March 24, 2006

Good Life

Last July I moved to “my city by the Bay” from Gainesville, Florida. When I got here, I was desperate for some good dance nights, or shows, or something. So, I wrote my friend Philip to ask his advice, seeing that he had just moved away. Much to my dismay, he tells me that there is really no techno/tech-house/micro-house type scene, and there are even fewer nights. But while I’m at it, I should check out Tweekin’ Records in the Lower Haight. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it seemed that San Francisco must have more to offer than a small town in Florida. To be fair, America isn’t the first place that comes to mind for that sort of music anyway, and when I go to Amoeba the domestic house section is usually near the end of my list …you know, just in case there are some used Trax classics. But over the months I’ve realized that I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

New Year’s comes and I am disappointed with DJ celebrities, some of the best, and dying for a night with bass that will slug me in the chest. So, I check my email, and there is a message from one Chantilly Bass. She found me somehow, and figured out that we live in the same city. She tells me that I am crazy, and that this city is basically ready to blow up. Apparently I needed to learn about [Kontrol], Dirtybird Records, and, specifically, Claude Von Stroke. You may remember him for his track “Chimps” on the last Get Physical comp, or for the John Tejada remix of “Deep Throat.”

So, the following Wednesday we head to Blur for a night hosted by SF’s own Jeniluv and Cat. The guests of the night were Claude Von Stroke, Alland Byallo, and Justin Martin. Basically, Blur is this little bar on Post Street that has some of the cheapest drinks and best surprises around here. Once I went to see Juan Maclean DJ a house set, another time I went to go see Star Eyes spin an amazing, basically epic, set of Ghetto-Tech and Baltimore Club. So, I walk in and all of my wildest, most ridiculous, tech-head dreams come true. The place is packed with enthusiastic techies bouncing up and down in unison to the San Francisco specific brand of house and minimal.

See, the house here isn’t really house. In a conversation with Mr. Von Stroke last Friday he explained it to me like this, “techno is too serious and house is too gay.” While “Balearic” is probably a better word than “gay,” the relevance of that statement is intuitive. It’s true at times. Minimal house, especially in a city where house music is often equated to OM Records or the RuPaul remixes of the Castro, is a big part of the SF house scene that gets only a little attention. Don’t get me wrong, the first place I heard Madonna’s “Hung Up,” gleefully losing my shit, was in the Castro, and the gay dance culture there means a lot to a lot of people. Without it, San Francisco wouldn’t be the city that it is, and I am glad that things are the way they are. However, tech-house nights have been virtually non-existent. Secondly, it doesn’t even seem necessary to debate whether or not techno gets too serious. Honestly, that’s part of what I love about it, so I’m not going to deny it. In fact, I originally wanted to write this article about technology as a mode of production within techno, and how it is changing the landscape. There has always been a link between techno and technology, techno and abstract thought; it lends itself to that kind of contemplation freely. So, having someone behind the wheels of steel who understands that on a fundamental level is exactly what I want when dancing; the aesthetic of tech, the fun of house, and the humor to appreciate both simultaneously.

Also, Von Stroke runs a label called Dirtybird Records, which has put out records by CVS, Justin Martin, Sammy D, Worthy, and John Tejada. Single-handedly, the Dirtybird team has restored my faith in dancing.

Well, almost single-handedly…there is also a night in town called [Kontrol], which is fantastic. Since I moved here, they have brought Isolee, John Tejada, Pier Bucci, Damian Lazarus, and a handful of others. Now what’s impressive about this monthly is that the residents are often better than the headliners. My friend Chantilly and I spoken about this at length. It’s quite a feeling to leave an Isolee show and know that your local DJs were performing on exactly the same level as someone who has done so much for techno. These guys are really impressive, and they’ve always kept it minimal, dark, and incredibly fun. There aren’t many places you get to hear (a)pendics.shuffle, Pantytec, and Kammerflimmer Kollektief within a few moments.

So, after my first night of Dirtybird and [Kontrol] at Blur, I make it home at 7:30am just in time to have some coffee before I get ready for school and collapse on my bed. At the same time, I’d have it no other way. My body is half dead, but my dancing shoes have found new life.

