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Paul B. Davis's "Pretty" EP (downloadable here) is a gem, combining electro, ambient drum and bass, and 21st Century classical influences in a thought-provoking, hummable package. "it's 4:30 am friday and i don't care anymore (edit)" kicks off the proceedings with Jean-Jacques Perrey samples over an early '80s style beat box: the arpeggios cycle faster and faster until the track ends with an emphatic "4-3-2!" "whiskey headed woman" suggests the awkward marriage of Stockhausen and Squarepusher, with jerky cello stabs punctuated by high-speed drillbeats. (Davis' roots in the academy--specifically the Oberlin Conservatory--show here: according to the liner notes, the piece contains samples of Brian Ferneyhough's "Time and Motion Study II for Solo 'Cello and Electronics"). "I need to freak" closes Side One splendidly, with a babble of computer generated sprechstimme resolving into an unspeakably lovely chorus: "C'mon baby let me freak you to the right/C'mon baby let me freak you all night/Baby I need you every day of the week/C'mon baby let me show you how I like to freak." The sexual strutting of the the (Rick) Jamesian words is belied by the melancholy of the posthuman voices, and the song ends abruptly, leaving the listener with a solid case of goosebumps.
"Everytime I go outside I get a headache" features an infectious, jazzy rhythm played with brushed cymbals and snares (by way of the sampler); the melody is also kind of loungy, albeit intercut with submarine sonar pings and timestretching effects. This piece is slinky, moody, and Herbert-esque in the best sense; Michael Reinboth should anthologize it post-haste in his Future Sounds of Jazz series. The record ends with some piano-noodling and more complex rhythmic filigrees in the title cut "Pretty"; the analog synth that surfaces halfway through revives the electro feeling of the first track, bringing the EP full circle. The disc is confident, complex, and heedless of fashion in its willingness to combine genres and thwart expectations: more work from Davis is greatly anticipated. (Beige Records, 2001, www.beigerecords.com)