Thursday, June 29, 2006

Looking For The Perfect Beat (1983) – Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force

In 1982-83, Afrika Bambaataa, The Soul Sonic Force, Arthur Baker and John Robie stood near the pinnacle of artistic achievement. If “Planet Rock” was the paradigm by which they had set the standard for the future of hip-hop, “Looking For The Perfect Beat” was their masterpiece—a paragon built upon the desideratum of beat innovation. Its taut kick drum raps patterns in rolling succession, introducing distinct passages throughout with different permutations of the perfect beat theorem, as well as alterations in the variables of timbre, tension, tone, reverb, stereo placement and stuttering panning. Whereas The Soul Sonic Force emceed “Planet Rock” to acclaim with their party-inciting persiflage, “Perfect Beat” dazzles due to its intricate yet propulsive beats, galvanic programming and dynamic arrangement. Here, The Force promote the concoction like traveling medicine show charlatans peddling their aural elixir: “It’s working!” Unlike with most sales puffery, however, believe the ballyhoo.

To substantiate the bold claims, a dizzying spiral of concatenated plinking skitters upward in carbonated effervescence on rungs of programmed handclaps; snares resound in explosive thwacks, and then tight, crisp cracks; synthesizers stab with succulent pink noise warmth, spring in nimble staccato dabs, drop burrowing clusters of bass; ersatz scratching zips about in synthetic sterility; cyborgian syllabic gurgles orbit in the sonicsphere; clinking metallic hi-hats pitter, programmed percussion patters, electro-rototoms fulminate. In the nucleus of this synergy, The Force issues a “BEAT THIS!” drumline challenge before Baker and Robie throw down their neoteric marching cadence that continues to resonate in the Bonus Beats II and Instrumental version, which are more than mere appendages: rather than rehash the track sans vocals, they recast the quest, bringing into focus the nuances of this crusade. The former features the skeletal percussive elements upon which the proposition was developed (including a brief nod to “Planet Rock”), while the latter celebrates the achievement by reconfiguring its components, culminating in a panoply of recognizable world anthems that collapse to the sounds of nuclear warfare (about which Bambaataa would later rant alongside John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon in 1984’s “World Destruction”). Shortly, the coalition will reconvene to reinvent the elusive ideal that drives them to “keep looking, searching, seeking, finding. . . .” As “Perfect Beat” attests, the reward is in the going.

  • Listen to "Looking For The Perfect Beat" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "Planet Rock" (1982) – Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force.
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