September 17, 2007

Modeselektor - Happy Birthday!

Actually Modeselektor are excited to become cartoons. The group’s last couple of album covers are giddily aware of it. Inside the cover for Happy Birthday! and on its portly made-for-CD running-time, Modeselektor pound away with ACME anvils and beep beep through open ranges—covering the distance between bangers and ballads. Or, to be fair, it’s just bangers and ballads. That’s it.

Let’s not take away from Modeselektor’s strengths though, the pair is also good at bastardizing genres and music scenes. Their debut album wasn’t named Hello Mum! for no reason. Happy Birthday! just begs to be described in a pragmatic word like “chock-full,” but here’s an overlooked factoid—it’s the first album to be graced by one Thom Yorke which isn’t worried about being tasteful with a capital T.

Being tasteless suits the band just fine. With “2000007,” it also lets them out-prefuse Prefuse 73. Not stuck explaining their exquisite band name or racial politics must be fun, because it definitely sounds a helluva lot more brash and exciting than what Scott Herren is doing these days. The track might be in the genre-netherworld between glitch-hop and euro-crunk, but it’s definitely an unabashed sequel to group’s last album opener with the French rap group TTC.

Modeselektor continue to gleefully plunder their own past as well as others for inspiration throughout the 18 tracks. One notable choice is Scooter and their Teutonic happy-hardcore schlockfest, “Hyper Hyper.” The original isn’t waiting to be rediscovered anytime soon, which makes Modeselektor’s locked-jaw and straight-faced cover even more perfect. Enlisting Otto Von Schirach for the vocal role of Wizard-gone-Return to Oz, with a couple flying monkeys in tow, “Hyper Hyper” is bound to make another generation of kids yell for hardcore all over again.

When the tempo slows, the duo is wise to make their music just as sonically juicy and epic. On their collaboration with Apparat, “Let Your Love Grow,” the group let a field of bulbous synths and trip-hop drum patterns sprout around Paul St. Hilaire, ending up with a dead ringer for Massive Attack. The track is a highlight but one that’s sure to be trumped in notoriety by “The White Flash.” The group’s best contribution to “White Flash” is to let Thom Yorke do what he does best (i.e. play lost angel in our dystopia and moaning into the abyss), and Yorke is perfectly laconic in return—he even twists the euphoric “you have all the time in the world” into something preciously fleeting.

Happy Birthday! constantly reminds me of something Vitalic said in an interview—”I like people screaming in the sound with explosions.” When Modeselektor don’t try to fit every scream and explosion into its folds, the album sags. Tacks like “BMI” and “The Wedding Toccata Theme” sound dull when set against the cartoon-ish extremes of a song like “The First Rebirth,” which comes alive by being chopped and crunked before your ears. Luckily, most of Happy Birthday! finds Modeselektor being so busy being loony tunes that there’s little time to sit still and be bored.

Bpitch Control / BPC 159CD
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


September 12, 2007

Lopazz - Fuck Me!

A contemporary quandary: if a piece of music isn’t on Discogs, does it exist? I’m beginning to wonder the same thing about myself: without the mirror of myself on Facebook or Myspace (I refuse, I refuse), it’s easy to forget that you “are”. But here is Gigolo #211, a three track EP not noted by Discogs (likely because it’s an internet-only release,) but written by Lopazz in collaboration with Deafny Moon and Savas Pascadilis.

In moving to Gigolo, Lopazz has done the expected and grown in sawteeth and electroid muscles, producing three different tracks that attack the need to groove from three distinct angles: one spooky, one rumble-buzzing, and one poppy. “Fuck Me!” represents the first of the three takes for a dark Ivan Smagghe-ish electro-pop number where the lyric “hold your hand” could easily be mistaken for “gland” in the back room of some seedy nightspot. “What Should I Do” meanwhile rolls over itself like a clumsy polarbear tripping over Metope’s Nord Micromodular, while “Watermelon Man” takes Savas Pascadilis’ voice for a ride into the foolish world of slap-bass minimal disco, creating something not unlike pre-neotrance Schaben and Voss. This is all good stuff, but there’s some intangible factor missing for me to really recommend it. And judging by the high standard set by Lopazz’ recent material, this single is likely to be of middling interest. If indeed it does exist.


International Deejay Gigolos
/ Gigolo 211
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


September 10, 2007

San Serac - Professional

It often seems that the sincere ones are the most susceptible to disappearing in the future. Is that ironic or realistic? I think back to the half-remembered NYC indie/new wave group My Favorite, who channeled and built upon the literate poetry and angst of The Smiths and New Order better than any other group I’ve heard. But there wasn’t anything flashy or shockingly innovative about My Favorite’s music, and the fact that they always wore their earnestness on their sleeves eventually sealed their fate to obscurity.

