September 17, 2007

Modeselektor - Happy Birthday!

Actually Modeselektor are excited to become cartoons. The group’s last couple of album covers are giddily aware of it. Inside the cover for Happy Birthday! and on its portly made-for-CD running-time, Modeselektor pound away with ACME anvils and beep beep through open ranges—covering the distance between bangers and ballads. Or, to be fair, it’s just bangers and ballads. That’s it.

Let’s not take away from Modeselektor’s strengths though, the pair is also good at bastardizing genres and music scenes. Their debut album wasn’t named Hello Mum! for no reason. Happy Birthday! just begs to be described in a pragmatic word like “chock-full,” but here’s an overlooked factoid—it’s the first album to be graced by one Thom Yorke which isn’t worried about being tasteful with a capital T.

Being tasteless suits the band just fine. With “2000007,” it also lets them out-prefuse Prefuse 73. Not stuck explaining their exquisite band name or racial politics must be fun, because it definitely sounds a helluva lot more brash and exciting than what Scott Herren is doing these days. The track might be in the genre-netherworld between glitch-hop and euro-crunk, but it’s definitely an unabashed sequel to group’s last album opener with the French rap group TTC.

Modeselektor continue to gleefully plunder their own past as well as others for inspiration throughout the 18 tracks. One notable choice is Scooter and their Teutonic happy-hardcore schlockfest, “Hyper Hyper.” The original isn’t waiting to be rediscovered anytime soon, which makes Modeselektor’s locked-jaw and straight-faced cover even more perfect. Enlisting Otto Von Schirach for the vocal role of Wizard-gone-Return to Oz, with a couple flying monkeys in tow, “Hyper Hyper” is bound to make another generation of kids yell for hardcore all over again.

When the tempo slows, the duo is wise to make their music just as sonically juicy and epic. On their collaboration with Apparat, “Let Your Love Grow,” the group let a field of bulbous synths and trip-hop drum patterns sprout around Paul St. Hilaire, ending up with a dead ringer for Massive Attack. The track is a highlight but one that’s sure to be trumped in notoriety by “The White Flash.” The group’s best contribution to “White Flash” is to let Thom Yorke do what he does best (i.e. play lost angel in our dystopia and moaning into the abyss), and Yorke is perfectly laconic in return—he even twists the euphoric “you have all the time in the world” into something preciously fleeting.

Happy Birthday! constantly reminds me of something Vitalic said in an interview—”I like people screaming in the sound with explosions.” When Modeselektor don’t try to fit every scream and explosion into its folds, the album sags. Tacks like “BMI” and “The Wedding Toccata Theme” sound dull when set against the cartoon-ish extremes of a song like “The First Rebirth,” which comes alive by being chopped and crunked before your ears. Luckily, most of Happy Birthday! finds Modeselektor being so busy being loony tunes that there’s little time to sit still and be bored.

Bpitch Control / BPC 159CD
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


May 23, 2007

Robag Wruhme Als Rolf Oksen - Bart Eins

Since I fashion myself as Beatz’s token hack, I spend my fair share of time poring over press releases to find out what music means when it doesn’t have lyrics to spell out those things we all like to obsess over - love handles, the “are two prunes too few or three prunes too many” debate and so on. Robag Wruhme might have cloned himself with the same sci-fi ether as Areal’s finest blurbs, but his alter-ego, Rolf Oksen, has an uncanny knack for self awareness that Areal might have missed when they described themselves as “advanced tech-electronic minimalism.” Rolf, as we’ve been introduced by the press release, “is so drunk, as drunk as a skunk! He has lost all control, and now his alter-ego Robag has to take control” (italics added for those keeping score on the sideline - we’re talking about an alter-ego’s alter-ego here).

