September 6, 2007

Arsenal - The Coming (Idjut Boys Mixes)

200712"BalearicDowntempo

When Morrisey entitled his album Your Arsenal, he probably wasn’t just talking about football teams and weapons caches. In Venice of the fifteenth century, your arsenal was just a dockyard (arzenale), but less than a hundred years later, the British were already using (and saying) it as a place to store their weapons. This Arsenal is the Belgian kind, and not the ex-Big Black guitarist’s forays into cat-torture-noise rock. “The Coming” was a ploddy low-key track from their Outsides album, and here it finds its way reworked into downtempo dub-outs from the Idjut Boys, who produce three very different vibes in versions that alternately tickle, stroke, and romp some fluid from the original source.

That particular source is a dreamboat Fujiya and Miyagi soundalike, spongbathed into a bluntbeat fug with vocals that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Whale record. I suppose that makes it some kind of trip-hop whimsy. The Idjuts’ “Version 1″ goes the space-disco route, excavating some dancefloor sparkle from a track that previously wanted nothing but to skin up or roll over. “Version 2″ would work as a minimal tool for the groovewise inclined, and is grounded by a lumberous (to coin a word) bassline that sounds just like the one used on Serafin’s “Nidlenoch”. If it weren’t for the giveaway “spacy” handclaps and bass noodlings, you’d think you were right back there in mnml-land. “Version 3″ brings us back into the realm of the original, but adding in a little fruit juice and sunshine for a gauzy afternoon drift. It’s not overwhelming stuff in any sense, but the comforting roll and sway of each of the versions has made it a morning favourite the past few days. Nice and easy does it.

Play Out! / POM 005
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[Peter Chambers]


July 9, 2007

Peter Visti - Dolly

200712"Neo-DiscoBalearic

If kitsch weren’t such a discredited term, we might be tempted to apply it to Peter Visti’s remix choices here, consisting as they do of one wan blues whitey, Dolly Parton, and the mostly forgotten disco-bowtie charlatan Taco. Luckily, Visti is so kitsch he’s beyond kitsch, especially when his nimble fingers grace the source material of our last two subjects. Parton’s “Jolene” becomes almost unrecognizable in Visti’s context, transmogrified into an unlikely underground disco smash you’re certain you heard one stoned night at the Gallery. With bass-driven meanderings and pungent synth swells supporting a filtered guitar strum, it seems Dolly can ride the analog waves as well as any old diva.

Chris Rea’s “Josephine” sounds much more true to form, although I must confess my ignorance with regards to the original track. It’s loads more atmospheric, almost to a fault, and could be any one of a number of innocuous ’80s soundtrack cuts, left out to drift in the realm of the dollar bin. Thankfully, Visti comes back with another surprise, turning the bland swing-disco pabulum of Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” into re-edit gold, morphing the groove into something that’s equal parts Kano and Nitzer Ebb. As though the cast of Fame got choked-up on crystal meth and Baudrilliard’s critical theory, the track resolutely (and brutally) demands you to get your kicks on, lest you suffer the groovy, post-modern consequences. Highly recommended for the not-so-faint of heart.

Mindless Boogie / Mindless 006
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[Mallory O’Donnell]


June 28, 2007

Studio - Life’s a Beach! (Remixes)

200712"Neo-DiscoBalearic

Along with Finland’s Uusi Fantasia and Sweden’s Bjorn Torske, Studio are one of the groups whose sounds and sympathies orbit the cosmos of Prins Thomas’ imagination of space/disco/dub. Its “not disco” though, or not as we know it, but a form busted open by eccentric tastes and open ears. In a recent interview I did with Prins Thomas, he explained how the relative marginality of Scandanavia (and especially Norway) has kept things prised open, and open things prized. “On the one hand,” he explained, “I could have lived anywhere and made the music I do but the isolation is important. I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s a lot of diversity here. We’re open to a lot of styles and it’s been an important part of generating our open approach…you have to work hard to please everybody when you play here there’s no sub-genre nights or anything like that. You can’t afford to be a genre fascist in Oslo.”

