July 23, 2007

Jahcoozi - Reworks

200712"HouseLeftfield

Yet even more sweets for 2007’s remix pińata. 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 Mwambé’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]


June 25, 2007

Portable - Don’t Give Up (Remixes)

Bodycode’s The Conservation of Electric Charge would have been better titled “Flying under Fanbase Radar”, such was its woefully under-appreciative reception. Along with Jan Jelinek’s Tierbeobachtungen (a very different pleasure admittedly) nobody seemed to get it, to have gotten it, or even to care, despite my squeaky protestations that they should, they really should. Abrahams’ inclusion on the recent Death is Nothing to Fear EP along with rising star Par Grindvik and Matthew “Raygun Audion” Dear seemed to confer a good (dries sticky, sets permanently) bridesmaiding. All this by way of saying, get the album, have a listen, and give Bodycode the listening his subtle creativity deserves.

With that rant out of the way, let’s turn to the music at hand, and another great remix EP, but a remix of what? “Don’t Give Up”, apparently. But discog it however I might, I can’t seem to find the original. Is this proof of some kind of remix primacy, that the original doesn’t even have to be released anymore? Bodycode’s remix is a twelve minute journey through his sound, with all those cool little polyrhythms, that metallic flange, and a slow stabbing synth line. This track is a gem, twelve minutes of rolling, kicking techno plateaus with an overlong fade at the end. Cassy’s version takes her typical mixture of sparse and voice, adds a blues harmonica in the background, makes everything unsettled with a droning sample, and then (suddenly and almost miraculously) introduces a very Tortoise-y bassline, which brings it all back home. The rich bright metal of the strings sounds lovely against the shadowy background.

Meanwhile, somewhere near a bath-house, Lawrence is writing the gayest track he’s ever made (and not in the Cartman sense). I wonder how he saw his monitor with all that sticky steam. In truth though, it’s more like “Frankie goes to the Panorama Bar” with the blue synth washes undercutting the Mardi Gras vocal. Lawrence’s sound-design dead-ended itself on The Night Will Last Forever after a productive three preceding years, but here, as with the inklings on his recent(ish) Liebe Detail release, you get the sense of a new vector. All three tracks here work beautifully on their own, but together it’s an exceptional EP that shows three interesting artists doing some of their better work of the past year.

Sud Electronic / SUED 010
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


June 24, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 25

Chymera - Satura / Arabesque (Tishomingo)
Genre: Progressive/Trance, Minimal/Deep

Nina Phillips: How else to revel in the neo-prog essentials? Deep Connaisseur chords and a lithe melody line cutting over top, natch.

Baldelli / Dionogi - Cosmicdiba 2007 (Gomma)
Genre: Neo-Disco, New Wave/Synth

Dopplereffekt / Los Angeles TF / Mike Dunn - Gesamtkunstwerk / Magical Body / So Let It Be House (Clone Classic Cuts)
Genre: Chicago, Electro, Italo

From The Archives #2

Skatebard - Marimba (Supersoul Recordings)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Minimal/Deep

Nick Sylvester: Something like “Feed The Mood” after two decades of looped disintegration, or really any children’s toy on its last five or six seconds of battery life, “Marimba” pines for early Detroit through a fog of tired synths and last-legged drum machine clatter, and yes there are marimbas.

Cassy / A Guy Called Gerald - Somelightuntothenight / Bodecka (Beatstreet Berlin)
Genre: House

Peter Chambers: The whole EP here is old-school, or the classic house sound – just the basics, no faffing around. These tracks don’t have to unfold, they’re already laid out.

INFLUX #004: CHELONIS R. JONES

Stylus editor Todd Burns talked to Jones about his upcoming album Chatterton, the cover art to Dislocated Genius, and what’s it like to be the “Franz Kafka of electro-pop”…

Beatzcast #38: Crambe Repetita

Weekly Staff Charts


June 21, 2007

Cassy / A Guy Called Gerald - Somelightuntothenight / Bodecka

200712"House

In some ways I feel like we’re dealing with two veterans here, although you’d only be able to say (in any direct sense) that we’ve got one in our ears– the Guy, the one called Gerald. Because A Girl (Woman?) Called Cassy is no veteran, at least, not overtly – this is a person who’s come to production “late in the game” after having been on the verge for some time. A vocal here, a whisper there, a nudge…and then the Alexandra / Toyah single.

