#035: Men to Watch
eatz by the Pound is here again to signal the arrival of the weekend, and this time around we’ve got new stuff from the M-nus, Bunker, and Honest Jon’s labels, as well as new releases from Depeche Mode, Marcellus Pittman, Claude Vonstroke. Also, we’ve got a new mini-mix from Michael F. Gill. Let’s get it together…
Honest Jon’s / HJP 36
Following up on his Basic Channel partner Mark Ernestus’ 2006 reworkings of “Moyege,” Moritz von Oswald takes former Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen on a 12-minute voyage into the land of dub techno. Over his signature lazy, phasey synth pads and steadily rolling rhythm, von Oswald fuses Allen’s killer percussion groove and just soaks in it. Simple, warm, soothing, and utterly sublime, “Ole” will have you wondering where the time went—just long enough for you to move the needle back to the beginning and start it all over again. It’s a perfect fusion of the German dub techno sound with Afrobeat, resulting in a real “you put your peanut butter in my chocolate” sort of moment. Remember this one at the end-of-year poll time—it will be on my list. On the flip, Wareika Hill Sounds go the more traditional space dub route with their reworking of “Ise Nla,” which would be worth the price of admission alone if it weren’t totally overshadowed by von Oswald’s side. Run, don’t walk, then prepare yourself to float.
M_nus / MINUS 46
This four-tracker (five if you buy the download version) from Canadian duo Tractile perfectly encapsulates both what is so wonderful and what is so frustrating about Richie Hawtin’s M_nus imprint these days. On the one hand, the tracks are all tight, slightly funky minimalist workouts with clean and interesting sounds and fairly rocking rhythms. On the other hand, it doesn’t really do much to distinguish itself from any other M_nus release of late. There’s certainly nothing wrong here, but there isn’t that intangible magic that makes the best releases on M_nus the most individual ones (and vice-versa). So what’s a fan to do? Keep buying these releases because they are technically sound and useful and just as good if not better than the other releases on the label? Don’t bother with it because you’ve heard it all before, or at least some variation of it? I suppose the answer depends on many factors (collector scum status, bank balance, need to fill out a minimal DJ set), but with cookie-cutter releases like this, Hawtin is diluting his own talent pool. Silent Movie is perfectly good, solid minimal techno, make no mistake—if anything, it may be a little too perfect—but chances are you’ll discover it at the back of your crate in a few months and not remember a thing about what it sounded like.
MUTE / L12 BONG 39
Depeche Mode have always been at the forefront of the remix game, historically lining up a who’s who of dance music producers to rework their electronic pop into lots of interesting shapes and sizes, occasionally to devastatingly brilliant effect. This limited edition, stunningly packaged gatefold double-pack was released to coincide with the band’s latest Best Of, Vol. 1 collection, bearing similar cover art and reworkings of tracks from the collection. While the promo CD version of this release contained eight tracks—including Ricardo Villalobos’ stunning take on “The Sinner In Me”—the actual commercial release only includes four. One can assume that when Best Of, Vol. 2 eventually surfaces, those remaining four mixes will be given a similar release treatment, especially considering that the Villalobos mix is already widely bootlegged on vinyl and changing hands for ludicrous amounts on eBay.
As far as what is on offer here, while nothing is as downright fantastical as Villalobos’ take, there is plenty to excite Mode fans and DJs alike. Boys Noize take on “Personal Jesus” and wisely maintain the pulpit stomping feel of the original while adding an extended noise/loop intro and throbbing analog synth riffs to replace the original’s guitars. Digitalism’s take on “Never Let Me Down Again” is a crunching analog affair that bears more resemblance to Mute labelmates Nitzer Ebb than the cyclical, driving original. Oliver Huntemann and Stephan Bodzin’s dub version of “Everything Counts” is a floor filler in the making, fusing key melodic phrases of the original into an updated tech-house template, while Underground Resistance’s DJ 3000 transforms “People Are People” into a latin-infused monster in the aggressive, relentless UR techno style. With the limited nature and collector-targeted packaging on this release, it may not be aimed at DJs who are just going to beat the hell out of it in their crates, but if you can get over the price tag (and find a copy!), there’s plenty here to spice up a set of any style, presuming of course that vocals don’t bother you.
