September 18, 2007

Basteroid - Upset Ducks

At first it’s hard for me to imagine Upsets Ducks being used for dancing. I mean, I’ve felt that alchemy before, where physically encountering the music at proper volume in a dark and sweaty room consecrated to moving your ass makes even the most unassuming jams take on dimensions you couldn’t imagine in your most feverish headphone dreams, but Sebastian Riedl’s long-playing debut under the Basteroid name is too captivating in its insular, rough-and-smooth way to imagine listening communally, let alone dancing. The opening “16 Steps Away from the Stars” especially soft shoes its could-be-huge raft of interlocking burbles, melodic stabs, and static washes into something that seems to be continually turning away from the listener into somewhere more private and inaccessible; sure enough, having to be the pursuer just makes the attraction of the track fiercer.

Which isn’t to say at all that Basteroid sounds difficult or obtuse or dull; each track here packs all the “cloudbursts, breakdowns, and big hooks” that Peter Chambers summed up as the hallmarks of Areal’s sound in Beatz semi-recently. The artist and record that Riedl’s work here summons unavoidably to mind for those of us who are happy observers but not necessarily devotees of techno is The Field’s From Here We Go Sublime. But as good as that record is, the title is maybe even more appropriate for Upsets Ducks (although I wouldn’t want to lose Riedl’s sense of humor); Axel Willner’s opus opts for the in-your-face sparkle that makes his name so appropriate (think field as ground versus object, not plot of land) whereas the sneakier apogees of Basteroid get to the same heights by rougher, subtler, more sublime means.

Once Riedl hits the late period trifecta of “Pulsador de Alarma”/ “Allright” / “Un Dos Windows” it’s clear that although he’s not so headphone-pointillist as Willner he’s at least his match in crafting snarky movers that don’t so much burst at you as slyly insinuate themselves into your hindbrain. Like a lot of listeners normally so devoted to the Word, or at least the Voice, I can’t say I can actually hum any melodies even after weeks of devoted (obsessive?) listening, but I do find its steady, building pulse threading its way into more and more of my waking life.

Even as the construction of this album apparently disturbed the waterfowl outside his studio (especially the buzzy, grainy “Attention: Upsets Ducks,” I’d imagine), Riedl was crafting a near seamless 70 minutes that deserves to rival Willner’s big debut for the affections of those who normally listen to things with guitars in them.

I lack the technical or genre vocabulary to communicate to the diehards the difference in technique between, I can only talk about emotion: The Field is more like the sensation of sunshine on your face, a train ride to a new city, leaning in to kiss someone; Basteroid evokes instead the feeling of finally leaving work for the day, walking alone through your city late at night, falling asleep to the muted sound of the party next door. That the former is more obviously, maybe even aggressively ‘good’ as a set of signifiers is true, but there’s at least as much space (if not more) in my life for the latter. Riedl is definitely still capable of tearing up a dancefloor but he along with his contemporaries have finally learned the hard lessons of techno’s rich history of trying to make albums: how to craft an experience beyond that of getting up and moving, while still allowing the latter response. The result is rich and compelling enough to warrant repeated listens even from the neophytes.

Areal / AREALCD 6
[Listen]
[Ian Mathers]


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 Muellers 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 livein 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, hes 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 doesnt mean that you cant admire the latest models to roll off the modern assembly line.


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
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


July 26, 2007

Social Being - Free Your Mind

A few weeks ago I reviewed a DJ Harvey remix of Michoacan with a very swampy, swirling, early-Funkadelic feel to it. This time, these “Social Beings” (aka Ricardo Villalobos and Jay Haze) have gone the whole hog and plonked Eddie Hazel’s amazing solo from “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts” right onto their EP.

I tried doing this myself, years ago. If you haven’t heard the song, you should I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music, well, ever. Full stop (or “period” as Americans say). So I got the solo and I chopped it in an editing program, and then I fiddled with it in Audiomulch for a few hours. No matter which way I mangled it, it was almost totally destroyed by the fiddling. It really wanted to be left alone. It didn’t want to be part of my silly loop orchestra. Nor did I.

I get the feeling that Jay & Ricardo realised this themselves, somewhere along the way. Villalobos has been sampling a lot lately, from his Floyd-cribbing number “Frank and Hennes” on that Bruchstuecke compilation a few years back to Fizheuer, the original version being found by some nerd and quickly blogged. With Fizheuer, Villalobos put the sample front and centre, making those horns rise out of the system like a revelation to machine-tired ears. But here, Hazel’s licks (and even the huge stream of feedback) are kept in the background, mostly unedited, in a gesture which seems to realise that the integrity of the original is best left alone. As it is, the guitar part is like a memory, like the raw acoustic riffs struggling against the walls of digital feedback in Fennesz Endless Summer.