The whole EP here is old-school, or the classic house sound – just the basics, no faffing around. These tracks don’t have to unfold, they’re already laid out. The Guy’s track “Bodecka” takes a tight kick/snare loop to drag in a big, mean synth line that wouldn’t be out of place on an earlier Sender record. And all the while in the background, the sounds of moaning women, sirens, screaming schoolgirls, flushing toilets (or monsters) and so forth – a real rainy Thursday 4pm horrorshow. The louder you play it, the better it sounds.

Cassy’s track uses a classic “house piano” refrain to swing around her voice. I can’t quite make out the lyric, but it doesn’t matter. As usual with her tracks, it’s the haunting atmosphere that seems to sit suspended, making even the ten minutes of “Somelightuntothenight” flit past like a hurried ghost. I feel as if Cassy thinks her vocals are her strong suit, that she’s worried about the emptiness that might sound out if she just let the beats loop. I wouldn’t stop her singing, for the same reasons – the vocals command the tracks, but with a shyness. Like the beautiful girl (or woman, or man) who doesn’t know their true beauty, (s)he calls to you: across the space, and back along the timelines of their inspiration. Deep house, far back, long ago.

Beatstreet / BS01
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 9, 2007

Shed - Remixes In Four Parts 2

200712"TechnoDetroit

Detroit is dead. Long live Detroit. So seems to be the case with the new generation of producers gathering around the signifiers of Motor City’s glorious, melancholy high-tech funk. In hindsight, Cassy’s Panoramabar mix of last year gave the best gloss on this new (not new) trendency within groove music. Cassy’s mix deftly revealed the sometimes overt, sometimes covert, sometimes inchoate connections between the neo-minimal soundworlds of Mathias Kaden and Liebe est Cool, the old classics of Rick Wade and DBX, and the neo-classic techno of Redshape and Shed, whose glorious “Well Done my Son” brings her mix to a wonderful, glorious crescendo.

Shed (whoever (s)he may be) and his/her label Soloaction has been one of the vital producer-connectors in this new constellation of affinities, and this remix EP offers the best of the progeny back to the forefathers of the funk for a re-blessing. Hearing the first bars of Echoplex’s remix of “Cityslicker” was like remembering something. “Ah, this is how it was,” my brain says. Classic, but not retro, the mix freshens the link with the past to suggest a fresh examination of deep space. Old hand Shawn Rudiman likewise provides some of that classic feel—but here’s where this interesting new exploration is in danger of becoming a retro/revivalist trend. The track ticks all the boxes, but is not nearly as compelling as Echoplex’s mix.

Netherlands newbie (in relative terms) MBC opts for a high-pressure, galloping percussive loop to push the sounds towards you, coming across as something not unlike Stephen Brown’s work on Transmat, although never quite reaching those ecstatic heights. (Un)surprisingly, Brown crops up on Shed’s next remix EP. If you’re new to the Shed sound, I’d suggest checking out some of his/her own releases first, but if you’re already digging the vibe, then this EP is worth it, just for the Echoplex mix.

Soloaction / SOA1210/2
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


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 what’s so good about Tobias’ productions—because on the surface at least, there’s very little to it. The friend’s ears, tuned to jazz and classical, kept wading through the repetitions waiting for “it” to happen – and he shrugged when it didn’t. “It’s not the moment, it’s the movement,” I said. I’m not sure that conveys it either. It just sounds so damned good. Like last year’s 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 Craig’s similar styled-work (“Darkness”). “Below Houston” (which was featured on Cassy’s 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
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


March 14, 2007

Sascha Funke - Auf Aix

Sascha Funke has been around the traps for quite a while now, and his music has had its small share of sublime moments, from the wonderful Safety First EP on Kompakt to occasional moments on his Bravo album that otherwise suffered from terrible vocals. At its best, Funke’s music is propelled by a precious “feeling” contained within the melodic minimalist sound he works within. At its worst, we have more or less the same aforementioned elements failing to ignite the fire.