My Beat Is a Monster
Bunker Records / Bunker 3060
You don't need to be a dance music historian to read the devotion of the Bunker crew to old school electro and bass music—it's written all over their collective face. DJ Technician has brought it to another level, though, with this EP chock-full of old-as-new frosty booty jams that are equal parts Jonzun Crew, Magic Mike, and Jive Rhythm Tracks. Technician is an apt moniker—these are clinical, perfectly crafted genre exercises, complete with a "Bonus Beats" track, no less. What makes My Beat Is a Monster more than just a pastiche is the sense of goofy fun that bubbles out of the whole package. Dance music, especially of the Northern European school, often gets a bit stodgy in its minimalist beauty, and this is a well-placed combat boot in the ass of anybody who forgot that dance music is silly, sweaty fun, and all the more glorious for it. Retro? Ah, who the fuck cares! From the absurd Newcleus-esque title track whose "beat is a monster / with bass in your face" to the more icy Italo soundscapes of "Basslines" to the spacy video game effects of "One Credit Left," there's a little something here for everybody who came late to the party in '84.
Rainbow Delta/Mekon Delta
Ostgut Tonträger / o-ton 04
The immediacy and impact of both sides here remind me of Roman Flügel’s banging techno alias, “tracks on delivery.” Faki is another delivery man, and his productions hand over the goods by using contemporary sound design to classic effect, conjuring the hard banging big room sound of a decade ago, but with delicacy. In fact, Faki’s sound is almost an inversion of the saying “an iron fist in a velvet glove”—what’s obvious from close listening is that, underneath the hard exterior, there’s a skilled hand in touch with the soft and subtle intricacies of the track—the “gentle art of dancefloor devastation,” if you will. “Rainbow Delta,” the A-side, uses drum sounds reminiscent of sleeparchive: blunt, wooden, dry hits which attack in formation. The drums are constantly shifting timbres, and new loops keep fading in every few bars. But things quickly get wild and woolly, with swirling, delayed melodies that, again, seem to mark the mood as a homage to ‘90s club techno. Elementally, it’s nothing compelling or novel, but it’s executed with such finesse that it manages, somehow, to sound fresh and it gusts up a floorburning storm over an immense ten minutes. The B (“Mekon Delta”) starts out dry as dust, but goes straight to your warehouse heart with big rave signals and a descending, delayed organ loop that slowly builds into a monster, with the help of some hyperdramatic tear outs and tight programming. There’s something gratuitous, almost parodic about this EP—but it’s saved from comedy by some of the most subtle beat work I’ve heard in a while. Big room techno for the new school, with a heart pounding for the old.
Unirhythm / AR-13354
Marcellus Pittmann’s music works in the tradition of the Detroit House of which he is the “third chair.” The sound borrows its melodic tastes from ‘70s soul and jazz, and its rhythmic sensibility from the stiffness of elderly drum machines. Moodyman and Theo Parrish (chairs one and two) have always had a considerable talent for extracting pathos from nothing more than a wonky drum loop, a soul sample, and a lot of repetition—and likewise with Pittman’s work here, it’s all about the indefinable atmosphere of the track and the poignant heart that beats beneath an underwhelming surface. “Come See,” the A side, uses a naïve drum groove which bumble-shuffles along under a mesmeric, mechanic riff and Pittmann dropping in some keys every few bars. The B is much more classically “jazzy” sounding, but has the same lumpy, humpy rhythms below it that make the whole thing sound quirkily endearing.
