September 19, 2007

Smith N Hack - Space Warrior

200712"Neo-Disco

Space is techno’s key fantasy. From Detroit to Moscow (via lower earth orbit), this is a music whose bedroomed machines have relentlessly beat out rhythms that dream of comet tales and gas giants. Starship Smith-N-Hack hits hyperspace blur right at this point, just as an eight bit melody rings out, and proceeds to do battle with the space invaders in a ship that looks like the Death Star gone disco – Darth’s daft mirror ball turned planetary assault machine.

“Space Warrior” begins with an ascending/descending eight-bit synth line which breaks into a pixelated rhythm just as the neon pads hit. When I play it loud, it makes the neighbour’s tomcat mewl in a way that suggests (as some have suspected) that cats are aliens after all. Or just horny and confused. Then the bassline grounds everything, colouring everything three shades more Italo for a moment until the lo-fi shenanigans of the “rayguns” start blasting away. There’s a touch of Legowelt at work in the madness, but none of the ironisation apparent in the work that Danny Wolfers relegates to the comments he makes around his music

If you can’t get the local felines going with “Space Warrior”, try them on the “Scratchapella” – without the drums holding all those rayguns carefully in place, the effect is the techno/laser-beam equivalent of an unmanned garden hose set to stun. “Falling Stars” begins very much like Roman Flügel’s remix of Audion’s “Just Fucking”, but quickly traverses any sexual fantasy to find itself among distant heavenly bodies. It glides beautifully, making it right across the galaxy in a little over nine minutes. Not bad for two geeks and their machines, is it? Forget all that new age twaddle, if you want to experience astral travel from the comfort of your own headphones/nightclub, this is just the (space) ticket.

Smith N Hack / Smith N Hack 03
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


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]


July 20, 2007

Charts: July 20 2007

The Beatz staff pick their favorite dance releases of 2007, so far…

Peter Chambers

Beck - Cellphone’s Dead (Villalobos Entlebuch Remix)
Lopazz - Share my Rhythm (Isolee mix) [Review]
Andy Stott - Handle with Care / See in Me [Review]
Kalabrese - Rumpelzirkus Part 1 [Review]
Efdemin/Carsten Jost - Split EP [Review]
Carsten Jost - Atlantis I & II
Kerri Chandler - Computer Games EP
Andy Stott - the Massacre EP [Review]
DJ Koze - All the Time EP [Review]
Len Faki - Rainbow Delta/Mekong Delta [Review]
Shackleton - Blood on my Hands (Villalobos mix) [Review]
Roman Fluegel - Mutter EP
Various - Death is Nothing to Fear Vol. 1 [Review]
Vulva String Quartett - Cranberry Song EP [Review]
Portable - Don’t Give Up (Remixes) [Review]
Syncom Data - Beyond the Stars (Remixes) [Review]
Ilya Santana - Discotized EP [Review]
DJ Koze vs. Sid le Rock - Naked (Koze remix) [Review]
Battles - Atlas (Koze mix) [Review]
Prosumer/Murat Tepeli - What Makes You Go For It? [Review]

Nate DeYoung

Lindstrom & Solale - Let’s Practice [Review]
Hatchback - White Diamond (Prins Thomas remix)
Audion - I Gave You Away [Review]
Partial Arts - Trauermusik [Review]
Motiivi:Tuntematon - I Don’t Feel Good [Review]
Efdemin - Just a Track [Review]
Beck - Cellphone’s Dead (Villalobos Entlebuch Remix)
Ame - Balandine [Review]
Argy - 1985 (Sydenham & Rune Remix) [Review]
Henrik Schwarz - Walk Music [Review]
Dixon - Resident Advisor #48

Todd Hutlock

cv313 - Dimensional Space EP [Review]
Lazy Fat People - Pixelgirl EP [Review]
Dominik Eulberg - Limikolen EP [Review]
Beck - Cellphone’s Dead (Villalobos Entlebuch Remix)
Luciano - No Model No Tool [Review]
Audio Werner - Flatfunk [Review]
Tony Allen - Ole (A Remix by Moritz Von Oswald) [Review]
Riton - Hammer of Thor
Adultnapper - Betty Crocker Moves to Berlin
Gaiser vs Heartthrob - Nasty Girl [Review]
The Field - From Here We Go Sublime [Review]
Gui Boratto - Chromophobia [Review]
DeepChord presents Echospace - The Coldest Season
Dominik Eulberg - Heimische Gefilde [Review]
Pantha Du Prince - This Bliss [Review]

