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Welcome Abroad
Illegal Art
Format: CD / Digital
Release Date: May 24, 2011
By Andrew Lyle Jones December 28, 2011

Sampledelica – that pure craziness of giving up on linearity and letting music run as a land – is a category that has already acquired its classics. The Grey Album is capable of bringing up all the contradictions in copyright law and the brilliance of mash-ups, but as a field copyleft is perhaps better defined by those illicit shares that bring up just how crazy or monotnous jumping genres can be. Law has forbidden cut-ups from legitimate release, hence the field is truly populated by the audiophile. Any MP3 sharing program can provide hours of mash-ups. The bigger question with mash-ups is quality and not politics. Sample sources and talent become paramount to producing an album, but does Welcome Abroad still have a story to tell about the politics of sampling? Let’s take a look at those samples.

What are the sources that People Like Us borrow from? Soul, psychedlica, musicals, and soundtracks. Their use of these sources comes with the distancing of copying; despite the complete feasibility of making a band that can combine Mary Poppins and Dione Warwick, indie records have left us without such a music maker. In its place copylefters are frequently pulling on nostalgia in order to remind us of the extremity of the law. These tracks are populated by pop’s sweetest muses, most reslient soul moments, uplifting extremes of orchesration forbidden from replicating. The sweetness of pop these copyists make cries out for repition, replication, identification. It is a layer cake of overly sweet moments and invention, and terribly hummable.

It will leave a juicy pirate stain in your computer. I like the idea of an album that is being hunted, on the run from DRM patrol. You can’t even play it on your iPad because Apple won’t sell it on iTunes – run people like us! Run! How much do the fantasies they borrow from cost in seconds? Who would have ever guessed we could count music by such a speed. It’s a fun album, but it’s the fact that something as simple, enjoyable, and frankly everyday as copying contemporary culture has become an illegal act that makes it such fun. Memory, which samples play upon, is the only recording format that the major copyright holders don’t seem to feel breaks with current intellectual property right laws. Yet these products which accidentally acquired such restrictive legislation stay with us even if we don’t purchase them. The same labels fighting digital copies are working as hard as possible to ensure your brain does copy them. Welcome Abroad contains samples from songs I only remember through forced commercial repetition and others that simply are so engrained from childhood that I will always remember them. If the labels are working this hard t0 make their product stick, why aren’t they thrilled that someone is playing with this stickiness?

The problems of copyright and music-making is that music is a spiritual part of human beings. It simply cannot work in the confines provided. That the universals behind a select set of laws have impaired the ability of music to conjure and multipy its spirits, that the ghosts in sounds are imprisoned in intellectual property is a major problem. Music is as close as people get to the ephemeral currency of desire that underlies how the world really works, and that desire doesn’t care to pay pennies for each replay or device it ends up on. The spiritual machine is at odds with the legal one. People Like Us do not make these politics sonically confrontable, rather they prefer to huggle with all their cute little samples. The effect is that of an illegal My Little Pony prancing away through a landscape, innocent and loveable – it is only that we know that somewhere out there the law wants to put our pony down that makes the album a tragedy. People Like Us eleborate their politics of collaboration by makng their borrowings so lovable; as a statement it won’t move Capitol Hill, but it will charm your ear drums and make you want to make more.

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