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People Like Us

Previously released on accompanied by “Gone, Gone Beyond”, “The Mirror” is the dreamy soundtrack of an a/v project from collage artist extraordinaire Vicki Bennett aka People Like Us.With ‘’The Mirror’’ Bennett continues her eternal disassembling of popular music by exploring how the narrative of familiar sounds/songs can change dramatically under a new context, with that context always changing, in a never-ending flow.Each song is singular. And each song is a collage of and undefined number of other songs from other artists. It sounds familiar because that has been the modus operandi of People Like Us since the early 1990s. But “The Mirror” plays with the notion of familiar, driving around a collection of famous pop songs/artists, messing around with the memory of the listener and, of course, his unique comprehension of those specific songs applied in a new context.Because of the use of familiar pop sounds, “The Mirror” is often grandiose. Like an epic film only with highs, never letting the listener down or letting him doubt the power of pop. Even, of course, when the coordinates are twisted, mixed, over or underrepresented. Each moment feels like something that could only happen in a parallel universe. Although that may sound naïve, it’s just a lost thought of reaction to the beautiful collages of People Like Us in “The Mirror”. This mirror doesn’t reflect an image of ourselves or an image of pop. But an image on the way memories drift and are being constant rebuilt. An unfinished collage. 

People Like Us – The Mirror

First released on Mess Media in 2002 on CD, and then reissued on cassette in 2018 on Sucata Tapes, we've combined the digital files of both to bring this to you all on one place. This was compiled as a Best Of People Like Us from pre-2000. Amazing to think it is almost 20 years later that we write this. This represents an earlier life of PLU, some of which carries through to now, some left long behind...“The work of People Like Us rests gingerly between two dangerous positions: on the one hand, the risk of fashioning merely stylish pastiche out of borrowed finery for the sake of self-conscious kitschiness; on the other hand, the risk of making simplistic, heavy handedly “topical” audio-jokes at the expense of one’s raw material to a smug effect. If the lounge creeps uncritically snack on their sonic ingredients and coast on being “groovy”, the cads of pseudo-critique take cheap shots at straw men and call it subversion. Happily, Vicki Bennett has yet to fall down either precipice, but yodels down contentedly from her own Alpine audio-cottage. There, with loving care, she snips and tucks at the lycra jumpsuit until the fit is snug, places every plastic shrub on the Happy Valley Ranch just so, and throws another dance record on the bonfire. Undercutting her own utopian mirages with formal breakdowns and sneaky semantic pranks, Vicki Bennett is One Funny Lady, with a deadly sense of comic timing that puts her in my personal pantheon of edit intensive music makers: -Steinski and Mass Media, Hank Shocklee, Tod Dockstader, Teo Macero, the Hanatarash, John Oswald, Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock. Serving her birthday cake with a turd, her gags are always lined with a virulent creep factor. You get the feeling that the vacancy and pointlessness of empty speech is being lampooned and mourned in equal measure. In sticking to this balance of celebration and critique, People Like Us genuinely hates and loves People Like You. The least you can do is head up to the Happy Valley Ranch for a spell and have a listen.” – Drew Daniel (Matmos) 2002 

