David Last: The Push Pull
The Agriculture

On his debut full-length The Push Pull, David Last inhabits a bewitching zone that offers the NY-based video artist, illustrator, and composer ample room to maneuver. While rooted in dancehall, Last's kaleidoscopic sound incorporates dub, funk, even jazz, and is enriched by Arabian and African sounds—dancehall with a Moroccan twist. The album isn't entirely new—it includes material from his 12-inch EPs Posca Kid and Badlands—but its sound is. Moving beyond dancehall's jerky, clipped rhythms, Last peppers his hypnotic tracks with a multitude of exotica: sitar, ululating voices, funk bass, trumpet smears, African percussion, flutes, and an array of electronic noises.

Opening with “Besitos,” its ponderous theme offset by rollicking hand drums and handclaps, the album scores immediately with the percussive funk of the title track and the noir-themed “Secret Society.” With its elastic bounce fueled by dancehall horns and Arabian flutes, “Posca Kid” wanders through a jungle of crickets and cicadas until it's serenaded by a gloriously soaring melodica theme. Equally good is the reggae-tinged, buzzing bass funk of “Cat-Silver,” especially when it segues into a trippy Arabian-tinged coda where voices and instruments blur together. Coupling Eliane Amherd's enchanted vocal musings with resplendent melodica playing in the dancehall dub-funk excursion “Makeout Stakeout” proves irresistible too.

Admittedly, there's the occasional misstep: “Vestigal Lambs,” a funereal soundscape of lamb bleats and incantatory yelps, affords a change of pace but arrests the flow; zombie interzones of this kind might be better left in David Toop's capable hands. And “Chiki,” a repetitive dub-funk groove of possessed voices and electronic squiggles, amounts to a less than enthralling closer. Such moments are rare, however. For the most part The Push Pull, a captivating mixture of dancehall grooves, loping funk, laconic hip-hop beats, and serpentine melodies, succeeds due to the wealth of imagination that Last brings to it.

February 2005