September 21, 2007

Ricardo Villalobos - Fabric 36

Fabric 36—announced years ago—has become the venerated mix series’ most anticipated disc. But in the announcement, Ricardo slipped in that he “prefers for it to be treated like a normal mix CD, with no hype.” Sure. Right. But, then again, take a quick listen to it: because despite the inevitable hype and a cover only a goth could love, Fabric 36 sounds almost carefree enough to actually live up to his modest hopes.

There’s been no lack of swipes at Ricardo Villalobos’ self-indulgence (cue this review’s gratuitous mention of Fizheuer Zieheuer), but Villalobos may be trying to save “self-indulgence” from derogatory connotations one release at a time. In his latest, what’s difficult to miss isn’t that he scraps the DJ mix as an outpouring of free publicity (for other artists) but that the mix is the rare modern entity that forces you to listen to an album as a whole. Fabric 36 has highlights but no singles—a series of tracks with only one order. And as imposing as that sounds, it only becomes an obvious fact when you try to listen to parts outside the mix itself.

Thankfully, it’s easy to get lost in the actual mix of the CD. There’s a lightness of touch throughout, leaving sections where Villalobos can transition from the introductory yelps of “Farenzer House” into the taut bass stabs of “Mecker” without batting an eye. In the midst of that section, there’s also a nudging synthpad that fleshes itself out five minutes later in the anthemic pop-rush of “4 Wheel Drive.” With Fabric 36, Villalobos has refined the volatile tangents of “Achso”—tracks are just as rambunctious and twisting, but also ebb with a purpose and destination.

That’s also a pretty apt description for this year’s earlier “album-mix” from False. But 2007, despite its breadth of textures, sounds one-note compared to the variety of rhythm and idiosyncrasies here. If 2007 was busy stumbling and scraping itself on concrete sidewalks, then Fabric 36 is a drunken party-host that introduces herself as “Moist.” And she’s not alone on the album’s centerpiece, “Andruic & Japan.” Accompanied by a personal Japanese drummer who blows his nose through a harmonica, she spouts anecdotes (about marriage, dead chickens, etc.) to either invisible guests or to herself—it depends on how demented you think she is.

Either way, she, like Villalobos, doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously here. Ricardo doesn’t ham it up on Fabric 36, but with tracks like the joyful splinter of “You Won’t Tell Me” and the celebratory finale of “Premier Encuentro Latino-Americano,” he sounds all but ready to throw away his cultivated mystique for something a little more pleasurable. And I’m still ready to indulge him a little more.

Fabric / FABRIC 71
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


September 9, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Weeks 33, 34, & 35

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 01
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 02
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 03

Pikaya - Cambrium (Cadenza)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: This is not house so much as the ivy that clings to it.

Will Saul & Lee Jones - Hug the Scary
(Aus Music)
Genre: Minimal/Tech, Electro-House

Charts: August 23 2007

Gavin Mueller’s guide to Ghettotech

Future Loop Foundation - The Sea and the Sky (Louisiana Recordings)
Genre: House, Neo-Disco

Osborne - Outta Sight (Spectral Sound)
Genre: Acid, House

Nate DeYoung: If we’re heading into the last days of summer, then by all means let it be soundtracked by shimmering piano-house.

Brendon Moeller - Jazz Space (Third Ear)
Genre: Techno, Dub

False - False (M_nus)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

Andy Stott - Fear of Heights
(Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Minimal/Deep

Peter Chambers: As a child, I used to build my Lego castles as per the instructions, but only the first time. The subsequent re-builds would slowly deviate, riffing around the structures of the original but adding, subtracting and supplementing elements, to the point where my later creations were unrecognisable as mutants of the original.

Tobias Thomas - Please Please Please (Kompakt)
Kaito - Contact to the Spirits (Kompakt)

Nina Phillips: Thomas is too busy crafting to see the dancers looking back at him from the floor. No wonder this was mixed live—in an empty dance club in Cologne.

V/A - Grand Cru 2007 (Connaisseur)
V/A - Rekids One (Rekids)

Nina Phillips: If you build bangers, they will come.


Wiley - Playtime Is Over
(Big Dada)

Chris Gaerig: Playtime Is Over proves that Wiley truly does run the grime game. Hell, he’s the only one left.

