May 25, 2007

Thinking Out Loud: Physical vs. Digital

Thinking Out Loud developed from a series of open-ended email conversations and ruminations between Beatz staff members. In this article, Michael F. Gill and Peter Chambers discuss the merits of dance music on vinyl and MP3.

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February 2, 2007

Home Video - The Penguin

Was this inspired by March of the Penguins? I hope so, because I really like my read: Like March humanized the flightless birds to now parodied degrees (cf. Bob Saget’s latest Farce), “The Penguin” redeems countless hopeless/loveless/escapist/truly awful lyrics via penguinization: Sometimes “I wish I could fly away” is just “I wish I could fly away”; sometimes “waiting for the light to change” is not just the stuff of late-night high-school instant messaging. What I’m trying to say is that if you imagine this song being sung by a penguin, it’s pretty great. Otherwise it’s merely a good Maxi Priest mockup (”I just wanna be close to yoooouuuu”) with better-than-average bedroom dance-pop synths and drum sounds, and way better-than-average mixing and programming. There’s a steel-drumlike synth arpeggio that pops up every now and then and it’s just gorgeous. On the backside, DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy makes his solo remixing debut as the Loving Hand. To most it’ll just sound like a flightier DFA remix, much like the Unkle “In a State” one or the Chemical Brothers’ “The Boxer,” but keen ears will notice that the drum kicks are softer, and the background mix is extremely dense, with layers of soft ambient textures tickled by competing skitters of synth. It builds well and isn’t afraid to break down for the verse and build back up again. Really quiet, really confident.

Defend Music / DFN 80015
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


February 2, 2007

Charts: February 2 2007

Todd Hutlock
Kiki - Trust Me (Super Dub) [Bpitch Control]
Radio Slave - Weeeze [Rekids]
Pantytec - Micromission (Daniel Bell Remix) [Perlon]
Thomas Brinkmann - Wait A Minute [Max Ernst]
Mikkel Metal - Noff [Echocord]
Sieg ber Die Sonne - Youll Never Come Back (Tobi Neumanns Waiting For You Rmx) [Multicolor Recordings]
Villalobos - Tub [Playhouse]
Alan Parsons Project - I Robot (Pilooski Edit) [D*I*R*T*Y Edits]
Depeche Mode - Master And Servant (An ON-U Sound Science Fiction Dance Hall Classic) [Mute]
Convextion - Solum Ferrum [Down Low]

Mallory ODonnell
Roxy Music - Same Old Scene (Glimmers Remix) [Virgin]
Love Supreme - Pork Chop Express [Tirk]
Kathy Diamond - All Woman [Permanent Vacation]
Flim Flam - Best of Joint Mix [Dum Dum]
Marsha Raven - I Like Plastic [Red Bus]
Pet Shop Boys - One More Chance (Remix) [ARS]
Orgue Electronique - The Garden [Creme Organisation]
Chocolate Milk - Action Speaks Louder Than Words [RCA]
The Field - From Here We Go Sublime [Kompakt]
Gui Borrato - Chromophobia [Kompakt]

Michael F. Gill
Tenderness - Got To Keep On Trying [RCA]
Bob-A-Rela - Why Does It Rain? [Channel]
O’Gar Playback Fantasy (Instrumental) [Magic Circus Productions]
Quartz Beyond The Clouds [T.K. Disco]
Omar-S- The Maker [FXHE]
Robert Hood Hoodmusic 2 [Music Man Records]
Marcellus Pittman Come See [Unirhythm]
Herbert The Movers & The Shakers (Green Velvet Remix) [!K7]
Remo feat. Chelonis R. Jones - Empire [Dance Electric]
Home Video - The Penguin (Tim Goldsworthy’s The Loving Hand Remix) [Defend]


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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November 17, 2006

Villalobos - Fizheuer Zieheuer

Given how Ricardo Villalobos track times have been gradually and steadily increasing over the years (he now averages around 12 minutes per cut), it was only a matter of time before something like this happeneda 37-minute single. There actually is precedent for such a thingin 1992, the Orb released (and sold truckloads of) the 40-minute Blue Room single. While the Orbs sound (anchored by the mighty bass of Jah Wobble on that particular cut) was based in long, meandering ambient passages and samples, Villalobos is based in layered, programmed percussion, not necessarily the easiest thing to hold ones attention for that long without getting old. Still, if Alex Patterson & Co. could pull it off, surely the mad Chilean scientist can too. Right?

From my very unscientific straw poll of those who have heard Fizheuer Zieheur, opinions are split. Some claim it to be nothing more than an overlong DJ tool, not worthy of their cash and shortened attention spans, given that they likely would never have use for more than a fragment of it for their purposes. Others have praised it is a psychedelic journey of a track that flies by before you know it and lulls you into a deep suspended state of rhythm-induced hypnosis. To my mind, it falls squarely between the two camps, and therein lies its fascinating appeal.

