August 23, 2007

Will Saul & Lee Jones - Hug the Scary

Best served with a sigh, the “micro-epic” genre is as microscopic and widespread as a virus. It’s an oxymoron, but if I’m allowed to be so blunt, such fucktard names are known to have staying power (hello IDM!). And that doesn’t account for the reserve force of progressive house rejects like James Holden and Minilogue, who lovingly craft odes against the law of normal distribution - think minimal and maximal squashed together.

If there’s one image and tone that seems to inspire these folks, it’s that of looking straight up either as becoming bubble-laden dolls stuck in bathtubs or fluorescent skies. The latest of these neck-breakers comes from Aus label-boss Will Saul and Lee Jones (of My My fame). While “Hug the Scary” might have the bleary-eyes to run into flowers, the track also has a gravity that won’t allow it to expand and contract as far as pulling muscles.

I’d be hard pressed to mistake “Scary” for cotton candy despite its flickering arpeggiator and billowing melodies. Instead there’s a grace to the track that hits tempered minor keys as well as blistering swells without sounding disjointed for a second. Which is as good of a description as any for Partial Art’s recent single, “Trauermusik.” Partial Arts, aka Ewan Pearson and Al Usher, do not derail the momentum of the title cut, but they streamline it and add enough fizz to leave you hiccupping.

Aus Music / AUS0707
[Nate DeYoung]

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 17, 2007

Cortney Tidwell - Don’t Let the Stars Keep Us Tangled Up

Because I live in lame-ass dance-hating Los Angeles, I rarely get to hear nakedly big-room techno actually played for people to actually, y’know, dance to it. As a result, I feel a little unqualified to discuss Ewan Pearson’s colossal 12 minute remix of Cortney Tidwell’s “Don’t Let the Stars Keep Us Tangled Up” if only because the world has taught me to listen to it as a pop song first and a dance track second. To be fair, Pearson’s commitment to doing justice to Tidwell’s archly breathy vocals and gloriously messy syntax over the course of this mixs first five minutes is simply astonishing. He may have stripped the original of its graceful Portishead-like tempo in favor of a rigid disco pulse, but it still shows a lot of respect for the original.

The first half’s pop-song formalism ingrains a sense of dynamism sorely lacking from the second, which just seems to keep piling on layers of synth pads without ever directly addressing any audience which hasn’t been paying attention to it since bar one. Given Pearson’s virtuosity with Cerrone-esque electro-disco arrangements, his indulgence can justifiably be charged to the game if you’ve got the right audience, but the rest of us might do well to stick to the radio edit.

Ever Records / EVER09S
[James Cobo]

April 11, 2007

Bobby Davenport - Time (Has Come Today)

The Belgian Label Flexx has chosen a perfect time (sheesh) to reissue this spacey ‘83 oddity, an eight-minute disco cover of the Chamber Brothers hit from 1968. Although “cover” is a loose term hereits rallying cry vocal would certainly have had quite a different context fifteen years down the road, especially when run through all that vocoder. But it’s lovely, loopy, and adventurous, working in a strident synth, searing proto-acid squeaks, and some insane, funky hand-percussion atop the electronic rhythm. All of this and three minutes shorter than the original!

The original “Instrumental Universal” and “Special Disco” mixes have aged quite well, perhaps due to their blatant eccentricity, but it would be interesting to see what a Maurice Fulton or Ewan Pearson could do if they got their hands on it. In the meanwhile, this should be an excellent selection for the more discriminating and adventurous dancefloors.

Flexx / Flexx 006
[Mallory ODonnell]

March 2, 2007

Charts: March 2 2007

Mallory ODonnell
Trippy Disco - Frankfurt in Fifteen [Radius]
Maximilian Skiba - Apple of Disco EP [Terranova]
Chris Rea - On the Beach (Tangoterje Edit) [Balearic Biscuits]
Tackhead - The Game [4th & Broadway]
Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch (Hot Chip Remix) [Island]
Galen - Playing Games [Utensil]
Evelyn “Champagne” King - Shame / Nobody Knows [RCA]
Shades of Love - Keep In Touch [Body to Body] (Instrumental Version) [Venture]
V/A - Music of Quality & Distinction, Volume One [Virgin]
V/A - Dirty Edits 2-5 [Dirty Edits]

Todd Hutlock
Andy Stott - Handle With Care [Modern Love]
Hkan Lidbo - This Looks Infected, Doesnt It? [Musick]
Porter Ricks - Scuba Lounge [Mille Plateaux]
Beck - Cellphones Dead (Villalobos Entlebuch Remix) [Geffen]
Luciano - Keridos [Cadenza Split Composition]
Rod Modell Avionics [Echocord]
Cortney Tidwell - Dont Let The Stars Keep Us Tangled Up (Ewan Pearson Long Vox) [Ever]
JTC Trancender [Crme Organization]
tobias. Dial [Logistic]
Ace Frehley - New York Groove [Casablanca]

