We’ve been reviewing the field recording and soundscape work of Abby Lee Tee for years. But when the artist announced a new moniker ~ ALT ~ and a sidestep to turntablism, we raised an eyebrow; after all, this is a significant left turn, indie music’s equivalent of Garth Brooks becoming Chris Gaines (and we all know how that turned out). Then we heard “Beavers.”
“Beavers” is not on the EP, but it should be. The new ALT template is established in a humorous fashion, with dialogue samples, hip-hop snippets, cutting and scratching, and the most fun since the heyday of Kid Koala. After hearing some beaver facts and quotable lines (“That doesn’t stop beavers!”), accompanied by “Come on”s, the track launches into field recordings (dam!) and a longer hip-hop quote (“Slow the flow, relax your mind, gain control, take your time”), which is of course a description of what beavers do. Then some actual beavers.
And the EP is just like this, beginning with an MC’s announcement: “A-L-T – who’s this?). Abby Lee Tee’s hype man may be his turntable, but that saves money on royalties. “The Shy” continues ALT’s fascinating blend of field recordings and hip-hop (field hop?), and we really hope this catches on, because the genre is packed with possibility. The EP hops about seasons and characters (herring gulls, kittens, men), making the natural seem unnatural and vice versa.
ALT mixes in an obvious love for the craft (“Hey Susan, did you hear those sounds?” “I sure did, Bob!”) while avoiding the pitfall of unnecessary obscenity that plague other turntablist recordings. A snippet of the famous sample, “So damn tough!” is amusing in that the homonym remembers the beavers. The artist’s skills are on display in “Play,” conjuring fond memories of the Return of the D.J. compilations. “End of the Program” is self-aware, a succinct ending to the set, though it’s short enough that listeners will want to stick around for the bonus cut.
Is this a new career or a passing fancy? We hope it is the former, as both “Beavers” and Disputed Territory have brought smiles to our faces. Who’s this? It’s ALT, and he scratches the vinyl so well that we’re no longer scratching our heads. (Richard Allen)