People Like Us – Recyclopaedia Britannica

Is This Light Music?"While creating a picture disc record for Edinburgh Printmakers‘ Prints of Darkness exhibition, I’ve been reflecting upon the theme of “darkness” and its sister “light”. My work has been described as having “dark” and “sinister” undertones. Although I don’t think it dark in the negative sense of the word, the act of mixing several musical elements at once, sometimes with discordant harmonies and incongruous structure, can bring subversive results. This is because the expectation of music, at least if it’s going to be popular, is that it should be clear and simple, adhering to a conventional melodic rhythmical structure.The term “light music” generally refers to the kind of orchestral music that is put together with the intention of being played in the background to add more than ambience but not be intrusive to the point that it would stop a conversation at dinner. As time has progressed, not to say one cannot still appreciate it for the pure thing it may be, a new sense of irony has subverted light music. In the same way that one cannot watch a current affairs programme like “Newsnight” without thinking of Chris Morris’ “Brass Eye”, this music without turbulence can result in the active listener visualising cartoon-like scenarios of destruction and mayhem – “Tea For Two” being played out while the building is being bombed and a pack of coyotes being let loose on the ballroom floor. It is no wonder that when we grow up on a diet of cartoon music, full of depictions of violence, we are unable to keep a straight face on hearing Roger Whittaker’s maniacal “Mexican Whistler” – do we really think it 100% full of joy or do we start to imagine that he is a lunatic? Am I the only person who finds it funny when the audience claps in time to the orchestra on “Friday Night Is Music Night” on BBC Radio? Is it that when all are clapping at once, often rhythmically out of step, people sound like morons? Or is it a recollection of the embarrassment felt when realising that no one told us when and how to gracefully stop?How do we even categorise shades of music? For this we might want to look at the definition of the word “music”. It comes from the Greek “muse”, the gods and goddesses that inspire the arts and literature. Just as Edgard Varèse defined music as “organized sound”, online dictionaries define it as “the art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre”, and “an aesthetically pleasing or harmonious sound or combination of sounds.” So if music is to be agreeable it should be intrinsically harmonious and ordered, and the opposite of music is disagreeable noise. However, musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez said: “music, often an art/entertainment, is a total social fact whose definitions vary according to era and culture,” which reflects where we are at today. The decision on what is light, dark, popular and avant-garde depends as much on what year it is as how it may sound. It is an artist’s job to dissect, question, celebrate, criticise, and rearrange content to challenge and form such decisions.Light music has often celebrated resurgence during or just after periods of economic slump, injecting a certain air of longing for a time that never was. Pioneers of the Industrial Music scene of the early 1980’s were fascinated with the Exotica genre. Both Throbbing Gristle and Boyd Rice referenced Martin Denny, coupling this with darker lyrics and more difficult music, and an often-missed sense of humour. The bright, sometimes other worldly atmosphere elevates the listener from drudgery. It takes us to an innocent place of Hawaiian music and sandy beaches, to the end of a pier where the Wurlitzer whirls and the ice cream never melts. Leaving no stone unturned in choice of subject matter, light music sanitises well known popular songs for popular appeal. “Blowin’ in the Wind” by the Mystic Moods Orchestra takes us far away from Bob Dylan’s world. With each new generation of protest song comes the sanitised version. Perhaps this, and the reminiscence of being stuck on hold or in a lift can make one cynical or suspicious of the “happy happy” themes. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be and we don’t want to be sent to Hawaii.Perhaps this is all coming over as a little too critical of the intentions of Light Music, when in fact it is the Dark Listener that is spoiling a perfectly good opportunity to be entertained. Light music to me, is lovely, it is nice. It’s not going to go away, so I surrender to all things light so long as I can keep my dark sense of humour. While humming the tune of Ronald Binge’s “Sailing By” preceding the late night shipping forecast, People Like Us wish you a cheery, whistle-free experience while enjoying “This is Light Music”. – Vicki Bennett July 2010

People Like Us – This is Light Music

The fruit of many years of work, this album began as People Like Us & Wobbly collected and collaged their way through various depictions of misfired communications and heartbreak sourced from popular culture for a series of live improvisations. Music For The Fire is a plunderphonic concept album depicting the lifespan of a relationship, as told through samples of hundreds of different songs and voices who had no idea they were all telling the same story until they were all spliced together.Strangely direct and evocative for an album assembled entirely from a patchwork of disparate sources and music both obscure and over-familiar, Music For The Fire comes with an illustrated lyric sheet which reproduces the countless sampled voices as a single if utterly schizophrenic text — a bedtime story that is wildly inappropriate for actual children. No reliable narrators, just the familiar and absurd, which on different spins of the disc might strike you as either maudlin, poignant or almost painfully hilarious. There is a way out of the maze, but it’s up to you to find it.Since 1991 British artist Vicki Bennett (aka People Like Us) has been an influential figure in the field of audio visual collage, through her innovative sampling, appropriating and cutting up of found footage and archives. She has shown work at, amongst others, Tate Modern, the National Film Theatre, Purcell Room, Pompidou Center, Sonar in Barcelona, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the BBC and Channel 4, released albums of her work on labels such as Tigerbeat6, Soleilmoon and Touch, both solo and in collaboration with Matmos, Ergo Phizmiz, Christian Marclay and members of Negativland. 2010 will see the completion of a commission for the Edinburgh Art Festival as well as concert appearances at the AV Festival, MACBA, Liverpool Sound City, Copenhagen & Jerusalem.Wobbly is the long-running collage project of Jon Leidecker (US), who improvises live with pre-recordings to coax the harmonies out of recorded sounds of individuals and animals from disparate cultures. Albums have been released on the labels Alku, Phthalo, Illegal Art, Tigerbeat6 and Vague Terrain. Previous and ongoing projects include the bands Chopping Channel, Sagan, the Freddy McGuire Show and Amen Seat, as well as various collaborations with Negativland, Matmos, Thomas Dimuzio, Blevin Blectum, Lesser, Tim Perkis & Xopher Davidson, Otomo Yoshihide and MaryClare Bryztwa. In 2009 he was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona to produce “Variations”, a podcast and lecture series overview of the history of musical collage & sampling.People Like Us & Wobbly have been collaborating since her first visit to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998. Early improvisations as a trio (with The Jet Black Hair People, aka Peter Conheim of Negativland) are documented by the online album What’s The Use, as well as archives of numerous radio and concert appearances recorded both in California and London, including on BBC Radio 3‘s “Mixing It”. The present album for Illegal Art is composed from live recordings, carefully and obsessively edited over a great deal of time, and is their funniest, darkest and yet somehow strangely compassionate work, Music For The Fire tells a story which every listener will recognize in their own unique way.--- "You can find lots of our work free on the internet. WE put it there! However, we do appreciate it if you purchase things from us to help us sustain this kind of work. Many thanks." - People Like Us

