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
[Nate DeYoung]

August 24, 2007

Charts: August 23 2007

Michael F. Gill

Kettel - Marliesje [Marguerita Recordings]
San Serac - Fairlight [Frogman Jake]
The Replicants - Club Para (Matzak Instrumental Remix) [Gobatcha]
Paul Murphy - Withnail & I [Routine Records]
DMX Krew - Snow Cub [Breakin’ Records]
Rideout - Someone Special [Enterprises]
Cellophane - Music Colours (Parts 1-3) [Did Records]
Jones Girls - You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else [Philadelphia International]
Phortune - String Free [Hot Mix 5]
Fly Guy - Fly Guy Rap [P&P Records]

August 20, 2007

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 01


Mixed by Michael F. Gill

“People called it Latin hip-hop, but the pop producers didn’t want to use that term because hip-hop had negative connotations. So they started calling it freestyle.”

01. Shannon - Let The Music Play - Emergency Records 1983
02. Jellybean - The Mexican - EMI 1984
03. Lisa Lisa - I Wonder If I Take You Home - Columbia/CBS 1984
04. Nayobe - Good Things Come To Those Who Wait - Fever Records 1986
05. Amoretto - Clave Rocks - PKO Records 1986
06. Sa Fire - Love Is On Her Mind - Cutting Records 1988
07. Cover Girls - Show Me - Fever Records 1986
08. TKA - One Way Love - Tommy Boy Music 1986
09. Cover Girls - Inside Outside - Fever Records 1988
10. Nayobe - Please Don’t Go - Fever Records 1984
11. Alisha - All Night Passion - Vanguard 1984
12. Company B - Fascinated - Atlantic 1986
13. Expose - Point Of No Return - Arista 1985
14. Nocera - Summertime Summertime - Sleeping Bag Records 1986
15. Information Society - Running - Tommy Boy Music 1985
16. Debbie Deb - When I Hear Music - Jam Packed 1983
17. Debbie Deb - Lookout Weekend - Jam Packed 1984
18. Nice N’ Wild - Diamond Girl - Atlantic 1986
19. Judy Torres - No Reason To Cry - Profile Records 1986

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
[Peter Chambers]

July 16, 2007

Deetron feat. DJ Bone - Life Soundtrack


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, wüssier 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
[Peter Chambers]

June 22, 2007

Charts: June 22 2007

Mallory O’Donnell

The Nick Straker Band - The Nick Straker Band [Prelude]
William Strickland - An Electronic Visit to the Zoo and Sound Hypnosis [Spectrum]
Tiefschwarz - Black Music [Souvenir]
Ack By Panel - Base Filmtab EP [Greystate]
Bonde Do Role - Office Boy [Mad Decent]
Grand National - By The Time I Get Home… [Domino]
Third World - One More Time [Columbia]
Ricardo Villalobos - 1ş Encuentro Latinoamericano de la Soledad [White]
Justice - D.A.N.C.E. [Ed Banger]
Bohemia - All The Way [Discos de Tinga]

Michael F. Gill

Alton Miller - Souls Like Mine (R2)
Canvas - The Cat (Rebelone)
Keith Worthy - shelovesmenot [Mental Deepstrumental] (Aesthetic Audio)
Syncom Data - Beyond The Stars (Legowelt Remix) (SD Records)
Paul Birken - Numbskull (Communique Records)
Studio - Radio Edit [Information]
Alicia Myers - I Want To Thank You [MCA]
Marek Bilinski - Po Drugiej Stronie Swiata [Polton/Digiton)
Wish feat. La-Rita Gaskin - Nice and Soft (Downtown Version) [Perspective Records]
Kat Mandu - Super Lady (Manhattan Formula)

May 17, 2007

Selway and Vincenzo - Dream Stealer

The first-ever formal collaboration between New York/Berlin resident John Selway and veteran producer Vincenzo Ragone finds the two longtime friends delving into deep and hypnotic territory with the appropriately titled “Dream Stealer”. The original is a driving slab of techno that builds off of a tight, techy bass groove which eventually swells into a hypnotic beast as its watery synth arpeggios grow more and more caustic. The Joel Mull remix is significantly less twisted and clearly intended for a different context. It discards the darkness of the original bass line and the overall sense of fluidity, opting instead for a bouncy house feel while tastefully preserving some of the original synth tones and dynamics. I’m opting for the original, but both sides are playable and come recommended.

CSM / CSM 014
[Colin James Nagy]

May 14, 2007

Battles - Atlas

Perhaps the greatest irony of all was indeed that Alanis’ song in its praise was not ironic. An arguably lesser but still significant irony is that math rock, as a genre, a sound, a stance dedicated to remorseless intensity and rhythmic, timbral, and harmonic experimentation, has become, twelve years later, one of the most conservative and unchanging of all musical scenes (which of course they would disavow being on both counts). In a parallel to the drum’n’bass scene, perhaps anything with such a particular sound and intensity is bound to attract two groups of people: those keen for the new, and those mad for the sound. Where the former engorge themselves on the signifiers and grow full and tired before sleeping it off and moving on, the latter seem to have an almost inexhaustible desire for that sound and nothing but that sound…forever.

