DJ Dog Dick fulfills every punk-hearted kid’s awesome, fucked-up wet-nightmare in Life Stains by mixing together all the musics I assume he grew up with: The distinctive Baltimore Club Hip Hop scene arrives hand in hand with a melodic shoe-gazing post-punk and a high-refined lo-fidelity.
About a year ago I saw an art show at Superchief Gallery curated by Dog Dick’s hype man, King Vince, and when I put on this record it immediately brought to mind the occultist/transgressive/poetic experimentation I saw there. You feel a kind of sudden invocation shaking you to your foundation, but then at a moments notice an uplifting lightness comes through, as a track changes its progression from minor to major or vise versa, like a Manichean juggling act. I also recognized a ludic spirituality that comes across as being in the carnival or sideshow tradition.
The mellow tone of “Dried Old Leaves” evokes this movement from light to dark, a summer day curling into evening, when day is done, and all the spirits come in and out of you, bathed in a crispness of the air. I got that feeling a lot from listening to Life Stains, and it gives me goose-bumps, scares me a little, because I feel like I am being included not just in the artist’s quotidian fury, often one of Hip-Hop’s tropes, but being brought a step further, having the commonality of my experience take on ritualistic aspect, being included somehow in the rites of a secret community: Everyday life feels elevated at the same time as it is being cast as the shadow of an existential limbo.
Other threads I pick up on are a kind of electronic experimentation, stoner-rock wailing and lyrics that seem to be influenced as much by hip hop as Light Verse and Romantic and Surrealist Poetry. Early punk music definitely shares these roots, but I feel a more vital kind of nostalgia coming through, probably bolstered by the fact that in the tradition of a lot of the best hip hop (especially of the 90s), which came into the world already nostalgic, it provokes a longing sensation; a stark contrast the cathartic exuberance that punk is also known for. But this aforementioned featured is also present, the record finds a way to consummate them all, as if they were different aspects of an emotional spell brining out all the darkness and the laughter, all the inward turning of solemn introspection but also the communal bravado and hysterics of revelry.
The result is that the music that has the same kind of DIY energy and recording values found in live punk records, also has the vital pulse of underground hip hop, most authentically. I’m told that the record itself is a work of art separate from the very preformative nature of Dog Dick’s act, but I would say that a level of preformitivity does come through even on the record, with all the sound effects and banter that almost become a sustained kind of instrumentation in their own right.
[Available on vinyl from HOSS Records]