Chants rebuilds "Revolution 9" from scratch

Hear the Madison producer’s bold contribution to a recent White Album tribute.

A couple of weekends ago, a bunch of Madison musicians gathered at the High Noon Saloon to cover the White Album in its entirety, a task that presents no end of hairy challenges and artistic pitfalls. The hairiest one of all is how to approach John Lennon’s musique concrete-inspired sound collage “Revolution 9,” and that task fell to producer Jordan Cohen, aka Chants.

Cohen sent me a recorded version of his “Revolution 9” after the show, and I was taken aback by its percussive, political ferocity. Instead of making a track that sounds anything like the original, Cohen dispensed with all the initial source material and gathered a contemporary, fractured assortment of field recordings, spoken word, music fragments, and his own starkly thudding bursts of drum samples. Perhaps the most recognizable element here is rapper Killer Mike’s speech at a Run The Jewels show in St. Louis in November 2014, which took place the same night a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

On a cheekier note, there’s also a sample of Kool A.D. rapping “fuck the Beatles, go Yoko.” That and a few samples of Cohen’s friends saying “number 9” at a dinner gathering one night are really the only giveaways that this track has anything to do with “Revolution 9” or the Beatles. Other elements include swatches of music from Arca, M.E.S.H., and SD Laika.

"I like that the original piece is completely disruptive in the context of a Beatles album, so I was looking forward to playing the same role in the show,” Cohen says." And I like the idea that maybe John Lennon was frustrated using the conventional tools at his disposal, and was trying to express something about his world through new, sometimes abrasive techniques. It just made sense to try and do the same thing with digital sampling and editing, which obviously is the modern version of cutting up tape.”

Give the track a listen here. Chants doesn't have any upcoming Madison shows on the books right now, but Cohen says he is working on a new EP for release later this year.