I bring up My Favorite in relation to San Serac because Professional makes a case for the two groups being kindred spirits (not to mention that SS did do a remix for My Favorite’s swansong, The Happiest Days Of Our Lives). However, San Serac, fitting more into the growing indie-dance community, has a more marketable flash in his pan to overcome tags of “sophistication” and “maturity”.

That flash comes from an deeper set of musical influences than your average Ed Banger types, moving beyond the standard Daft Punk aping and post-punk racket to also include a sincere love of ’80s R&B, Funk, Freestyle and, dare I say it, Yacht Rock. The slightly peevish vocals from SS mastermind Nat Rabb may not sound too different from a standard !!! or LCD Soundsystem record (even if he can do a good Bowie impression), but you never get the feeling he is putting you on, even as he is namedropping Luis Buńuel films, rhyming “commission” with “extradition”, and describing his plans for nihilstic love. This unbridled affection manifests itself in small ways throughout the record, but one of the key tip-offs is “The Black Monolith”, a rather heartfelt quiet storm number that could’ve easily been played for raised eyebrows and theatrical pastiche.

If there’s one criticism I might throw at Professional, its that some of the arrangements might be a bit overcooked for dance floor play, a qualm that is actually resolved by the CD’s addition of four dubbed out tracks (billed “for DJs only”) that follow the album proper. For the most part, San Serac has me excited about a fusion of indie rock and dance that is more sophisticated than the Modular or Kitsuné template. Garish and more distorted blog-house artists will get more words written about them, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a classier indie-dance record in 2007 than Professional.

Frogman Jake / FMJ 23
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


September 9, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Weeks 33, 34, & 35

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 01
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 02
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 03

Pikaya - Cambrium (Cadenza)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: This is not house so much as the ivy that clings to it.

Will Saul & Lee Jones - Hug the Scary
(Aus Music)
Genre: Minimal/Tech, Electro-House

Charts: August 23 2007

Gavin Mueller’s guide to Ghettotech

Future Loop Foundation - The Sea and the Sky (Louisiana Recordings)
Genre: House, Neo-Disco

Osborne - Outta Sight (Spectral Sound)
Genre: Acid, House

Nate DeYoung: If we’re heading into the last days of summer, then by all means let it be soundtracked by shimmering piano-house.

Brendon Moeller - Jazz Space (Third Ear)
Genre: Techno, Dub

False - False (M_nus)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

Andy Stott - Fear of Heights
(Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Minimal/Deep

Peter Chambers: As a child, I used to build my Lego castles as per the instructions, but only the first time. The subsequent re-builds would slowly deviate, riffing around the structures of the original but adding, subtracting and supplementing elements, to the point where my later creations were unrecognisable as mutants of the original.

Tobias Thomas - Please Please Please (Kompakt)
Kaito - Contact to the Spirits (Kompakt)

Nina Phillips: Thomas is too busy crafting to see the dancers looking back at him from the floor. No wonder this was mixed live—in an empty dance club in Cologne.

V/A - Grand Cru 2007 (Connaisseur)
V/A - Rekids One (Rekids)

Nina Phillips: If you build bangers, they will come.


Wiley - Playtime Is Over
(Big Dada)

Chris Gaerig: Playtime Is Over proves that Wiley truly does run the grime game. Hell, he’s the only one left.

Arsenal - The Coming (Idjut Boys Mixes) (Play Out!)
Genre: Downtempo, Balearic

Beatzcast #47: Crambe Repetita

Deepchord Presents Echospace - The Coldest Season (Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Techno

Todd Hutlock: Basic Channel effectively invented the wheel of this genre, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t admire the latest models to roll off the modern assembly line.


August 30, 2007

Brendon Moeller - Jazz Space

200712"TechnoDub

Beatz regulars might be familiar with my rendering of “Abletonitis”, the disease which seems to infect every promising Ableton-arranged track with the “limitations of almost infinite possibility”. Somehow, in being able to do almost everything, the program seems to prevent most people from doing, well, anything. Instead of painstakingly hand-programming drum patterns, writing hooks, and making sure the phrasing of all the instruments swing together as one on the one, you just stretch, mute, transpose, and if things are getting boring, drop in a ping-pong delay. Presto! The recent release of Robag Wruhme’s The Lost Archives function as Exhibit A in showing the corrosive effects of this sickness on talented producers, showing how lazy, formulaic and FX-dependent so many interesting music makers have become due to such “amazingly streamlined workflow” and the “incredible drag and drop VST plugins”.

