June 23, 2005

Label Profile: Contexterrior Records

Contexterrior is a label geared at bringing sub bass, click, and glitch heavy music to your bedroom and the dancefloor.” So says their website. But things have a way of mutating and evolving into forms that you’d never imagine when you begin them. With its latest releases, Contexterrior has shown itself to be a label interested in a new brand of psych-house—the type of music that Ricardo Villalobos explored intensely on last year’s Thé Au Harem D’archimède.

Ricardo vs. Jay
Prefer Summer
, 2004

The title track of this 12” illustrates what I’m talking about perfectly. At 12 minutes long, it takes one watery synth theme for its length and then puts a whole host of garnishing around it. The beat is rubbery and hardly a stomper, but it provides just enough backbone for the whole thing to stand steady enough to keep everything on the table. It’s hardly going to knock over dancefloors, but it’s intense home-listening. The dancefloor is taken care of on the other side of the vinyl: “Cactus Love” is an awkward jaunt, until halfway through when it finds its footing and starts to really hum. Literally. “Archive” on the other hand revives the rubbery for an almost goofy sounding tune that puts its faith in reverb.

Ricardo vs. Jay
CNTX 08.5
, 2004

Sessions must’ve gone well, as this 12” followed up “Prefer Summer” immediately in 2004 in the Contexterrior catalogue. The words printed on the B-side of the vinyl here are “Mother Earth Is Pregnant - Feed Her Some Funk” and it probably illustrates the difference in the two works best: “Fenlow” is a far more substantial piece of dancefloor material than “Prefer Summer.” Here, the track rides a riveting beat as coiling glitches and effects work themselves out over its 12-minute length. “Kick the Verb” is a heady surprise from the two, it being a relatively straightforward banger that delivers on the promise of their collaboration fully and unexpectedly. “It’s Alright” similarly rocks a more obvious beat and is all the better for it. Definitely recommended.

Jay Haze vs. Robag Wruhme
Socrates Rules
, 2005

On the label’s first release of 2005, Jay is collaborating again, but this time with Wighnomy Brother Gabor Schablitzki. “Change Is Natural” leads off the proceedings with a suitably Wighnomy-esque slow-burner that seethes along its length, until a slight crescendo in its second half. The track, along with the rest of the 12” go straight for the label’s insistence on love of bass and revel in it. And while “Do Something” and “Change” are worse for the wear because of the adherence to dub, “Don’t Stop” is another highlight that wouldn’t be anywhere without its bass bona fides. That and the cut-up vocals and rolling toms that inch the whole thing forward without break.

Pheek vs. Vivianne Project
CNTX 11,

The label’s latest 12” isn’t necessarily a vs. proposition, as the title states: Pheek singularly provides the first three tracks here, while new on the scene Vivianne Project finishes it off with “Der Frau.” Pheek’s contributions here are typically deep, typically accomplished, and typically boring. While it’s obvious that he’s a talented producer and deserves to be here, it’s hard to heartily recommend anything here because it hardly anything excites or surprises. Vivianne Project is another story: “Der Frau” makes you jack, rather than sway or nod; makes you gasp, rather than acknowledge or appreciate; makes you want to seek out more, rather than accept it for what it is. Considering this is coming from someone that only has one other 12” to their credit (on Contexterrior affiliate, Textone), the future is looking bright for Vivianne Project.

[Todd Burns]

June 16, 2005

Profile: American Microhouse

American microhouse? The essential problem, I think, is that the country is just too big. Whereas parties in Cologne and Berlin perhaps focus the energies of those scenes, the drive to other cities is almost oppressive in allowing sounds in the Midwest and the West to form properly. That’s why the self-run labels Ghostly International (and its dancefloor leaning subsidiary Spectral Sound) and Orac are so important towards the creation of a truly American aesthetic. Just don’t ask me exactly what the hell it is.

Slavery When Wet
Orac / ORAC16

Mossa’s first 12” for the label seems to be as representative as any: “Slavery When Wet” is a cut-up house cut that boasts vocal tics, slivers of dub, and sundry bells and whistles inside of its glitch moments. It’s all laid out by the one-minute mark and, by the time you reach five, it all seems a tad more repetitive than most. Ben Nevile’s mix of the song immediately dispels any qualms, as his faster-paced take runs through all of the possibilities of the song, rarely overdoing any one portion throughout the length of the song, which is incidentally the exact same as the original. The B-side, “Gastrula,” stretches out its arms and moves in the same arena as its predecessor, but does so more confidently. Its counterpart, “Gastrula (Crushed),” hammers the song into nearly half of the original and is a highly abstract joint that only really gets going two minutes in and doesn’t really ever find its step completely. Some mixed feelings on this one, but “Gastrula” is definitely a keeper.

Bruno Pronsato
Silver Cities
Orac / ORAC09CD

You could hardly find anyone with a bad thing to say about Pronsato’s Silver Cities full-length last year, which is why I tried to stay silent on it. That being said, “Wuorinen” reminds me much more of Pronsato’s DJ sets, about which I have nothing but kind things to say (Go see him live, you won’t regret it.). The song is first-rate microsurgery-house, intersplicing elements that only begin to make sense later on, but never take away from the moment. And it’s funky as hell. Jackmate’s remix is stellar—exactly the sort of smooth rejoinder to the semi-schizophrenic original. It’s “Live in Cascadia” that I keep coming back to, though, which takes the best elements of both tracks that come before it for an epic B-side of dubby micro-house that shouldn’t be missed.