[Cameron Octigan]

March 24, 2006

Minilogue - The Girl from Botany Bay

A spiritual heir to Nathan Fake’s “The Sky Was Pink,” without all the DJ versions and help afforded by James Holden, Minilogue’s “The Girl from Botany Bay” is a self-assured progressive house behemoth, set to annihilate any dancefloor that it comes across. The first release from Treibstoff sub-label Wir, the Swedish duo Minilogue, best known in the tech-house world for their Radiohead sampling 12” for Traum, mine the sort of giddy pop music that their country has been known for and compress the results into a gem of melodic yearning. Utilizing the loudest kick drum ever recorded, rosy fingertip synths, and a girl in a bathtub, the track hums along in its first seven minutes towards a climax never reached in Fake’s original or Holden’s remix of the same that obliterates. Apparently there’s a B-side. I’d actually never seen the words supertip before, but this release demands it.

Wir / 001
[Todd Burns]

March 24, 2006

Alexander Robotnick – The Dark Side Of The Spoon (Remixes)


Todd Burns: Maurizio Dami is nothing if not a legend, working since 1981 in a variety of guises. His 2003 return to the realm of electro has heralded a spate of new releases that continue to feature some of the genres highest-profile purveyors. Case in point: Bangkok Impact and Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas contribute remixes on Robotnick’s newest 12” for the Dutch Crème label. While the original version of the track is all sweetness and light, Bangkok gives it a darker air with a throbbing bassline and a distorted version of the main melodic theme. Disorientingly complex at times, Bangkok comes out the other end in six minutes with a well-constructed version that sounds more like reworking than it does remix. Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas, on the other hand, discofy the original by livening up the drums and highlighting the guitar and cowbell. The ecstatic sound of that cowbell emphatically closes the track, gone off beat by a person clearly sweating, tired, and glad to be ringing it.

Mallory O’Donnell: God bless Alexander Robotnick, and God bless this crazy world for producing an Italian pretending to be a German pretending to be from outerspace. Though he’s still producing tracks, this one is from 1982, part of a compilation of unreleased material put together by the good folks at Creme, who just happen to be Italo-influenced Dutch who actually are from outerspace. This track is nothing off-the-wall for Robotnick, but it certainly sounds stunningly modern and beats the crap out of 95% of the electro currently being put out by anybody else. Fittingly, Bangkok Impact (representing that other 5%) whips the track up into thicker, chunkier electro-funk, then drizzles gooey analog synths on top like chocolate sauce. Lindstrom & Prins Thomas flip the script for their remix, arranging the original’s already tight drum patterns, echoes, swirls and stabs into even stricter military formation, marching them across the parade ground while waves of fuzzed-out psychedelic guitar crash in the distance.

Michael F. Gill: Is the child now father to the man? Three generations of disco and italo come together for a family reunion of sorts, and to see what they can learn from each other. Robotnick, the elder statesman, prays at the holy sepulchre of the synthesizer, feeling ageless at the disco while a stately, yet serious stare comes across his face. The Detroit posse take notice. Bangkok Impact, wild child from the dawn of Y2K, fattens up the sacrificial lamb with a luminous flash and some luster extracted from his mechanical skin. Lindstrom & Prins-Thomas, the current celebrities du jour, are subverting the religion by sculpting disco as a long, sweaty orgy that looks all pastoral and honey-sweet from the outside. Sex, gluttony, and spirituality, what more could you want?

Crème Organization / 022

March 24, 2006

Sistema - Parque De Atracciones

Sistema returns for another solid slab of wax on the Spanish tech-house label Factory City, unconsciously channeling the legendary Skam label by producing an A-side that works just as well at 33 as it does on 45, although I imagine the latter is the correct speed. That song crashes ping-ponging synths against one another, allowing them to coalesce into a heady climax of arpeggiated bliss. B-side “Darkness” features Rafid Noy on vocals and treads in the same sort of tension-building effects of its predecessor. These two tracks and the moody finale, “Moebius” all point towards the semi-undefinable Factor City sound, which seems to be a mix of the best portions of Italo and trance, cutting the unfortunate excesses of both to reveal an original sound all their own.

Factor City / 014
[Todd Burns]

March 24, 2006

Arne Michel - Halbzeit

The relatively new Berlin label Lan Muzic hasn’t come across my radar before, but now that it has, it will remain so based on this truly minimal 12” from Thee Engineer. The A-side to the release resembles Sleeparchive in its attentiveness to a small palette of sounds, never reaching far outside of rolling tribalisms (“Truckstop”) or glitches and glides (“Omni”). The strait-laced opening side is flipped on its head, though, by the big-room house and clipped-guitar riffs of “Half Truth” and Alex Smoke’s mix of “Truckstop,” which lets out some of the air of the closeted original.