Michael F. Gill
San Proper & Tom Trago Catterpillar Butter Plus (Propers Mixdown) [Rush Hour Recordings]
Mark Broom Upside Down [Pure Plastic]
John Thomas Magic [Logistic]
Oaysis Incredible Bass (Slipmatt remix) [Vicious Vinyl]
Lopazz I Need Ya [Output]
George Demure Sister Valhalla [Tirk]
Keith Hudson Nuh Skin Up [Greensleaves]
Shackleton Blood On My Hands [Skull Disco]
Shed Well Done [Soloaction]
Steve Doesnt Drive Woman & Car [Did Records]

February 16, 2007

Partial Arts - Trauermusik

Why has Ewan Pearson has emerged as a star remixer? His neatly crafted versions of other peoples music often sound like the original should have in the first place. Its a know-how that he applies here with co-consiprator Alistair Usher to produce a record that sounds like Kompakt records might, but often dont. The duo have managed to key in on the particularly lush, rich, sentimental melodic techno sound thats marked anthems like Magnets KissKissKiss, Superpitchers Mushroom, or Robert Babicz Sonntag and transport it into an emotional landscape of their own creation.

Trauermusik begins with a slight electro-disco inflection, boogying past with a neat bassline, but then piles on the synths and falling drums until theres not a dry eye left in the house. Full release (as they advertise in Japanese massage parlors) in eight minutes, guaranteed. But its nothing compared to its evil, mischief loving Alter Ego mix. From the get go, this is a raucous, rambunctious smasherif the original cries tears, then this version rips them. Very close to Rocker and the other huge tracks off the recent Alter Ego album, the track manages to neck five shots of the hard stuff on its way to total annihilation, and no doubt it will take the whole floor with it. Two very different types of emotional hit, both fully realized. Not all Kompakt EPs are worth buying, but this is one of them.

Kompakt / KOM 149
[Peter Chambers]

February 16, 2007

Tracey Thorn - Its All True (Remixes)

Tracey Thorn has always been the Thin White Duchess of the dance diva landscapeher rich, sweet voice has graced countless dance EPs, from Deep Dish to Tiefschwarz. But this is one of her better efforts, first of all because (thank God) shes not singing about an abusive relationship. In fact, even after eight or nine listens, I still havent paid any attention to the lyrics, and don’t feel the need to. Its all true.

The really interesting thing here is how its managed to condense several threads or tendencies within recent dance music production into one artifact. In the first instancehow many people had even heard of Martin Buttrich a year ago? And yet now, based on the strength of no more than three EPs, Buttrich has become an in-demand remixer in the league of Matt Edwards or Ewan Pearson, who gets co-production credits on this track, along with Darshan Jesrani of Metro Area. Having Darshan, Martin and Ewan all in the room also brings three highly developed and particular production sensibilities into the same frame also shows not just a rapprochement, but an affection for and between dub-disco, electro inflected tech-house, and muscular minimala love that might not have spoken its name even a few years ago.

The original is hard to go pastit manages to showcase Thorns sweet throat and give itself a sparkling electro disco massage all in a radio friendly four minutes, easily referencing synth pop (a la Eurythmics), disco, and house along the way. Buttrichs mixes are meaty, nine minute affairs. They start off all Pokerflat (dry, strumming minimal house) and gradually build with a melodic refrain that threatens to break into Ames Rej at any moment, until Thorns vocal reminds you where you are. The dub version adds space for a bubbling up feeling. Kris Menaces version is a real stinkerunimaginative and unengaging, it adds cold pads and attempts to create drama with a break based around pitch shifting poor Traceys voice. Meh. Both the Escort extended mix and the DSE dub head for the dub disco, with the former opting for a more openly retro take and the latter taking things in a very Metro Area electro-disco vein (unsurprising, as it’s a Darshan production). Theyre both great, but I couldnt help but wish that M. Fulton had been brought on board to lend a pound more fruit and funk to proceedings.

Virgin / VST 1932 00946 3 83897 1 2
[Peter Chambers]

April 10, 2006

Lindstrom - I Feel Space (Remixes)

Cameron Octigan: As much as everyone seems to love Lindstrom, this is still the one track everyone seems to mention. It hasnt been out for too long, but they way its been making the rounds through nearly every DJs set, its almost destined to be marked as nostalgia rather than the anthem. So, when I saw this on the record shelves of Amoeba in California, it didnt really seem that interesting. However, the day I received a promo copy is the day I ran back to the shelves and bought it. The B-side is Tiefschwarzs Tomba Spezial Space mix, which really isnt all that spezial. The biggest difference between this track and the original is that theyve replaced the less abrasive sounds of the original with a stompier aesthetic, plus a few uninteresting bells and whistles. The Freeform Five remix is a completely different story, though, and a major candidate for the best remix of 2006 so far. Written in two movements, like Ewan Pearsons recent Goldfrapp remix, Freeform take only a few choice melodies from Lindstrom, and insert those pieces into a larger framework, complete with a gorgeous added vocal track. Part one follows a lush, dreamy formula, while part two breaks out the anthemic electro that actually makes listening to the original sound fresh again. Maybe Lindstrom can collaborate with Prins-Thomas on making some nice stationery to write the biggest thank you letter ever to Freeform Five.

