#013: Bloodless Sawteeth
nother Friday, another Beatz by the Pound, and this time we’ve got new reviews of Lopazz, Padded Cell, The Knife, and Soulphiction, as well as the latest from Bpitch Control, Get Physical, Crème Organisation, Mental Groove, Output, and M_nus. All this plus a new house mix and column by Michael F. Gill, and possibly the best white label release of the year.
In a previous In Our House column, I talked about music and obsession, and how being a fan of dance music can easily bend these fixations into something overwhelming. Lately I’ve been noticing how intertwined and reflective house, techno, and even disco can be outside of a club context.
It started when I read about a local arts project in which young kids document their entire day with a movie camera in order to create material for a mini documentary about their lives. They would re-watch each tape, gaining a sort of omnipotent view of the day, and notice little tics and movements of themselves and other people that they would have never noticed otherwise. Over time, they became more aware of their internal process, and how they carried about their everyday lives. It struck me rather personally, as I often engage with things on a minute level, where everyday experiences are sometimes even more important than the big picture.
It’s not hard to make the connection from these mini-documentaries to track-based or texture-based dance music, both being games of inches, compilations of precise moments. While I haven’t gone as far as carrying a movie camera with me, I have done similar experiments with a tape recorder, and with consciously being aware of the moment I am in. Feeling the ground for each step that I make, following the stock ticker of passing thoughts in my head, noticing the shapes of shadows, recognizing the patterns in which people move their eyebrows: these are just some of the things that can make something as mundane as riding a bus have a sense of individual meaning. I've also have a fascination with the rhythm and contours of language and words, which often overlap chaotically in public spaces, but perhaps that is the subject of another column.
This acute sense is habitually reflected in the music I connect with. Whether it is a reggae dubplate or a cornball Italo track, the flicker of a hi-hat is frequently just as tangible as a sweeping chord change. A lot of musicians and music fans are striving for something big: a single, an album, a box set, something approaching a blanket statement. Myself, I’m looking to capture a second; to be able to divorce it from time and have it flutter my veins. If I can manage to better understand one second, I might fare better in improving each minute, hour, and day of my life.
I say this not on a soapbox, but as knowledge of my own experiences and connections with dance music and my own life, in hopes that even people with no interest for house or techno can understand where I’m coming from. To me, dance music is like a satellite I move around in self-reflection, with its immense attention to detail acting as a reminder about the impact that I have in every action I take. It’s a slow process, but I think it’s helping me understand myself better.
[Michael F. Gill]
Switch on the Light / Pee on You
On this unofficial release Fuckpony harness the power of several radio stations playing at the same time over some slow burning acid lines, and in the process come up with one of the rawest records of the year. Akin to a more irreverent version of Abe Duque’s “What Happened,” “Switch on the Light” is a heavy dub with garbled vocals and the mad incantations of a preacher (is it Funkadelic?) over a driving 303 line. “Pee on You” is a quirkier old style US house track, with further vocal weirdness and funky sounds which have seemingly been lost in recent years. You’re not likely to hear “from every head and ass, dollars flow,” yelled over many German minimal records. But then if more US producers made records like this we mightn’t need minimal.
DJ T Vs Booka Shade
Played Runner/Queen Lucid
Get Physical Music / GPM 046-6
The instructions to Booka Shade seem clear here: “Make me a record that sounds like all these great Carl Craig remixes.” Walter and friends duly oblige with “Played Runner,” a pretty immaculate Detroit style house track. How long before this gets boring? “Queen Lucid” is yet another sleek, “flawless” Metro Area disco groover that follows in the path of “Vertigo” and “Night Falls.” Not got boring yet has it? Perhaps I should ask again after the next DJ T single, but for now Get Physical remains undeniably solid.
All I Wanna Do Is Break Some Legs
Output / OPR 93
The most instant fix here is the Boyz Noize remix, providing quality electro-house with sawing bass noises, like Tiefschwarz with any house influence removed. The only problem with another great Boyz Noize release is trying to find equally good electro-house records by new producers who are not Digitalism. On the other side, Mungolian Jet Set’s “Exit To The Ja-Ja” mix is quite a curious piece of schaffel which morphs into psychedelic disco halfway through its eight minute journey, then goes a little Happy Mondays at the end; interesting.
