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]


August 21, 2007

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 02

Mixes2007

VARIOUS ARTISTS - FREESTYLE ESSENTIALS 02
Mixed by Michael F. Gill

Its not an exaggeration to say that almost every freestyle song deals with variations on love lost, love found, love lost again. But what sets the genre apart in this regard is how literal the emotional appeals are presented: no matter how overwrought and dramatic the vocals may seem, there is no winking or irony to be found on these records.

01. Debbie Harry - In Love With Love (Heart Of Fire Mix) - Geffen 1987
02. Connie - Funky Little Beat - Sunnyview Records 1985
03. Sly Fox - Como Tu Te Llama? - Capitol Records 1985
04. Noel - Silent Morning 4th and Broadway - 1987
05. Giggles - Love Letter Cutting/Atlantic - 1987
06. Will To Power - Dreamin’ - Epic 1987
07. Sweet Sensation Hooked On You Next Plateau 1986
08. Trinere - I’ll Be All You Ever Need - Jam Packed 1986
09. Sweet Sensation - Victim Of Love - Next Plateau 1987
10. TKA - Come Get My Love - Tommy Boy Music 1986
11. Pajama Party - Yo No Se - Atlantic 1988
12. Nayobe - Second Chance For Love - Fever Records 1986
13. Latin Rascals - Arabian Knights - Tin Pan Apple 1987
14. Sa-Fire - Let Me Be The One - Cutting Records 1987
15. Cover Girls - Because Of You - Fever Records 1987
16. Trinere - How Can We Be Wrong - Jam Packed 1986
17. Stevie B. - Dreaming Of Love - Lefrak-Moelis Records 1988
18. Stevie B. - In My Eyes - Lefrak-Moelis Records 1988
19. Johnny O. - Fantasy Girl - MicMac Records 1988
20. Stevie B - Spring Love - Lefrak-Moelis Records 1988


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]


August 8, 2007

Argenis Brito - Micro Mundo

Chileans must have techno intravenously injected in their blood from birth. The Chilean-gone-techno-superstar not only accounts for instant deities like Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano, but has also been a clich going on five years strong. You might remember Argenis Brito’s contributions to the Chilean project Monne Automne, and it’s frequently brilliant album Introducing Light and Sound. So the prospect of Brito coming out with his debut album on Chilean ex-pat label Cadenza doesn’t sound surprising at all. Which might be the biggest detriment to Micro Mundo its mythology overshadows an album that’s too modest to be noteworthy otherwise.

It won’t be too long before the wrinkles of warm bass that adorn tracks like “Disconet” and “Amplified” will be forever lost among the sea of German minimal techno. There’s also many cuts like “Sensorial”, which is something that could provide a nice bridge mid-set, but for the life of me, I can’t hum the main motif even though I’ve heard it at least 20 times. This sound-over-substance quality hides the few small surprises collected herein, like “Cepe”, an accomplished and laidback production that starts to build towards a climax when the bare bass and hi-hats swirl into an unexpected spoken vocal. A similar resonant effect can be heard on “Espejismo”, but for an album that never wavers and is never quantifiably bad, such highlights feel underwhelming on the whole. With Micro Mundo’s highs never too far away from its lows, the Chilean techno drug is no longer as potent as it used to be.

Cadenza / CADENZA 16
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


July 18, 2007

Various Artists - Sasomo EP

Hi! I’m back from a dream where I had a brief look into the future. Here’s the news for you: eternity is dulled, but she remains resolutely horizontal. So, with the world remaining indifferent to my personal peaks and valleys, why not have my music be the same way? During its twelve minute duration, Matt John’s “Soulkaramba” consists of three plucked bass notes, some dried out percussion run through damp effects, live-sounding drum skitters, the occassional idle chatter, and a recurring synth drone on one note. It goes nowhere, it does nothing, and sounds nonchalantly cheerful while doing it. I empathize with it a great deal. I could write a short story and walk through a street festival while listening to it on loop, such is my comfort level towards its tender indifference.