The length isnt the only memorable thing about Fizheuer, of course. The track is built around two basic elementsa relentless, ever-shifting rhythm track, and loops of an Eastern European horn section of the Oktoberfest variety (or so it sounds from the short bits used). Fizheuer kicks off with the sample and a fizzing hi-hat to set the tempo. Whereas one might expect Villalobos to take his time in introducing the beat to elongate the track length, it really is fully up and kicking by the two-minute mark. From there, its all down to the mixingthe sample is slowly faded, tweaked, and phased, and the beat is added to, subtracted from, folded, spindled, and manipulated, and thats really about it. No giant breakdown, no crazy percussion flourish. It all just unfolds itself, like a time-lapse video of a blooming flower. There are some new horn flourishes that appear at various points beginning at the five-minute mark and a few sound effects for color, but for the most part, this is what were dealing withdrum machines and oom-pa-pa. So how on Earth does he get this to work over the course of 37 minutes? Im still working that part out…

Surely much of it is Villalobos deft programming skills which have long been his strong suit. The man has done his homework and he knows how to weave beats together into exciting new tapestries that forge a whole greater than the sum of their parts, and those skills are on full display here. I find that Fizheuer works best when taken as a whole, fully immersing oneself in it for the entire running length. Its no wonder why the club kids who spin three minutes of this on the cueing turntable at their local shop would walk away wondering what the fuss is all about. To really appreciate Fizheuer you need to almost un-focus your ears, like what your eyes would do when looking at one of those 3-D computer paintings that hide a spaceship among a seemingly random pattern of colors. The nearest point of comparisonother than Villalobos other extended works, of courseare the early minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, especially the formers early phase recordings. It all sounds vaguely of the same cloth, but if you drop the needle at various points in the record, youll hear radically different things.

The formats make a difference, too. The 12-inch version features the title cut split across two sides with not so much as a fade between them, and it of course suffers from comparatively low fidelity thanks to the lengthyou can only cut those grooves so deep when youre dealing with that much music. Those with deep wallets might invest in two copies and fuse together their own infinite Fizheuer, something Im sure Villalobos himself would richly approve of. But that aspect aside, the vinyl version really suffers from the break in momentum, which for some unknown reason is split after just 15 minutes, leaving 22 on the flip. Unless you really are going to use this in a DJ set (and it certainly lends itself to that), the CD version is recommended, not only because the uninterrupted Fizheuer is presented in all its glory, but there is the bonus of Fizbeast, a stripped-down, 35-minute mix that excises everything but the beats. Sort of a shame that this version wasnt made available on wax, as it would obviously be useful to the jocks even more than the standard version. No use crying, howeverit isnt like there isnt enough on the 12-inch for them to work with as it stands.

So where does Villalobos go from here? Well, to a double-pack on Perlon, of course, featuring four tracks and a total running time near 50 minutes. It, too, is brilliant in its own way, but the lone sub-10-minute track does sound a bit out of place now that the bar has been raised. Long may he run.

Playhouse / PLAY CD021/PLAY 133
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


November 3, 2006

Interview: Cerrone

French disco producer Cerrone is, undoubtedly, a legend of dance music. Beginning his solo work in 1976 with the classic Love in C Minor, he has gone on to sell more than 25 million records and win five Grammy Awards for his efforts. In the course of promoting the reissue of his first four albums and the upcoming NY Dance Party for 2007, Stylus sat down with the man that brought us Supernature.

First uptell us a little bit about the NY Dance Party for 2007. How did you become involved with this project and with Nile Rodgers?

Yes, Nile, he’s been my friend for thirty years. We’re going to celebrate thirty years of dance, also thirty years of his and my careers, too! (Laughs) It’s going to be in New York, during the Columbus Day weekend, and it’s going to be really huge. We have fifteen different sites, the main stage is going to be in the park (Central Park), and the event will be between 3 PM to 9:30 PM. Every site is going to have something differentsome will be a DJs, some singers, but at 6:30, from the main stage, we’re going to have the big show, with a lot of stars involved from the last thirty years of dance, and that (will be broadcast to) all the sites by satellite, because all the sites (across the city) are going to have a large video screen on the back of the stage. With all of the sites in New York, we could have more than 3 or 400,000 New Yorkers dancing in the streetsit would be a great image for the World, and for New York. This is what the Mayor wants, too.

So, the Mayor has been enthusiastic and positive about it?

Oh yes, and if the mayor was not enthusiastic about it, you know, how could we do it? The mayor understands very well what we are trying to do, and likes the idea to give back the image of New York to the world… it’s sad, because after the Eleventh of September of 2001, the image of New York for the rest of the world changed very much. You know, it’s become much more a city of business than music, like in Europe we have Geneva… but New York is a wonderful city for music, and we want to celebrate the city as the home of dance music. The image of the people of New York, young or old dancing in the street, it’s a tremendous, beautiful image that we want to give back to the world. We are still working on the sites for the event, but we are thinking Battery Park, other parks, some sites for 3,000 people, some for 10 or 15,000, maybe something by LaGuardia as well… every month the event is getting bigger and better, with more and more people getting on board.

