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 Buuel 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 Kitsun 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]


July 23, 2007

Jahcoozi - Reworks

200712"HouseLeftfield

Yet even more sweets for 2007’s remix piata. I’m not too familiar with Jahcoozi’s glitchy dub-pop stylings, but the “name” remixers piqued my interest here, and deliver three eargrabbing pieces of lively and stripped down house music. Leading things off is the nicely titled “Robert Johnson 6AM X-Ray Italo Rework” of “Ali McBillls” by Playhouse boss Ata and Moodmusic’s Sasse. It starts off a bit like an old MRI or Force Tracks record (dubby stabs on 2 and 4), punctuated by a heavily flanged snare at the beginning of each measure. As it progresses, things get slimier, with some disco-dub effects, pulsating eighth-note synths, and posh female vocals (”My Daddy’s rich but I don’t admit it”). There’s a line about Ally McBeal which is a bit cringeworthy, but thankfully it’s not so much a deterrent but a reminder of the fact that there are finger smudges in this chic pudding.

On the b-side, Arto Mwamb’s “Bubbles In The Bathtub Shake” remix of “Shake the Doom” is more straightforwardly housey, with simpler kick patterns and a two-note bassline. Arto maintains the interest level with an ever-shifting arrangement of staccato vocal chunks, colorful cymbal timbres, and a sneaky little chord progression revealed at the end. Cassy, Miss Panoramabar herself, remains in fine form with her own take on “Shake The Doom”. Similar in sound to her recent single with A Guy Called Gerald, this is a cyclic minimal house cut in love with its taut, old skool sounding drum rhythms. Yet it doesn’t feel flat or indulgent to me, as there’s a lot of spring to this remix’s step. Maybe I have a soft spot for drums that sound like they are made of rubber (i.e. they feel very flexible, yet still give a strong attack), but Cassy seems to get endless mileage out of this drum sound with only one vocal and keyboard loop laid on top.

Careless / LESS007
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


July 10, 2007

Wild Rumpus - Musical Blaze-Up

200712"Neo-DiscoReggae

The premise of Wild Rumpus’ new single must’ve been born from Basement Jaxx’s candy-coated dreams. It’s hard to say what type of fairy would deliver these visions of reggae-disco while a slide guitar dances in our heads. I can only imagine that the Rumpus duo of legends, DJ Cosmo and Gary Lucas, must have a winged costume or two in their closets. But enough about the premise, here’s how the single starts: with just a marching drum fill. And that might be as fine a start as any to throw out those catch-alls like “anything goes” or “glorious mess” for such an eclectic stew.

From Lucas’ taut riffs, to the toasters’ telling it to ‘em, to the reggae hiccup, each part is finely crafted together. Without a whiff of cashed-in novelty, Musical Blaze-up isn’t just willing to take catchphrases like “sound system hoedown” of “bluegrass reggae” to the bank. And neither are any of the remixes. Rub-n-Tug’s Bitches mix shoots the song into the stratosphere and sees what happens to it in zero gravity, Rob Mello returns this Jaxx offshoot to its jacking roots, and Cosmo herself makes sure that dub itself doesn’t get snubbed in this summertime stroll.

Bitches Brew / BITCH-012
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


June 5, 2007

Oto Gelb / Daniel Wang - Magical Yellow Sound From Germania / Look Ma, No Drum Machine!

20071990s12"HouseDisco

It’s likely that over the past year or so, “disco edits” have been clogging up the new releases page on your favorite vinyl retailer’s website. Now that any chimp (let alone human) can freely acquire an editing programming like Audacity within a few mouse clicks, we are all that much closer to being exposed to Rising Disco-Tech Producer #56 extending the introduction to a favorite or obscure disco/new wave track by four minutes, and paying for the privilege to hear it. All together now: “And then I was discouraged by YOU!”

At their best, disco edits reveal hidden potential in otherwise imperfect tracks, and/or turn you on to a new set of tracks to dig for. The Idjuts Boys’ series of re-edit CDs on Noid takes this one step further by adding in new material, overdubbed effects, and wilder arrangements to the original source material. But it’s negligible how many edits actually need to be released on vinyl, especially when the original artists/tracks are rarely credited.

Daniel Wang seem frustrated at this state of edits too, and seemingly in a response to raise the level of re-arranging discourse, has reactivated his Balihu label with two edit-friendly releases of his own. The first is a new release of disco edits under the name Oto Gelb, with a press release that justifies itself by saying “[this is] music you just can’t make on a laptop, and that’s why it’s so good.” I hate to be an equally bitter pill, but there is not much to get excited about here, unless the idea of disco versions of Bach and Debussy tick your novelty sensors. This version of Bach’s “Air On A G-String” does give me a suave and sentimental feeling though, as if I was visiting Dimitri from Paris in an old folks home twenty years from now.

