UFO’s sample secrets

UNITED FUTURE ORGANIZATION, at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (June 30). $15/advance, $20/door. 870-8000. Rating: NNNNNAs sampling continues to get.


UNITED FUTURE ORGANIZATION, at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (June 30). $15/advance, $20/door. 870-8000. Rating: NNNNN


As sampling continues to get increasingly lifelike, with lifted beats and notes virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, Tokyo DJ trio United Future Organization are sounding more and more like the best band on the planet.

Sure, Tadashi Yabe, Toshio Matsuura and Raphael Sebbag don’t play any instruments themselves, but that’s no obstacle. The three record junkies are fanatical students of music who can dissect rhythms and melodies and reassemble them into seamless, almost orchestral jazz tracks, building swinging drum breaks, horn bursts and vocal choruses entirely out of samples. The vinyl crackles are left in for effect.


Big music

UFO are getting more complex by the album. Last year’s stunning Bon Voyage disc — barely released outside of Japan and England — takes the threesome’s sampladelic plot even further out, lifting sounds from around the globe for a mighty planet meltdown.

“We push our limits with each album,” Sebbag explains from his Tokyo home. UFO dig deep into their record bags at Roxy Blu Friday (June 30). “We are big thinkers and like big music, and we want to make music that will last forever. So when we get together to do music, nothing is simple.

“When you work with samples, sometimes all the parts come together easily, and sometimes you hear a sound in your head but you can’t find the sample that fits. We could use live instruments, but that wouldn’t be UFO, so you end up spending hundreds of dollars on records for one tiny sound.

“This time, we even sang some of the parts ourself. The song Dans Ce Desert is an entirely original track, with a melody I wrote and sang. I couldn’t find the record, so I just did it myself. I am not a great singer, but it works.”

However listenable these extravagant arrangements are, they’re not a style that fits in with the minimalist thump of current club music.

From deep in his Afro-Brazilian record bunker, Sebbag is baffled by the trashy dance-pop scene, and sadly, that’s had ramifications on the UFO plot.

“People do such simple things that everyone thinks are so great,” Sebbag groans with mounting frustration. “It’s ridiculous. Minimal music with no melodies is like kleenex music. One track follows the next and follows the next, and none of it stands out.

“A lot of people still don’t understand what UFO do. In America we were supported the most by the head of Verve, a jazz label. When he left, no one knew what to do with our records, so Bon Voyage just died.

“We are going to leave Mercury and put our own records out. At least then we can control what happens.”

Someone’s listening, though. In an odd turn, UFO are now being sampled themselves, and their reputation as trend-setters precedes them.

In addition to remixes for Snowboy and Right Tempo’s Piero Umiliani deconstruction project and new tracks for Sega video games, UFO will have a new single out by the end of the year, but Sebbag won’t tell what direction they’re moving in. He’s been burned before.


Secret out

“I don’t want to tell,” Sebbag chuckles. “I get so fucking angry. For 3rd Perspective we were supposed to use Shirley Bassey for Planet Plan. We began work on the track and at some point I spoke about it with someone.

“Suddenly, you know who (Brit duo Propellerheads) used her — so badly — and made so much money. It drives me fucking crazy. This business is so competitive now, with people bootlegging records and trying to poach ideas. How many people did soundtracks after us, with the same beats that we used? My god, why not do something original?”

mattg@nowtoronto.com

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