Plexure is a composition Oswald created in 1992, commissioned by John Zorn for his Japan-based CD label Avant. The result was the 1993 release of an 18-minute mini-album of such remarkable complexity and density that everyone seems to remark on this (see below).
Plexure is constructed entirely from brief fragments cloned from thousands of mostly pop recordings from 1982-1992, the first decade of the compact disc era. Most of the album is built on a structure that begins with the slowest songs from that time (mostly ballads and blues), and proceeds gradually to the fastest (bluegrass and speed metal). This is the same structure that a British mash-up artist called Osymyso, a decade later, used for a piece entitled introinspection that features 100 tunes in a mostly linear sequence, in contrast to Plexure's multifold polyphony.
One of the first steps in making Plexure was to arrange hundreds and hundreds of tracks of source material in order from the slowest to the fastest. Most of this work was done by Phil Strong, who in a time before BPM catalogs existed, measured waveforms and arranged bars of music both by eye and by ear. The original bar-of-each-song version of prePlex was about 33 minutes long. A lot of this material was folded into the subsequent structure of Plexure.
Oswald found the relative simplicity of prePlex to be occasionally beguiling on its own. But he thought there were parts that worked and parts that didn't; he wished to hear a version that in a way swung all the way through. He did some editing, throwing out a lot of material, and Phil Strong also took another stab at it.
But each time Oswald listened to the piece he ended up making improvements. He couldn't listen to the thing right through without stopping the playback to change something.
This process continued, very sporadically for over ten years. At certain points others, particularly Wobbly aka Jon Leidecker, made suggestions.
In early 2006 Donna Summer aka Jason Forrest re-edited the piece. Oswald incorporated a couple of his variations, but continued to work on adding to and subtracting from the composition, still making changes every time he heard it ("the most insistently demanding piece i've ever worked on", he was heard to say).
Then, finally, recently he began playing back prePlex all the way through without stopping, for himself, and for others, and after a few minor adjustments, he decided it was working like accelerating clockwork, and ready to be heard by the world.
Praise for Plexure :
About 13 years ago John Oswald gave us his masterwork of audio collage, Plexure, which wove together minute fragments of the greatest hits of the previous 10 years into a brilliant sound tapestry (Detritus)
The result is, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most amazing works of audio art ever, albeit quite challenging to listen to... (Steev Hise)
Starting with 'rapmillisylables', it then progresses through the material according to tempo. Hard to describe because the material moves so fast (there are thousands of fragments). It is jaw-droppingly complex, at the same time as being nothing but glossy hits exploding into a million shards (harmless when whole, exploded this stuff is lethal). This piece works on so many levels it's better to leave it to you the listener; indispensible (Chris Cutler ReR)
Highly recommended. Imagine playing "name that tune" at 5 times the speed of your ears' ability to recognize familiar sounds. This composition, made up entirely of pop music samples, deserves five stars because of its meticulous organization of disparate and familiar sounds into an exciting new composition, one that stands on its own whether or not the listener is familiar with each artist being "plundered." The piece never descends into disorganized noise, each sound is clearly placed where the composer intended. This is the mailbomb you want to send to pop culture. (xmw)
Plexure. The most in-demand Avant CD [...]. Oswald's most dense and crushingly heavy assemblage. Spectacular confusion via his most extreme stunning Plunderphonic. "His most rigorous and complex work to date, slices, chops, and blends literally hundreds of thousands of sound bites from musics known and unknown into a dizzying sonic whirlwind. You have never heard anything quite like Plexure, and you are likely never to forget it. (forced exposure)
This is perhaps the most unique pop album available, as seen through the kaleidoscopic lens of Canadian John Oswald, who invented a sampling style called plunderphonics that frequently tips the scales towards copyright infringement. Plexure is built on clever manipulation, everything plus the kitchen sink, blink-and-you'll-miss-it, less-than-a-second edits from literally everyone in pop music over the last decade, and the results add up to a blender full of Top 40 confetti. There are themes here in these unbelievable collages of sound; even new phrases evolve from the sewn-together threads of Billboard hits. The first track, "OPEN (Bo No Ma)" is a cluster of words from the rap genre that hits the ground sprinting and only gets faster as the tracks seamlessly progress, like the Tasmanian Devil drank 14 cups of coffee and raced the bullet train through the Indie 5 million. Madonna and Prince both seem to be prominent figures along the way, but are practically buried under the onslaught of samples from Chicago, Ice-T, C+C Music Factory, Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians, U2, Fine Young Cannibals, Janet Jackson, Fishbone, Eurythmics, Peter Gabriel, Foreigner, Paul Simon, Deee-Lite, Talking Heads, Phil Collins, Sinéad O'Connor, the Clash, the Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jesus Jones, James Brown, and 712 others. The entire album clocks in at just under 20 minutes, but has easily 40 hours worth of material crammed into it. There are no other similar albums, except those perhaps released by Oswald himself. Plexure may give some people a headache, but others will hang on for dear life and get back in line for another ride.