Arsenal - The Coming (Idjut Boys Mixes) (Play Out!)
Genre: Downtempo, Balearic

Beatzcast #47: Crambe Repetita

Deepchord Presents Echospace - The Coldest Season (Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Techno

Todd Hutlock: Basic Channel effectively invented the wheel of this genre, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t admire the latest models to roll off the modern assembly line.


August 31, 2007

False - False

There comes a time when a musician is capable of shitting gold and Matthew Dear has released an album titled 2007 to mark his. It takes a certain grace to make defecating metal sound like a talent, but it’s the same grace that makes Dear’s missteps sound just as captivating as full-strides. Thankfully, 2007 is full-stride, especially when placed next to the scattershot Asa Breed. Working under his minimal moniker, False, must be a liberating change of pace for Dear—2007 has none of the gratingly earnest pop-impulses (found under his birth name) or earnestly abrasive big-room techno (as Audion). Instead, 2007 is all burned-out ambience—the sound of a post-metropolis slowly ebbing away.

2007 is not just an album. It’s not just a mix. Somehow it gets to be both—it’s made up of all new material from Dear and fashioned into one giant smorgasbord. There’s none of the pomp you’d expect from an actual album and none of the tastefulness that you get from a mix. 2007 is a sleight of hand. A magic trick that begins off in the horizon with the rumble of distant cars (”Indy 3000″) and ends with a way-out-of-body blur of voices (”Forgetting”). To describe how 2007 travels between those points should include an important tangent—Dear sees his music under the False moniker as “clinical and mysterious.”

Which are an evocative pair of words and ones that describe a chunk of 2007’s label, M_nus. With their finely-honed textures and considered slabs of minimal techno, “clinical” could be as succinct of mission statement as M_nus deserves. Although 2007’s drizzle of percussion has been quantized good and proper with M_nus’ weapon of choice, Ableton, Dear’s compositions still find a way to drift, wallow, and entropy. It makes sense that 2007 is the result of a spring cleaning of Dear’s hard drive. Songs are an accumulation of forgotten tidbits and 2007 is an unwillingness to let dust lie.

And there’s little dust left in the nooks of the album mix—from Dear’s swallowed gulps of “shout!” on “Dollar Down” to the fidgeting synth that bridges “Timing” to “Alright Liar,” Dear isn’t able to stay still for long. Which is a welcome surprise from Dear’s last mix for Fabric—something that could charitably be described as static. Dear freely ditches rhythms for swaths of fuzz on “Disease/George Washington” and peaks with a swarm of bees on the single “Fed on Youth.” With each of album’s sixty minutes, there’s a compulsion that drives the mix with no hint of a resolution around any corner. For an album as porous as 2007, each track sounds opaque, calcified.

With those shards, Dear captures the sound of a city worn down not by time, but by disuse. Recurring throughout 2007 is the Doppler effect of cars racing past and sandpaper kick drums. Both sculpt an uncompromising environment of main drags and barren lots. But as willfully dark as Dear makes 2007, there are glimpses, like the low-lit chimes of “Face the Rain,” that make the album live-able if not understandable. And for an album as obtuse as 2007, the fact that it can be loved instead of just respected is reason enough to follow Matthew Dear like a gold claim.

M_nus / MINUS 55 CD
[Listen]
[Nate Deyoung]


August 14, 2007

The Chemical Brothers - Do it Again (Remixes)

Recently, my sister decided to through a ’90s retro party, something that has only become conceivable in the past few years. Until about 2004, the 90s, with all its big hair, baggy trousers and bad colour combos (lime green and tangerine?!) was still too fresh a scar, too painful a memory to be safely retro. Planning the programming for the party, something emerged – the ’90s feels like two eras with a brief threshold in the middle. For me at least, the ’90s begins in 1989 with acid-house and early techno crossovers, hip-house, New Jack Swing, “rap” (prior to its being hip-hop) and the last of the Stock, Aitken, and Waterman hits. 1995 feels like the threshold – “respectable” electronica like Autechre and Aphex Twin finds its way onto the cassette comps of indie kids and groups like the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers suddenly sit comfortably beside the Smashing Pumpkins and Tool on the rotating platters of 5CD mini-systems at teen parties. My sister and I pulled out all our old ’90s comps and gave some of the classics a rinse. The Prodigy still have brutal energy and addictive hooks, Fatboy Slim sounds even more irritating than it was, and KLF’s The White Room is an unqualified masterpiece. The Chemical Brothers’ albums get worse and worse as the nineties climb to the highpoint (lowpoint?) of “pre-millenium tension” – Exit Planet Dust is still their best work, while by 1999 the tracks rely on bombastic impacts to the detriment of groove and flow.

