the cult of the DJ. In stringing together ridiculous radio antics from Aerosmith, Richard Marx, Ozzy Osbourne and Elton John over a constantly shifting thread of Ninja Tune's best hip-and-trip-hop breaks, DJs On Strike remind us that the DJ isn't in the business of making music; s/he is in the business of stringing together other peoples' music. That DJs On Strike got their start over two years ago doing graphic weboganda depicting famous DJs as dolts -- "Steamin' Poo Oakenfold," "DJ Skwibble," and Fatboy Slim with the tag "I [heart] Cocaine" -- adds clarity of purpose to Too Hot's random assembly of cultural errata. In short, while a DJ may temporarily transcend droog status with a synergistic segue or clever fader trick, a mixtape does not an artist make.

Too Hot, which blisters the brain in recalling deteriorating pop culture memories, garners our attention instead by achieving a most wonderful zenith: it herniates the academic trainspotter. It's the kind of simulacral mess that's simultaneously ego-satisfying ("I know this track"), yet utterly confounding because attempts to cognitively map its aesthetic attributes generate dementia. It's because of fun shit like this that, in less that a generation, the DSM-II-R will have to create a whole new category for ADD-like disorders.

--Heath K. Hignight