So I suggested to two (still) math-rocking friends that Battles’ new single marked an exciting new direction for a genre that had gone from being merely stagnant to somehow embodying the very essence of stagnation. But they both hate Battles, ever since they “turned electronic”. Nothing, apparently, will ever equal the heights of Don Caballero. To them, What Burns Never Returns is not a title but the site of worship, of mourning and of an unquenchable repetition-compulsion.

So Atlas is a kind of a betrayal and promise by a group who seem to want to actually enact the originally progressive spirit of Touch-and-Go. What is it? It riffs like a Thorogood beast, howls like The Knife, but schaffels with a vengeance. It’s a fantastic rock epic and a great track. But thank God for the Koze mix on the flip. It’s more than a matter of 1 + 1 = two good sides. Like all good EPs, there’s a quality-multiplying factor lent by the proximities of creative differences-in-common. Koze’s mix presents his typical “touch” based approach to sound, with twee melodies not unlike recent International Pony work but a structure and mood that conjures Aphex Twin. The two tracks seem to wind into each other, not so much remixes as silent halves of the other that mutually intimate, stroke, and ground. The diehard math-rockers will hate it, and it’s too weird for the functionally-obsessed dancefloors of the world, but that’s (also) why it’s one of the more interesting EPs of the year so far.

Warp Records / WAP219
[Peter Chambers]

May 3, 2007

In Flagranti - Intergalactic Bubblegum

I once read an interview where one of the In Flagranti dudes said he spends literally as much time as possible rooting through old junk at flea markets, thrift stores, and the like. It shows in all the ancient porn they use for their sleeves, and the vintage disco samples that so many of their singles are based around. Vocalist G. Rizo teams back up with the duo for “Intergalactic Bubblegum,” and she channels ESG ca. 3000 for her elastic, sci-fi raps. Based around Amii Stewart’s “Knock On Wood,” the sticky-sweet, bass-infused beat shuffles hard, with phasers at full blast. Chunks of broken robotic drums plunge from the sky, while ascending oscillations of synth carry her into orbit like a Cylon hooker on a mission to fuck.

The remaining two tracks carry the astronautical theme but aren’t quite as successful, seemingly directed more towards the bulky robots from ‘50s b-movies than the sexy, sleek replicants of the future. “EFX 10-11″ is an icy-cool raver whose bleeps, bloops, and hand-claps groove is too affected by its many starts and stops to really gain momentum. It also has what sounds like samples from an old-school instructional record, which I have a very low tolerance for after years of abuse by inferior DJs and producers. B-side “Bipolar” is a rather unremarkable exercise in Kraftwerk-styled italo synth grooves, and while it carries on for seven minutes, it leaves as smoothly and airily as it arrives. Stick to the title track (pun intended) and let’s hope In Flagranti have some more grooves and better b-sides planned for the year.

Codek / CRE 012
[Peter Lansky]

March 27, 2007

Andy Stott - Handle with Care / See in Me 10”


Marge Simpson’s quote about wanting to see the Japanese take on the club sandwich (“I’ll bet it’d be smaller, and more efficient”) can be perversely re-badged for a lot of Andy Stott’s work in its developmental stages—the guy had an unmatched talent for “Lexusing” the classics of Detroit, minimal, and dub techno, re-casting them in a form that seemed to run smoother, go further, and work better than the originals it “imitated.” But Merciless, and the other recent, magnificent Replace EP saw Stott breaking out of imitative molds and leaping off on sonic lines of flight, developing a sound signature that finally offered not a rationalization, but a sublimation of its influences.

If Handle with Care does have an inspiration, then it’s in the echo-chamber dub-techno of Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, and Deadbeat’s less melodically “Jamaican” works. There’s an undercurrent of other sound continuums here too, a little taken from car sound system culture with the sub-rattling bassline that seems written to test the chest hairs of the gruntiest woofers, or the sound of dubstep heard through the floor of the apartment above. But to me at least, it’s the fragile melody that appears atop the mountains of bass just for a moment, then disappears that marks this as Stott’s work. It’s a real personal touch. “See in Me” again pits an enormous sub-bassline against haunting atmospheres and front-to-back percussive patterns which embed the melody which, unlike the A, progresses to a resolution, suggesting a kind of hope amid all the gloom. This is beautiful, haunting work—but more disquieting still is the thought that Andy Stott has only just found his unique voice. Which means the best is probably yet to come.

Modern Love / Love027
[Peter Chambers]

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