(Toronto) Oswald's fony label ANNOUNCES Plexure Remix project, working title PLEXURE REDUX 2.2.2, will be a DVD. There is still talk of a limited edition vinyl LP release of PrePlex ( an early mix ) with Plexure Redux on the flip. No date has been set for release at this time, but Plexure Redux is "close to completion."
Aquarius ( a Berkeley California record store, from their web site ) called PLEXURE (released on John Zorn's AVANT label in 1994) :
John Oswald's piece de resistance. Twenty minutes of some of the most insane editing, cross-fading, beat matching, cultural name dropping and sampling. No other work even comes close to the intensity of Plexure. John Oswald proves he is a virtuoso of Pro Tools, over a thousand different artists edited, spliced and mixed together. Many of the sampled pieces are just long enough to be recognizable and yet short enough that by the time you can consciously identify the track your ears have been pummeled by another 15, and all matched up as seamlessly as humanly possible. One of the most beautiful and simultaneously insane and aggravating experiences in audio ever produced. A must listen and a must have.
| visit aquariusrecords.org ... |
| PLEXURE definition ... |
This CD belongs in every home, and I'm not kidding.
"One of the most incredible listening experiences to be had anywhere. This kind of collage is of course easy to do if you have the right equipment, but to get a result such as what can be heard here requires an extremely acute musical sensitivity. This is beautiful, exciting, rewarding, exhilarating, mind-blowing, rejuvenating MUSIC. The tremendous force behind it will open up new perceptual horizons, causing you to rethink (no less) the way you listen to music. ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL."
John Oswald is a pioneering composer who deals directly with the issues of copyright, appropriation, sampling, and 'plunderphonics' in music. According to Oswald, a plunderphone is "a transformed but still recognizable audio quote." Perhaps his most formidable project yet, "Plexure" is completely assembled from other CDs and features over 1,000 'electroquoted' contemporary pop artists from the past decade or so (since the dawn of compact discs). The material progresses according to tempo, with beats and syllables juxtaposed and layered in an aural tapestry that rolls by at an almost subliminal rate. The sensation is comparable to the opening of Robert Zemeckis' film adaption of "Contact" when the camera gradually pulls back from the Earth's atmosphere and through the galaxy until it reaches the outer universe, during which we hear a barrage of song snippets, televison audio, and radio broadcasts that grows fainter as the sound waves get further out. Each track here is credited to a hybrid artist (Sinéad O'Connick Jr, Bing Stingspreen, Marianne Faith No Morrisey), and the whirlwind of familiar hooks, riffs, and voices invites an examination of just what makes pop music popular. Among the myriad of sources used, you can catch moments of Madonna, Prince, Nirvana, Edie Brickell, Deee-Lite, Julee Cruise, U2, Jane's Addiction, Metallica, Talking Heads, EMF, C+C Music Factory, Fine Young Cannibals, Annie Lennox, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This disc debuted in 1993, so much of the recording is culled from the late 1980s/early 90s. Reportedly, Oswald has plans to revisit this project in the future. Due to the legal issues raised by his methods, this import (issued on John Zorn's Japanese label, Avant) is one of the few John Oswald releases still available. Although it clocks in at just under 20 minutes, there's more information on this CD than a box set. It's not exactly something you would throw on at a party, but it's a fascinating experiment in audio recognizition and association. Experience it."
"Imagine playing "name that tune" at 5 times the speed of your ears' ability to recognize familiar sounds. This composition, made up entirely of pop music samples, deserves five stars because of its meticulous organization of disparate and familiar sounds into an exciting new composition, one that stands on its own whether or not the listener is familiar with each artist being "plundered." The piece never descends into disorganized noise, each sound is clearly placed where the composer intended. This is the mailbomb you want to send to pop culture.
I had long been under the impression that this album was illegal in the States because of its use of unauthorized samples. I'm thrilled that it's available to a domestic audience.
My only caveat: The running time of this disc is 22 minutes. But Mr. Oswald's ingenious use of these thousands of samples more than compensates for the album's brevity. "