Mobilee / mobilee012
The First Time / Gomma Elastica
Mobilee / mobilee013
Things go from strength to strength for Mobilee with these, their 12th and 13th releases. Pan-Pot come with two utterly submerged dub house tracks. There’s a palpable chill in the air when you play “Black Dog”: has house ever sounded so stupendously cold and dead? “Black Widow” is a slightly harder track, edging towards techno, but the level of intricacy remains astounding, the sound more hedonistic and unhinged than ever. Gummihz’s second single for Mobilee sees them take a more summer friendly direction than their previous outings. On “The First Time,” what starts off as clicking, whirring minimal ends in a perfectly hushed breakdown with Detroit chords and a vocal whispering “like the first time, like every time.” It’s difficult to find more emotive, atmospheric house music than this. “Gomma Elastica,” meanwhile, would be the best track on many other 12”’s, a door slamming, glass-rattling piece of minimal techno that will slay any floor.
Beetles & Spiders
Output / OPR 72
Catch the Buzz (Remixes)
Mental Groove / MG 053
Kate Wax’s 2005 LP Reflections of the Dark Heat is getting a double CD reissue later this year, so here’s a pair of singles to help re-whet one’s appetite. “Catch the Buzz” is the one for the dancefloor, and even if each remix manages to maintain the pristinely frosted machine-electro feel of the original, they do so in different ways. Roman Flügel’s drastic overhaul of “Beetles & Spiders” plays up the detached angle in Kate’s voice, morphing from decidedly inhumane tech-electro into a solitary, faux-piano jazz breakdown before finding its way back again with some synthetically overdriven guitar. Kalabrese, who has been on a bit of a roll lately, provides another winner from leftfield with a spartan house/funk groove backed by an elastic sub-low bass. In his usual fashion, he lets in weird loungey elements, live drums and percussion, and seemingly random beatless breakdowns where the vocals snippets end up more like random, nonchalant freestyling. “Beetles & Spiders,” released on Output, is more on the down tempo tip. The title cut, a reprised highlight from Dark Heat, is a sombre shuffle-dirge driven by Kate’s consistent shifting from singing to spoken word, and the mental image that she is likely sighing wearily between each line. Less interesting is the b-side “Choose They Croon,” which meanders on a stark, bloodless sawtooth synth and a flat sounding drum kit, and then adds some awkward and goofy pitch-bending to the bass lines half-way through.
[Michael F. Gill]
The Mysteries of Tharsis Montes
Mission 6277 / MISSION 11
Mission 6277 continues to be a brave imprint dedicated to exposing new talent, and thanks to label boss Jeff Mills’ belief in exposing the next generation of electronic composers, that trend should continue. Johannes Volk is the latest unknown to catch Mills’ golden ear, and based on his debut EP, there should be more to come. This vaguely Martian-themed five-tracker is chock full of deep chords, plucked-string synth sounds, skittering drum patterns, and lots and lots of atmosphere. You know, all the stuff you love about Jeff Mills records. The surprises come when, after the Mills-clone grooves of opener “Memories of the Astronaut,” the beats disappear altogether for the rest of the side. The flip returns to the Millsian Minimalism style, but one can already hear Mills himself using the ambient tracks as mix tools for his own beats. All props to Mills for being adventurous enough to release the Mission material at all, but if he keeps it up, he might just have to watch his back.
Just A Man/Woman
Spectral Sound / SPC-36
Ghostly International’s Spectral Sound offshoot claims the hot collaboration of the summer with this clash of the minimal techno titans, wherein Audion (Matthew Dear) and Bpitch Control empress Ellen Allien each craft a track, then remix each other’s compositions. Their originals are as you would expect, with Dear using popping percussion, housey keyboard stabs, and some clutch fades and dropouts, while Allien answers with slighty harder beats and a streamlined, more European sound while maintaining the same less-is-more construction. Her take on Dear’s cut is like Nancy N’ Lee in space, with male and female vocal snippets (at the outset, the distorted male voice calls “Ellen,” while she coos “Audion” right back) rubbing each other up on Venus over a Morricone-style synth riff for an atmospheric trip. Meanwhile, Audion’s mix of Allien finds him using her sleek and slightly spooky template of sounds and adding his own snapping drum sounds, making a subtle monster of a track that builds to a noisy hum then dropping it all out in a killer percussion break at about the 5:30 mark. Pick your poison—these tracks are all killers.
