‘Quack’: Duck Sauce charts funky course through time and influences [Album Review]
It’s been just over a week since Duck Sauce released their full-length Quack LP — enough time to memorize the near-20% of the album dedicated to skits. A-Trak and Armand Van Helden‘s side project launches ideally into summer following a six-month delay that, upon release, has done more good than harm.
At the surface, the only musical interruptions from start to finish come in the form skits at the tail end of each track. Through those early, eager listens, the frequent interludes are more difficult to bear, but eventually sit well and even become catchy in context, cultivating the light hearted, fun-or-bust Duck Sauce persona like an acquired taste. They make for a flow much like classic hip-hop albums. Some are even hip-hop inspired, like Wu-Tang Clan’s “Torture” lines or The Fat Jew’s prank call to a Chinese food restaurant.
Twelve tracks compose Quack, the full-length debut from a spirited and sporadically active collaborative venture known for releasing singles almost annually — batting 1.000 between 2009 and 2013 with “aNYway,” “Barbara Streisand,” “Big Bad Wolf,” and “Radio Stereo,” respectively.
Nearly tripling the volume of their work collection with an LP (Duck Dropping fan gifts aside), the pair present a sample size that opens the flood gates on the perfect record upheld by singles. In the case of Quack, the ceiling isn’t much higher than the heights of the hits, but still, there’s no floor being lowered. Not even in transition between smash hit and underwhelming sampling; as the case between “Barbara Streisand” and “Spandex,” which pulls from The Time Bandits’ “Live It Up” in one of twelve attempts to modernizing — or in few cases, replicating — funk of the early 1980s.
Hits make up a handful of the album, and the remainder is squeezed into Duck Sauce’s DeLorean, where A-Trak and Armand are heart-set on traveling three decades back. Previously released tracks such as “aNYway” contribute to the part of the album with the more obviously greater lifespan, with help from select newer offers. “Radio Stereo” brings 1982 to 2014 as its modernization of The Members’ “Radio” impresses for what would be the best use of sampling if not for “Ring Me,” Quack’s shiniest of unveilings that has A La Carte’s “Ring Me Honey” ringing as the nu-est of nu-disco.
Less justice is done to the connecting of the past and present on tracks like as “NRG,” which, despite its critical acclaim, loses steam in pulling too hard on strings of Melissa Manchester’s “Energy” of 1985. Rather than a modern rendition, “Charlie Chazz & Rappin Ralph” comes as a 1979 version of 1979’s “Rapper’s Delight” and closing track “Time Waits For No One” resonates as too retro for retro.
Such instances, however, are even (ironically) quite orderly in the cause of Quack; its going-back-to-go-forward approach’s margin for error is just part of what makes the retrospect so enthralling; its experience not contained to its Dance Genre X of Year Y when each record is capped off by a golden-era-of-rap creativeness.
Opening track “Chariot of Gods” displays A-Trak’s Kanye-demanded scratch production and “Goody Two Shoes” shows time travel no mercy as two key contributors to the album’s core: where nu-disco and urban-flared dance music grasps funk of yesterday for a clean sampling synthesis, where the sounds drawn from 30-plus years ago could be mistaken for sounds of 30 years ahead.
Duck Sauce’s filler (if you will) for the LP isn’t as everlasting as its charted counterparts, but it styles palatably as perfect imperfections. It’s the sort of approach to an album where A-Trak and Armand are best off when sticking to their casual, “making a career out of brain farts” ethos. All things strung together and Quack’s summer habitat is at beaches, gyms, and cars. It will live in ears through the warmer months as capable of connecting its sounds to memories and experience. As if to say that “Quack” doesn’t mean anything, and that’s what makes it meaningful.