The second release is a reissue of Wang’s debut EP from 1993, Look Ma, No Drum Machine, which is one of his most highly regarded works, thanks to “Like Some Dream (I Can’t Stop Dreaming)” being a long time staple of disco and house DJs. And the track still works a treat, pasting an emotionally tense vocal snippet from Sleeque’s “One For The Money” onto a blank disco drums canvas, effectively flattening the tension into some kind of detached wonder. Actually, the entire EP is made up of sampled disco records, and while it was a common practice at the time for deep house records to work off a disco sample, Wang’s material here has more of a raw and homemade feel to it. On the b-side, “Gotta Get Up” is as fine a disco-house number as you can get without using a bassline, “Warped” falls a little flat if you’ve heard “Time Warp” from Disco Not Disco 2, and “Get Up, Get Up” locks into a more soulish loop a la Theo Parrish’s Ugly Edits.

While both of these records feels more “angsty” than necessary, Look Ma is still worthy of your time, and should put Daniel back in the public eye with both DJs and MP3 bloggers, just in time for his upcoming full-length album.

Balihu / BAL 016
[Listen]
Balihu / BAL 001
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


May 31, 2007

Maximilian Skiba - Beginning

Six months ago I’d never heard of Maximilian Skiba. I chanced upon him in a record store, when I picked up a curiously scribbled-on EP with the suspiciously eccentric title “Apple of Disco” (see review here). My inquisitiveness was quickly rewarded with one of the kookiest, most interesting of EPs I’ve heard lately, fashioned through a form of electro soundscaping that moved between references, emotions, and structures more times within the space of one track than some mnml labels have in their whole back-catalogue. Without being a slavish Moroder/Carpenter cribber or dogmatically retro (*cough* Legowelt *cough*), Skiba laid out a ruggedly individual imprint that screamed “talented eccentricity” through a Moog Vocoder and a disco breakdown.

But this is something else. Gone is the hyper reverential work, in its place, tooth-loosening machine electro that kicks harder than a methed up drag queen in a burst of jealous rage. “Transphormer” spreads its muscular legs all over the A, galloping along at 45 with plenty of pressure for the peaktimeand in fact, the perfect “scene” for this record is a catfight between the aforementioned drag queen and his/her unfortunate partner. Sydney Roy (sounding very close to Siegfried and Roy) revs things up for his remix with a dose of “boots and pants”, reigning in the quirk and losing the great touch of Skibas original in the process. The B2 is another gem, “Bye-Bye c64″ it’s one of those tracks you fall into, come down with, or break up to like Todd Terjes “Eurodans” or Closer Musiks beautiful “Maria”, this is a real sentimentalists treat. Eyes on the young Pole.

Eva / EVA 006
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 10, 2007

Move D - Ac1D

Being both a sucker for Modern Loves polished, neo-classical adult contemporary listening techno AND Move Ds deep, lovely jazz influenced, IDM-inflected deep/minimal/tech/house vibrations, I was doubly determined to give Ac1d as unsympathetic a listening as possible. If we are to spurt praise, let us at least align and aim the gush cannon, as it were. Yet spurt I must, or squirt at leastonce again David Moufang has dug deep and offered up two subtle, satisfying pieces of dubbed-out tech-house.

Ac1d, the A, moves through a repeating, decaying padded acid groove, whilst rich, textural elements (bleeps, vocal snatches, snipped squelch effects) are flung by. Were close by the Luomo of Vocalcity here, where straight beats belie hidden depths that surge out at large volumes, or intimate strange feelings if left in the background. Sheffield Dance is a little more retro and less effective, beginning from a waddling bassline and building toward an emotional release that curves too slowly and releases too littlebut works well as an ebbing, fading track, slowly dying away like five AM.

Modern Love / Modern Love 028
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 2, 2007

Andres Bucci - Chocopanda EP

Andres may not be the most famous of the three Chilean Bucci brothersthat distinction would go to his brother Pierbut as his debut solo release proves, he might just be the funkiest. Opener Get Up bounces around with some inspired, elastic layers of percussion, shifting time signatures, and a schwerving bottom end, conjuring classic Mr. Oizo crossed with Villalobos and Luciano. Sentinel follows the same sonic template, albeit with a more consistent, insistent rhythm track, but still abuzz with echoing perc and rubbery static bass tones.

On the flip, Dandy Jack and the Vitteloni rework Get Up into a spaced-out abstraction that shuffles along until a more standard kicking rhythm comes in upon which to hang the stretched and turned noises from the original, as well as some well-placed and apparently friendly UFOs. Buccis version is more inventive, but those looking for something to mix with should head here. All in all, an impressive debut that twitches around with the best of his countrymens work.