Såhkåtek / SAK005
Frenchman Karim Sahraoui (AKA Djinxx) clearly loves him some Detroit Techno, and it is on display proudly on this three-tracker. Operating under his Electronic Resistance moniker (itself an homage to the D’s mighty Underground Resistance empire), Sahraoui also recruits UR affiliate DJ 3000 and fellow Detroit devotee Belgium’s Pedro Cali in for remixes. Sahraoui’s original bounces along to a Kevin Sauderson-esque bassline and a typical-sounding Motor City drum loop, adding cymbals and short keyboard riffs and stuffs layer upon layer before winding it all back down again. Cali ups the tempo a tiny bit, and drops some spacey chords and a refreshingly off-kilter kick drum into his mix, as well as a jazzy, UR-style keyboard motif in the middle that livens things up a bit when he kicks into high gear. The best of the bunch is DJ 3000’s, however, who uses his trademark smattering of ethnic percussion loops and a mellow keyboard washes, as well as a few well-placed breakdowns—something sorely missing from the original, making it a bit flat as a result. You can take the music out of the D, but if you want it done right...
ARMUT24 / ARM 007
It's been a hot minute since I've heard anything by Northern Lite—nothing, in fact, since "Treat Me Better" on City Rockers (R.I.P.), lo these many years ago. JJ Cale receives no songwriting co-credit for "Cocaine," Northern Lite's tribute to all things potent and powdery. First up is the "2nd Edit," the most bone white, burnout-dry of the versions. It's the tail-end of the love affair with blow, all ashen-faced and numbly regretful. The main mix is present in both a "Single Edit" and "Long Version," and the aura is decidedly more polychromatic; the paddling headrush is towards the initial euphoria rather than the tedium of prolonged substance abuse. Just underneath the robust kick drum and doubled-up percussion are distorted, dusky waveforms and a flanged vocal wail, simulating cocaine as protean matter. Rounding things off is the Troy Pierce remix, all twitchy bell-tones and vocal snippets, sounding great on headphones but something you'd likely have to save for a rather fucked-up dancefloor.
The Hollow Land
Crème Organization / CREME 12-25
Oh Italo, how I am powerless to resist thee. Every time I tell myself epic synthscapes, gurgling disco percussion, and the joyful combination of dark and cheesy must eventually grow tiresome, I am proven wrong by another upstart single like this. “The Hollow Land” is a fine addition to the Creme stable, four filmic yet danceable slabs with fanciful Arabesque names ("On Tigris I Thirst" is the hands-down winner, though he gets bonus points for referencing Damascus steel). There's something evoking a "journey" in the sequencing (much like labelmate Legowelt), but rather than reeking of pretension it reminds you how a little Northern European / Mediterranean connection can keep one from losing everything to dour minimalism.
Rabid / RABID 032
From The Knife's mammoth Silent Shout, the original "Marble House" is a Balearic-tinged gospel-synth dirge with a hint of Siouxsie lurking behind the velvet vocal trappings. With Rex the Dog and Booka Shade on hand for remix duties, the draperies are blown to the side and some of the tracks' inherent warmth enters the room. Rex's mix should tear up the dancefloor, with classic electro pulses simmering in a stew of ping-ponging percussion and delicately phase-shifted vox. Booka Shade (who have turned in a remix and a dub, both of which are largely instrumental) keeps the focus on the moody-yet-uplifting feel and scatters the song’s component parts to the four winds, before reassembling them into a sustained emotional storyline. The dub is the darker flip of that narrative—the questioning rather than the resolution. The largely unknown Planning to Rock provide the other mix here, and it heads in a 4AD-gone-baroque direction, stripping the track of everything except its vocal, melody and a certain indefinable grace. It serves as a fine coda and excellent reminder that The Knife have gotten their plaudits for combining style and substance, without favoring one over the other.
