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]

June 22, 2007



On this fourth edition of Influx, we profile 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”…

01: Chelonis R. Jones - I Don’t Know
02: Marc Romboy vs. Chelonis R. Jones - Helen Cornell
03: Chelonis R. Jones - Sky Is Sea

[INFLUX #001: Orac Records]
INFLUX #002: Hand on the Plow]
INFLUX #003: Foundsound]

April 26, 2007

Para One - Midnight Swim

Curiouser and curiouser. It never ceases to amaze me how t(r)endencies in dance music collide, mutate, and spawn new monsters. If one of the key refrains of producers (against music journalists) is that we keep on pigeonholing them against their will, then the reply should be a demand for some sympathyhow else are we to get a handle on all this flux? This EP is so thoroughly under the influences that it staggerstheres crunk, hip-hop, house (bouncy French, disco, micro, electro, whore), plus nods to rave, all packaged with lashings of snappy pop.

First listen reminded me of my mother, telling me that Big Black was headache music. I didnt think Songs About Fucking was, but this EP is colorful like a mouthful of gummies, high like your surging blood sugar, and sickly like your stomach after the binge is over. The original has got the cut, paste, and bounce of Akufens old classics like Deck the House and Quebec Nightclub. The problem with the track (to these ears at least) is the minor-key string sample over the top of the mix, which abrades the party below.

Ritons mix is the bermanic wedding of the originals housey parts to full-bore synth-electro madness. Like Alter Egos remix of Partial Arts a few months back, if the kids in your club don’t dance to this, theyre dead. Thats not a threat, its a medical fact. The Drowning mix by Surkin continues with the cut and spazz, but this time is matched with sirens, rave atmospheres and big-room house ass. Headache music! (Dear god, Im turning into my mother.) Finally, Beckett and Taylor take their hands off the plow long enough to outclass their fellows with a mix that sounds surprisingly adult and sophisticated by comparison, while still keeping things well hectic.

It feels odd to praise an EP I have difficulty listening to from start to finish, but this is exemplary, and if youre a working gal (in the DJ sense) this is a warhorse for the whore-house.

Naive France / Institubes / NV 809166/ INS 12017
[Peter Chambers]

March 2, 2007

Lazslo Beckett - Plowtrax Vol 1

I first met Laszlo on the dancefloor, in December. I think I was a bit bored, maybe a little tiredand definitely quite drunk. I felt that sudden urge to find a corner and curl up into a ball. But then this outrageous track faded into the mix. Wowzers. I whooped, gripped my hair, then did what any drunk trainspotting idiot would doI marched right up to the DJ and asked What the fuck is this?

Turns out I was listening to Bleep Me Daddy, the A1 on Laszlo Becketts Plowtrax Volume 1 EP. And what a sound, toosomething of the rambunctious oompah of the old Wishmountain tracks, but with the hypercollage sensibility of Akufen or Ark, and a little something extra. On the phones, the density and diversity of the samples used is conspicuouslive drums, real hand claps, pitched-up tomsand over that, the crazy, malfunctioning synth equivalent of a bad balloon someone just let go of. The long track on the B continues the madness, with a frenzied, shouted vocal over the top of a ridiculously intricate collage of live drums and bass, sounding like nothing much except Beige or Lump. Keep on Counting, the B2, takes things down a few pegs intensity wise, continuing the same sampledelic approach, but in a more atmospheric vein not dissimilar to moments on the recent Audio Werner EP reviewed here a few weeks back.

A lot of cut-up microhouse can suffer through its inherent boisterousness (or cause suffering at least)like a four-year old stuffed full of gummy bears, things can get really annoying really quickly. But this is easily one of the more accomplished EPs in this vein for a while. Fun fun fun til your daddy takes your farming implement away. Keep youre eyes on Laszlo, and just hope he keeps his Hand on the Plow.

Hand on the Plow / HOTP006
[Peter Chambers]

October 13, 2006

Charts: October 13 2006

Guest Chart: DJ Barbara Preisinger [~Scape, Berlin]

Alix Alverez & Mr.V - Beat Bodega vol1 [Sound Channel Music]
Shed - Shot Selection [Selection records]
Deadbeat - Version Immersion [~scape]
STL - Purple Saturn Days [Perlon]
Pantha Du Prince - Lichten [Dial]
Ferrer & Sydenham Inc - The Black Door [ibadan]
Nathan Cole - Musik Freak [Funkd]
Andy Vaz - Remixes [Background]
Herrmann & Kaden - Corroboree [Freude Am Tanzen]
Beckett & Taylor - Hired New Hands [Hand On The Plow]