The other two cuts here aren’t so bad, but lucid and undisturbed they are not. With “Elevator”, Phage and Daniel Dreier appear to have slightly lifted their head out of the minimal kitchen sink, but both of their ears remained submerged. There’s still too many restless percussion fills cluttering up the track by itself, but these Bisy Backsons remain great cannon fodder for minimal DJs who play out. Audio Werner is also on hand with “Kabarett”, a more low-key techy affair with a recurring motif of grainy, synthetic plucks that never really let the groove settle in. These two b-sides feel like escapism or distraction compared to John’s side of straight up reality. And I can’t help wanting to continue walking down the endless straight line of the latter.

BAR25 / BAR25-2
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


July 12, 2007

Henrik Schwarz - Walk Music

200712"HouseMinimal/Deep

If seeing is believing, hearing is disbelieving. It’s a fact that might’ve been founded by the musique concrete godfather Pierre Schafer more than fifty years ago, but still leaves more than a few of us lost in what it actually means. How about this one - when reversed, how can you listen to a sound that ends before it’s created? The latest artist playing in these sound riddles is Henrik Schwarz, who left his own breadcrumbs with “Walk Music” a couple months ago. For an artist responsible for one of the best DJ mixes of 2006, the response to Schwarz’s return to Moodmusic was not only unfounded, it was bizarre “Walk Music” was completely ignored.

On paper, the cricket-laden response might be hard to explain. On vinyl, though, the lost and reversed voice that pierces through the ether of “Walk Music” makes perfect sense. The single doesn’t seem to belong to a release date cemented by the 2003 version of “Walk Music” here that’s been lost and found. The uncanny cinematic burn of synths on “Walk Music” only enhances the track’s abject vocals, reminding you that horror not only has an ability to torture but also to haunt. Even the melodic sprinkle that begins the 2003 version has few comforts - it’s ends up being just the damp underbelly in which the rest of the song festers. But despite all of that, here’s the kicker: upon hearing Walk Music, it’s impossible to look away. Hearing really is disbelieving.

Mood Music / MOOD 51
[Listen]
[Nate Deyoung]


July 8, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 27

Prosumer / Murat Tepeli - What Makes You Go For It? (Ostgut Tontrager)
Genre: House, Minimal/Deep

Peter Chambers: The title track is somewhere between the blue, raw, and pink beats of the old Trax tracks, but with a vocal trip describing a one night stand that’s equal parts philosophical and carnal, leading to automatic comparisons with Chelonis R. Jones.

Zander VT - Dig Your Own Rave (Memo)
Genre: Techno, Electro-House

Tolga Fidan - Venice / Tambulistan (Vakant)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: Once something sufficiently menacing is found (black horns, icy strings, something scaly and slithering), a two-note minor interval or an arabesque/creepy/ancient-sounding melody is mixed in, and there’s your track.

Theo Parrish - Sound Sculptures Volume 1 (Sound Signature)
Genre: Detroit, House

Michael F. Gill: 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.

Syncom Data - Beyond the Stars Remixes (Syncom Data Records)
Genre: Techno, Dub

Beatzcast #40: Crambe Repetita

Nick Southall reviews Two Lone Swordsmen’s Wrong Meeting II

Nate DeYoung takes on the Scandanavian Disco of Bjorn Torske


July 2, 2007

Prosumer / Murat Tepeli - What Makes You Go For It?

200712"HouseMinimal/Deep

Well, to me this is shaping up as a vintage year for techno (if you still call it that). There seems to be a glut of subtle, surefooted records being made at the moment by producers whose unformed foundational years are behind them. It’s often difficult not to feel you’re drowning in the sea of new releases. For my own part, I gave up trying frantically to cram in a rinse of everything that flickered fancily past. And in a sense, I feel like this might be happening with the music. There’s a period of settlement upon us, and now nearly-veteran people (though this is just my anecdotal impression) seem to be producing fewer and better tracks than three years ago, when the “medicore minimal” glut seemed to peak.

