September 21, 2007

Beatzcast #49: Crambe Repetita


Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music…

01: Maxime Dangles - Love Water [buy]
02: Shlomi Aber & Itamar Sagi - Blonda [buy]
03: Schaeben & Voss feat. Schad Privat - Put Up Job [buy]
04: Pan-Pot - Charly [buy]
05: Einmusik - Wave Scanner [buy]
06: REshuffle - Paparatzi [buy]
07: Kevin Saunderson - Till We Meet Again (Carl Craig Remix) [buy]

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July 6, 2007

Theo Parrish - Sound Sculptures Volume 1


Like most well-known Detroit techno producers, Theo Parrish is as much a shrewd marketer as he is a talented musician. Since so much of what comes out of Detroit is shrouded in mystery, one needs to be really clued-in to all the limited edition vinyl, homemade CD-Rs, and mail-order labels to try to make some sense of what is going on in the scene. Having talked about this with people from the Detroit area, I get the sense that this protectiveness often stems from a demand that the listener take the music seriously. But there’s a reason why someone like Omar-S, with his handwritten vinyl sleeves, 12 inches that play inside-out, and one-sided white labels, has created a stir in techno geek circles the past couple years, and it ain’t just the music.

If you’ve been following minimal and techno the past year or so, you’ll have noticed that house and soul have been turning up more and more as an influence (or as a no-longer-latent fetish). What with Antonelli naming his last single after Bobby Konders, Efdemin’s “Just A Track” based on a Chicago styled preachapella, Ame writing “WILD PITCH I LUV U” on the back of their singles, the growing ubiquity of Schwarz/Ame/Dixon’s “Where We At”, Carl Craig remixes, and Larry Heard’s “The Sun Can’t Compare”, as well as the popularity of openly Detroit/deep house themed labels from Europe (Innervisions, Philpot, Delsin, Styrax), demands for jackin’ are high.

It’s the perfect time then for Theo Parrish to release this new triple LP on his own Sound Signature label. With the residual love from Carl Craig’s remix of “Falling Up” still coming in, Sound Sculptures Volume 1 arrives with high expectations, and a hefty import price if you live outside the States. The extra exposure might explain why Sculptures sounds like a more streamlined and accessible version of Parrish’s music, although you can’t really say it’s watered down. As always, the vibe here is as much mechanical as it is soulful. No matter how organically jazzy or funky the music gets, it’ll always be stymied by some hard-boiled drums and extremely tight programming and editing. What’s missing on these nine tracks is Theo’s wild sense of vocal juxtaposition and gratitutious use of live EQing, the stuff that often works miracles in his live sets, but can be more frustrating to plow through on his studio albums. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has problems listening to Natural Aspirations (released by Parrish’s collective group The Rotating Assembly), where vocals either sit too high or low in the mix, and are set against music which seems completely incongruous.

Listening to Sculptures in comparison is a piece of cake: everything here goes down smoothly and easily. The first three sides are actually pretty concise, almost song-oriented. “Second Chances” open things up strongly with vocalist Monica Blaire impressively soloing and vamping around a four line refrain and some subdued piano/rhodes lines. “The Rink” is very similar to Theo’s Ugly Edits series, where a couple of very short soul/disco samples are chopped up, put against each other, and then looped for five or six minutes. The final three sides are all extended eleven minute workouts, including album highlight “Soul Control” (another vocal showcase, this time for Alena Waters) and the rather straightforward acid-tech groove of “Synethic Flemm”, which was engineered by the aforementioned Omar S.

As far as a potential crossover release goes, Sound Sculptures does its job. It’s representative of Theo’s sound, it’s consistent from front to back, and there are some great standout tracks. For long time fans, it may feel a bit redundant, a bit safe. To me, there is still enough of a distinctive “soulful” (for lack of a better word) quality to this music that comes across as tangible, even when motifs are being heavily repeated. I’d almost even equate such a feeling to eating corn on the cob: it’s hard to not walk away from the experience with some flavor stuck in your teeth.

Sound Signature / SS 026 / 027 / 028
[Michael F. Gill]

July 3, 2007

Zander VT - Dig Your Own Rave

Redshape’s remix of “Then and Before” is one of those heavily touted tracks that makes me wonder if I’ve become the grump that cries wolf. Doused in the best tricks that Carl Craig has to offer, “Then and Before” has the build-build-build formula that storms dancefloors as well as offers a few head rushes along the way. But to me, it mistakes a “willingness to please” for pleasure. Each breakdown just sounds so amiable when it should bite, every string swoons when it should chop.

