Joseph Hammer Joseph HammerI Love You, Please Love Me Too
The dates don’t add up. The actual release month of “I Love You, Please Love Me Too” is March 2010, on heavyweight vinyl, limited to 330 numbered copies. Time has gone by and Joseph Hammer shouldn’t be in the news. However, it’s only now, exactly now (the great classification in the year’s end lists of The Wire of Keith Fullerton Whitman’s latest, “Disingenuity B/W Disingenuousness”, must have helped the back catalogue) that you can buy the Pan-released material without having to move heaven and earth. Various key stores that stock obscure music are now selling it at the price of no more than £12, removing a psychological barrier that discourages many an aficionado and sends them straight to the download sites –until they’ve heard it enough to know they need the record and not just a handful of digital files, with the logical risk that (the moment of regret is there) the initial run of copies has sold out definitively. I have in my hands a copy that came from Boomkat: it’s a delicious, and if you run you might be in time. Once that decisive moment of doubt about whether to make the purchase or leave it until later is over, you could have in your collection an item of the highest quality that briefly reactivates –because it’s been a few years since people were talking about it– the technique we know as plunderphonics.
Joseph Hammer, resident of Los Angeles and of the Baja California avant-garde scene since the early eighties, is in fact one the pioneers of sampling and real-time cutting-up in the marginal music that is heard in art galleries, museums and clandestine bars. Why isn’t he more famous? I have no answer to that question. Maybe there’s not enough promotional space for everybody, and less so if, for years, it’s been Christian Marclay who has taken the lead role in the business of radical collage on vinyl and mixing decks, while John Oswald –in a harsh competition with Negativland– has been the great pirate of found sounds. It’s probably too late now to rewrite history, but we can still talk about this cut-n-paste exercise for which we can use many adjectives, but the most adequate is probably the simplest: it’s “surprising”. Surprising, yes, because it transmits vitality, actuality and freshness, which is something that is valued less, in favour of heaviness and boredom: the net weight of the experiment is masked by characteristics that correspond to more accessible and recent movements like hypnagogic pop and hauntology. And all that with a pinch of “MTV style”.
“I Love You, Please Love Me Too” is a mosaic of sounds and the result is a sequence of colour, figures and actions sewn together with a frail and timid stitch. In the background there’s a base of static noise and the samples enter and exit without an exact order. The sequencing is basically harmonic, although at times there’s some beat that dominates, and not only some similar notes that bridge the gaps between sketches of songs. It should be clear though that this Joseph Hammer record isn’t a DJ mix, it’s a work of sonic painting in which he has a canvas at his disposal in the form of magnetic tape, onto which he introduces the colours taken from the radio and weird records. The double connection with hauntology and hypnagogic pop is established by the origin of the sources: on one hand, there’s the layer of noise and nostalgia, of old music coming from some forgotten corner of memory, with a phantasmal texture, in the vein of The Caretaker’s “Persistent Repetition Of Phrases”, and on the other, there’s the nostalgia of old radio stations and the music that plays on commercial stations, from modern soul to hairy rock, always covered by a light layer of mist and a texture that seems to want to erase itself little by little.
The result is hypnotic. To see spectral silhouettes of all kinds go by, like Flying Lotus imprisoned in a Rangers or Forest Swords record, with the essential difference that it’s not spatial flashes, melancholic, abstract rhythms and soundtrack atmospheres that sound here, but an amalgamation of opera voices, guitar riffs, soul song intros, recordings of old radio commercials, clicks that clog up and form a loop of pretty noise, the boasting of some rapper before starting his actual rhyme, trills of an R&B diva, flamenco, pale folk and music from all over the world. There are two sides of more than twenty minutes each, on which we witness an unrepeatable spectacle during which we see a unique merry-go-round of ghosts trapped inside a machine. If life gives Joseph Hammer a second chance, I can finally say that this is a world where justice exists.