Aside from the charming text, there’s something missing musically in this vodka-drenched haze. Blame it on the alter-ego, doppelganger, or your friendly neighborhood schizophrenic, but the shimmy drums of “Dopamin” are totally lost on the song’s threadbare hook. I can’t put my finger on it, but its too slow, too meandering, and its excessive glimmers makes the narrow scope of “Hakkatzen” feel like a virtue. There’s no reason to give “Hakkatzen” a backhanded compliment, though; it’s the highlight here, nuzzling like a sweater - prickling in all the right places as it expands and contracts. Rounding things off are three tracks of ambient found-sound which are more interesting in theory than practice. I spend enough time hearing the same cellphone buzz from telemarketers, so no thank you very much. Listening to “Rolf Auf Seinem Ausgukk,” the best of the ambient trio, I can only picture alter-ego Rolf, passed out on a train with his live recorder running, using the piece as his aural breadcrumbs back home.

Freude Am Tanzen / FAT 030
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


April 25, 2007

Black Devil Disco Club - Black Sunshine

200712"Neo-DiscoItalo

Black Devil Disco Club, an ancient French one-off project that many thought was a prank played on eager dance completists, resurfaced after many moons with an album in 2006, and now this set of variant takes. Discogs and iTunes seem somewhat at odds as to whether these are remixes or collaborations, but the former feels likeliest. Quiet Village (Matt E. of Rekid and Joel Martin) present the amazingly-titled “I Regret the Flower Power” as an ambient-trance chiller, all about the floss and shimmer. It’s a bit epic and a bit minimal at the same time, if that makes any sense. It doesn’t, so we use it to set the mood while people start filing in and move on to “The Devil in Us” (remixed by Elitechnique), which brings the old acid-laced Italo-cheese fondue to a rapid bubble. Bring a fork, as it’s mighty delicious, a bit like something Kano might have come up with if they’d been produced by Bobby “O.” Last up, “Coach Me” pairs BDDC quite naturally with neo-italicists In Flagranti, for an orthodox performance that could easily have been stuck on the original album release in between “We Never Fly Away Again” and “Follow Me.” A bit lopsided to be sure, but still desirable to Italobscurophiles who’ve turned the original release into a “19 members have this, 127 members want this” type of rarity.

LoEB / LoEB 003
[Listen]
[Mallory O’Donnell]


April 14, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 15

Kathy Diamond - Over (Permanent Vacation)
Genre: Disco, Funk

Peter Chambers: Both the first fantastic All Woman EP and, now, “Over” intimate a collaboration that could see one of the year’s most accomplished syntheses of house, funk, disco and ’80s-inflected pop.

Substance & Vainqueur - Reverberate / Reverberation (Scion Versions)
Genre: Dub, Techno

Kavinsky - 1986 (Record Makers)
Genre: New Wave, Synth

Redshape - Dog Day (Millions of Moments)
Genre: Chicago, House

Michael F. Gill: Specifically, the aura here is towards the lesser-mined sounds of ’90s Chicago house, when artists like the Foremost Poets would detune, stretch, and staccato-ize a synth burst, and then repeat it until it became a viable, body-moving loop that sounded fresh over a kick.

Bobby Davenport - Time (Has Come Today) (Flexx)
Genre: Italo, New Wave

Antonelli - The Name of This Track Is Bobby Konders (Italic)
Genre: House, Techno

J.T.C. - Take ‘em Off / D’Marc Cantu - No Control / X2 - Barely A Track (Creme Jak)
Genre: Acid

Vulva String Quartett - Cranberry Song (Combination)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

Weekly Staff Charts
Beatzcast #27: Crambe Repetita


April 11, 2007

Antonelli - The Name of This Track Is Bobby Konders

200712"HouseTechno

Antonelli (Electr.) has always stood apart. His tracks radiate the cold purity of a purposeful examination of deep house’s frequencies conceived as high-concept minimalism but executed with sparkling pop smarts. The perfect producer, in short, to interpret something of the ‘spirit’ of Bobby Konders’ deep-house sound.