Rhythmically, this is the straightest thing that both artists have released in a while; Haze’s influence recalls Villalobos to “808 the Bassqueen”-era patterns, and that ain’t no bad vibe. I’m tempted to think, in six months hence, Haze will brag in an interview that he wrote the whole thing (just like he did to Samim after the Fuckpony album). But hey, maybe he did for all I know. Anyhow, this EP is not quite the success it could be, given the confluence of talent and source material it marshals. All the same, it’s a very worthy, useful, and blissful track for the wrong side of the morning.

Tuning Spork / TSXTRA 001EP
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 16, 2007

Deetron feat. DJ Bone - Life Soundtrack

200712"HouseTechno

Deetron’s “Life Soundtrack” was one of the revelations of Radioslave’s “tough toys for tough boys” Misch Masch mix - mostly for DJ Bone’s wonderful vocal. There’s a lot of this malarky going about at the moment - get a European to put together the track, then get a black American innovator to add a vocal part. Maybe it’s just because most white producers have such reedy, weak little voices. Imagine a Frank Oz preachapella and you’ll get the gist.

So anyway, the solution to a possible horror: first there was Coldcut’s soppy “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” with Robert Owens, then Innervisions’ “Where We At” with Derrick Carter, and now “Life Soundtrack”. If the first was all about sentimental tears on the dancefloor, and the second was a head nod and a whoop in agreement, then this baby’s a pumping fist and a set jaw - the big bad techno other to its softer, wssier housemates. The reason’s the content, as Bone can tell you himself. It’s because “this sound comes from dirt, pain, boredom, cold streets, nothing from nothing to everything, from frustration to innovation, this sound makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you hate, makes you stomp, makes you clap. This music, deep down, special place, special time, special sound, lives forever - life soundtrack.”

And damn, doesn’t it sound great, especially where, as with the Radioslave version, Bone’s sonorous voice is given enough space for each of the phrases to hit you as the whole thing chugs past. It’s a fresh demonstration of Matt Edwards’ intuitive understanding as to which elements of the track need repeating, which need foregrounding, and which need binning. But then there’s Redshape’s version, which utilises the mystery man’s masterful re-manufacture of the mid-nineties Detroit vibe, harnessing yet another crunchy, percolating groove to a whole lotta late night dirt. It doesn’t treat the vocal as well, but it’s so sharp, rich and grinding that you’ll barely care.

Deetron’s edit is like hearing backwards to the elements of a track after both the Radioslave and Redshape remixes, each of which gives a very strong, singular impression. Deetron’s version is still a great track, but it’s less stylish, more generic, less tense. Last of all there’s the “Rejected Interpretation”, which is stripped right back and pulled down into the deep, as a concession to DJs who are playing too small a room at too early in the evening for the scale and growl of the other versions. It starts off well, but loses it for me in the later sections with a proggy, generic arrangement that will age very quickly.

Music Man / MM 133 / MM 133R
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 13, 2007

Charts: July 13 2007

Nate DeYoung

Lee Douglas - New York Story [Rong]
Strategy - Future Rock [Kranky]
Social Being - Free Your Mind [Tuning Spork]
Roisin Murphy - Overpowered [EMI]
Von Sudenfed - Tromatic Reflexxions [Domino]
V/A - This is Rong Music [Rong]
Ada - Hensel & Damsel [Cereal/Killers]
The Martinez Brothers - My Rendition [Objecktivity]
Kocky - Tricks [La Vida Locash]

Michael F. Gill

Asa-Chang & Junray - Jun Ray Song Chang [Leaf]
DeepChord Presents: Echospace Empyrean [Modern Love]
A Guy Called Gerald - Sweet You [Laboratory Instinct]
Ida Engberg - Disco Volante (Hugg and Pepp Remix) [Pickadoll Records]
D1 - Mind + Soul [Tempa]
Rednose Distrikt Feat. Benny Sings and Die Bend - Maaitiemaai [Kindred Spirits]
For The Floorz - Body Angels [We Rock Music]
Freemasons - Love On My Mind [Loaded Records]
Arnie Love and The Loveletts - We’ve Had Enough [Tap Records]
Fleetwood Mac - You Make Lovin’ Fun (Trailmix Remix) [Synergize Communications]


June 26, 2007

Andy Stott - The Massacre

200712"TechnoDub

We live in the time of “dodgy rips” that clip and fudge your precious music. Crap, flat, dead sounding mp3s might well be the key reason that gets all you tune-filching Oinkers back into the shops to buy music that sounds as it was meant to. My previous experience of Pantha du Prince’s This Bliss was blighted by bitrates of only 128kbps, a reminder of just how crap mp3s were/are, and how much you really do miss out on by not listening to a prime source (or at least a high quality rip).