With my prickly attitude towards Redshape’s remix, I wonder how I can give a free pass to a song named “Dig Your Own Rave.” Zander VT’s title cut here does wobble in the mid-frequency pleasure-center the spot that makes kids go wild for dance music in places where the kids don’t typically go wild or dance to music. But “Dig Your Own Rave” doesn’t hit that spot hard enough. It caresses, gives room (or air) to expand and contract, to breathe. And when it expands, with cubist handclaps and just the slightest touch of schaeffel, every flourish is not just earned but sounds necessary. Since all of this is coming from me, Id like to point out that even liars tell the truth sometimes.

Memo / MEM06
[Nate DeYoung]

May 29, 2007

Various Artists - Shut Up And Dance! Updated

All too often when I admit my passion for techno music to someone, the image that they conjure up is far from my own perception of it. To them, the word seems to imply a sound of hard and infinitely spiralling industrial loops; in short, music for drugged up idiots with their shirts off. This stigma that seems to stem from the more aggressive side of 90s techno has proved hard to shake from the everymans psyche, and is one of the main reasons why minimal has proved such a popular term for DJs, producers, and fans alike as they desperately try to distance themselves from the boorish connotations that many people draw with the genre.

The minimal techno (no matter how “minimal” a lot of these so called tracks are) scene seems to have manufactured an image for itself that suggests an intelligence behind the music and its creation, whilst simultaneously being extremely danceable and able to assert transcendental experiences on the dancefloor through innovative sound design. Some of the more rockist critics may scoff at this supposed ideology, writing it off as yet another excuse for hedonists in their twenties to go out and take as many drugs as they can get hold of, but the same criticism could be levelled to almost any other style of music. Would they say, for example, that punk meant nothing because a high proportion of the audiences were high on speed? Another argument aimed towards techno as a mindless, pedestrian form of art focuses on its simplistic rigidity of structure. Whilst its true that 99 per cent of tracks share uniformity through their 4/4 time signature, it is this theoretical canvas that allows producers to concentrate on the finer details and layers within the music, in addition to maximising the benefits that stem from using patterns and repetition to absorb the listener into the sound.

Electronic evangelists such as myself may even stick their necks out on the line to say that modern techno music is high art at its peak of visceral effectivity; marrying artistry and craftsmanship with sheer functionality to create an end product that is capable of stirring the minds, hearts, and feet of even the most casual observers. Obviously there are exceptions to this sweeping statement, but there are many stables of artists that almost certainly subscribe to this way of thinking. The prime example of this would be Berlins Ostgut Ton label; an anomaly in todays scene as its owners are also the proprietors of the infamous Berghain club. The club itself can even be seen in an artistic light; the unused power station being the perfect structural homestead for the machine music that inhabits its interior, whilst the Panoramabar upstairs hosts a painting by Turner prize winning German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans.

The labels latest venture, Shut Up And Dance! Updated, sees them consciously attempt to bring techno music closer to being accepted as a form of high art by creating a project that merges the music with a form of dance that has been part of the high art status quo for centuries ballet. The highly regarded Berlin Staatsballet are the chosen collaborators, and Ostgut have roped in an equally elite cast of producers to provide their soundtrack. me, Luciano, NSI (aka Tobias Freund and Max Loderbauer), Sleeparchive, and Luke Slater (as The 7th Plain) are the chosen few that were cherry picked to submit compositions, and all of the artists were given no instructions as to how the music should sound.

NSI open up the body of work with their effort, entitled “Bridge and Tunnel People”, which is possibly a comment on the suburban ballet fans travelling to the industrial locale of Berghain to sample the delights of the citys vibrant techno scene (read more about the phrase here). The track begins with a section of typical orchestral instruments; a delayed harp, looped string section and a cascading piano, slowly building in intensity until the sounds are enveloped by rumbling bass and chaotic synth stabs that usher in the beat. The fourteen and a half minute piece continues to develop throughout, delicately segueing between and merging the sounds generally associated with both the techno and ballet worlds, and as such, is a perfect opening gambit for what is to come.