People Like Us & Wobbly – Music for The Fire

Originally released in 2000 on the Hot Air label, this album was deleted for a very long time."You can find lower quality audio rips of this album online for free, as you can a lot of People Like Us. It was us that put it there! However, we do appreciate it if you purchase things from us to help us sustain this kind of work. Many thanks." - Vicki Bennett --- "No really, she's laughing with you... With all the sneaky charm of a car commercial that leaves you inexplicably in tears, this latest romp from People Like Us serves up the emotional complexity of, say, the complete works of Proust, crammed into bite-sized snacks for the easily distracted. In some sense Vicki Bennett's work could be seen as companion volumes to Neil Postman's incisive mid-eighties critique "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business". Her assemblages of found samples and oddball artifacts, punctuated by peculiarly catchy little synthpop interludes, are populated with all the random and irrelevant crap with which most of us are bombarded daily, skillfully crafted into preposterously pointless exchanges and easy-listening jingles which slyly undermine the intention and substance of their original forms. Bennett has an uncanny ability to transform the trivial, ephemeral, boring and banal into deliciously naughty indictments of our media-saturated culture. In this her work is not unique; artists like Negativeland explore similar territory, and it could even be said that mockery and pastiche, as hallmarks of the post-modern, have become something of a staple gesture. What is truly singular and surprising about her work, given its penchant for deconstruction, is simply its overwhelming gentleness towards its subjects. Never smugly clever or bitter, Bennett's real human warmth manifests in the strangest places, moving what would otherwise be searing sarcasm towards a genuinely fun and good-natured laugh at ourselves and our collective predicament. Ultimately it is her kindness that gives her work both its distinctiveness and its effectiveness: while her commerical Muzak jingles at times lead you to believe you are being lulled into a bludgeoning, her manipulations and surreal juxtapositions are never cruel, offering instead an uplifting glimpse into the possibilities of meaningful communication within (or despite) a sea of chitchat, of real emotion inside the sentimental, and ultimately of an ennobling critical method which is engaged, insightful and diabolically effective without being condescending or overly self-absorbed. "Thermos Explorer", her ninth solo album, is my favorite PLU to date. Each listening finds me singing along and grinning like an idiot. Why is listening to this so much fun? It's like having a sleepover with your hilarious best friend, where everything they say makes you giggle—behind all the music is the irresistibly sweet Vicki Bennett, and you just can't help but like her. "

People Like Us – Thermos Explorer

Originally released in May 2011 when People Like Us aka Vicki Bennett became stranded in the US after the Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption closed much of northern Europe’s airspace, Welcome Aboard was reissued by Discrepant in the limboland of 2021. Volcanically marooned in Baltimore and NYC, Bennett utilized some of her “free” time to work on the album and even gained audio contributions from fellow experimental musicians Jason Willett (of Half Japanese) and M.C. Schmidt (of Matmos) via her extended stay.Bennett derived thematic material of displacement, travel, and a longing for elsewhere from the natural disaster that caused her own predicament. Now strangely echoed by the Covid-19 outbreak and the various grounding of planes and stay at home policies worldwide.While the general mashup culture often centres on the instant gratification of seamlessly juxtaposing hooks, People Like Us tracks transform the source material into collages that are equal parts dissonance and pleasure, making artful commentaries on our culture and Bennett’s own existential amusement within such a wondrous world. No one could have predicted how relevant this album would have been 10 years later.Volcanoes or Viruses, Welcome Abroad is what happens when you’re stranded due to a freak natural occurrence trapping people all over the world and causing mass plane cancellations.

People Like Us – Welcome Abroad

First released in digital-only form in 2004 exclusively for UbuWeb (ubu.com), this album includes Vicki’s John Peel session and performances for WFMU, amongst others, both from 2003, and now with brand new artwork designed by Vicki Bennett. "We strongly believe in the power of profit through free distribution. Often people have never heard of an artist because they aren't being distributed through as many channels as they should be, due to the very poor state of music/media distribution for non-major label music coupled with ignorance of the way that avant garde art forms infiltrate mainstream culture. Also many prints of a work are allowed to go out of circulation or are deleted for no reason other than cost effectiveness by a label/publisher. This makes perfect sense financially, but no sense whatsoever that a year's work by an artist should also disappear for such reasons. So get all of this while you can, and we completely endorse getting one's work out there, no matter what. If you don't share, your profit is limited." - People Like Us, 2004” People Like Us is audiovisual collage artist Vicki Bennett, who has been making work available via CD, DVD and vinyl releases, radio broadcasts, performances, gallery exhibits and online streaming for 25 years. Since 1992, she has developed an immediately recognisable aesthetic repurposing pre-existing footage to craft audio and video collages with an equally dark and witty take on popular culture. She sees sampling and appropriation as folk art sourced from the palette of contemporary media and technology, with all of the sharing and cross-referencing incumbent to a populist form. Embedded in her work is the premise that all is interconnected and that claiming ownership of an “original” or isolated concept is both preposterous and redundant.”

People Like Us – Abridged Too Far