Michael F. Gill

Sorcerer - Surfing After Midnight (Prins Thomas Remix) [Review]
Matt John - Soulkaramba [Review]
Jacek Sienkiewicz - Good Night & Good Luck [Review]
Shackleton - New Dawn / Massacre
Air - Lost Message [Review]
M.I.A. - Bittersuss [Review]
Escort - All That She Is [Review]
Voom Voom - Best Friend / Sao Verought Remixes
Frankie Valentine - Zumbi (Henrik Schwarz Dub Remix)
Kelley Polar - Rosenband (Instrumental)


June 27, 2007

Andomat 3000 and Jan - L Delay

200712"HouseCadenzaMinimal/Deep

About eight months ago, I had this to say about Andomat 3000 and Jan’s “big hit”:

“Entr’acte Music has got a grinding, slightly big-room and (dare I say) ‘tribal’ feel to it. It’s a little staid, but very effective.”

I think I was half right, as usual. Hearing the track dropped in between Deetron’s “Life Soundtrack” and Len Faki’s “Mekong Delta” (see review here) on Radioslave’s recent (and decent) Misch Masch compilation made me “hear” it properly for the first time. Here was a track with ass and teeth whose housed-up signifiers could freshen the deadened beats of any crabby old techno monster.

So here they are again, back to do battle with boompty basslines against the unhoused (homeless?) creatures who inhabit the mnml microverse of Cadenza, a sub-sub-genre that a half-sympathetic DJ friend calls “martini microhouse”. If we’re gonna ride those cocktails, then, to wit, these puppies are in the process of shakin’, with a Cajmere sweater and hot pants toned down a shade for jaded Swiss eyes. There’s a heavily reverberated horn stab and a fulsome kick on “L Delay” that sounds like it’s been sampled from wadaiko drums – it’s nice, it works. “Frost”, the B, takes a wiggly bassline and makes it roll to a clap, getting things rocking enough so when the congas want to get in on the action, the kick drums don’t mind. Toolish over time and sparse within space, “Frost” seems to want to do more, as if it was in search of a nice vocal. Maybe Green Velvet rapping about aliens or porno would do the trick? Anyway, the drums go boom, the kidz go aaah and if you’ve a troublesome vocal to mix out of, this rather plain track could save your fretting DJ ass.

Cadenza / CADENZA 15
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 25, 2007

Thinking Out Loud: Physical vs. Digital

Thinking Out Loud developed from a series of open-ended email conversations and ruminations between Beatz staff members. In this article, Michael F. Gill and Peter Chambers discuss the merits of dance music on vinyl and MP3.

(more…)


May 20, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 20

Battles - Atlas (Warp Records)
Genre: Leftfield

Peter Chambers: The two tracks seem to wind into each other, not so much remixes as silent halves of the other that mutually intimate, stroke, and ground. The diehard math-rockers will hate it, and it’s too weird for the functionally-obsessed dancefloors of the world, but that’s (also) why it’s one of the more interesting EPs of the year so far.

Water Lilly - Invisible Ink (Mental Groove)
Genre: Electro-House, Minimal/Deep

Minilogue - Elephant Parade (Wagon Repair)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Nate DeYoung: I’ve been told that Elephant Parade is a snorefest, and while I’m sure that’s the case for most people, I sleep on my belly.

Solomun & Stimming - Feuer & Eis (Diynamic)
Genre: House, Minimal/Deep

Escort - All Through The Night (Escort)
Genre: Disco

John Daly - Sky Dive (Plak Records)
Genre: Techno, Detroit

Skatebard - Vuelo (Radius)
Genre: Neo-Disco

Nick Sylvester: Makes me wonder whether I would have liked that Sally Shapiro album more if there was, cough, less Sally Shapiro.

Selway and Vincenzo - Dream Stealer (CSM)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

Weekly Staff Charts

Beatzcast #33: Crambe Repetita


May 14, 2007

Battles - Atlas

Perhaps the greatest irony of all was indeed that Alanis’ song in its praise was not ironic. An arguably lesser but still significant irony is that math rock, as a genre, a sound, a stance dedicated to remorseless intensity and rhythmic, timbral, and harmonic experimentation, has become, twelve years later, one of the most conservative and unchanging of all musical scenes (which of course they would disavow being on both counts). In a parallel to the drum’n’bass scene, perhaps anything with such a particular sound and intensity is bound to attract two groups of people: those keen for the new, and those mad for the sound. Where the former engorge themselves on the signifiers and grow full and tired before sleeping it off and moving on, the latter seem to have an almost inexhaustible desire for that sound and nothing but that sound…forever.

