August 8, 2007

Various Artists - Death Is Nothing To Fear Vol. 2

Whereas the first volume of Spectral Sound’s latest compilation series featured a side-long groover from the label’s biggest star, Matthew “Audion” Dear, the follow-up isn’t dominated by one act at all. The four tracks here are uniformly excellent and of enough variety to keep even the most OCD listener satisfied, driven as they seem to be by genuinely, um, “spectral” sounds (or perhaps “ghostly” is a better description).

Spectral mainstay James T. Cotton’s “2 Keys” leads things off with more of his familiar funky-acid-by-numbers action, but hey, acid isn’t exactly built on the idea of diverse sounds, so you can hardly be surprised. Jonas Kopp remixes Plan Tec into a building, percussive nightmare with inspired (and masterfully restrained) use of some very cool horrorshow effects and knob-tweaking, and you might swear that Geoff White’s minimal popper “Apartmental” is a long lost Daniel Bell cut, bugged out and bouncing along.

The cream of this particular crop, however, is Mikael Stavstrand’s “Can You See Through My Eyes,” a clattering, spooked-out ride full of inspired textures and percussive tricks that rumble over the track’s spine like a skeleton being dragged on a bumper. The Cotton track may be a little samey, but three out of four winners these days is a mighty fine ratio. Oh, and bonus points for the cute skull-&-hearts cover motif.

Spectral Sound / SPC-043
[Todd Hutlock]

August 7, 2007

Adam Craft / Grindvik - Catch Me / NAND-Grind

Pr Grindvik’s “Casio” was the underexpected treat of the first Death Is Nothing To Fear comp on Spectral a bubbling, blunt-grinding house track with the reduced booty feel of a lot of the 7th City material by DBX and his cohort of microboompty rump disciples. Here, on Grindvik’s own label Stockholm Limited, you get the expanded version of the same template.

Both sides by Grindvik and Adam Craft manage to be three things at once: percolating jack tracks, bumpy minimal house, and peaktime techno bruisers. It’s a tough tightrope to wangle wiggling on, but they pull it off. Kraft’s “Catch Me” sits much closer to a M_nus-variant of the theme, and would fit comfortably in one of Magda’s super-loopy sets next to a JPLS track. Grindvik’s meanwhile is bigger, meaner and a touch more old-school, coming closer to pre-raygun Audion or James T. Cotton, with a long series of tearing, filtered percussion loops and a bucking, waving bassline. Solid stuff.

Stockholm LTD / STHLMLTD 9A4C
[Peter Chambers]

April 12, 2007

J.T.C. - Take ‘em Off / D’Marc Cantu - No Control / X2 - Barely A Track


Tadd Mullinix’s James T. Cotton project seems to have found its spiritual home at the Dutch label Crme Organisation, who have not only released his last two singles of raw acid-jacking, but have now gone out of their way to devote a sub-label to this sound called Creme Jak. These first three releases are all one-sided affairs, limited to 200 copies, and don’t contain much more than a liberal helping of 303 and 909.

As with other projects that state a nostalgia for a time that may have never existed, releases like this often need to tame their infatuation with the sound (here, lo-fi acid) in order to be a success. J.T.C’s “Take ‘em Off” falls flat along these lines, as it sounds like any other Chicago acid track circa 1989, but fails to give me anything other than “cool raw acid lines” and “distorted jackin’ drums.” D’Marc Cantu, Mullinix’s partner in 2 AM/FM, is on hand for the second and third releases here, which are a bit better. “No Control” is more percussion-oriented, with a grunged-up vocal echoing the word “house” incessantly, and plenty of flange effects thrown in. “Barely a Track,” under Cantu’s moniker X2, is the pick of the three releases, utilizing a more breakbeat flavored house rhythm to underscore yet even more swampy vocals and low-end drones. An inauspicious start to Creme Jak, yet the potential remains.