You’ve been doing a number of live events and dance parties recently, havent you?

We did the event in front of Versailles, with 100,000 people, which you can see six minutes of video from on my website… that was last year… Two months ago I played (an event) for Dolce Gabana, next month a tour in Moscow, in February another tour in France… and I’ll be working in the middle on a new LP to be released in the spring.

This will be all original material?

Yes, right now we have 14 new tracks.

So, do you enjoy the live performances as much as the studio work? How do you feel about that?

Oh, I love it! Did you see the video?

The DVD you released last year? Yes, I saw that.

OK, because if you see the video, you have the answer for your question.

Very true!

After 30 years in the music industry, when you have the chance to play in front of so many young people… I take a great pleasure, it’s a surprise and a pleasure… and I thank my God that I could do this!

It’s great to see some of the things that you’ve done as far as live performancesnot just concerts but theatre events, operas, the global peace concert back in ‘92… do you still see yourself as primarily a musician? In some ways it seems like you’ve become more of an artist in the broad sense, a cultural force of sorts.

When I’m on stage, I’m a musician. More a musician than an artist. I have to be. But, I mean, when you start in a group, in a band, as a musician, it’s for the rest of your life. When you take an American star, like a Carlos Santana, no matter what you have going on in the front, they are still a musician in mind.

How do you feel about your relationship with the dance music world? It seems that you’ve moved away from dance at times, doing rock and doing more neo-classical music, but that you’ve never really turned your back on dance music as a whole…

Well, every few years I have a DJ who remixes or releases some of my old music, so the radio plays new stuff, but also, plays the old stuff with a new style, and the DJ puts me right on the floor where I have to be. For example, William Orbit made a remix in 1990, 1991 and then David Morales and Frankie Knuckles and so on, I mean there are so many DJs who have remixed my back-catalog, so no matter what, if I want to move from the styleand I say to you, I don’t want to movethe DJ kicks me in the… (laughs).

You don’t have a choice!

Yeah, and thanks, it’s perfect! Those guys make my life easier, so I don’t sound like a has-been!

Well I think you’ve combined enough looking back with looking forward that no one could accuse you of resting on your laurels or taking it easy…

Thank you!

But, looking back for a moment, what are some of your favorite or most memorable of your own releases?

Of my back-catalog, oh wow… I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I like I lot of itstarting from “Love in C Minor,” to “Got to Have Loving,” to “Supernature,” and so on… I like them all, they are my babies, if I can say that! I have to love my babies, you know? (Laughs)

How about your productions for other people?

If I made a production or a track for someone else, like Don Ray or Kongas or something like that, it’s still 75% myself, so, it’s still my baby! For example, for my last LP I composed 18 songs, and I know that I’m only going to use 12 or 14 songs for the record, so the other four songs are maybe going to go to someone else, but… I’m going to do something with it. Like, the Don Ray albumI had too many tracks for my album Supernature, and in the meantime, because Don Ray was my arranger for strings and brass, I said let’s make an LP for youand we finished the LP together, but as I said, these are still my songs, my productionmy babies!

What else are you listening to right now?

There is a lot. A lot, a lot of good music right nowI like a lot of R&B, I like also… the Madonna, I love the last Madonna!

How about when you started?

For strings, I got very influenced by Barry White, of course. And because I’m a drummer, I put the drums at the front on the mix. At the moment everybody told me, it’s crazy to have the drums up front, you have to remix that for the radio. But, to make sure that the record company isn’t going to remix my songs, I made it 60 seconds or a few minutes longer so that I was sure I’m not going to be played on the radio and no one is going to touch my mix!

Well, it worked out well for you and for the dancers as well…

Yes!

[Mallory ODonnell]


February 24, 2006

Florent - G-Net

More comedown than come hither, Frenchman Florent Renard presents two pieces: a macabre night driving piece, and something like a techno remix of bad video game music. From the low rumblings of the bassline to the high-end tweets and the Lindstrom synths half way through, G-Net is an absolutely solid and dubby track, reminiscent of recent Wagon Repair releases, but not quite made for dancing. However, the b-side, “Ritournell,” does anything but bring to mind Sebastian Tellier’s epic track of very nearly the same name. Opening at a plenty upbeat tempo, Florent drops in an 8-bit sample that forgot to take its Ritalin, and basically the piece comes off like a vinyl copy of the Metroid soundtrack played at the wrong speed. The overall impression is that Florent is trying too many things with not enough variation; two completely different sounds, and each with an explicit teleological approach: start here, do this, end there. However, a less rushed and more focused effort might find itself a home on K1 rather than K2.

K2 / 006
[Cameron Octigan]