Listening Party: Todd Cage, "Screwed Down (Vol. 1)"

City Paper

Earl Sweartshirt’s bipolar 2013 single ‘Burgundy’ rides a wobbly symphonic beat as Sweatshirt darts from downer introspection to defensive scowl. As remixed by Todd Cage on “Screwed Down (Vol. 1),” that lumbering rhythm is lithiumed into a slow stagger, the lyrics’ tension accentuated by an ear-piercing guitar burst from Maryland trio Chaos Destroy’s ‘(Noise) Here We Come’ cutting into the mix. The mood-swing trajectory of Sweatshirt’s original remains but Cage’s remix makes it as unreliable as a “Drunk History” narrator. It’s a bit like a screwed-and-chopped mash-up.

That’s really all Cage does on “Screwed’s” nine tracks—slurs the pace a la the late Houston legend DJ Screw and folds an unexpected sample into it. It’s very much one trick, but it’s an entertaining one. Zither-player Laraaji and Riff Raff come together on ‘Versace Python,’ This Heat and DMX tango on ‘Slippin’,’ British sound-sculpter Raime and Prince spar on the ribald ‘Bob George.’ They all kinda sound the same, but it’s intoxicating: It recalls that woozy flash in a night of overindulgence, that moment between substances making you euphoric and blacking out.

Todd Cage strikes gold twice here. The first is a swirling of Merzbow speaker abuse into A$AP Rocky’s ‘Purple Swag,’ yielding a dose of sonic Quaaludes. The second is what sounds like merely slowing down the Talking Heads’ ‘Once in a Lifetime,’ a sweaty nervous breakdown in Brian Eno’s original production. Cage takes it from cocaine freakout to a second-bottle-of-whisky slur, upending the song’s impact. What was once a manic crisis brought on by post-industrial life becomes something much more ordinary: just another sad middle-aged dude mumbling to himself at last call. 

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