As if conceding the need to ride the coat-tails of the swiftly departing zeitgeist, the Brothers have enlisted the talents of Oliver Huntemann and Matthew Dear (here in Audion guise) to overcome redundancy. Huntemann’s track is lacklustre and dull – it takes little of the original version’s hyperactivity and replaces it with your typical Huntemann/Bodzin big rolling synth. The Audion version is actually closer to recent False material in style, but unlike the tracks on the outstanding 2007 record (a record that actually is 2007), this re-touch is relatively bland, with none of the compelling spookiness of the twisted medleys in the murk. The last song on the Brothers’ new album is called “The Pills won’t Help you Now”, and I can’t help but think this is a self-reproach (or maybe it should be) – but on “Do it Again” the lyrical content suggests the opposite. It details the misadventures of some hapless drugged punter in a way that seems to celebrate the very thing it’s condemning; this is probably not what they were aiming for, and the overall impression is “who cares?” more than “do it again”.

Virgin / Astralwerks / 3941480 / ASTR 92726
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 26, 2007

Turbo Crystal - French Girl

Jean-Francois Mouliet is Turbo Crystal, a Frenchman armed with only a stiff drum machine, a slap-bass, some really goofy spoken-raps, and a sing-song falsetto reminscent of Chromeo or Mocky. His two short tracks here, self-described as “ghetto rock”, will be hard for any dance fan to take seriously, but to their credit, they’re perverse and sparse enough to at least keep your attention while they are playing.

The real interest here is in the remixes by Escort and Bear Funk’s Fabrizio Mammarella. Considering they have so little to work with, it’s no wonder Escort have “pulled an Aphex Twin” and completely reworked “French Girl” as a tidy piece of keyboard-free Eurodisco. They’ve added in female backing vocals, horns, and a live rhythm section to back up the main vocal. It charms, but they are a bit too generous. Mammarella gives the original the respect it deserves: he phones it in. He simply drops the vocals over a run-of-the-mill disco-tech rhythm, adding just enough reverb shots and synth drones so it could pass for being spaced-out. Being blase never felt so right. I guess.

Tiny Sticks / STICK 12
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


June 7, 2007

A Mountain Of One - EP1 / EP2

2006200712"Balearic

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 — but to be fair I’ve never heard a note of Fleetwood Mac or Pink Floyd or Peter Frampton so maybe this London soft-rock act sounds like them too. All the songs on EP1 are really schmaltzy, really serious, even their cover of Ginny’s “Can’t Be Serious” has patient piano and guitar motifs run through who knows how much reverb, and falsetto-heavy vocal melodies just sorta floating atop. Maybe this “rock music for a hot summer night” / Buddha Bar shit is your idea of a good time?

“Can’t Be Serious,” which welded guitar-soloing beardo to nervous arpeggiated midtempo synth-pop, seems to have been the band’s jumpoff for the recent EP2: “Your Love Over Gold,” “People Without Love,” and “Arc of Abraham” use more confident variations of treated synths, balearic guitar, and heavily FX’d lead guitar. Even if you don’t dig them, you can’t deny their conviction, especially on “Your Love Over Gold.” They probably don’t even know they just wrote a shitty “Come Undone,” g’bless’em.

AMO / 001 / 002
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


April 5, 2007

David Garcet - Redemption

Similar to his first single on Belgium’s Dirty Dancing, “Redemption” sees Garcet working a heavy motorik beat with a consistent bassline on every 8th note, finding a common ground between Tussle’s minimal lockgrooves and early My Best Friend records like Toro’s “Phantom Drive.” With some soft-focus guitar melodies and snips of aching falsetto, Garcet is able to keep thing interesting while never diverting from the initial metronomic groove.