Mallory ODonnell: Last year’s finest single gets a new pair of remixes, as Freeform Five and Tiefschwarz both weigh in with alternating takes. Im normally a fan of F5’s aggressive reworks, but they seem to have gone a bit timid for this one, merely beefing up the beat and losing much of the original’s finesse in the process. Still a reliable floor-filler, but short on wit or charm. Tiefschwarz, after their brilliant transition from deep house heroes to acid savants, seem stuck in a rut here. While it’s a mix I’d play out, and I’m sure sounds fine at the height of the night, it’s no more than exactly what you’d expect from them. This is a high profile release that leaves me with the distinct impression that both our top-flight talents had the kid gloves on when they went to bat. The initial rush of excitement gives way to a slightly bitter taste.

Playhouse / 121

January 27, 2006

The Shock - Manhattan

The Shock teams up Ben Camp & George Bissen, an American and German ex-pat known mostly know for progressive house, for a guitar-heavy helping of electro-house that seems tailor-made for Ewan Pearson to play out during peak time. If you’ve heard Pearson’s Sci-Fi Hi-Fi mix cd, you have an idea what I’m talking about. If not, just note that I have a setting in my brain that triggers the word “Ewan Pearson? when I hear anthemic electro-house with big snares on 2 and 4. “Manhattan? is a bit of a shoddy rehash of Pearson’s own remix of “The Poisoner’s Diary? by Silicone Soul, but is redeemed by a great Einmusik remix on the b-side, which frames some guitar moans around a rhythm that easily moves back and forth from four-on-the-floor to schaffel.

Boxer / 035
[Michael F. Gill]

December 22, 2005

2005: The Year In Review

A look into the year that was in electronic musics…

Top 10 Albums

Matthew Herbert Plat du Jour
Audion Suckfish
Vitalic OK Cowboy
Ark Caliente
Dandy Jack & Junction SM Los Siete Castigos
Marc Leclair Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes
Pier Bucci Familia
Who Made Who Who Made Who
Lindstrom & Prins Thomas Lindstrom & Prins Thomas
Alex Smoke Incommunicado

This young Glaswegian producers debut came on like a shock: marrying a heady combination of electro, old school techno, minimal, and an innate pop sense. A collection of tracks that were just as liable to make you stop dancing in wonder, as it was to get you on the floor

Top 10 Singles

Booka Shade Mandarine Girl
Spare Time - Lazy
Luciano Bomberos
Donato Dozzy & Exercise One - Skarciofen
Common Factor That Was Then
Unai Oh You and I
Royskpp feat. Karin Dreijer What Else Is There?
Daso Daybreak
Patrice Baumel Mutant Pop
Stefan Goldmann Blood

After previously appearing on the smaller Classic and Ovum labels, Goldmann steps up to the plate for Perlons 51st releasethree enormous monster tracks of clicks and bass that start out with the most modest of intentions

Top 5 DJ Mixes

Dominik Eulberg Kreucht and Fluecht
Ewan Pearson Sci.Fi.Hi.Fi, Vol 1
Annie DJ Kicks
DJ Clever Breakbeat Science 5
DJ Naughty One Naughty Night in Berlin

Showcasing the vocal-end of electro-house, while throwing in classic disco and Italo to boot, DJ Naughty further pushed the dirty disco sound to its limits on this mix from the Eskimo label

Top 5 Producers

Jesse Somfay
LCD Soundsystem
Putsch 79
Nathan Fake

Finding himself on seemingly every single DJ mix released this year, Fake had a massive year on the residual effects of the classic The Sky Was Pink, Traums 2005 crown jewel, Dinamo, and the white label of Silent Night

Top 5 Remixers

Ricardo Villalobos
Abe Duque
Switch / YES Productions
Robag Wruhme
Stuart Price

Almost made the Killers listenable. No mean feat.

Top 5 Labels

Get Physical

Located strategically across the road from Kompakt HQ, the Traum family had its best year yet with strong entries from known quantities (Steve Barnes, Dominik Eulberg, Jeff Samuel) and a whole host of new producers (Alex Under, Jesse Somfay, Noze, Patrice Baumel)

Top 5 Reissues

Keith Hudson The Hudson Affair: Keith Hudson and Friends
DJ Shadow Endtroducing
Luomo Vocalcity
Prince Douglas Dub Roots
AFX Hangable Auto Bulb

Richard D. James formerly ultra-rare drill n bass template sounds as fresh as ever, showing why betting on jungle in 1995 was the best decision he ever made

Top 5 Compilations

Cybotron Motor City Machine Music
V/A Spectral Sound, Vol. 1
Senor Coconut Coconut FM
Robag Wruhme & Wighnomy Brothers Remikks Potpourri
Greg Wilson Credit to the Edit

The first time that this dance music pioneers work has been collected. If you were going to clubs in the 1980s, Greg Wilson was your soundtrackextending and tightening the tracks that you liked and turning them into the epics that you loved

Words: Todd Burns
Voting Contributors: Todd Burns, Nate Deyoung, Michael F. Gill, Cameron Macdonald, Derek Miller, Mike Powell, Will Simmons

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