Consider two ways of listening to Jason Forrest’s Shamelessly Exciting: (1) Just listen, sit back and enjoy, and maybe sip on some tea or, if it’s that kind of a night, pound a beer; (2) get out a notebook and pencil, strap on a pair of headphones the size of dinner plates, and map out every sample until you’re ashamed that you can actually recognize a Yes guitar solo.
Both ways are exhausting.
Beginning with “The Walls of the City Shake,” Forrest announces his intentions by pummeling listeners with a near-cheesy introductory section of epic power chords followed by wailing cock-rock guitar solos and ruthless drumming. Forrest isn’t playing around with your attention. He’s demanding it. And the Berlin-based sample artist is tossing out barely recognizable, highly manipulated gems left and right.
Forrest, who has recorded under the name Donna Summer (don’t ask) and whose 2004 album, The Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post-Disco Crash, gathered critical acclaim, digests Blondie for his main riff on “New Wave Folk Austerity,” chops up Blood, Sweat & Tears to construct “War Photographer” and, although I can’t be certain, samples what sounds like the log-in noise from iChat on “Dreaming and Remembering.”
The biggest novelty track on the record, however, culls together bits of Forrest’s thirty-six favorite punk songs for the properly titled “My 36 Favorite Punk Songs.” The track is perfect for knocking friends on their asses when the Ramones’ “Hey, ho!” battle cry leaves just as quick as it entered, but Forrest’s manner of mixing the track – molding one unified punk song from the tiny fragments and isolating the samples just enough so they each sound vaguely distinctive – sounds too cluttered to actually enjoy what he’s accomplished.
Given the record’s strenuous nature, it’s unsurprising that some of Shamelessly Exciting‘s best moments arise at its more subdued sections. Pieces such as the John Peel tribute “Nightclothes and Headphones,” featuring Laura Cantrell on vocals, or the early morning country-funk of “Skyrocket Saturday” offer much-needed relief to your battered ears. Forrest is an immense talent with abilities that differ from more traditional sample jockeys such as RJD2 or DJ Shadow, but on Shamelessly Exciting he comes across as an unfocused sample artist who is too eager to show off all the cool stuff he can do.
Track-by-track comments: http://www.cockrockdisco.com/ShamelesslyEx-comments.html
“Nightclothes and Headphones”: http://www.sonig.com/main/downloads_free/Nightclothes.mp3