So I suggested to two (still) math-rocking friends that Battles’ new single marked an exciting new direction for a genre that had gone from being merely stagnant to somehow embodying the very essence of stagnation. But they both hate Battles, ever since they “turned electronic”. Nothing, apparently, will ever equal the heights of Don Caballero. To them, What Burns Never Returns is not a title but the site of worship, of mourning and of an unquenchable repetition-compulsion.

So Atlas is a kind of a betrayal and promise by a group who seem to want to actually enact the originally progressive spirit of Touch-and-Go. What is it? It riffs like a Thorogood beast, howls like The Knife, but schaffels with a vengeance. It’s a fantastic rock epic and a great track. But thank God for the Koze mix on the flip. It’s more than a matter of 1 + 1 = two good sides. Like all good EPs, there’s a quality-multiplying factor lent by the proximities of creative differences-in-common. Koze’s mix presents his typical “touch” based approach to sound, with twee melodies not unlike recent International Pony work but a structure and mood that conjures Aphex Twin. The two tracks seem to wind into each other, not so much remixes as silent halves of the other that mutually intimate, stroke, and ground. The diehard math-rockers will hate it, and it’s too weird for the functionally-obsessed dancefloors of the world, but that’s (also) why it’s one of the more interesting EPs of the year so far.

Warp Records / WAP219
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


April 4, 2007

Heartthrob vs. Troy Pierce / Gaiser vs. Heartthrob - MVS1

200712"Minimal/TechTechnoM_nus

The Minus roster is a fairly close-knit little circle—touring together, remixing each other, sounding more than a bit like each other—so it makes all the sense in the world for them to be making tracks together, as they do here on the first of what looks to be a new sub-series of “Versus” releases on the label. Maybe it’s the added aggro in the mix here, but these “battle” tracks are light years more interesting, lively, and downright fun than any tracks or remixes heard from this camp in a good long while.

Heartthrob takes on Troy Pierce on “Horse Nation Amended” with a dramatic spaghetti-western stance intro that soon breaks into a funky little rain dance, but the track’s secret weapon is the rolling locomotive of noises that lead into the fuzzed-up “ooh yeah yeah” and “bullshit” vocal samples that keeps it infectious and just the right side of lighthearted.

Further evidence of this is all over the flipside’s “Nasty Girl,” channelling Prince through Detroit minimal, peppering Gaiser’s trademark bubbling percussion fills with Heartthrob’s downlow rap about the track’s subject. You don’t expect humor and good-time dancefloor antics from Hawtin’s crew, which is a shame because apparently they do it very well, better than most in fact. Minus has never grooved this hard or sounded this loose, and it fits them to a tee. Hopefully we’ll get more of this and less cookie-cutter minimal from them in the near future.

Minus / MINUS 47
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


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-jangle—I guess—here further overblown.

White Label / COW 3
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


June 16, 2006

Hug - The Platform

Greg Bird of [Kontrol], a San Francisco minimal techno powerhouse, once said to a friend of mine that “techno is the best when you can’t tell if it’s house or techno.” The Platform is exactly that sort of release … techno, sure, but I’ll be damned if there isn’t a serious electrohouse thing going on at the same time. Opening with titular track “The Platform,” John Dahlbäck booms and bleeps his way through a DJ-friendly intro before loose, electrified snares, (dare I say) pleasantly sloppy, and clear tone swells give way to a beautiful series of electro chimes. A minute or so later, he unleashes a delightfully obtrusive bass that gets things really going, breaking down, and going again. “The Chopper,” which may as well be called “The Stomper,” is a speedy space battle in a damaged ship. Dodging most of the asteroids, and unmoved by the explosions in the distance, Hug flies through the galaxy discerningly blasting enemy ships with his techno lasers. “Faceless is More” is the perfect after-hours, backroom track to calm down after the dancefloor smoke has cleared. Hug shows us the Platform and raises the bar.

K2 / K2 12
[Cameron Octigan]


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