In the 1990s a number of musicians had discovered an interesting mix of noise and shoegaze that became known as glitch. Starting off with a select few number of musicians the intensity and weirdness of the sound began to grow, further defining its tenets. Usually the idea behind it was to embrace that sort of “left over” sound, the kind of thing that typically was edited out. Even among the vanguard there was confusion with one direction exploring the quiet, the subdued, Bernhard Günter’s “Un Peu De Neige Salie” being on one side and the chaotic as Otomo Yoshihide’s “The Night Before the Death of the Sampling Virus” nicely represents. Those two competing philosophies found their own places of comfort. Labels like L-NE/12K served the quiet and labels like Tigerbeat6 served the loud, more punk-like aesthetic.
Dat Politics falls under the latter camp. Their debut, “Tracto Flirt” served as a template for all that proceeded it. Released in 1999 under their own “Ski-pp” it still holds a unique charm many years after its initial debut. In 2000 their debut was re-released by Tigerbeat6 including two additional songs that sort of hinted at a far greater depth, the sort of tracks that suggested the listener re-listen to the album to see what might have been missed. While Dat Politics certainly plays it loud (very, very loud) there are unique attributes to their sound that give them a certain charm, a charm they have continued to possess even as they have cleaned up their sound, given it vocals, and sanded away some of the harsher edges that dominated their earlier recordings.
“Tracto Flirt” was one of those albums that sparked my interest in the weirder side of things. Growing up I enjoyed listening to odd music, the sort of thing most people in my workplaces told me to turn off. Yet I faced a problem: the weird music I listened to tended to be on the formal side of things. Playful, as I saw it, ultimately could not be as challenging to listen to, because playful was not as rigorous. Thus, when I first heard the third track on “Tracto Flirt” (all tracks are untitled) my worldview changed. Here was a song that utilized noise to great effect. Dat Politics imagines noise as interpreted by Teletubbies. It is cute, unbelievably cute. The sounds skitter, splat, and play around with naive childlike melodies employing simplistic beats. When I first heard this I was absolutely enamored with them. I had never heard anything quite like them and even after all I’ve listened to, I haven’t heard much that sounds like them.
On “Tracto Flirt” Dat Politics use noise in a friendly way. These aren’t giant tomes, they are noise-pop songs. Nothing formalistic exists here. No Oval-like “Do While” ever has or ever will grace their discography. Dat Politics are about high-energy, highly enjoyable sort of sounds. With similarly spirited groups like Mouse On Mars offering up a lighter approach to equally rigorous sound exploration, Dat Politics started out in the wilderness with their debut exploring whatever they felt like essentially. That means that “Tracto Flirt” has four to the floor beats, piercing high pitched noises, and the occasional gentle melody thrown in just to give the listener something to latch onto throughout the chaos.
Right from the beginning of “Tracto Flirt” Dat Politics goes for something different with a strange kind of coda jammed with interference leading the way. They move onto more stripped down rhythmic territory before diving into one of the more accessible songs on the album, the aforementioned “3”. After “3” their intentions become clearer: they want to explore these grating sounds in a pop-like way, making it a very difficult album to exactly pigeonhole. Melodies rear their head on the video game soundtrack of “7” and dive into noise-laden grooves on the bizarre childlike “8”. On their initial album release they end it at “11” with its chaos and field recording bringing it to a close. The re-release makes a lot more sense. “12” serves as an unusually emotional tender moment, and “13” sort of points towards what would become their future. After some creative panning and loud distortion, a melody forms out of the jagged noise. This points to their simultaneous ability to be both brash and tender in the same song. Additionally, it serves as probably one of the earliest moments of their reason for being.
High energy, weird, and surprisingly sweet, Dat Politics would eventually move towards a more Deux-like electro sound, stripping away the excess noise to reveal that heart that had always guided their music forward. On “Tracto Flirt” they explored a plethora of ideas, remaining true to their need for exploration as much as their need for an emotional connection. Later they’d become more open about their need for emotional connection, as shown by their cover of “Rainbow Connection” but on “Tracto Flirt” their trajectory remained delightfully undetermined.