Moeller’s Jazz Space should be just another victim of this epidemic, but somehow, the EP is more like the soundtrack documenting Moeller’s overcoming of the illness by doing pitched battle with several bouts of its symptoms. Sonically, we’re very much in the territory of T++ and Monolake, with dry, granular, and planar sounds rolling through spacetime, their flow interrupted by eruptions of parameter-tweaking breakdowns, which are kept in check by big, deep, round basslines.

“Pink Noise” reaches such proximity to Momentum-era Monolake that you’d have to flag a co-write on it, while “Jazz”, with its warm, friendly micro-boompty feel sidles up very close to Robag’s work on Vakant. But it’s “Space” which goes someway toward staking out Moeller’s very own place on the moon, working intimations of early new-millenium Force Inc into something approaching its own musical identity. While not nearly as accomplished or atmospheric as some of the recent Deepchord material, Jazz Space lays out a musical question-mark that flags the possibility of another talent taking their dub-tech workflow all the way to the cold satellites (and back), in a way that entertainingly re-frames the tried and true template of this narrow but seemingly inexhaustible sound-vein.

Third Ear / 3EEP 068
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


August 23, 2007

Will Saul & Lee Jones - Hug the Scary

Best served with a sigh, the “micro-epic” genre is as microscopic and widespread as a virus. It’s an oxymoron, but if I’m allowed to be so blunt, such fucktard names are known to have staying power (hello IDM!). And that doesn’t account for the reserve force of progressive house rejects like James Holden and Minilogue, who lovingly craft odes against the law of normal distribution - think minimal and maximal squashed together.

If there’s one image and tone that seems to inspire these folks, it’s that of looking straight up – either as becoming bubble-laden dolls stuck in bathtubs or fluorescent skies. The latest of these neck-breakers comes from Aus label-boss Will Saul and Lee Jones (of My My fame). While “Hug the Scary” might have the bleary-eyes to run into flowers, the track also has a gravity that won’t allow it to expand and contract as far as pulling muscles.

I’d be hard pressed to mistake “Scary” for cotton candy despite its flickering arpeggiator and billowing melodies. Instead there’s a grace to the track that hits tempered minor keys as well as blistering swells without sounding disjointed for a second. Which is as good of a description as any for Partial Art’s recent single, “Trauermusik.” Partial Arts, aka Ewan Pearson and Al Usher, do not derail the momentum of the title cut, but they streamline it and add enough fizz to leave you hiccupping.

Aus Music / AUS0707
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


August 23, 2007

Pikaya - Cambrium

I recently rediscovered my CD copy of Gescom’s Minidisc. To those who are unfamiliar with the album, it’s comprised of eighty-something short tracks: rhythmic loops; spooky atmospheres; crunchbeats – the building blocks of an Autechre album laid bare, and a view onto the unarranged organs of a functional set. It was originally designed to be played on shuffle with a minidisk player, which meant that the album never played the same way twice, producing thousands of combinations of mixes. iTunes has given this album a new lease on life, because not only does it randomise the tracks and mix them gaplessly, it can also fade them into each other, resulting in both amazing and awful mixes. The only problem is the arrhythmic flam that you get when one beat crosses another out of phase…but once Apple releases a version of iTunes that can beat match, it’s bye-bye DJ.

I’ve done a similar thing with my collection of Cadenza EPs, which I play in a similar fashion, leaving the 4.6 hours worth of material on at low volume in the background and letting them randomise and waft into each other. The open structures and aleatory nature of Cadenza’s tracks (avowedly so in the case of Digitaline) mean that the music seems to take pleasure in its own meandering. Needing no intervention, it scribbles and squiggles away the afternoon in its own way. It’s my very own automatic etch-a-sketch, and it draws monochrome flowers.

The playlist is evolving with every Cadenza release, and with the addition of this new Pikaya EP, it’s grown in dub and daub, adding ornamental flourishes and deep-thrown effects to the labels’ prototypical boom-click/plip-plop skeleton. Pikaya’s debut on Cadenza came with “Grüne Raufaser” the b-side on the split they shared with Andomat 3000 and Jan’s more boisterous and successful “Entr’acte Music”. It was a track that always hinted at introducing a major theme, but never really delivered on this tease. Both “Fango” and “Jedi” offer the similar sense of imminent drama (which never quite materialises, it’s stuck teetering on the verge), and at high volumes they provide useful tension as foregrounding tracks to be mixed in before “Mr Big Hooks”. At low volumes (when the tracks return to being my living room wallpaper) this also works as part of the overall Cadenza strategy. This is not house so much as the ivy that clings to it.