Most of All
Environ / ENV 026
Fans and non-fans alike of Morgan Geist's productions will be unsurprised to learn that "Most of All" is another melting pot of 80's R&B;, post-disco dubplates, and latter-day house sounds and production techniques. Yet, like all the great monomaniacs, Geist always seems to turn up gold with the same old trusty, rusty shovel. Glowingly spacious, heart-on-lapel tender, and packed to the brim with those quirky jazz-esque fills he's so fond of, "Most of All" is nothing but love set to a beat. He's even roped in that dude from Junior Boys to provide vocals in a downcast-eyed boy from Biology class way; an almost picture-perfect match. "Skyblue Pink," the third track included along with the original and instrumental mixes of "Most of All," reminds us that Geist was initially a Detroit-indebted producer, more drawn to sci-fi mechanistic ideas than Stephanie Mills instrumentals.
Kiki and Lee Van Dowski
Bpitch Control / BPC132
Bpitch Control introduces its new “Collective” vinyl series for producers who “only produce a-sides and can’t convince themselves to put those on a b-side.” Kiki’s “Motorized” resembles a kid skipping home and whistling while a beast follows. A sidewalk-cracking techno beat slogs behind the simple, wooden flute melody, while Kiki’s engine releases a grinding, steam-blasted bassline soon after. The tension rarely ceases for eight minutes, even when a dinner-jazz piano melody sneaks in during the middle. On the flip, Lee Van Dowski’s “Little Doll Chaos Pounce Upon Option Assault Reverberation” (fine bar napkin poetry) plods along on a numbing, reverb-soaked beat that coughs and gasps for air. Imagine Underworld test-marketing Kompakt-esque minimal and you’re nearly there. Even the refreshing synths that glide like angels over the Autobahn can’t save it from sounding like, you guessed it, a “b-side.”
Señor Coconut & His Orchestra
Behind the Mask - Mixes 1
Essay / AY 07
Chile’s Señor Coconut (aka Uwe Schmidt/Atom Heart) took Yellow Magic Orchestra’s 1980 techno-pop zinger, “Behind the Mask” and mutated it into a Latin-jazz jaunt that sounds 50 years old, and possibly had countless senior citizens learn to tango to it in community centers from Boise to Des Moines. Al Usher’s remix is faithful to the YMO original: he indulges in nifty, twerp-techno on a rusty Casio and roboticized vocals that are slightly sexier than airport announcements. Ricardo Villalobos’ remix first strips the orchestra down to a few brass blurts and a fine, punchy Latin-electro rhythm that may be too ethnic for the Red State cha-cha circuit. But Villalobos curiously “leaves for the bar” halfway into the track, and once Señor’s orchestra comes back in, it doesn’t sound that different from the original. A letdown, but I’ll forgive him if he gets a hangover tomorrow morning.
Seeing Through Shadows
M_nus / MINUS 41
Light years away from his early work as a hip-hop producer and DJ, LocoDice has found a temporary outlet through M_nus Records; first with his min2MAX contribution, “Orchidee,” and now with a two-track 12”. “Orchidee” was a stripped-down progressive piece, but both tracks on “Seeing Through Shadows” offer a less dreamy and more direct type of minimal. The titular first track brings to mind the non-album singles of artists like Alex Smoke, perhaps because of the emphasis on orchestration and crescendo. Loco seems to be looking for constant elevation until two minutes before the end, a break comes in, some live bass sounds drop, and everything comes together. Side two’s aptly titled “Backroom Melody” offers little more than post-Chilean comedown meanderings, though, and fails to communicate Dice’s rhythmic capabilities.
Masai Mara / Keekorok
Philpot / PHP 017
Released on his own imprint, Philpot Records, Soul Phiction’s newest 12” is a psyched-out techno exploration of live string and drum sounds. Although not directly related to the Chilean troika of Pier Bucci, Luciano, or Villalobos, Phiction shares (here, at least) their focus on percussion that pounds, while leaving enough room for other elements to maneuver about. A-side destroyer “Masai Mara” begins with a loose snare and heavy bass drum that beat the shit out of your ears until accompanied by a crisp arpeggio and space synth duo that changes the entire feel. Going from a Latin cadence to a nearly Balearic anthem, “Masai” is at home among more minimal tracks but stands out as something altogether new. Unrelenting B-side banger “Keekorok” manages to travel back earlier in the night, bring the tempo up, and drift further into space. With an EQ that stresses the high-end of the synths and a melody reminiscent of leftfield theremin explorations, the sense of tension and confusion continues to rise until the beats drops one final time and Phiction’s vessel loses all contact with mission control. Essential.