Prins’ remix of “Life’s a Beach” opens with an appropriately stomp-paced cosmic bassline with all sorts of shifting Balearic textures thrown over it, slowly rising to full swing alongside spills of space delay. Then, at the five minute mark, by the strange and welcome intrusion of a very 8-bit sounding note, the track reaches its peak (which only sounds once!), after which the whole thing just drifts away on congas and beachy spume. Meanwhile, back at the disco, Todd Terje turns tables on the tracks, rendering “Beach” nocturnally capable with some chunkier percussion, altering the mood from giddy to “giddy up”. Terje likewise uses the same 8-bit note at almost exactly the same point in the track, then opts for the a similar long outro, re-done in a more late-evening fashion. Oddly similar, the two mixes here are sun and moon to each other. Ah, so much good music.

Information / INF 003
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[Peter Chambers]


June 7, 2007

A Mountain Of One - EP1 / EP2

2006200712"Balearic

A lot of this stuff sounds to me like “Talk Talk covers the Dances With Wolves soundtrack,” at best when people actually believed rock & roll was something spiritual and not just a backdoor to preteen booty — but to be fair I’ve never heard a note of Fleetwood Mac or Pink Floyd or Peter Frampton so maybe this London soft-rock act sounds like them too. All the songs on EP1 are really schmaltzy, really serious, even their cover of Ginny’s “Can’t Be Serious” has patient piano and guitar motifs run through who knows how much reverb, and falsetto-heavy vocal melodies just sorta floating atop. Maybe this “rock music for a hot summer night” / Buddha Bar shit is your idea of a good time?

“Can’t Be Serious,” which welded guitar-soloing beardo to nervous arpeggiated midtempo synth-pop, seems to have been the band’s jumpoff for the recent EP2: “Your Love Over Gold,” “People Without Love,” and “Arc of Abraham” use more confident variations of treated synths, balearic guitar, and heavily FX’d lead guitar. Even if you don’t dig them, you can’t deny their conviction, especially on “Your Love Over Gold.” They probably don’t even know they just wrote a shitty “Come Undone,” g’bless’em.

AMO / 001 / 002
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[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


May 23, 2007

Sorcerer - Surfing At Midnight

200712"Neo-DiscoBalearic

The seriously-unknown Sorcerer must have impressed somebody down in discoville for his first release to come baited with a remix by no less than Prins Thomas. Easy enough to see why: with all due respect to His Highness, the original is quite handily the superior version. In the field of down-to-midtempo dreamy instrumentals with beaded fringe, “Surfing at Midnight” is dippy rather than hippy, and (quite happily) just baked rather than psychedelic, dude. Like one of those introspective Moroder excursions and your favorite cosmic disco jaunt simultaneously caught in a seven-minute loop of their most pleasing fadeouts. On the remix, Prins Thomas takes a quite adequately long suspension of sensuous moments and stretches it out for another 4:20 (!), but instead of revealing any delicious treats held oyster-like by the original, he just makes the damn thing longer. Still, “Surfing” is refreshingly clean, mercifully unsophisticated and smile-widening, and feels more like a dip in a swimming hole after hiking than it does hanging ten.

Tirk / TIRK 019
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[Mallory ODonnell]


May 9, 2007

Toby Tobias - Daves Sex Bits

200712"Neo-DiscoBalearic

Like his first single for the Rekid label, Toby Tobias still doesn’t settle for anything less than a genre-clusterfuck. “Dave’s Sex Bits” couldve just coined beardo-house and called it a day, but dude won’t let go of every little toy in his crate. With a constant ambient drone, Tobias stuffs in every swell, light-saber crash, and gurgling birdcall that he can touch. Even the funk licks of the bass are squashed in a song that nods to cosmic aspirations but can’t feel any space. On the flip, Quiet Village (comprised of Rekid label owner Matt Edwards and Joel Martin) rebuilds the sex bits from the ground up. Using delay like a tienne-Jules Marey photograph, the Quiet Village remix not only captures momentary glimmers of the original song, it also strobes in and out of the regulars forward progression of time. Thoroughly disorienting and wobbling near the black hole that swallowed Motiivis 1939, Quiet Villages remix might chug along to its own drummer but itll be hard to imagine a more massive sounding remix this year.

REKIDS / REKIDS 011
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[Nate DeYoung]


April 24, 2007

Reverso 68 Especial

200712"Neo-DiscoBalearic

Reverso 68’s new single is somewhat of an anomaly: a disco burner with a rather refined sense of character. Rather than just focusing on one element and turning it up to 11, like an acid synth freak-out or intense barrages of drum programming, Pete Herbert and Phil Mison take each individual instrument and set it to “stun.” The result is an even-keeled, sleek, and shimmering slab of disco that slowly but surely set fire to the dance floor.

