Kyle Mabson is a certified weirdo who lives in LA and takes other peoples’ music and cuts it into little scraps and pieces and reimagines it into different forms, perhaps shaping into forms that resemble the way his brain appears to process it on the fly; some people are color-blind. Mabson is blind to what sounds awful to everyone else, but he’ll take you by the hand and walk you through all the possibilities, if that’s where you’d really like to go, like a first-class sommelier at a fifth-class restaurant. One of those uptown joints that used to be a laundromat, or a bookie joint. It was briefly popular in 2010 for its petite menu, strictly limited to three dishes, all of them including arugula, and enforced “sit on strangers laps” dining policy. But, yeah, Mabson will take you to that place.
Or, rather, he’ll get someone else to take you there. Mabson doesn’t cook the food as much as he arranges for the meal to be produced, at which point he’s happy to take the wheel and make the car go. If you’ve got a recipe, Kyle Mabson is listening. Cook that bitch up and let’s see who’ll eat it.
Case in point: Dan Deacon’s “tribute” version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s sickeningly popular “Call Me Maybe,” which your mom and your sister both thought was the only song that came out last year and maybe it was. Practically before you heard of the song it had reached a thunderous Chris Brown/”Forever”-type crescendo, filling YouTube with hammy amateur “Call Me Maybe” japes and shenanigans and shmaltzy wedding proposals and road trips and secret crushes and unabashed American cheez whiz (the secret of 2012 is that all songs are now “I Just Called To Say I Love You” and that this is apparently the way we like it). So the only way a Kyle Mabson (and by extension a Dan Deacon) can look at a song like “Call Me Maybe” is to take it apart and split it into its component pieces, then attempt to reassemble it using a sort of Haines Manual that you can only buy in an alley in downtown Los Angeles, right down the street from The Smell.
Deacon and Mabson (as an aside, Mabson — he’s only 25 years old if that helps you better understand his condition — runs a “popular” site called “Celebrity Juggalos,” where he takes photos of celebrities and draws Insane Clown Posse Juggalo faces on them with MS Paint or some godawful thing, maybe an iPad. “A different celebrity juggalo goes up whenever I feel like it. SO RAD!”) slice the song open like a cadaver, specifically one of those corpses cut up into sandwich-layer-thin slices in the Body Worlds-type exhibits, then reassembled in a Visible Man (or Visible Jepsen) way so you can see how all the parts interact with each other and where the bits you can feel with your tongue but not actually see with your eyes go.
“Call Me Maybe Acapella 147 Times Exponentially Layered” does pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s a hoi polloi of endlessly cascading Carly Raes, beginning with auto-tuned familiarity and dripping down flight after flight of aural stairs until the “tune” seems to feature 2,000 Jepsenbots marching in irregular but highly rigid fashion. By the end it’s just skronk, raw Brostep squiggle that could easily pass for a Skrillex tubefart. I don’t know what this song is trying to tell me, but I want to both run away from it and hug it in the same motion.
Last fall, Mabson and friends released “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a collection of 26 covers of Taylor Swift’s 2012 hit, including one by “Greenday With Reverb,” which zooms in on the original track like a CSI “enlarge! enhance!” reticule and then introduces a reverb so huge it swamps out every gasp of air — it actually feels like you’re suffocating; the relief when silence finally comes (Swift’s voice occasionally drops back in, like a thunderstorm on a distant horizon — you’re actually begging to hear the voice of Taylor Swift, the scenery is so unsettling and alien) is palpable, and very real. Other cuts, like tik///tik’s “HVNTED SWVFT RVBBIT CVNO,” partially involve people talking about what Taylor’s song might be about, or explaining it to someone else. Skronk happens, of course, and the metallic grinding gears usually come in about where you expect them — in the 21st century, electronic gear-grinding largely replaces and enhances the dismissive full-album needle scratch favored by DJs of yore.
It should be mentioned at this point that Mabson is a bit of a Dudebro himself — one of his “label’s” tracks is called “Jake Gyllenhall is a Total Douchebag” and the subject favors madras shorts and poppable collars. But it hasn’t prevented him from being a nearly unkillable figure on LA’s underground party scene. He’s a virtual
whiteboy whitish counterpoint to Odd Future’s new slang skatehop crew of malcontents, shitheads, geniuses, brats and Frank Ocean, and I think the prototype comes from the same factory — kids raised on social media and YouTube, to whom the old divisions not only made no sense, but were deemed obstacles in the way of getting shit together and making people move to whatever beat you have to lead them with.
Team Mab’s latest joint came out just days ago. “Now That’s What I Call Mabson” features 33 “friends covering and remixing their favorite top 40 songs of 2012” via social media sources — in a sense this is MMO music, constantly online, never alone at any given moment. And it sounds like it: if you’re expecting Will Oldham curled up in his comfy chair stroking his beard and penning a pastoral tune about 16th century tax collectors, you’re in the wrong place. Neither will Kyle Mabson pretend to be your boyfriend, and look longingly into your eyes while he summons an eagle with his acoustic guitar to swoop you off to Middle Earth; he’s just not that kind of guy, and you’re not that kind of date.
Is it any good? Not to be a cliche, but what is “good”? It’s merely persistent memory sculpted from noise and it’s evidence of creation of some sort or another and it just might be that’s all it really ever needs to be. I don’t know if I’m qualified to judge it anyway, frankly. You can listen to it here and maybe you can try. But I can pretty much guarantee that whatever you think of it, it’s not going to stop these people from doing it again.