Written by Adam DeRoss
Plunderphonics is a genre that is slowly becoming more prevalent in the mainstream. Once a vastly experimental and underground genre, artists like The Avalanches and DJ Shadow pioneered the use of sampled content to compose interesting and layered pieces of music. But one artist who has been producing music in this style for quite some time now does it in a way that nobody else really can.
Nick Bertke, better known by his alias Pogo, is a YouTube and SoundCloud based plunderphonics artist that takes great inspiration from nostalgic films, mostly Disney films. His most popular songs tend to be mixes of various Disney films mainly using samples from the film in question. His oldest video, a remix of “Alice in Wonderland” uploaded in 2007, has over 18 million views.
Needless to say, Bertke has released quite a bit of content since then, spanning seven albums and EP’s as well as countless singles. His most recent record “Weightless” was released on December 30, 2016, and it stands as another high quality mixture of his signature nostalgic and almost melancholy film remixes with some of his more original ideas.
The content on this particular record is a thinner spread of the film-inspired remixes as compared to his older albums. Most of the 17 tracks, while still using various samples from other works, tend to be arranged without too much of an emphasis on a central theme. Instead, they sound much more experimental and deviate a bit from the expectations fans hold of Pogo’s music. The film remixes that are present, however, are still exactly what fans would expect from Bertke.
“Data & Picard” is a groovy and psychedelic song using samples from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Cheesy and spacey ‘80s synths and sci-fi sound effects form the musical basis for poetic Sir Patrick Stewart samples and sequenced Klingon language patterns from the character of Data. “Jungle Dash” uses sweeping classical guitar progressions and the gritty shaking of a snake’s tail from the film “The Jungle Book.” The music rushes by like vines in the forest and is cut up with Pogo’s signature vocal sample cutting and pitch manipulation.
While Pogo’s themed tracks still deliver in a big way, the album refreshingly places a higher emphasis on tracks such as “There You Are,” “Dream Reaper” and “Closure.”
“There You Are” is one of the most original pieces on this record, featuring vocals from Bertke himself — although heavily modified and manipulated. It is a lighthearted and dreamy piece that utilizes a variety of synths, funky guitar samples and lo-fi drum and vocal samples spread throughout. “Dream Reaper,” as the name would suggest, takes on a darker tone and is more reminiscent of deep house than plunderphonics. Bertke still manages to keep it unique by juxtaposing the dark drum hits and modulated “reaper” voice with similar synths and chimes from previous tracks such as “There You Are.” “Closure” is a perfect way to end the record with a stagnant and floaty beat that uses minimalistic samples of all kinds that have been used throughout the album. It’s almost like an amalgamation of all of the moods that Bertke tries to convey to the listener all at once.
The music Nick Bertke produces and the videos he makes to coincide with them are enough to make anyone yearn for their younger days. Plunderphonics is a unique genre that does not have nearly as many practicing artists as other experimental genres like trip-hop. Even so, none of those artists manipulate the mood of the listeners as much as Pogo does. Pogo stands out as a shining example of creativity, not just within plunderphonics but music in general. Judging from the success he has had in the past, it doesn’t seem like Nick Bertke will be stopping any time soon.