Whereas last year’s “Tokyo Disco” read like a groove-infused Kraftwerk, music for the distracted dancers of the future, “Especial” is much more happy to stick it out and debase with abandon. Combinations of popping bass, ricocheting synth lines, stabs of electric guitar, and celebratory chanting all mesh together nicely without over-doing it.

If the A-side is about the party, B-side “Take Me Back (To Yours)” is entirely concerned with the after-partyin the bedroomand everyone plays it cool. The drums and bass sit back and dig deliberately into the beat, the guitar stands in the corner and chucks along, and the darker synths throb underneath while the track shimmers in and out of consciousness. All the while you can hear the results, a female’s enthused affirmations echoing throughout, climaxing with the repeated mantra, “it feels good on your lips.” And as the last note reverberates into oblivion, theres a feeling that Reverso 68 have soundtracked one of the best nights out of the year so far.

Eskimo Recordings / 541416 501598
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[Peter Lansky]


March 13, 2007

Pony Express aka Idjut Boys - Smoke Me / Barrel Roll

200712"DiscoBalearic

Both these tracks were on the Boys’ Press Play beardo mix, you’ll recall. The topside is a re-edit of “Lowrider,” an uphill battle from the start considering how much high school pep band muck that song’s been dragged through, but it ends up pretty nice here: fuzzed out percussion, horn riffs discombobulated by reverb and modest EQ FX, everything totally goofy-sounding in the way the song was probably intended. “Barrel Roll” is an edit of Haircut 100’s “Evil Smokestacking Baby,” a schmaltzy midtempo “roll the credits”-type power-jangleI guesshere further overblown.

White Label / COW 3
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[Nick Sylvester]


March 2, 2007

Tangoterje - On the Beach / Belladonna Edits

200612"Balearic

In the race to mine the archive of early eighties sounds, theres bound to be a few strange excavations. All kinds of bad music, not least of all disco (and its bastard progeny), have been dredged up, washed off, inspected, re-evaluated and finally defended: You dismiss Antillean ska-folk disco, but actually Perhaps this intro is just an indication of my ignorance, not to mention my cynicism, toward the excesses of a necessary and interesting process. There are lots of instances of maligned genres containing fascinating musical ideas, could we but overcome our prejudice and listen carefully. Wally Badarous music is a fine example on this tip.

Having said all that, Im failing to see what Todd Tango Terje does in Belladonna and On the Beach. To me at least, this is just MOR dreck thats been given far more attention than it deserves. Belladonna, (originally by Andreas Vollenweider), is a kind of elevator music epic that belongs on the soundtrack to Blame it on Rio, melding a Brazilian jazz sound to disco and a yucky ethnic female vocal. Likewise, On the Beach (originally by Chris Rea) has all the hallmarks of a 1983 promo video for a three star conference centre in the Bahamas. Perhaps theres more to it than that and (once again) this music is not being given its fair hearing. Okay, but you try listening to it. Blech.

Balearic Biscuits / bb04
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[Peter Chambers]


February 23, 2007

Richard Dorfmeister vs. Madrid De Los Austrias - Boogie No More Remixes

200712"Neo-DiscoBalearic

Call me a hater, but I find it really hard to summon words that could dignify anything called the “Kraak & Smaak Boogie Angst Remix.” Having said that, it’s not horrible, per se. In fact the Marrakesh-cum-gypsy vibe is rather charming, even if it’s the type of thing you’d shamefully hide from your friends of the Rotterdam or Cologne mindsets. Next gig I get at a swanky cocktail bar, though…

On the other hand, the Reverso 68 Remix is a beaut that allows the Taste of Honey sample to intrude precisely enough into the track. Which is a lot, but the best house music takes the overly familiar and recasts it in a funky new light. Vocals through delay, BPMs amped up, some ropey synths, live-sounding percussionyeah, we’ve heard it all before, but in the wee hours of the morning or at 2 in the afternoon, this is just the thing to have you jumping up and down. The kind of track that you hardly notice while it’s on and then later realize was the best thing you heard all night. Highly recommended for all energetic deep-house and neo-disco DJsit’s pliable without being overtly anthemic, and could quite comfortably spend most of the year in your crate without people rolling their eyes when you drop it.

G-Stone Recordings / GSMX2 027
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[Mallory ODonnell]


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