Circus Company / CCS 017
If samples were cats, then Audio Werner’s would definitely be among the pigeons. Like his popular Just Darr It EP on Trapez Ltd, this release is full of exuberant micro house with one eyebrow raised, but it’s less “hyper” than the Akufen-esque sound of yore or its even more manic French cousins on Circus Company. Anywhere you find it, these are likeable and useable tracks that easily fit between the cracks in your tiny wee house. It’s all about the drum samples, boys and girls, and Audio Werner’s predilection is for hits, taps, and toms that seem more likely to be drawn from an anthropologist’s field recordings, rather than some 909 drum sample CD-ROM. The title track lives up to its name, bubbling for a full ten minute workout, and sounds somewhere between Betrieb’s more accessible moments on Klang and some of the less schizo bits on Lump’s color series vinyl. “DBA” sounds like early Musik Krause, and funks along without a hiccup or a highlight. “Moved,” the B2, is filled with cool xylophone sounds and oddball percussion samples, bells, and spooky reverb. With a touch of Latin madness, it could easily be a Narcotic Syntax production. I have a feeling this one would layer really well in the mix, and can imagine it +8 betwixt two other rolling, shaking percussion monsters under the mixer of Villalobos or Luciano.
Claude Von Stroke
Who's Afraid of Detroit (Remixes)
Dirtybird / db 008
Mallory O'Donnell: A thing like this should just arrive on the doorsteps of all techno devotees with a big black stamp on the mailer proclaiming it an "EVENT RELEASE." Von Stroke's anthemic non-anthem gets tarted up for the party by Audion, Tanner Ross, and... Kevin Saunderson?! Kev, what up, how you doing, it's been what... two years? Three years? Afraid of Detroit? No sir! What follows all the fuss and excitement is as best as could be expected, which means it's quality achieved by playing to the strengths of the remixers, rather than taking any big chances. Starting us off, Matthew Dear / Audion does his thing with the rubberized freakbeat baton for eight minutes of squeaks and creaks. I recommend playing this as loud as possible, preferably while doing something like showering or quietly running in place, but the key is LOUD—just to hear all the little nuances and revolving circular nipple-twisters of sonic nutriment Dear's installed in his refit. Tanner Ross stays pretty close to the original, which is fitting, because nobody knows who the hell he is. He's actually done more of a smoothing job than a remixing one—if the original was straight-up double chocolate fudge this is more of a peanut-butter / mocha swirl. Nice enough, but not really needed. Last but surely not least, Kevvy Kev throws down a classy-as-fuck version to show these young whippersnappers how it's done. The word here is LUSH—it's basically a big band swing tune masquerading as roots techno, sympathetically warm, grooving and brassy. Naturally, the jaggedness of the original has been lost, but Saunderson's scorched it away by applying a soulful fire to the canvas—something added, something taken away. Pick it up.
Nick Sylvester: For not being too sold on the original, I'm pretty psyched how these remixes turned out. Audion goes way sleek, way minimal, emptying the track of its middle so he can pingpong and hiccup and squelch the VonStroke's rubber synth hook until it accrues those trails of clean reverb I can only describe as Audionesque. Sometimes when he does that, it really derails the track's momentum; not here. The opening puddle-splasher-type vamp on Kevin Saunderson's sounds more Juan Atkins than KS, but when the beat drops, everything mellows out into that muted mid-heavy funk I get out of E-Dancer and Reese. The other remixer, Tanner Ross, I'd never heard of until now, and he's by far the most respectful of the three, just making what sound like EQ tweaks here and there, adding an additional squelch in the bottom, etc. But then all the sudden he starts deploying vocal cut-ups as rhythmic accents, then all these really fast-cut swells and Luomo-like swoops. Man to watch maybe?
I recently picked up a bizarre, very bootleg-ish compilation of ‘80s Canadian funk and dancefloor R&B; called Funk & Boogie from the Great White North. Unfortunately, most of it, filled with clunky synthetic drums/bass and primitive Fairlight/DX7-style synthesizers, has not dated well at all. Yet there is something endearingly weird about these tracks, as they were trying to follow the poppier footsteps of Jam & Lewis while still having a foot in the post-disco club scene, all on a very minimal budget. I decided to make a mini-mix to showcase some of these oddities, the majority of which I could find nothing about (not even a Discogs listing).