Output / OPR 89
This has a schaffel to it—remember schaffel? Possibly a better look for Lopazz after the bloodcurdling, addict-on-comedown electro-2-deathdisco of "I Need Ya," which was catchy but nauseating. I could see someone breaking up a set of clownish Phones remixes with "Ciegos" the same way Goldfrapp's "Ooh La La" or Soulwax's "KracK" used to do the trick, though “Ciegos” has a better melody and fuller handclaps than both. Sillier too, and this girl's voice is gorgeous, a tad dramatic but never thin. The big lesson here though is that all electro from this point on needs non-English lyrics, sung by non-Angry White Dudes hot off an afternoon of plugging their futon. The other two songs here might be put-ons. The first, "Discopete," is really annoying quote-unquote bad disco, incapable of the fantastic embellishments that make quote-unquote bad disco no-quote awesome (cf. Heatwave's "The Groove Line"). "Burned Down Houses," sounds like a warped Frankie Knuckles vinyl—hopefully on purpose. Not that it helps.
Tiny Sticks / stick 006
Tracks like this give punkfunk/discorock its piss-poor reputation. I'm glad Dondolo's heard "Shack Up" too but that doesn't mean he needs to tell everybody with his own famished, probably unfinished, sub-ringtone quality take on it. When they should slice like knives, those rhythm guitar strokes hit like paper cuts. The cowbell's utterly charmless, which is a feat, and the "funky" bassline sounds so forced, so unnatural, a veritable square into the circle hole. Neo-disco flavor of the month Brennan Green does Dondolo a solid by streamlining the mess into bare requisites, giving it a proper breakdown, treating the snare hits with reverb, rewriting the guy's bassline, etc., etc., etc. —so the track's passable, but he could only do so much without hurting the guy's feelings. Shit Robot has fewer scruples. While his bass goes upfront overdriven and hiccuping, he turns the rest of Dondolo's turd into technicolor: a miraculous glaze of old movie theater MGM horn drones, complete with the doppler-like shifts in tone, though the disco melancholy's intact. There's a reason they gave Robot the whole back side.
Vulva String Quartett
Out of Sight
Combination / CORE 040-1
The topside really kicked my ass on the first go, such a throwback to late 90s/early 00s bright clicky minimal techno a la Farben, the stuff that got this writer hooked on dance music period. “Less is more” only works when producers play the angles right. Vulva a/k/a Hanno Leichtmann has six or seven little tiny hooks at a time (that double-sixteenth on the kick kills me), but he doesn't build them up so much as reflect, refract, recombine. From the start there's lots of color, lots of space, lots of restraint, absolutely no bloat. No accidents here, plus the track's so happy—why isn't more minimal happy? Not to shit on Mouse on Mars, whom I respect, but had Glam sounded like this track I would have dropped my green Loebs and moved to Berlin in an instant. Vulva also got Farben to remix this track, ironically enough, and it has that house-of-cards looseness all Jelinek's work seems to have. That said, I doubt Vulva appreciated Jelinek dubbing "Farben says it's out of sight!" over every measure.
Basic Energy / ENERGY 103-5
Plus 8 / PLUS8089
1993 / 2006
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to find this acid techno classic from the golden age of the genre reissued by none other than Richie Hawtin himself, as the track was a regular feature of his own DJ sets back in the day and was even included on the X-Mix-3 mix CD that he released with Plus 8 partner John Acquaviva back in 1994. Hawtin’s one-man revival campaign (see the last few reissues on Plus 8 for evidence, including Baby Ford + Eon, Link, and even Teste, originally released on his own Probe imprint) may be the result of a feeling of nostalgia or a longing for the “good old days” but it is sure making for some damn fine records to be rescued from obscurity.