So it was (do I confess to much?) with my recent copy of Andy Stott’s EP The Massacre a pre-release purloin, the codec kept coughing and spluttering all over a bassline that was simply too fat to chew on without choking. I ordered the vinyl the next day, and haven’t looked back. Stott’s recent work has brought in greater and deeper bass, to the point where a wooferless recital is only half the goodness, at most. “Unknown Exception” makes my headphones quiver on their headband, sending rippling buzz down the cable. Inside the can it’s a different matter, as the delicacy that Stott always fixes in high contrast to the threatening brutality of the deep below plays itself out. It’s extremely hard to believe this guy’s only been making music for a couple of years, and that he’s Claro’s “apprentice”.

“The Massacre”, the B, takes a burbling drum machine pattern then puts a very Moritz-y melody over it, sending it forth into the never-never with another huge bassline. The closer on Efdemin’s recent (and exceptional) RA podcast, this track is the definition of deep, the soul of techno laid bare. The outro is exceptional, as tiny amounts of delay are added to the basic percussive pattern until it skips into itself, just as the bassline sidles up underneath, then pulls back, then returns, then fades back down. Ahhh. Listen closely and you can hear each element modulating slowly and inter-acting nothing has been allowed to “just loop”: everything has been considered and placed perfectly in the mix, each part plays with every other. Rarely is techno so subtly or skilfully written.

Modern Love / LOVE 035
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


June 26, 2007

Turzi - Seven Inch Allah

Three pretty different tracks from this French act, though they all could have ended up on Optimo’s Psyche Out cosmic/dance/kraut mix from two years ago had they existed then: the uneasy trans-european chug of “Amadeus” whose sixteenth-note pulse recalls the pinprick synths on Delia and Gavin’s “Rise” (a Psyche Out track itself); the blast of surfrock punk in “Are You Thinking About Jesus” which could have pinch-hit for any number of Tarantino soundtracks (and any number of directors QT aped in the process); and “Hippy Heart”, a downtempo demo of Turzi’s “Afghanistan”, and something you might confuse for a Beastie Boys instrumental or, if you’re feeling generous, a grittier Serge. I hate the namedrop review as much as you do, but it’s worth noting that all of these descriptors are very good things.

Record Makers / REC 39
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


June 6, 2007

Gui Boratto - Chromophobia Remixe Part 1

Like Booka Shade or Hkan Lidbo, Gui Boratto has an extensive background as a “hired gun”, and has produced all kinds of tracks to order. Chromophobia, his debut on Kompakt, is likewise a finely fashioned piece of work by somebody who knows their way around a studio and is intent on manufacturing a product with polish and care. The album sounds exactly as Boratto had intended, which is both its strength and (ultimately) its limit.

This remix EP is also “exactly what you’d expect” - close your eyes and imagine either Robert Babicz or The Field remixing Boratto and (if you’ve any imagination) you’d probably conceive of something almost identical to what’s being offered here. Babicz’s mix of “Mr. Decay” is typically loud, fruity, and rich (his tracks always “sound” about 10% fatter than anyone elses) with his quasi-Wagnerian love of massive stabs and huge malfunctioning reverb breakdowns. With the mids-heavy bassline driving things along here, this is also as close to Alex Smoke as Babicz has ever sounded, but ultimately it’s neither Babicz’s best work nor a magical translation of the original. The Field’s rework of “Hera” does the equivalent of cutting a photograph into tiny squares and then sticking them back togetherin almost exactly the same place. Both mixes are competent works by talented producers reworking decent tracks by a conspicuous professional - but thats not enough, theres no surprise here, nothing dangerous or truly unexpected. Ho hum.

Kompakt / KOMPAKT 158
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 10, 2007

Baby Ford / Benno Blome - Smoke Machine

Im a sucker for Sender. Theres something irresistible about Benno Blomes brittle, sawing, rocking vision of reduced tech-house that keeps on keeping on, even sixty or more releases in. But where earlier highlights in the catalog steered much closer to a tight, dry sound aesthetic, recent releases (perhaps since the first Baby Ford release here) have moistened and loosened things considerably. Until recently, it just wasnt plausible to say that Senders gonna house you.

But here it is folks, perhaps the loosest, housiest release on the catalog, probing the play in the groove on the A-side (without losing the menace), then plugging back into the click, spray, and clatter of Bruno Pronsatos microhouse-inflected revision on the flip. Ford and Blomes version nods forward with a big-ass bassline, surrounded by Fords cut-and-stuttered vocal utterances. The track grooves along in this pattern, until a huge tearout full of granulated static (or is that the smoke machine?) interrupts things, and then the bassline returns.

Pronsatos mix offers the same percussive spatiality of his recent (excellent) collaboration with Sammy Dee as Half Hawaii. Its got a smooth bassline, dry, panning congas, and a metallic vocoded vocal, all of which sound like they are jamming in a big, hard-walled room somewhere inside his laptop. Its a nice interconnection between the swinging micro/clapfunk of his work on hello?repeat and Senders overall aesthetic. Worth a look.

Sender / send064
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


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