By Jacob Katel
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By Nate "Igor" Smith
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Like Godzilla and Mothra, Bogdan Raczynski was transformed in Tokyo. The Polish-American expat/sonic terrorist had no intention of overturning the world of electronica while a foreign-exchange student in Nagoya, Japan, skipping classes to make music. "It was just a bit of fun," Raczynski shrugs. "It was kind of a joke really -- it just mutated." Now, armed with nothing but a ratty old laptop, a cheap sequencing program, and a couple of clip mikes, the twentysomething Raczynski is spearheading an invasion of Miami by Rephlex Records -- the U.K. beat cartel owned by Aphex Twin -- that will save us from our trance-induced stupor.
"I got tired of doing reports on Tokyo and figured I could probably learn more if I just went to Tokyo," Raczynski reasons of his early efforts. He dropped out of school, spending his days plugging away at a laptop he found dumpster-diving and his nights wandering the streets of the red-light district among the hookers and the Yakuza. Living this monastic existence among the riffraff paid dividends, allowing Raczynski to focus on his music. "I think it's really a good thing to be by yourself, because you can concentrate on yourself and not depend on others." Fascinated with Japan's high-tech lifestyle, yet resigned to round-eye outsider status, Raczynski blended his urges to people-watch and sequence tracks by plugging in at various Tokyo subway stations. Taking advantage of Japan's abundance of electricity, Raczynski created "Math," a spastic, engaging, and often brutal concoction of drum and bass, gabber, and off-kilter vocals. A demo of what was to become his first album, Boku Mo Wakaran,was sent off to Rephlex head honcho Richard D. James. Soon Raczynski had both an expired student visa and a record deal, so he headed back to his folks' house in rural Nebraska.
The heartland was no place for an up-and-coming mathematician, so Raczynski packed his laptop and headed for London. Over the next four years he would live a gypsy existence as he bounced around England, Ireland, America, and Canada while struggling with visa problems. "I cringe at nationalism," he grumps. "It's the worst scourge on this planet besides religion." While Raczynski nation-hopped, Rephlex released a trilogy of his records that introduced "Math" to the big-pants set: Boku Mo Wakaran, Samurai Math Beats, and Thinking Of You.
Raczynski's reputation as a drum and bass madman grew incrementally with each release. Thinking Of You introduced trumpet and synth tracks into the more melodic songs. Lest that scare off the 200 beats-per-minute jungle purists, old-school math tracks like "Fuck You DJ" abounded. To support the trilogy, a mixed bag of gigs around the world had Raczynski pogoing like Sid Vicious if they went well, and doodling with crayons in between songs if they went poorly. In anticipation of a 2000 European tour, Raczynski released a five-song piss-take on Wild On E!'s favorite location, Ibiza Anthems Vol. 4. Featuring a poster that screams "Bombs Over Ibiza" over the Spanish isle's coast, the album is Raczynski at his delirious best. On the "Bombs Over Ibiza" track, childlike vocals squeal over a tribal beat like a demented Lord of the Flies soundtrack. "Death To The Natives" is a brutal drum and bass track only the most dedicated crank addict could keep up with -- that is, if his fix was dangled in front of him from a moving car. The anguished vocals and dark synths in "Trance and Burn" recall Nine Inch Nails at its tortured best, until the track segues into a wall of noise worthy of Scraping Teeth.
Achieving mathematical perfection with Ibiza Anthems Vol. 4,Raczynski took a 180-degree turn and devoted himself to writing love songs. "I fell in love," he explains. "I'm just a bard." To capture his newfound warm fuzzies on record, he rescued his parents' accordion (brought over from Poland when they emigrated) from a dusty closet and taught himself how to play. "I'd never played the accordion before that, but it was such a beautiful sound. Miking it with my ratty $30 tie-clip microphone let me hear all those whispers and burps caused by the accordion. You can't lose with an instrument like that." After he spent a year and change tinkering with flutes, trumpets, and the accordion, Myloveilovewas released in October 2001. Dubbing himself "the working-man's Julio Iglesias," Raczynski declared Myloveilove a "soundtrack for sobbing." Featuring seventeen tracks all named "Myloveilove," the record walks the fine line between the heartfelt balladeering of Chet Baker and the hilarious falsetto spoof found on Anal Cunt's Picnic Of Love.Raczynski's moody trumpets and gentle accordion-playing evoke every American-in-Paris romantic movie from the 1950s. One can imagine Rock Hudson proposing to Doris Day while sailing down the Seine. His atonal stray-cat wail, however, would drive away Mother Teresa, let alone Doris Day. Nonetheless Myloveilove garnered wonderful reviews from the English music press, with style-setting magazine NME naming an advance EP containing Myloveilovetracks "single of the week."
After publicly converting to the ways of love, Bogdan Raczynski claims to be finished as a solo artist. "I've done a fair bit of music since Myloveilove," he reveals, "but I don't think I'll put it out. It belongs in tea shops for senior citizens, not in record stores and sound systems." This past January Rephlex released '96 Drum N Bass Classixxx,which according to its press release is a collection of Raczynski-mixed lost tracks that were "rinsed back in the day in underground third-world clubs." Truth be told, it is Raczynski back to his old mathematical tricks with songs from his live set.
At a 2000 London show during Raczynski's Ibiza period, alternative diva Bjork approached the beat monster. "We literally bumped into each other while I was playing onstage, doing vertical jumps, trying to smash the tables and maximum raving," he remembers, "and apparently she was too." A few months later Raczynski caught up with Bjork in New York and cut a track called "Who Is It?" Will the song ever come out? Raczynski the lover answers, "I hope it doesn't. It was a beautiful thing we did together, but for that reason alone it should be left in the clouds. People need mystery and romance."