From the first note of John Oswald's Plunderphonics 69/96, I knew this music could speak to me. It begins with the one of the most recognizable chords in all of popular music—the final E major triad of the Beatles' “A Day In the Life.” Using a MIDI keyboard, Oswald transposes, stacks, and distorts this iconic moment of rock history and transform it into a new work of art. This is the fundamental statement of Plunderphonics.
Another piece in which Oswald plays with the listener's expectations is “Pocket.” This track uses samples from a Count Basie big band recording. Basie was known for his swinging blues numbers that built slowly by adding instrumental layers over a number of choruses. The Plunderphonics recording maintains Basie's sly swinging style but constantly keeps the listener guessing as to what will happen next. Like in “O'Hell,” it surprises us with quick jump cuts from one beat to the next, but at other times gives the impression of a broken record—sticking on and looping a short melodic fragment in almost minimalistic fashion. As the fragment repeats over and over, one wonders when it will end and what could possibly follow when it does. Basie's blues charts are iconic, but Oswald has broken the work down in wonderfully chaotic, yet coherent ways. By using real samples, he kept the coolness and swing of the original, but broke it free of regular four bar phrases and twelve bar choruses.