Fans of neo-italo duo the Revolving Eyes will find no stylistic surprises on their remix: they shift the monophonic chug into an arpeggiated hi-nrg rush, heightening the tension and creating a bit more heat for the dancefloor. Mister J, the other remixer here, could have had an electro-house hit on his hands if his production chops were more up to snuff. As it stands, he’s a little more than one well-programmed kick drum away from greatness.

Dirty Dancing / DDR 015
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


January 19, 2007

Charts: January 19 2007

Michael F. Gill
Sylvester – I Need You (Dim’s Maxi Disco Blend) [ITH Records]
Remute – Bounce 23 [Trapez]
V/A - This Is Rong Music [Rong Music]
Lil Louis - I Called You (The Story Continues) [Epic]
E-Dancer - Oombah [Planet E]
Midnightrats - Goalmaker [Magic Circus]
Macho Cat Garage - Ghetto Blues [Viewlexx]
V/A - Make Me What [Minisketch]
Benfay - Pink Silk Panties (Bang Goes Remix) [Stattmusik]
The Nova Dream Sequence - Interpretations [Compost]

Todd Hutlock
Depeche Mode - People Are People (Underground Resistance Remix) [Mute]
Tomas Andersson - Mot Matsalen! [Bpitch Control]
Radio Slave - Weeeze [Rekids]
Theo Parrish - Falling Up (Technasia Rmx) [Third Ear/Syncrophone]
Hot Chip - Over And Over (Naum Gabo Remix) [Astralwerks/DFA]
False - Kickball [Plus 8]
Thomas Fehlmann - Dusted [Kompakt]
Pier Bucci - L’nuit (Dominik Eulberg Mix) [Crosstown Rebels]
Booka Shade - In White Rooms (Shinedoe Remix) [Get Physical]
Nitzer Ebb - Control I’m Here (Superchumbo Dub) [NovaMute]


December 8, 2006

Charts: December 8 2006

Todd Hutlock
Pier Bucci - Instinct [Crosstown Rebels]
Radioactive Man - Itisanditisnt [Rotters Golf Club]
Vince Watson - Renaissance [Planet E]
Baby Ford - Beach Bump (Wildflower Mix) [Rhythm King]
Point Blank - Frug [Phono]
Loco Dice - Vamos a Cali [Cadenza]
Thomas P. Heckmann - Strobe [Bpitch Control]
False - .Wav Pool [Plus 8]
Hecker - Untitled (KIT 001) [Rephlex]
Compass - Gliding [Cabinet]

Mallory O’Donnell
Tomboy – 4 [Gomma]
Ost & Kjex - How Not to Be a Biscuit [Crosstown Rebels]
Thomas P. Heckmann – Medusa [BPitch Control]
Bangkok Impact - Aus Birgittes Tagebuch [Crčme Organization]
Kudu - Playing House [Nublu]
Escort – Karawane [Escort]
Luciano - For Disco Only [For Disco Only]
Smackos - Waiting For the Red Bear [Strange Life]

Michael F. Gill
Daniele Baldelli - Cosmic Sound [Mediane]
Ricardo Villalobos – Africolaps [Perlon]
Dirty Minds – I Want U (Dub) [Eskimo]
John Dahlback – Our Song [Pickadoll]
Rude 66 – Break The Silence [Vynalogica]
Bertine Zetlitz – Girl Like You [EMI]
DJ Assault – Crank This Mutha [Booty Wax]
Jimmy Ross – Fall Into a Trance [Quality / RFC]
Walter Gibbons – Mixed With Love [Salsoul]
Philip Glass – Prophecies [Nonesuch]


August 11, 2006

Applegarden - Twentyfive 6 Four

Applause for Clone Records, who had smarts enough to drop this electro-pop twelve when the iron was both hot and chip. Applegarden spell out Chicago homage, but to be honest I couldn’t catch any samples, and the un-FX’d all-dude hooks bring to mind Parliament, Electric Six more, Datarock especially. The difference, where those groups (and Hot Chip) have songs, Applegarden have but one groove in “Twentyfive,” a bassline doing off-center octaves, its relentless drive in the just-off pitch. On the A-side, labelmates Putsch 79 add a female hook and instrument mirror to dilute the song’s testosterone, but best bets are on the B: the original mix first, then the conga-fied “Armageddon,” whose falsetto melody and synth response comprise the best Hot Chip lick never written.

Clone / Cx22
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


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