The Return of Caro
Orac / ORAC14CD

At the very least, you should get a good look at the cover for Caro’s first album for his own label. It features, presumably the label head himself, atop a pony and looking quite dapper. For a genre increasingly fond of humor, it’s a brilliantly pompous image that can’t help but make you smile. Music-wise, the album veers over and says hello to just about everything imaginable: acieed, Italo, down-tempo, minimal house, and jazz. “Heavy Wheel” does one of these synthesized moments best, working a Keith Jarrett piano into a fascinating duel with acid bass. Of course, the previously released “My Little Pony” is a highlight, but honestly that track’s adherence to the one genre that Orac can be accused of favoring (cut-up house) is the exception and not the rule here. “Can’t Tell Why,” for example, moves straight from dubby techno into a fierce jacking beat, for example, hardly stopping along the way. Caro’s The Return of Caro sounds exactly like what you might expect from the guy that is credited with helping create software called Jitter for Cycling74, but that’s hardly a bad thing—it’ll keep you on your toes throughout.

Geoff White
Spectral Sound / SPC-29

Labeled sketches, intended to show off his incredible production diversity, “Etsche” is White’s second 12” for Spectral in a series started with “Ince.” Unlike that more natural outing, “Etsche” finds White mining the more techno side of his personality, instead of the langorous ambient guitar side best exemplified by Aeroc. The closest he comes is “Guitarjacked,” which is too indebted to Steve Reich and Hurley to make much of an atmospheric impact. But White’s music, especially gem B-side “Scillecta,” never gets too hard That track rides bubbly synth pads and melodies, and a severe lack of low-end, into mid-set bliss.

Brian Aneurysm
Das Element Des Menschen
Spectral Sound / SPC-31

No lack of low-end on this, Brian Aneurysm’s initial entry onto the label. In fact it’s probably the hardest song that the label has ever put out. Ostensibly an ode to water, the A-side crackles with intensity and purpose, throwing out stabs along the way that pierce rather than comfort. Similarly, the B-side “Unwanted” is a single-minded slab of vinyl that doesn’t let up. Otherworldly voices, shifting blocks of rhythm, and a melody built from a simple four-note bed distract but momentarily from the ferocious beat. James T. Cotton’s mix of “Das Element Des Menschen” turns on the acid and throws the vocals through a variety of effects changing the tenor of the song rather drastically, but keeping the high level of quality.

[Todd Burns]

June 9, 2005

Triple R - Flashback

Flashback is mixed, but barely. For nearly each track, it has that eight bar mix that any four-four joint can have—irregardless of whether it actually makes sense. It’s excusable, though, because presumably what Riley is really trying to do here is to showcase the label’s track in full as much as possible—to get people to buy the vinyl 12”’s from whence they came. After hearing this, I’ll be buying the following: Toro’s “Phantom Drive” (both tracks feature here), anything involving Break 3000, and most especially the forthcoming Daso 12”. You should too.

My Best Friend / MBF CD001
[Todd Burns]

June 9, 2005

Damian Lazarus - Rebel Futurism Session Two

I’ll be honest: Superpitcher’s Today? Not really that great, in my opinion. A definition of microgoth? OK. Sounds like a pretty poorly mixed and boring genre to me. I’d much rather listen to electro-goth, I guess, if the most recent mix by Damian Lazarus is any indication. Crucially, it doesn’t allow the intensity to falter, has a better selection of tracks, and climaxes with the Michael Mayer mix of “Happiness,” rather than the moody Lawrence version. In the end, it all comes down to taste: do you a DJ mix that is the most tasteful and emotional of the year or do you want one that bangs? I’ll take the one that does both, instead of just one.

Crosstown Rebels / CRMCD002
[Todd Burns]

June 9, 2005

Markus Guentner - 1981

There are some huge differences between 1981 and In Moll. Problem is: the best moments on the record are when Guentner relies on old tricks. That’s why “Jellyfish” and “Hi-Jacked” are great, but should have been saved for a pseudonym and a double-sided schaffel-tastic 12” elsewhere and they should have been replaced with the hazy ambience that we come to expect from Guentner’s Kompakt work. If there were ever a time for thanks-for-not-fucking-with-the-formula criticism (the rest of the time), though, this is it. There’s something to be said for the Namlookian ideal of slow-moving ambient innovations that Guentner is undergoing. I just wish he’d adhere to Pete’s release schedule. Or maybe not.

Kompakt KOM 115 / KOMPAKT CD 39
[Todd Burns]

June 9, 2005

Ferenc - Fraximal

Based on the strength of two-and-a-half Kompakt 12”’s, the Spanish duo Ferenc somehow convinced Mayer and friends to release this full-on acid album. Unlike Köhncke’s album, I don’t see this one growing too much (perhaps because everything sounds so similar in tone). Luckily, there are gems to be found in the rough: “Nitsa Is 11,” the only previously released track on the record “France,” and the hard-hitting “Neng” immediately come to mind. It’s the mediocre, or worse, tracks that drag the whole thing down to a disappointing level, echoing more the group’s work for Pornflake than their previous highlights on Kompakt.

Kompakt / KOM 120 / KOMPAKT CD 41
[Todd Burns]

June 9, 2005

Justus Köhncke - Doppelleben

One of the greatest EPs that Kompakt has ever put out. Bear in mind, though, that if you put on Was Ist Musik on the stereo after two years of not listening to it that it make you believe that you missed something incredibly important in the interim. Which is a long way of saying that this record will undoubtedly work in the same fashion. Open to all styles (but mostly Force Tracks’ Digital Disco), the record floats effortlessly back and forth, showcasing Köhncke’s obvious aptitude at making incredibly powerful three-song statements and too schizophrenic to make an album-long one. Why bother when it’s this good? I’m not sure. I’ll be sure to wait two years to find out.

Kompakt / KOM 112 / KOMPAKT CD 38
[Todd Burns]