To me, the label that seems to have condensed this idea is Ostgut Tontrger. They don’t release much, but everything is solid gold: from the moment you first see the beautiful sleeves to the final aaah you get on a floor once the dragging needle’s signal drops at full volume. This is proper techno, made by people who love, understand, and care about their music. Listen to Len Faki’s Mekong Delta or Ben Klock’s Czeslawa/Warzsawa EP from earlier this year, and get an Ostgut lesson in how to “do” techno properly. Yet both Faki and Klock’s contributions are full-bore, main-floor, peaktime numbers, delicate though they may be in detail. They’re Berghain. Prosumer and Murat Tepeli’s “What Makes You Go For It” on the other hand is every inch the upstairs/backroom (or even bedroom) incarnation. They’re the Panoramabar.

The title track is somewhere between the blue, raw, and pink beats of the old Trax tracks, but with a vocal trip describing a one night stand that’s equal parts philosophical and carnal, leading to automatic comparisons with Chelonis R Jones. But there’s a definite Ostgut quality at work, too. It bangs, it swings, it’s a great track with a big metallic bell clanging all over it. Prosumer’s vocal sits nicely in the mix he doesn’t overstretch chords or overstate words: she’s got a boyfriend, they’re fucking, where will it end up?

Tepeli’s “Jaws” is much closer to the housey end of Mobilee’s sound, with matte-finish percussion and a sleek, fat bassline whose physicality wiggles widely, in neat contrast to a very chic string synth over the top. Like the lyric on the A, there’s a nice tension between the forward-pushing needs of the body and the inwardly reflective eyes of the mind. But it’s Prosumer’s “Vise” that really puts the icing on this ambivalent cupcake, for me at least. I could swear Prosumer has borrowed My My’s patches to write the melody here the tone, the dynamics, and the break are all redolent of Jones & Hppner, with just a touch of Rest-era Isole. All three tracks here stand on their own, but as a trio they make an outstanding EP.

Ostgut Tontrger / o-ton 07
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


June 29, 2007

Beatzcast #39: Crambe Repetita

Mixes2007

Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music featuring new music from Liebe Detail, Get Physical’s Kindisch, and Tattoorec.com…

Tracklist
01: Ink and Needle - Number Seven [buy]
02: Raz Ohara - Whitmey Na (Nass Aka Geiger Ride Vocal Mix) [buy]
03: TNT - L8 [buy]
04: Tiger Stripes - Hooked [buy]
05: Pharoahe Monch - Body Baby (An Optimo [Espacio] Dub) [buy]
06: Mountain People - Mountain003 [buy]
07: Murat Tepeli feat. Prosumer - What Makes You Go for It [buy]
08: Chris Rea - Josephine (Visti Edit) [buy]

Subscribe to the Stycast.
Subscribe to Beatz By The Pound.


June 28, 2007

Studio - Life’s a Beach! (Remixes)

200712"Neo-DiscoBalearic

Along with Finland’s Uusi Fantasia and Sweden’s Bjorn Torske, Studio are one of the groups whose sounds and sympathies orbit the cosmos of Prins Thomas’ imagination of space/disco/dub. Its “not disco” though, or not as we know it, but a form busted open by eccentric tastes and open ears. In a recent interview I did with Prins Thomas, he explained how the relative marginality of Scandanavia (and especially Norway) has kept things prised open, and open things prized. “On the one hand,” he explained, “I could have lived anywhere and made the music I do but the isolation is important. I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s a lot of diversity here. We’re open to a lot of styles and it’s been an important part of generating our open approach…you have to work hard to please everybody when you play here there’s no sub-genre nights or anything like that. You can’t afford to be a genre fascist in Oslo.”

Prins’ remix of “Life’s a Beach” opens with an appropriately stomp-paced cosmic bassline with all sorts of shifting Balearic textures thrown over it, slowly rising to full swing alongside spills of space delay. Then, at the five minute mark, by the strange and welcome intrusion of a very 8-bit sounding note, the track reaches its peak (which only sounds once!), after which the whole thing just drifts away on congas and beachy spume. Meanwhile, back at the disco, Todd Terje turns tables on the tracks, rendering “Beach” nocturnally capable with some chunkier percussion, altering the mood from giddy to “giddy up”. Terje likewise uses the same 8-bit note at almost exactly the same point in the track, then opts for the a similar long outro, re-done in a more late-evening fashion. Oddly similar, the two mixes here are sun and moon to each other. Ah, so much good music.

Information / INF 003
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


— Next Page »