August 1, 2007

Ilya Santana - Quasar


A few months ago, I had this to say about Discotized, one of Ilya’s last EPs: “You could locate this record somewhere between the Emperor Machine, Daniel Wang and Norwegian space disco, but what escapes that is the sedate, comforting groove here - no big ‘whoosh’ noises, no ‘frantic congas or tiresome solos’ - ‘Holding You’ is seven minutes long, but contains nothing superfluous.”

And, comfortingly perhaps, not much has changed here on Quasar, except the speeding of the proceedings. Maybe it’s all the slow-mo/po-mo Harvey disciples Santana is marketing his tracks at, but Quasar has definitely taken the BPM and the intensity down a few clicks. Play this at -8 and you could probably even mix it with Severed Heads’ “We Have Come to Bless this House” at the monged speed Harvey himself plays it at.

But as fun as “Quasar” is, to such a talented artist this is treading water. There’s no innovation going on here…the same old (albeit enjoyable) formulas are in full effect. But hey, nobody criticises AC/DC for being formulaic, do they? Interestingly, the B-side, which is initially far more arresting, ventures into the very territory that Daniel Wang derided I don’t know about tiresome solos, but there’s more than a few frantic congas being brought to this particular party. But before you can say, “oh no, psytrance hippies”, Pete Herbert (he of Reverso 68) saves his side with a funkin’ bassline, a whole lotta wiggle, and a neat melody. Like the bellhop in Some Like it Hot, this track is “the way I like ‘em big ‘n sassy.”

Disciple of Groove / DOG 002
[Peter Chambers]

June 28, 2007

Various Artists - 4 Season Sampler, Volume 1

The young Jet Set Records out of Kyoto (who rock a logo highly reminiscent of a certain defunct airline) brings us this three-track sampler for their 4 Seasons CD comp, including an exclusive from Daniel Wang and organic beatscapes from two Japanese groups. The former is a fine enough offering, with typically bubblesome bass and a pair of “Eastern-sounding” melodic motifs, but it might sound a bit rote to those expecting some new tricks from the mighty Mr. Wang. The two natal inclusions are far more interesting, however.

Nix fuse several styles together for “Syk-A” with impressive, rapidly-moving fluidity. Over a smooth synthetic beat, they drop some jazzy keyboard infusions and gospel-house yearning with almost a New Age-y prettiness. The unexpected appearance of the flute in the track’s final third is a welcome nod to East-West crossover that sounds remarkably unforced. Similarly lovely and graced by natural progressions is the delicate “Flower” by Bassed on Kyoto. More jazz than house or techno, it’s a textural marvel, a series of interlocked rhythms, tasteful soloing and Minnie Riperton-esque vocal ejaculations that positively oozes the promise of spring emerging from an unfolding bud.

Jet Set Records / JS12S007
[Mallory O’Donnell]

June 10, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 23

Justice - D.A.N.C.E. (Ed Banger / Because Music)
Genre: Indie-Dance

Nina Phillips: You know what would be cool for those DJ gigs you guysll be going to soon? Music that girls actually like. Music that has a tension between hard and soft. Music built for the floor - and not the blog.

Michoacan - 2 Bullets (Glimmers/DJ Harvey Remixes) (Grayhound)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Indie-Dance

Peter Chambers: Are you DJ enough to like this? Youll get cred for trying.

Oto Gelb / Daniel Wang - Magical Yellow Sound From Germania / Look Ma, No Drum Machine! (Balihu)
Genre: House, Disco

Tensnake - I Say Mista (Mirau)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Minimal/Deep

Gui Boratto - Chromophobia Remixe Part 1 (Kompakt)
Genre: Minimal/Deep, Progressive/Trance

Riley Reinhold - Light In My Eyes (My Best Friend)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

A Mountain Of One - EP1 / EP2 (AMO)
Genre: Balearic

Nick Sylvester: A lot of this stuff sounds to me like Talk Talk covers the Dances With Wolves soundtrack, at best when people actually believed rock & roll was something spiritual and not just a backdoor to preteen booty.