“Auf Aix” sees a condensation of these two sides pressed onto one piece of vinyl. To these ears at least, the A-side is a flop—as is quite often the case with tracky music that doesn’t work, you can “hear” what’s happening at all times, the musical equivalent of seeing a conjurer’s sleight of hand. It’s a dull, predictable track that plods along with very little rhythmic, melodic or timbral invention. Ho-hum. Yet “Ey” works—with a different arrangement of similar ideas (a delayed one-note synth line, a soft bass line, plus a very Cassy-ish vocal “Ey”) this track conjures a summer party in the sunshine of 2000, when M. Mayer was playing a lot of melodic minimal tracks right on the border between trance and tech-house.

Is it too early to call it “The good old days”? Walking the tightrope between deadliness and dud-liness, this EP is quintessential Funke, and a nice reminder of how this form of music, redolent of the early Kompakt classics, could move you so much with so little, when it didn’t leave you cold and begging.

Bpitch Control / BPC 144
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


February 16, 2007

Onur Özer - Red Cabaret

Who’d have thought that a pianica (or a synth patch imitating one) could sound evil? Onur Özer proves here that, unquestionably, it can. “Allegro Energico,” the opening cut on the Red Cabaret EP menaces from the get go, with a bassline like a padded hammer falling on a cable very reminiscent of Cassy’s wonderful “Toyah,” which is quickly followed by said kiddy instrument. From there it’s wailing, reverbed one-finger synth lines and lots of clatter in the dark.

After the first spooking it’s a quick walk into the blackest of forests to get to the “Red Cabaret,” and this one’s a black lipstick affair. In some ways, this track bears comparison to Villalobos’ recent Fizheuer behemoth, if for no other reason than the epic scope and the interesting juxtaposition of squiggling, “micro” percussive elements interrupted by very live sounding horn samples. As a composition on its own, the track lacks coherence or direction, but like a lot of minimal produced these days, it’s more about generating an accumulation of “cool sounds” that beg to be given sense in the mix. “Orion” is more of the same, putting shaken tambourines and live drums in the midst of some freaked-out atmospheres and a strangely Art of Noise synth noodle.

These tracks might provide damning evidence that Özer is neither able to play a synthesizer, write a song nor structure an arrangement, but perhaps I’m using a logic that doesn’t apply here. Hmm. Freaky, kooky stuff.

Vakant / VA 012
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


January 19, 2007

tobias. - Street Knowledge


It was a sweet inevitability that once computer technology plateaued in plug-in heaven, increasingly large groups of nerds, purists, idiots, and visionaries would run for or cling to their old gear. Street Knowledge, produced by Cassy’s partner and NSI half Tobias Freund, shows that there’s good reason for the flight into obsolescence. Street Knowledge is one of those brilliant deep EPs that stay put in your box for years. The title track is one of the funkiest, deepest, driving-est tech-house grooves you’ve heard in ages—the kind yo mamma warned you about.

As with his NSI release on Cadenza, Freund proudly displays all the gear used for the music on the back cover of the EP, so I can tell you that the bass on this puppy was generated by a Studio Electronics se 1 (defunct in its original form, of course). Man, it’s the business. This track just rolls along, with the bass overshot by short horn stabs, and 808 claps, shots, and cowbells (real 808, of course.). “Solid State” appears to have been composed from the same arrangement of machines, and while not as obviously killer as the title cut, it’s a groover with the same quietly classic mood, movement, and presence that marks the EP as a whole. “Bayside” on the B is another winner, a slightly more sober, gliding record that skims to a calm halt right in the middle, then spins off into the clouds. Ah.

The gear sounds great, but it’s Tobias’ intuitive use of all the sounds available here to generate a record that sounds “just right” that’s so inspiring. It’s about the touch. With barely a fat lead or a farty bassline in sight, Freund has created an incredibly attuned, proper EP that won’t go platinum, but may well become a classic.

Logistic / LOG055
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


December 22, 2006

2006 Year In Review: Individual Writer Lists

As a companion piece to our 2006 year in review, here are the individual lists/charts from each of our contributors. Happy reading…

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