Like a lot of Antonelli’s work, this EP is striking on first listen for its low-temperature repetitions. Or it might just be boring. But there’s a quality here beyond the detached operation of a disco-machine, or just because it is so clinical—and the pleasure extracted parallels that of the Modernist’s “Explosion,” or being privy to ten minutes left in Larry Heard’s studio to hear the machines loop, while he takes a slash or a phone call. “Lafayette” conjures both the late ‘80s and pre-millennium modern minimalism—somewhere between early Traum, Kompakt and (unsurprisingly) Konders’ sound from a decade or more earlier.

“Slow Money Music” brings this EP within a snare’s breadth of Jörg Burger’s productions, but it’s the title track and the homage that it conjures through its tag and contents that really bring the EP in from the cold. The piece, which sounds like the endless intro to a track which never materializes, sounds positively empty on first listen, but with every repetition it (somehow) conjures this strange atmosphere of reminiscence—“Remember?” it asks. But what? A curiously endearing, alienating record.

Italic / ITA 65
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


April 6, 2007

Beatzcast #26: Crambe Repetita

Mixes2007

Tracklist
01: Padded Cell - Moon Menace [buy]
02: Crash Course In Science - Cardboard Lamb (Vitalic Mix) [buy]
03: Etienne Daho - Le Grand Sommeil (Sweetlight Mix) [buy]
04: David Garcet - Redemption (The Revolving Eyes Remix) [buy]
05: Ripperton - 10a [buy]
06: Hanne Hukkelberg - Berlin [buy]

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April 6, 2007

Charts: April 6 2007

Mallory O’Donnell
Montreal - Montreal [Salsoul]
Pet Shop Boys - Introspective [EMI]
Machine - There But for the Grace of God Go I [RCA]
Optimo - Walkabout [Endless Flight]
Black Strobe - Burn Your Own Church [Play Louder]
Kathy Diamond - Miss Diamond To You [Permanent Vacation]
LCD Soundsystem - Sounds Like Silver (Sound of Silver Remixed) [MP3]
Joakim - Lonely Hearts (Radio Edit) [Versatile]
Justus Kohncke - Elan (Prins Thomas Mix) [Kompakt]
Riton - Hammer of Thor [Souvenir]

Michael F. Gill
Ashford & Simpson – It Seems to Hang On [Warner Brothers]
Sylvester – Body Strong [Fantasy]
Brooklyn Express – Sixty Nine [Carrere]
Ralph Mac Donald – Playpen [Polydor]
Lauriece Hudson – Feel My Love [Snowflake]
Antonelli – The Name Of This Track Is Bobby Konders [Italic]
Phobia – Phobia (DJ Hell Remix) [Gigolo]
CoH – Dancing In Silence [Eskaton]
Fan Club Orchestra – Theme Du Vol.2 (Part 2) [Soniq/Tokuma Japan]
Like A Tim & Gina V.D’Orio – Where Did Our Love Go [Djak-Up-Bitch]


August 11, 2006

Interview: Amy Grill / Speaking In Code

Stylus and Beatz By the Pound are very excited to bring you an interview with sQuare Productions’ Amy Grill, director and producer of the upcoming techno documentary Speaking in Code.

So, Amy, you’re making a movie about electronic music. Why?

Speaking in Code is a techno movie that’s not really about techno. It’s about people. It is a feature length character driven documentary that follows a global cast of underground electronic music writers, DJs, producers, and label heads as they survive and thrive in the digital age.

Within the indie electronic music community there are many compelling characters. By tracking these characters Speaking in Code discovers some very human truths about subculture, independence, DIY determination, risk, obsession, and eccentricity.

The music (and the ‘minimal’ scene) is a colorful, captivating backdrop and binding force for several intersecting character driven stories—the film has a narrative arc to it based on the life changes and exciting, even funny moments that happen over the course of the year and a half that we will have spent making the film and following these people.

There are a lot of electronic music documentaries out there that have attempted to do one of a few things: capture the spirit of rave culture, survey a specific genre of electronic music, engage the viewer in DJ worship and/or crazy laser light fascination, or make some kind of grand statement about the significance of electronic music, but this film is nothing like any of that.