Michael F. Gill
And One Sometimes (Instrumental) [Virgin]
Terrence Fixmer Resistance [Gigolo]
Deepchild Blackness of the Sea (Luomo Remix) [Future Classic]
Chagrin DAmour Chacun Fait (Dub) [Barclay]
Black Gold Cmon Stop [Prelude]
Kiko Solar [Notorious Elektro]
Alisha All Night Passion [Vanguard]
Stephane Signore & Wehbba Destiny [Bound Records]
Red Lipstique Dracs Back (Dub) [Magnet Records Ltd]
Geraldo Pino & The Heartbeats Let Them Talk [Soundway]

Todd Hutlock
Lawrence - Deep Summer Hole [Dial]
Lazy Fat People - Shinjuku [Wagon Repair]
Heidi Vs Riton - Vejer [Get Physical]
Sense Club - Tommorrov Cocktail [Perlon]
John Dahlbaeck - Wet Summer [Kompakt Extra]
Trentemeller - Always Something Better (Trentemeller Remix) [Poker Flat]
Meek - Glowing Trees [New Ground]
Andrew Weatherall - Feathers [Rotters Golf Club]
John Hassell - Voiceprint (Blind from the Facts) (808 Mix Two - Latin In It Mix) [Opal]
Dirt Crew - Largo [Dirt Crew Recordings]

Nate DeYoung
My My - Songs for the Gentle [Playhouse]
Tim Hecker - Harmony in Ultraviolet [Kranky]
Rex the Dog - Maximize [Kompakt]
Matthias Kaden / Onur Ozer - Pentaton / Twilight [Vakant R]
Mobilee - Back to Basics [Mobilee]
Pikaya / Andomat 3000 & Jan - Grne Raufaser / Entr’acte Music [Cadenza]
Bruno Pronsato - Lady Collage [Orac]
The Modernist - Presents “Popular Songs” [Faith]

September 29, 2006

Beckett and Taylor - (Hired New Hands)


Before I begin my gushing again for another Hands on the Plow release, Id like to take a quick moment to wipe off the drool and give a quick criticism that has marred the label so far. That is, where you gonna hide Beckett and Taylor? With each passing year between releases, Ive only been able to carry these tumbling tracks with the sad fact, like a hole in my pocket, that Id have another year to wait for the next. No more, damn it. With Todd Burns recent Influx profile on the label, theres no asterisk that footnotes my impatience for the labels next release after (Hired New Hands). The opening cut Where There You Been Gone Find It takes bare-bone house structure and tickling voice-tweaks while adding the one thing that might describe the Hand on the Plow phenomenon in a short sampled nutshell: the sound of a screw twisting into a knot of wood. For all the groups accumulated descriptions as loose or haphazard, their samples find that specific texture that is able to be twisted to the point that the underpinning screw will never fall out. Caro amplifies it, remixing the duos earlier track, Hand on the Plow with a sure touch. B-side Hoody might contort less, but the tracks slow burn makes up for any absence of revolution and finishes out another solid single.

Hand On The Plow / hotp003
[Nate DeYoung]

September 22, 2006


On this third edition of Influx, we profile Foundsound. The label puts out music showcasing quirky, dancefloor-friendly tracks constructed from fragmented samples, organic minimalism, and random field recordings. Stylus editor Todd Burns talked to Sean ONeal and Cyhl Takerkart about the Philadelphia electronic music scene, the differences between DJing and producing, and whats up next in 2006 and 2007 for the label.

01: Sarah Goldfarb - Forty Years Ago I Sold My Body
02: Redwan - Macky & Donald (Fusiphorm Remix)
03: Someone Else - Goofball
04: Omar Salgado - Miniature

[INFLUX #001: Orac Records]
INFLUX #002: Hand on the Plow]

September 8, 2006


Beatz by the Pound introduces its newest podcast: Influx. On this second edition, we profile UK imprint Hand on the Plow. The label puts out what co-label head Steven Taylor calls 21st century blues and returns this month after a more than two-year hiatus. Stylus editor Todd Burns talked to Taylor, Laszlo Beckett, and Matt Southall about the origins of HotP, the music that theyre each producing, and about the slew of releases that they have upcoming in 2006.

01: Spandex - Whats Wrong With You
02: Beckett and Taylor - Where There You Been Gone Find It
03: Pleated Lemon - Cocks and Fannies
04: Beckett and Taylor - Hoody (Instrumental Version)

[INFLUX #001: Orac Records]