After the turbulent synergy of the opener, Sleeparchive contributes what is (as youd expect from him) the most resoundingly minimalist track of the five; conjuring up a slowed down techno track that works its way from low frequency throbs and buzzes to wonky high frequency synth loops, removing them a minute from the end to give the music a sense of spaciousness that is only amplified by the low tempo. Sleeparchives sparse ending provides the perfect ending to flow into the compilations centrepiece, mes seventeen minute long cosmic micro-houser “Fiori” (Italian for “flowers”). Foreboding arpeggios and subtle whooshing percussion set the tone, before other elements are slowly introduced to the mix. The rhythmic bassline gives some bounce to the delicate beats, and warm yet melancholic synths are washed over intermittently to provide some relief to the intensity that is only increased by the strengthening of the percussion just before the halfway point. As proved with Carl Craigs ubiquitous remix of Delia & Gavin on DFA, the 4×4 kick is a a very powerful tool when its employed midway through a track, but “Fiori” also demonstrates the efficacy of its removal; reintroducing the introductions ingredients now provide respite to the toughened middle section.

Lucianos contribution, “Drunken Ballet”, injects some much needed humour and light-hearted quirkiness to the aphotic productions that precede it. The usual organic swing that underpins his work is accompanied by an intertwining vocal (simply consisting of a male and female oohing and aahing) that gives it a childlike, yet strangely sexual feel. Things are neatly rounded off with Luke Slaters “Symphony for the Surrealists”, unconsciously continuing Lucianos theme of infancy with a lush, ambient introduction accompanied with bleeps and xylophones that bring a childs music box to mind. As the title suggests, its this track that has the most in common with traditional classical music in both structure and aesthetics, the typical orchestra being replaced with ebbing and flowing synthetic sounds. Slaters use of intermittent percussion, radio static, detached voices, and eerie electronics throughout the thirteen minute epic is astounding, and even though only the most adventurous after-hours DJs will be playing it, it definitely marks itself out as one of the best electronic tracks of the year so far.

At a time of the year where everyones looking to individual artists for 2007s top electronic album, this release definitely shouldnt be swept under the carpet. Its certainly very ironic that by collaborating with an organisation thats as exclusionary as the Staatsballet, Ostgut Ton have created a body of work that will appeal to a much wider range of people than the usual club-based techno album. Whilst it almost certainly wont be enough to make Berlins older ballet crowd journey back to Berghain for one of their usual debauched parties, if it makes a few of the more open minded classicist and rockist listeners think differently about techno, then its done its job. One things for sure, itll make a lot of electronic music fans very happy indeed.

Ostgut Tontrger / ostgut CD03
[Richard Carnes]

May 1, 2007

Junior Boys - Dead Horse EP


A lot of people might say that the remix is nothing newand in a sense, theyre right. But what is new is the emphasis, and the excitement. Where in the old days a remix was a way of disco-nizing a pop hit or letting the studio heads show off their skills, these days, the remixes are often not only more anticipated (and fascinating when they do drop), but also a way of establishing connections between talented artists, and showing the points of condensation and digression among and between various mutations of music. Hot Chip (and the Knife, with less success) have grasped this shift in the logic of (re) release and presentation, driving completists mad with a vast array of remixes, many of which are offered with multiple colours on the cover art. Junior Boys were always the third in the holy trinity of highly rated electro-pop releases last year, but unlike the Knife and the Chip, this is only the Boys second remix EP, after 2006 gave us Smokes beautifully calming mix of In the Morning and Morgan Geists disappointing crack at The Equalizer. But herewow, talk about big guns oh no, did somebody say zeitgeist again?! Carl Craig, Kode 9, and Hot Chip all on the one piece of wax. So? Whats it like, you ask?

Well, fantastic, in a word. Fantastic, with a big but (Ill get to that). Hot Chip pull out all the stops here for a typically heart-strings yanking electro-pop anthem, adding (as they often do on their remixes) their own new lyrics over the top. The vocal harmonies of the original become a background choir, and in the front is a big, fat, and warm rave synth that drives the mix along. Like their wonderful version of Steve Malkmus Kindling for the Master, the group manages to not only add, subtract, or re-arrange, but to multiply the songs melodic elements into something wonderful, touching, and entirely new. Marsen Jules pop-ambient offering (for obvious reasons the least in-your-face of the bunch) is likewise a transformative effort that brings the originals vocals close to some of the work on Panda Bears great new album Person Pitch, with its own heart-on-sleeve remembrance of beaches and boys of yore.