We are interested in exploring personality, motivation, and getting beyond the surface-y, questions and answers. The film invites the viewer in to experience ‘being there’—at the club, in the studio, in a forest, climbing a hill on the way to see chalk mines, visiting moms in the suburbs, driving through a white-out snow storm, performing at a huge festival, entering the secret underground club or illegal party, and on and on. We have unprecedented access and we get very close with the main characters in the film.

We want to surprise people and perhaps change their minds about electronic music or at least open their minds and show them something they didn’t expect. This movie isn’t just for the techno heads, it’s for the hip old ladies who love character-driven art house documentaries too.

What about 2005/2006 strikes you as the right time for this sort of film?

A film like this could have been made 10 or 20 years ago and although some of the themes and characters would have a different tone and purpose—many similarities would still exist.

There is something special about right now though—from a big picture historical perspective we are seeing the effects of the digital age that make advanced communication and sound technology very accessible. This has strengthened the possibilities for independent music and subculture and our main characters are living proof.

From a more localized perspective on the minimal scene and our characters—over the last year or two minimal techno has arguably become the dominant sub-genre in techno and it has been fun to explore the personalities in the minimal scene and experience the music’s rise in popularity vicariously through our characters. Of course, it’s difficult to even know what minimal really is: is it a sound, an aesthetic, a lifestyle, a hairstyle, a look, or all those things combined perhaps? Some of the characters can’t even be described as minimal at all, but they are somehow minimal by association or connection to the minimal scene. Musings aside, I have to emphasize this is not the “what is minimal techno?” film. I’m sure there is a DVD project like that on the way soon, but we aren’t the one’s making it.

Where all have you traveled to get footage for the film?

We’ve been all over: Montreal, San Francisco, New York, Boston (I live in Boston), Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Jena, Amsterdam, Miami…

Most of the film has been shot—what techno celebs can we expect in the final cut?

Well, we’ve shot 217 hours of footage since we began production in May of 2005 and we hope to cull all of that into a feature-length film, so I hesitate to list everyone at this point, but certainly you can expect to see a lot from these people:

Robert Henke aka Monolake (co-creator Ableton Live)
Modeselektor, Bpitch Control
Ellen Allien, Bpitch Control
Wighnomy Brothers, Freude-Am-Tanzen
Bryan Kasenic (minimal techno promoter in NY)
Jimmy Johnson (owner of Forced Exposure)
Philip Sherburne (writer, DJ)
David Day (Label Manager and Marketing Director at Forced Exposure, DJ, writer, promoter)
Mike Uzzi aka Smartypants, Unlocked Groove
Dan Paluska aka Six Million Dollar Dan, Unlocked Groove
Tobias Thomas, Kompakt
David Prince, M3 Summit

Interviews / Appearances (it remains to be seen whether or not all of these people will make the final cut and we have interviewed many more people not included in this list to help us round out the story):/p>

Akufen
Deadbeat
Apparat
Wolfgang Voigt
Michael Mayer
Reinhard Voigt
The MFA
James Holden
Superpitcher
Isolee
Luomo
Anja Schnieder
Richie Hawtin
The Juan Maclean

Any surprising anecdotes that you can share with us (Vitalic actually is a robot, etc.)?

Too many stories to even tell. The whole film is like one big surprising anecdote, but a surprising anecdote with a point. ;)

What kind of role has Philip Sherburne played?

Philip is a character in the movie, and as a co-producer he has been part tour guide, advisor, consultant, and friend throughout the entire process.

Tell me about financing something like this—what sources are you relying on to keep it going?

