Ben Ellman’s side project of sorts is so much fun I almost have nothing more to say about it. He’s got three comps available for free from his website (www.gypsyphonic.com), and each are delightful. I wound up not being as fond of Vol. II—nearly threw it in just to be complete but figured the short but remarkably un-pithy review I penned could wait.
Gypsyphonic Disko Nola-Phonic, Vol. 1 (free Gypsyphonic. com download ’10): Done by Ben Ellman, saxophonist for Galactic, a jazz/funk group I’ve tolerated but never gave much credence to given my wariness of over-extensive jam bands. But this is a forty-two minutes’ hodge-podge worth of hip-hop vocal samples and Gypsy horns and percussion, the hip-hop portion eclectic enough (at least I think) that I don’t recognize several (read: most). So good it’s by turns funky and humorous—“Milkshake” backed by folky horns or the clarinet solo following a long repetition of “Shake that ass like a salt shaker” and “Ride that dick bitch” makes me laugh out loud every time. So much more fun than Girl Talk. A MINUS
Gypsyphonic Disko Mardi Gras Mix Tape 2013 (free Gypsyphonic.com download): In which Ben Ellman chops up and mixes old-timey New Orleans ragtime, jazz, and blues with hip-hop samples into an elongated stuttering staccato so feverish it makes me think Fatboy Slim was never slightly annoying. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Deep South rhythms/horns/Hammond organ align more naturally with hip-hop than Gypsy brass from halfway across the globe—more harmonic but as a result far less surprising, a compromise trading this mash-up comp’s ingenuity for party rocking. And at thirty-four minutes, it’s a pretty short party. A MINUS