Cadenza / CADENZA 17
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


August 21, 2007

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 02

Mixes2007

VARIOUS ARTISTS - FREESTYLE ESSENTIALS 02
Mixed by Michael F. Gill

It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost every freestyle song deals with variations on love lost, love found, love lost again. But what sets the genre apart in this regard is how literal the emotional appeals are presented: no matter how overwrought and dramatic the vocals may seem, there is no winking or irony to be found on these records.

01. Debbie Harry - In Love With Love (Heart Of Fire Mix) - Geffen 1987
02. Connie - Funky Little Beat - Sunnyview Records 1985
03. Sly Fox - Como Tu Te Llama? - Capitol Records 1985
04. Noel - Silent Morning 4th and Broadway - 1987
05. Giggles - Love Letter Cutting/Atlantic - 1987
06. Will To Power - Dreamin’ - Epic 1987
07. Sweet Sensation Hooked On You Next Plateau 1986
08. Trinere - I’ll Be All You Ever Need - Jam Packed 1986
09. Sweet Sensation - Victim Of Love - Next Plateau 1987
10. TKA - Come Get My Love - Tommy Boy Music 1986
11. Pajama Party - Yo No Se - Atlantic 1988
12. Nayobe - Second Chance For Love - Fever Records 1986
13. Latin Rascals - Arabian Knights - Tin Pan Apple 1987
14. Sa-Fire - Let Me Be The One - Cutting Records 1987
15. Cover Girls - Because Of You - Fever Records 1987
16. Trinere - How Can We Be Wrong - Jam Packed 1986
17. Stevie B. - Dreaming Of Love - Lefrak-Moelis Records 1988
18. Stevie B. - In My Eyes - Lefrak-Moelis Records 1988
19. Johnny O. - Fantasy Girl - MicMac Records 1988
20. Stevie B - Spring Love - Lefrak-Moelis Records 1988


August 20, 2007

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 01

Mixes2007

VARIOUS ARTISTS - FREESTYLE ESSENTIALS 01
Mixed by Michael F. Gill

“People called it Latin hip-hop, but the pop producers didn’t want to use that term because hip-hop had negative connotations. So they started calling it freestyle.”

01. Shannon - Let The Music Play - Emergency Records 1983
02. Jellybean - The Mexican - EMI 1984
03. Lisa Lisa - I Wonder If I Take You Home - Columbia/CBS 1984
04. Nayobe - Good Things Come To Those Who Wait - Fever Records 1986
05. Amoretto - Clave Rocks - PKO Records 1986
06. Sa Fire - Love Is On Her Mind - Cutting Records 1988
07. Cover Girls - Show Me - Fever Records 1986
08. TKA - One Way Love - Tommy Boy Music 1986
09. Cover Girls - Inside Outside - Fever Records 1988
10. Nayobe - Please Don’t Go - Fever Records 1984
11. Alisha - All Night Passion - Vanguard 1984
12. Company B - Fascinated - Atlantic 1986
13. Expose - Point Of No Return - Arista 1985
14. Nocera - Summertime Summertime - Sleeping Bag Records 1986
15. Information Society - Running - Tommy Boy Music 1985
16. Debbie Deb - When I Hear Music - Jam Packed 1983
17. Debbie Deb - Lookout Weekend - Jam Packed 1984
18. Nice N’ Wild - Diamond Girl - Atlantic 1986
19. Judy Torres - No Reason To Cry - Profile Records 1986


August 5, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 31

Burial - Ghost Hardware (Hyperdub)
Genre: Dubstep

Nick Sylvester: If you can imagine yourself cooking bacon in a forest somewhere at night, and every so often just shouting a bit from “Genie in a Bottle” because you thought you heard a motorcycle engine in the distance, you’re halfway there.

DJ Naughty - World EP (Moodmusic)
Genre: Electro-House, Neo-Disco

Italoboyz - Viktor Casanova (Mothership)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Nate DeYoung: I’ll enjoy the sights of “fucked up girls trying to imitate the opera singer” as much as hearing the minimal percussion which delicately avoids overshadowing or under-lighting the track’s main attraction.

Ilya Santana - Quasar (Disciple of Groove)
Genre: Neo-Disco

Jupiter Black feat. Fred Ventura - Hold Me (Clone)
Genre: Italo

Michael F. Gill: Needless to say, if you found stuff like Ryan Paris, P. Lion, Ken Laszlo, and Eddy Huntington to be pure parmesan, you probably won’t be into this.

Beatzcast #44: Nate Deyoung

Nick Southall is feeling balearic while reviewing West Coast by Studio, and Future Rock by Strategy.

Nina Phillips is feeling trancey while reviewing Guy Gerber’s Late Bloomers and Stephan Bodzin’s Liebe Ist

Charles Merwin is hanging out in NYC, dancing with Tigercity

Todd Burns looks into the Outhud-ness of Delorean’s Transatlantic KK


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