Beatzcast #36: Crambe Repetita

Derek Miller reviews Matthew Dear’s Asa Breed
Peter Chambers’ take on Get Physical’s 5th Year Anniversary Compilation
Mallory O’Donnell takes on Bondo Do Role’s With Lasers
James Cobo reviews the compilation Kitsune Maison Volume 4

June 5, 2007

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


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
Balihu / BAL 001
[Michael F. Gill]

May 8, 2007

Ilya Santana - Discotized


Ilya Santanas soundworld is like some gloriously sunny, pre-scrambled version of Isolesbut where the latter filters every pet sound through the mangling monstrosities of stomp boxes, old tape players, and junk equipment, Santana has channeled his own idiosyncrasies into a vision of sound like the strange refraction of the memories of mid-80s disco. On his magnificent Walking on a Crystal Sea EP from a few years back, Santana laid out the program, which Danny Wang describes on the back with typically rhapsodic eloquence: Without frantic congas or tiresome solos, its structure makes perfect sense from the very first measure. It is so unhurried, yet delicate and memorable, like a Satie theme on a disco beat. Every time the filter on the bass goes down, I get a shiver around my head. I just want that sound to go on and on forever! Lets dam the gush-flood for a momentit wasnt that good. But there was the suggestion of something unique, and here, the promise of Ilyas personality returns re-pressed and ready to discotize you.

You could locate this record somewhere between the Emperor Machine, Daniel Wang and Norwegian space disco, but what escapes that is the sedate, comforting groove hereno big whoosh noises, no frantic congas or tiresome solosHolding You is seven minutes long, but contains nothing superfluous. Discotized is much closer to Walking on a Crystal Sea and nudges toward neo-italo filtrations of house a la Justus Khncke, but with its more elaborate structures and interesting, digressive parts; theres something far more musical here than Kompakts queeniest producers works. Great stuff.

Permanent Vacation / PERMVAC 009-1
[Peter Chambers]

October 20, 2006

Brennan Green - Cool Ranch


Two sides from the Daniel Wang-affiliated Green, two different shades of roomy instrumental grace. A-side “Bunko” is spaced enough for Prins Thomas fans but provides enough catchy thrills that you’re more inclined to have a dance-off than nod off. The organic guitar that runs through “Bunko” like a warm salt-water wave turns a sun-tanned shoulder or two in “Divisadero,” reappearing as a strummed cascade on an acoustic six-stringer(!). This track should warrant immediate inclusion on every one of the 60 downtempo collections coming out this month, except it’s far too toothsome to be wasted on that crowd. God, I miss the summer already.

Modal Music / MODAL005
[Mallory ODonnell]

September 22, 2006

Putsch ‘79 - Box Jams Remixed 2/3


Norway’s Prins Thomas does plenty of disco remixes both under his own name and together with his bud Lindstrm, but I could see his new Major Swellings side-gig taking more of the lead as early-evening mid-tempo burners become the NBT, especially because of DC Recordings (e.g. Emperor Machine) and Clone, where this track comes from. They’ve been hit or miss so far, remixes and tracks alike, but Swellings’ job on Putsch ‘79 is pretty fantastic: the remix is way relaxed, a third the tempo of the overly edgy original, now with synths that take a good four or five seconds to wash away, compressed timbale sounds, and plenty of campy keyboard squiggles elsewhere. Remixer Daniel Wang knew retarding the tempo was mission number one, but I don’t like the MIDI-does-Paradise details, the fake strings, and voicelike doo-doos on the synths, the faked funk from a guy I worry more and more has kicked the feeling. What are you gonna do?

Clone / C#45.1
[Nick Sylvester]

March 31, 2005

Daniel Wang - Berlin Sunrise


This Environ vet does little to change his sound on this, his Ghostly debut. It wouldn’t be such a heinous crime if this was his finest work, but “Berlin Sunrise (Die Nacht),” only comes to mean stuff in a mid-song breakdown worthy of the Neptunes, in which everything drops out except the glistening synth, the Italo tempo drums, and a yearning string line. When things get normal again, just pick the needle up and go back or wait for it all to come together in the finale. “Berlin Sunrise (Die Daemmerung)” is a less effective, more compact beast that pumps up everything at the expense of length and subtlety. On the flipside, the highlight is “Das ist Kein Techno!,” which is decidedly not techno! What it is is top-notch acid house.

Ghostly International / GI-34
[Todd Burns]