Plastic, lots of plastic (as in credit cards) and a handful of small private investors and a community of online supporters—although we are nearing the end of our credit limits and this last Europe trip tapped most of the small investments. So we are now really relying on grassroots fundraising online and also an upcoming benefit/screening/art party/happening here in Boston on August 26 at the sQuareone studio space in Fort Point / South Boston (New England’s oldest and largest artist community). We want to stay away from corporate sponsorship, so we are hoping that people who want to see the film made will help us make it. Anyone can donate any amount on our website—we are offering screen credit in the film for any donation of $50 or more. The grassroots efforts are to make the film mirror the DIY attitudes you’ll see in the documentary.

We are also seeking a film producer to help us cultivate prospective investors and help manage the business end of the film…and most importantly we are looking for investors—big and small.

We need another 25K in the very immediate future to finish production in the fall (Camera and equipment rentals, bus/train/plane tickets, gas, tape stock, the Director of Photography’s day rate) and also to purchase a G5 and enough drive storage (several terabytes) to be able to cut the film. We are currently hobbling along with my laptop and a few Lacie Hard Drives. We also need to be able to pay an assistant editor to log the tapes.

It isn’t cheap making a film—especially when the locations are all over the world …even if we eat on the cheap and stay with friends when we can. And, now Scott (our Director of Photography) is paid—he volunteered for a full year, but it is important to start paying him. Fortunately the most expensive part of the production is out of the way—we can see the light at the end of the tunnel—we just need a little more funding to get through the last few months of production and post production.

By May 2007. Then begins the festival circuit and search for distribution. We would like to see the film get international and domestic theatrical distribution, some broadcast play abroad, and a DVD release too—with lots of extras for the collector type.

Related Links
sQuare Productions
Speaking in Code @ MySpace
Photos from Speaking in Code’s Production
Contribute to sQuare Productions [Todd Burns]


August 11, 2006

Hemmann & Kaden - Tandem EP

Ronan Fitzgerald: These guys are probably beyond the “one to watch” zone and are revelling in the green pastures of the arrivals field by now, and this 12” is further fuel to the fire of their growing popularity. You can curse the addictive melodies of dub infused emo house all you want, but there’s no denying that it is capturing the imagination of producers and fans quite effortlessly. And, for the moment at least, it remains pretty compelling, as the magical, melancholy “Roll in Moll” will attest. It’s got a bassline that is evocative of “Hand to Phone”-era Adult melting underneath some dreamy chords. Kompakt must wish they still released tunes like this. “Corroboree,” on the flip, is completely different, a good slab of bass heavy minimal house in the Mobilee/Einmaleins style.

Cameron Octigan: Opener “Roll in Moll” slides in a deep, arpeggiated Vitalic style before bringing in an unexpected electric piano that coaxes the track down from late night heights. The momentum and mood somehow remain straight-faced enough to bridge two seemingly different sound palettes; a restrained Pascal Arbez-Nicolas and a ravier Frankie Knuckles. With fewer layers, and greater attention paid to the percussive aspects, “Corroboree” brings the night closer to climax. Losing the heavy push towards harmony and anthemics, Hemmann & Kaden offer a track that is much, much different. By the time the song is over, there have been so many different ideas thrown on the wall that you’ll think Sally Field’s Sybil was behind it. Then again, if Sybil could make this, then I say let her go crazy.

Freude Am Tanzen / FAT 027
[Listen]


June 2, 2006

Vitalic & Linda Lamb - Bells EP

Vitalic has made a pretty solid reputation for himself out of turning other artist’s cliches into something exciting—and he’s done it here yet again. However, about another foot further towards the sound of 90’s dance and I’d be shaving my legs again and waiting for the Chemical Brothers remix. As it is, he keeps the big, booming rock beats and acid-wash textures in careful balance—very admirable. There’s something in this track that suggests a certain dangerous presupposition, though: the more Vitalic creeps towards floor-filling beats, the closer he gets to wackness. Now, “Bells” ain’t wack—but it very well could have been. Luckily, there’s some squirrelly synths and (duh) bell-like tones that keep us tuned in. A compromise, then: between all-out success and deep textural pleasures in the service of a somewhat dubious God.

Citizen / CTZ011
[Mallory O’Donnell]


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