Kupei Musika / 12S06
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


April 22, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 16

Theo Parrish - Children of the Drums (Sound Signature)
Genre: Detroit

Peter Chambers: Children of the Drum contains all those elements that make Parrishs music ticka descending mesmer-melody thats used as backdrop for rolling percussion (beautifully played by Jerry the Cat), a vocal very high in the mix, and these crazy drum machine patterns in the distant background somewherebongos going quietly bonkers.

Lovebirds - Modern Stalking (Winding Road Records)
Genre: House, Neo-disco

Audion - Mouth To Mouth Remixes (Spectral Sound)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Cortney Tidwell - Dont Let the Stars Keep Us Tangled Up (Ever Records)
Genre: Electro-House

Sly Mongoose - Bad Pulse (Mule Musiq)
Genre: House, Neo-Disco

Nick Sylvester: Sped up just 8-10 BPM or so would make this hotly tipped Japanese producers latest a-side a primetime player at a disco-edit party, though theres something special to how the track works at the slightly languorous tempo it ships with: the toms sound deeper and hold out with pitch, the percussive grit of the rhythm guitar scraping hits harder, the piano fills up what space is left.

Digitaline - Anticlockwise (Cadenza)
Genre: Minimal-Tech

Tiny Sticks vs. Mental Groove - Killing Your Ghost (Mental Groove/Tiny Sticks)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Electro-House

Jrgen Paape - Speicher 47 (Kompakt Extra)
Genre: Minimal/Deep, Techno

Convextion - Miranda Remixes (Matrix)
Genre: Techno, Dub

Todd Hutlock: The original mix is a damn fine piece of second-wave Detroit techno, all jumping rhythms, dubbed-out keyboard stabs, and ring-modulated riffage, but fuck, this aint the second coming of Strings of Life or something.

Weekly Staff Charts
Beatzcast #28: Crambe Repetita


April 19, 2007

Convextion - Miranda Remixes

200712"TechnoDub

Dallas native Gerald Hanson originally released Miranda as an untitled cut way back in 1995, as the first release on Sean Deasons Matrix label. As it was a small pressing and unavailable for many years, it has grown and grown in stature exponentially since then, buoyed by lots of club play from famous jocks. Now, Hanson finally cashes in by repressing the original mix and adding three new remixes in a very limited (1,200 copies worldwide) double pack. The hype has been ridonkulous, and after waiting for months and through several delays (apparently there was a pressing-plant/mastering issue or something) that served only to stoke the flames even further, I felt lucky as hell just to get a copy. So the question on everybodys lips is, of course: is the hype justified?

Well, no, of course not. The original mix is a damn fine piece of second-wave Detroit techno, all jumping rhythms, dubbed-out keyboard stabs, and ring-modulated riffage, but fuck, this aint the second coming of Strings of Life or something. I mean, its good, and I can say from experience that it sounds great in a club through the big system, but it hardly makes the top 10 Detroit techno tracks of all timemaybe top 30.

The remixes by Deason (as Psykofuk), Deep Chord, and Echospace are a bit of a letdown too. Deason doesnt do nearly enough with it (sounds like he just turned up the kick drum, sped up the tempo a bit, and added a fairly useless vocal sample, none of which the original needed), and ends up with what amounts to a decent Jeff Mills-esque track. Deep Chord and Echospace both turn in 12-minute Basic Channel-style cosmic dub versions that are quite nice for what they are, but are hardly the stuff of legend. So in the final tally, rather than move heaven and earth (or knock over an ATM) to get one, you might be better advised to wait for the inevitable single-plate reissue that is sure to come around eventually. In the meantime, Im quite sure you can hear the original in clubs all year round and likely on some mix CDs in no time.

Matrix / MATRIX 1.5
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


March 27, 2007

40 Thieves - Point to the Joint

200712"Neo-Disco

I’ve never heard of Dan Hastie before, but I sort of feel embarrassed for him. The press release for this release touts it as having keyboards by the “insanely talented Dan Hastie,” resulting in said phrase being in nearly every blurb written about this release. To the point: there might be some truth to it, as Hastie’s keys lift up “Point to the Joint,” a smooth and laid-back synth-disco number, to an area where it becomes more than just good background music. I can’t say the same about the thin-sounding remix by the Electric Boogie Band, who seem to be more in love with the sound of dubbed out disco than actually creating something memorable. “Ding Dong Moment” on the B is only a couple steps away from being on a 1998 Chill Out compilation, but remains a pleasant listen.

Smash Hit Music / SHMEP 07
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


— Next Page »