I do know that all of the tracks come from the Musicworks and Street Level imprints, two labels in the early ‘80s that were based in Montreal, although did a lot of recording in Philadelphia with prolific disco engineer/producer Herb Powers. As for the artists, James Carmichael is likely the same singer who once headed the group Instant Funk (of “I Got My Mind Made Up” fame), Kim Covington was a New Jersey soul/theater singer who now lives and records in Paris, and the Little Dabs were the two children (aged 4 and 6) of the drummer from the group Gypsy Lane, who did all the music for the Village People. Speaking of the Dabs, their Spielberg-inspired single “E.T. (Every Time)” was a big enough hit in Canada that it got European distribution through the Belgium label BMC. I sadly know little about Jahmilla, Tara Laine, Jacki, or Dee Dee T, but the Jahmilla record did get European distribution through the Dutch label Rams Horns. To close this mix off, there’s Mac Mac’s male answer/response track to Lisa Lisa’s freestyle hit “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” produced by someone called “Grandmaster Cash.” Hope you enjoy…
[Michael F. Gill]
01: James Carmichael - All Of My Love [Expansion/Musicworks]
02: Jahmilla - Pillow Talk [Street Level, 1985]
03: Tara Laine - You Made Me Believe [Street Level]
04: The Little Dabs - E.T. (Every Time) [Musicworks, 1982]
05: Kim Covington - All Of My Love [Street Level, 1983]
06: Dee Dee T - We've Got All Night [Unknown]
07: Jacki - Don't Break My Heart [Unknown]
08: Mac Mac & Jamalot Kingdom - Let Me Take You Home (Lisa Lisa) [Musicworks, 1985]
Can - Mother Sky (Pilooski Edit) [D*I*R*T*Y Edits]
Tony Allen - Ole (A Remix by Moritz Von Oswald) [Honest Jon’s]
Riley Reinhold - Point Zero [Trapez]
Damero - Mope [BPitch Control]
Claude VonStroke - Who’s Afraid of Detroit? (Tanner Ross Remix) [Dirty Bird]
Thomas Melchior & Luciano - Solomon’s Prayer [Cadenza]
Villalobos – Ioda [Playhouse]
Mikkel Metal - Untitled (Vainquer Remix) [Echocord]
Dub Syndicate - Pounding System [On-U Sound]
Ron Trent & Chez Damier - Hip To Be Disillusioned [Prescription]
Wendy Carlos - Sonic Seasonings [Columbia]
Morton Subotnick - Silver Apples of the Moon [Nonesuch]
V/A - Sub Rosa Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music, Volume 4 [Sub Rosa]
i-F - Mixed Up In the Hague, Volume 2 [No Label]
Kraftwerk - Ralf & Florian [Vertigo]
Drei Farben House - Any Kind of Feeling [Force Tracks]
Nathan Fake - Outhouse Remixes [Recycled Loops]
Legowelt - The Land of Lonzo [Bunker]
nofloatoutput - the sound of systems failing [Greystate]
Michael F. Gill
Mash – Somebody's Property [Glasgow Underground]
The Work – Just Talk (Skatebaard Remix) [Powerblytt]
Sam K – Doesn’t Matter (Ripperton Remix) [Perspectiv]
Los Angeles T.F. – Everliving Fever [Proxima Centauri]
Fake – Donna Rouge [Did Records]
Mouzon's Electric Band – Everybody Get Down [Vanguard]
Ritchie Family – I'll Do My Best (For You Baby) [RCA]
Julia & Company – Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba) [London]
Modeselektor – Hello Mom! [Bpitch Control]
MAT101 - Goodbye Mum! [Balance Records]
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2007-02-09