Carl Craigs re-work reduces in order to enlarge (for the big room), turning Like a Child into Like a Bad Weekend. Its too easy a criticism to say its too long, but theres something not un but undersatisfying about the track here. Its definitely Carl Craig, but by the book, if not by numbers. Theres no button being pushed here that hasnt been pushed better, harder, and more passionately elsewhere. Kode 9s mix here brings us back to the grimy, alien/zombie-filled landscape of the dubstep imagination. No doubt Hardwax thinks this is the best mix (and it is neat) but its a whole lotta Kode 9 and very little of the Junior Boysis there any overlap between the black, paranoid, science-fiction imagination of Kode 9 and the white, floppy-boy romantic snow-borne sorrows of Junior Boys? That would be a negative. Ten Snakes mix goes for a spacey/italo/electro rendition, which jars with the other offerings here, though it does have its own discrete charms.

The big but after this long description is that, with the possible exception of Hot Chip, none of these admirable mixes comes close to the aching beauty of the original tracks. I finished listening to all these tracksand I just wanted to hear the album again.

Domino / RUG251T2
[Peter Chambers]

April 24, 2007

Boundzound - Louder


Given the currently high trading value of Martin Buttrich and Henrik Schwarz and the recent continental (re)discovery of all things house, youd have to say that this record is a missive aimed squarely at the heart of the now. But the thing is, a lot of these apparently strategic remix releases (Im thinking of the Tracey Thorn EP a few months back) swerve strangely in mid-flight, hitting something unintended and missing the intended point.

The All Mighty Club Mix, while labeled a Martin Buttrich production, seems to be the closest thing to the original mix here, as it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the tracks. Its a hit. Potentially a huge hit. This cut has got the same crossover appeal of the old Daft Punk recordsits got enough balls for the big-room boom boom, but also undeniable pop hooks and a chorus so infectious youll hear it in your sleep. Well, I did. So the question is, why didn’t they get likeminded artists to remix the record? I would have liked to see the EP done over by Basement Jaxx, Masters at Work, Cajmere, Tim Goldsworthy, or Ewan Pearson, all of whom (in their best work) manage to channel the energy of the source material in interesting directions.

Schwarz mix strips things back for an oldskool feel, but the looping melody he introduces doesnt seem to follow the progression of the tune, leaving the new elements floating at a distance where it should be following like a Bootsy bassline. Buttrich sticks a big kick under it, then tries to be all Carl Craig, restraining the vocals and pushing things along with a big synth line. Its a fairly dull track thats meant to tease, but never happens, although it does betray Buttrichs past as a co-producer of prog dishwater. I was hoping against hope that hed let things really tense up, then release into the chorus around the five minute mark, but nope. Maybe if you were DJing, you could play this version, spin a few builders, then mix the original back in meh.

So, ironically enough, an EP that was supposed to position the work in relation to (and generate appeal from) its connection to Buttrich and Schwarz has shot itself in the foot. The EP is less appealing for the boring remixes, and both remixers come off looking bereft of ideas and energy. Having said all that? Its still almost worth getting just for The All Mighty Club Mix.

Warner / Island / ISL 1726486
[Peter Chambers]

April 5, 2007

Lazy Fat People - Pixelgirl EP

200712"TechnoDetroitPlanet E

Wherein Ripperton (and Lazy Fat partner Mirko Loko) meets Carl Craig on the dancefloor and a rumble is on. The 11-minute Club Silencio stars on one side and works a stripped and tripped percussion groove into a fine powder designed to get asses, well, stripping and tripping, I assume. Mission accomplished, then. The b-side, however, is where the real fun happens, as the title track appears in the original and C2 mixes, showing the two producers going head-to-head (sort of).

Rippertons original is a modulated beast that flanges its way through its first three minutes with a one-note riff and lots of knob-turning, unashamed of its near nudity. Then, suddenly, the groove snaps into focus and all hell breaks loose and the sizzle finally hits the steak, before some nice mellow washes at the end. Craigs mix is loosenfonk-ee, with a truly ill hi-hat/scratch loop ushering in a deep and pong-ing analog riff, each part multiplying itself and sending chills up and down your spine, eyebrow, elbow, whatever. If you cant move to this shit, youre dead. Buy it now. Period.