Lan Muzic / 004
[Todd Burns]

March 24, 2006

Saytek - Codes of Conduct

“Spegetti Western,” which could just be a nod to Primus, is what excites here. The track seemingly goes through three different incarnations in its six-minute running time; from disco drums to trance-y synths to uplifting techno chords to 303 basslines, it’s a mélange of different influences that incidentally serves as a sort of calling card for the varied producer himself. While no other track here is quite as successful, “Beatdrop” rolls on the old-school electro thick, while the two parts of “Allergen” sound so dissimilar that it’s hard to understand why they’re paired together in name.

Evolved / EVO04AB
[Todd Burns]

March 24, 2006

Alex Under - Collage

The three-track Collage EP is the Plus 8 debut from Madrid’s Alex Under, and an aptly named one at that. Starting with a steady 4/4 kick and a bouncy bass riff, A-side “El Encuentro” adds layer after layer of rhythms and percussion until it is a dense dancefloor monster, before taking it all apart again. On the flip, “Fortuito” starts with a tweaked and filtered beat in search of a rhythm before the kick comes in and ties it all together, and a few more layers of snare and some bloopy, looped riffs move things along in more traditional fashion, recalling a slighty peppier version of label boss Richie Hawtin’s funkier moments. Final track “Distantes” is a straight-up rumbler with a bubbling, dubby bass groove and a slightly higher BPM. Those looking for more fun can check out the exclusive “De Deos Realidades” on Beatport.

Plus 8 / 088
[Todd Hutlock]

March 24, 2006

Fraktion - Fraktion

Following up his “And Answer” 12-inch on M_nus, Jon Gaiser drops three tracks of dubbed-out percussive minimalism on Resopal-Schallware’s Red offshoot. A-side “Nebokki” mines the same spacey territory as that single with some echoing riffs and effects, along with a deep-voiced vocal sample and a couple of squelchy breakdowns that drop the beat altogether to great effect. The two cuts on the flip, “Not Back” and “Bukl” are much more percussion-minded, with all manners of clattering clicks and pops and beats floating in and out of the mix and through all manners of filter. Gaiser may be new to the game, but he is quickly establishing himself as a producer to watch.

Resopal Red / 003
[Todd Hutlock]

March 24, 2006

Rhythm & Sound - See Mi Yah Remixes #1


The legendary Berlin dub-techno imprint recruits a trio of mixers to raid their back catalog, and the results are, well, mixed. Ricardo Villalobos takes on “Let We Go” with his familiar formula of spacey effects, deeeeeeep bass, a short vocal clip, and popping percussion for a 10-minute-plus excursion into dub. He slows things to just a crawl and a reggae rhythm a few minutes in, and though you keep expecting the beats to build back up and the rhythm to chug again, it simply never happens. Points for unpredictability, then, but you’ll feel like you’ve been to Mars and back, if not Montego Bay. Tikiman’s mix of “Boss Man” is traditional Jamaican dub-style that works great in headphones with a giant bong, but not on dancefloors, and only Vladislav Delay’s take on “Truly” is sizzling enough to work feet rather than head nods. A little something for everyone, then. Look for volume two soon.

Burial Mix / 001
[Todd Hutlock]

March 24, 2006

Lindstrom - Another Station


Perhaps it’s too cold in Norway…or perhaps it’s precisely cold enough. If the end result is Hans-Peter Lindstrom spending all his time in the studio instead of freezing his buns out of doors, then I’m praying global warming really is a myth. “Another Station” is a fantastic slice of deep-space disco much in the vein of “I Feel Space,” without the obvious Donna-isms. The charmingly subdued Latin/Tropical vibe really makes the track; it’s evocative without going all ‘La Isla Norwegia.’ As the song ends, cold winds whistle through the fjords and bring us back to chilly reality. Todd Terje pumps the mix up a bit on flipside, losing a little of the signature Lindstro-magic but still striking an effortless balance between dreamy and banging. Top class, as usual.

Feedelity / 006
[Mallory O’Donnell]

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