Documentary Evidence

Ohi Ho Bang Bang

The Three

Ohi Ho Bang Bang 'The Three' 12" artwork

single // The Three

mute records | 12"/cdv mute72 | 10/1989 | track listing

Ohi Ho Bang Bang was a collaboration between Holger Hiller, Renegade Soundwave's Karl Bonnie and video artist Akiko Hada. The result of the collaboration was a 12” and CD-video for Mute which is possibly also entitled Ohi Ho Bang Bang, or maybe 'The Three' after the first track on each format (I've elected to go with the latter, rightly or wrongly). Whilst neither format is particularly specific by way of credits, a little web research suggests that the music was created by Hiller and Bonnie, while Hada was responsible for filming and editing the video. If you read the Cross Platform pages of The Wire, such collaborations between electronic musicians and video artists are ten-a-penny today, but in 1989 such projects were scarce, or confined to highbrow artist endeavours. The name of the collaboration has a Disney-ish whiff, while 'bang bang' was military slang for recreational activities of the mostly horizontal kind; overall, the name for the collaboration has a percussive quality, something that the music – and in particular the video – draws out.

The three audio tracks are examples of late Eighties plunderphonic sampling, Hiller and Bonnie lifting uncredited glam-rock and jazz samples (including some Gene Krupa-esque drumming) to create a dense, skipping sound world which swings with a pop insouciance. These days, sampling tends to be an altogether more structured affair, but in the late Eighties the technology was still in its relative infancy, the results tending toward a juvenile grab-and-go reassembling of pretty much anything you could get your hands on. The laws on crediting samples in 1989 were also nowhere near as stringent as they are today, meaning that you didn't have to clear any samples that you used if they were under a certain number of seconds, allowing tracks like those assembled here by Hiller and Bonnie to be constructed more or less entirely from lifted sections from other records. Hiller was an early exploiter of the sonic potential of the sampler, while in Renegade Soundwave Karl Bonnie was used to nabbing large swathes of other peoples' songs and crafting something new and brilliant from the wreckage.

Of the three tracks here, 'The Three' is probably the least effective, simply because it is the one bogged down the most by the layers of samples, feeling a little at times like a John Oswald remix of a Jive Bunny megamix. The best sections tend to be the ones dominated by more electronic sounds – bubbles, electro percussion and industrial scrapes and headcleansing noise – and a range of clipped vocal sounds, rather than the distorted guitar passages. The other two versions on both formats are more sonically rewarding, possibly just by being a lot more restrained. 'The Path' has a delicate, layered percussive quality which echoes a lot of early Soundwave material, particularly its submerged bass noises. Latin jazz horns and piano, as well as some summery bongo percussion sounds are a nice, laidback addition, and when the Krupa-style drums and frazzled guitar samples creep in they're less intrusive somehow. 'The Two' is better, and more minimal still, focussing on fragmented electro beats, percussion loops built from vocal snatches and a bunch of nice, scratched-up industrial noise.

The video for a different version of 'The Two' which dates from the year before is clearly a clever and painstakingly-crafted enterprise, structured in a way that visually responds to the technique of sampling, showing a very fresh-faced Bonnie and Hiller conjuring sounds from a variety of household objects, smashing pianos Christian Wolff-style, making vocal sounds, scratching records with bones and slinging guitars about the place. Each time a particular sound is used, the image of that sound's supposed generation is stuck on screen, often layered above another section. Videos for dance music at the time made great use of sampled imagery – old black and white movies, psychedelic swirls and jump-cut imagery – but nothing quite so inventive as Akiko Hada's 'mix' here. Sadly, the technology required to watch the CD-video is now obsolete (though you can still play the audio tracks), but the video is (currently at least) available on YouTube (see below).

Thanks to Stuart for his help with this review.

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A1. The Three
A2. The Two
B. The Path

1. The Three
2. The Path
3. The Two
4. The Two (Video)

(c) 2012 MJA Smith / Documentary Evidence