Planet E / PE 65289-1
[Todd Hutlock]

March 31, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 13

Faze Action - In The Trees (Juno)

Nick Sylvester: Especially with the crowd that space-discos drawing at the moment, you cant go wrong re-releasing what in retrospect sounds like an accidentally seminal cut. Speaking of accidentally seminal cuts, dont be surprised to find, as I did, the Carl Craig remix in otherwise aggravating neu-rave Franco-filter-metal sets happening in Lower East Sides near you.

Andy Stott - Handle with Care / See in Me 10 (Modern Love)

Lusine - Podgelism / Podgelism Select Remixes (Ghostly International)

40 Thieves - Point to the Joint (Smash Hit Music)

Tobias - Dial EP (Logistic)

Peter Chambers: In every way the sequel to Street Knowledge, Dial is the second part of a manifesto that lays out the unmistakable patterns of an incurable machine romance.

Mad Mike - Hi-Tech Dreams (Underground Resistance)

Patrice Bumel - Just Electricty (Trapez)

Justus Khncke - Justus Khncke vs Prins Thomas (Kompakt)

Jacek Sienkiewicz - Good Night & Good Luck (Cocoon)

Michael F. Gill: As good as Six Feet Above and Double Secret Life were, Goodnight & Good Luck sounds like a breakout release, straddling high-clarity minimal techno with a set of winding trance-esque melodies a la Orbital.

2007 Winter Music Conference Coverage: Day Three, Night Three

Weekly Staff Charts
Beatzcast #25: Nativespeaker (Peter Chambers) - dysappearance

March 30, 2007

Charts: March 30 2007

Todd Hutlock
Audion - Mouth To Mouth (Heartthrob’s Hot Breath Treatment) [Spectral Sound]
Pole - Jungs [~scape]
Creation Rebel - Starship Africa (Parts 1-5) [On U Sound]
DJ T - Lucky Bastard [Get Physical]
Mad Mike - Lo-Tech Reality [Underground Resistance]
Riton - Hammer of Thor (Roman Flgel Remix) [Souvenir]
Dominik Eulberg - Die Grunschenkel Im Blauen Priel [Traum Schallplatten]
Faze Action - In The Trees (Carl Craig C2 Remix 1) [Juno]
Adultnapper - Betty Crocker Moves To Berlin [Superfreq]
Audio Werner Flatfunk [Circus Company]

Michael F. Gill
Jacek Sienkiewicz - Good Night & Good Luck [Cocoon]
Porter Ricks Porter Ricks [Mille Plateaux]
Motorcitysoul Aura (Jimpster Remix) [STIR15 Recordings]
Glimpse Julia [Hypercolour]
Jay Pauli Hamburger Spritzer [Ware]
DJ E Tones Soul Detergent [Sounds]
Blue Vision Visions [EMI Electrola]
Secession - Touch (Parts 3 & 4) [Beggars Banquet]
Rick James Glow [Gordy/Motown]
Cheri Murphys Law [Venture]

March 28, 2007

Tobias - Dial EP

I found myself contorted into all kinds of verbal shapes and hard-wrung hand positions the other night, trying to explain to a non-techno friend exactly whats so good about Tobias productionsbecause on the surface at least, theres very little to it. The friends ears, tuned to jazz and classical, kept wading through the repetitions waiting for it to happen and he shrugged when it didnt. Its not the moment, its the movement, I said. Im not sure that conveys it either. It just sounds so damned good. Like last years wonderful Street Knowledge EP, every clap, kick and bassline on Dial sound just right.

And the tracks groove like hell, especially the title cut, which twists through seven minutes with nothing more than bass and percussion. Violence takes things in a more experimental direction, and sounds like some of Carl Craigs similar styled-work (Darkness). Below Houston (which was featured on Cassys Panoramabar mix along with the title track) is a much housier cut in the vein of older 7th City Records tracks, while Second to None is a more spacious tech-house excursion. In every way the sequel to Street Knowledge, Dial is the second part of a manifesto that lays out the unmistakable patterns of an incurable machine romance.

Logistic / LOG059
[Peter Chambers]

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