How did twenty-one years suddenly become… well, twenty-one years ago? And other asinine questions hurled about over ales or gin cocktails when those of a certain age get together to discuss cultural landmarks. In a certain light it feels that ‘Bug Powder Dust’ was released sometime during the Hapsburg Empire. On other occasions: maybe it was out last summer.
Because records do that. They wiggle around individual perception, exposing the flaws behind our soupy memories and personal timelines. ‘Bug Powder Dust’ was indeed released in 1994 – and despite sounding very much of its time, I still had to check. The obvious clue being the pre-millennial tension embedded within the track’s dynamic. An abrasive quality, full of momentum, trussed up against what is, for all intentsive, the Bomb The Bass interpretation of Naked Lunch.
(Incidentally, has there been a novel mined as frequently as Burrough’s warped opus for musical inspiration? 1984 and A Clockwork Orange come to mind; I’ll have to canvas opinion – there’s a future blog post in that).
It’s an interesting track, built around a bass line lifted from ‘Open Your Eyes You Can Fly’, a 1976 jazz fusion number by Brazilian singer Flora Purim, which is light and breezy in contrast to the gritty light espoused by ‘Bug Powder Dust’. It’s a sample modulated and force-fed as the record punches onward, breakbeat verging upon big beat in timbre, the texture derived from the manner by which bass is forced through a succession of filters, mufflers and diffusers, creating something the same but not exactly so (I recall picking up the instrumental version of this track on one of those compact disc things they had twenty-one years ago, and possibly digging it a little more than the original).
As for the words; well, Justin Warfield runs at them full tilt. And as with a many hip-hop vocal in which the pace is concrete and unremitting, there’s a great deal to assimilate – something not necessarily aided by the Naked Lunch appropriation. Reading the book is to be stabbed every five minutes by profound sentiment… whilst spending the other 4m59s with self-indulgent gibberish being spewed up your rectum through a hosepipe. And whilst the confines of the four minute track preclude anything close to the novel’s form, the cut-and-shut wordplay, Burroughs references, and semi-random name checks (Jimmy Page; Lenin, Alan Ginsberg, Aussie meh rockers Men At Work, etc) are equally as messy.
Thus, “Like an exterminator running low on dust, I’m bug powder itchin’ and it can’t be trussed,” versus “Just like Jane when she’s going to Spain. I think I’m going away tomorrow, just a fool in the rain”. Or “Light up the candles and bless the room, I’m paranoid, snow blind, just a black meat fool,” against “Never been a fake and I’m never phony, I got more flavour than the packet in macaroni.” No further comment required, I’m guessing.
And perhaps that’s the point; words jarring and enticing in equal measure, hanging against that bass line, slapping against that bass line. Not the most engaging track of its ilk (I’d argue), but it is ambitious – and even flawed ambition is far preferable to no ambition at all (especially with a soupy memory involved).