“Model8” was an early single from the aptly named Dutch producer and DJ Harry Lemon and you can hear the early Plus 8 sound all over its grooves. The classic drum pattern, bouncing bass riff, and especially the smashed-to-hell hi-hats might sound a bit dated now, but an enterprising DJ could likely still work it into a set. The original mix builds in layers to a big breakdown about halfway through before really letting fly with the acid/percussion madness. All well and good, but it’s the remix on the flip that is the real killer. It sounds infinitely more modern, with its stripped-down percussion attacks and positively HYOOOOOGE build-ups and breakdowns clearly prefiguring where Hawtin was going with F.U.S.E. and later with Plastikman. A massive, floor-filler of a record that isn’t quite ready to be retired yet.
In the Mix: Michael F. Gill
“Blue On Blue”
01: Dubtribe Sound System - We Used to Dance (Intro) [Imperial Dub]
02: Quentin Harris - Let’s Be Young (Trackheadz Remix) [NRK Sound Division]
03: Club Artists United - Sweet Chariot (Dramatic Dub) [Nervous]
04: Aqua Bassino - I’m a Believer [F-Communications]
05: Justin Martin - The Sad Piano (Charles Webster Remix) [Buzzin’ Fly]
06: Sublevel - Just Us [White Label]
07: Chuck Love - Set Me Free (Festival Mix) [Vista]
08: Justin Harris - Hangerang [Paranoid Music]
09: Johnny Dangerous - Beat That Bitch (Mr. V’s Sole Channel Mix) [Nite Grooves]
10: Angie Stone - Brotha (DJ Spen Remix) [Arista]
11: Peven Everett - I Can’t Believe I Loved Her [Nite Grooves]
12: Dubtribe Sound System - We Used to Dance (Muzique Tropique’s Glasgow Funk Mix) [Imperial Dub]
13: Wildmoos - Waldohreule [Crippled Dick Hot Wax]
14: Vincenzo - Peace Is Not the Word to Play (I:Cube’s Vocopop Muzak Mix) [Dessous]
15: 3 Chairs - I Wonder Why [Three Chairs]
16: Lephtee - So Far Back (The Nova Dream Sequence Remix) [Buzzin’ Fly]
This mix was also featured on the Stypod, with full track-by-track descriptions. Check it out here.
In the Mix: Todd Burns
01: Patrick Chardronnet - Eve By Day (Ripperton's Epic Mix)
02: Basement Jaxx – Hush Boy (Les Visiteurs Mix)
03: DJ Pumphead – Acid Police
04: Nitzer Ebb – Getting Closer (Black Strobe Mix)
05: Chardronnet - Newlife3
06: Steve Bug & Matthias Tanzmann – Schick
07: LocoDice - Seeing Through Shadows
08: Trentemøller – Nam Nam
09: SLG - Nine Hours
10: Patrick Chardronnet - Eve By Day (Ripperton's Lovelee Dae Mix)
Bandulu - Phaze In Remix [Infonet]
LocoDice - Seeing Through Shadows [Minus]
Johannes Volk - Synergetik [Mission 6277]
Ben Watt - Old Soul [Buzzin’ Fly]
Quadrant - Infinition [Planet E]
DJ T Vs. Booka Shade - Played Runner [Get Physical]
Ellen Allien & Apparat- Way Out (Robag Wruhme Vati Mafonkk Remikks) [Bpitch Control]
Goldfrapp - Fly Me Away (C2 Remix 4) [Mute]
Electronic Resistance - Marvelous Night (Claude Young Remix) [Såhkåtek]
Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia - Pull [KK]
Michael F. Gill
Tri Atma – Mikrokosmos [Erdenklang]
Lindstrom – Breakfast in Heaven [White]
Wali & The Afro Caravan - Hail the King [Solid State/Harmless]
Squallor - I Love My Disco Baby [CGD]
Stars On 33 - I Feel Music in Your Heart [Vulture Music]
Galoppierende Zuversicht – Klumpknolle [Dachkantine]
Gys – Lon (Soultek Remix) [Zer0 G Sounds]
To Rococo Rot - Music Is a Hungry Ghost [Mute]
King Tubby – Sir Niney’s Rock [Metro]
Françoise Hardy – Parlez-Moi De Lui [Asparagus]
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-07-14