By: Chris Schwarzkopf
Sampling is, and always will be, a major, and essential, part of electronic music. That said, it’s possible for sampling to go too far. An audio snippet coming back again and again can become repetitive, losing its luster over time. Turning that clip into the hook that catches the listener unaware becomes a chore and a bore. Or a track can become bogged down with excessive sampling.
It’s a proficient performer who can maintain control over a vast library of samples. Proficiency extends to those, as well, who can take full advantage of a relatively small archive and know when and where to drop them—and most importantly, when to hold back.
With its latest EP, Welcome to K Theory
, San Francisco-based duo K Theory
utilizes samples to maximum effect.
“Le Cirque Bleu” gets right to it with a steady, chugging beat punctuated by calliope strains that form part of the backbeat and also are heard in the bridge both straight up and with distortion, creating, as the title suggests, a darkly festive mood.
“Warrior” features clipped, glitchy harmonica licks accompanied by buzzes and clicks, while “Magic City” makes use of movie dialogue clips that pop up midway through and toward the end. The trailing end of the dialogue is incorporated into the beat.
“Boardwalk Hustler” is a personal favorite. This track get down and dirty with a severe, throbbing beat with hard-struck piano chords in the backbeat. The beat drops out completely at 3:04, 3:23 and 3:42 to introduce sudden bursts of big-band jazz and at 3:33 for a quick tickling on piano.
“Johann” returns to the dark, carnival-like theme of the opening track with echoing bells and chimes sounding in the background and in the bridge.
The one sample-free track is the sixth and final, “Midnight Girl.” It’s a night’s walk through the city with plodding drums and bass guitar in one’s ears. A truly breath-taking moment comes at 4:51 when the beat disintegrates into an echoing, glitchy drum break before giving way to the outro.
By themselves, unadorned, the chosen samples wouldn’t be enough to enhance or elevate the basic format of each track. Used freely, they might detract from it. Used sparingly, sampling gives Welcome to K Theory
emotional punch. The music couldn’t have the same impact without the precise control of sampling. This is patience and a meticulous attention to detail. Never do the samples overshadow the brutal, crunching breakbeat and glitch. Breakbeat and glitch are the focus here.