Creme Organisation / Creme Jak 01 / 02 / 03
[Listen / Listen / Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]

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…


November 17, 2006

JTC - Psychedelic Mindtrip


Tadd Mullinix has revealed himself to be one of the most remarkable and idiosyncratic producers this side of Ann Arbor, effortlessly alternating between dense, smoky hip-hop grounded beatz under his Dabrye alias and acidic jack tracks, either cleaner (as James T. Cotton) or filthier than an aging rock-stars hard drive (as TNT, with Osborne, or here, as JTC). This is some of the most seriously monged, script-flipping munt music out there folks. Watch your pets run yelping from the room as you put it on. Hell, play it at a party and watch everyone except the dude on mushrooms completely lose their shiznit. To me, The Sound of Winedrinking is more like the sound of a dreaming drum machine with all the freakquencies of its unconscious thoughts streaming freely across its dozy circuits. Psychedelic Mindtrip? Well, mind the title, then dig right in. This side gradually piles on the hits and effects until the whole swirling mlange finally goes off like a howl from a bent head. Freaky stuff, indeed.

Crme Organization / Crme 12-29
[Peter Chambers]

September 1, 2006

2 AM/FM - Pt. 2


Jack-of-All-Trades Tadd Mullinix, who drops hip-hop as Dabrye and crazed minimal acid as James T. Cotton, teams for the second time with DMarc Cantu for three tracks of old-school acid madness. The gritty, thunderous Sweat Box starts with a whispered vocal reading the title, simple bloopy bass, and rumbling toms before those hi-hats ride in and the tension builds. You keep expecting it to explode and the kick to come in, but in its restraint it is all the more effective and menacing. Besides, the next cut, Ace of Spades, takes care of all of that anyway. Screeching from the get-go, it thumps along with a tweaked vocal snippet and a 4/4 pulse, until eventually some snares roll in and more knobs are twisted. The side-long Acid Planes follows the same basic formula, but stretches it out for 10 minutes+ for maximum mixability. In fact, you could likely start it at three different points in the record and no one would notice, and that is not an insult. Drop this next to some Trax classics and watch the trails.

Spectral Sound / SPC 38
[Todd Hutlock]

June 2, 2006

James T. Cotton - Oochie Coo


Tadd Mullinix resurrects his James T. Cotton guise for the infectious Oochie Coo, and heads directly to rump-shaking territory. Over crashing hi-hats, stuttering snare snaps, and a bouncing bass groove, Mullinix lays down some schmoooove talk to his lady while the track percolates into a frenzy. Tip: the louder you play this, the better it sounds, and the more you play it, the more infectious it is. On the flip, My Zel is a fairly unremarkable, mid-tempo analog shaker with sizzling cymbals and big tom-toms pushing the rhythm, but 2AM/FMs remix of T-Y-O-C Painkillers strips the original down and sells the parts, resulting in a throbbing head-nodder in the classic Trax/acid house style. Another winner from the Ghostly/Spectral camp.

Spectral Sound / SPC-35
[Todd Hutlock]

June 2, 2006

Beatzcast #3: Nate De Young


01: Tensnake - Around the House
02: Bodzin and Huntemann - Black Ice
03: Agaric - Untitled (from We Are 5)
04: Jona - Monkey Money
05: James T. Cotton - Oochie Coo
06: Duoteque - Daki Theta Alpha (MFA Instrumental Remix)
07: Ada - Sternhagel

June 2, 2006

Charts: June 2 2006

Mallory O’Donnell
Eve Massacre - When Silhouettes Cry
Cassie - Just Friends
Christopher & Raphael Just - Popper ft. Fox N’ Wolf
The Flirts - Passion
Gabriel Ananda - Ihre Personliche Glucksmelodie (Freeform Five Remix)
Adam Sky - Ape-X
Prince - Cindy C (Jaksoul’s Basilika Edit)
Momus - Lord of the Dance
Rekid - Retroactive

Todd Hutlock
Tres Demented - Shez Satan
Troy Pierce - 25 Bitches (Matt Johns 25 Pitches Remix)
James Cotton - Oochie Coo
Kid 606 - Pretty Girls Make Raves EP
DJ 3000 - Ancestors (Fabrice Lig Remix)
Audio Werner - Trust
Loco Dice - Menina Brasileira
Mr. Motech - Merchants of Identity
DJ Rolando - Jaguar (Mayday Dub)
Osborne - Bout Ready to Jak (Shakes Mix)

Cameron Octigan
Gabriel Ananda & Cio D’or - Lauschgoldengel
Can - I’m So Green
Cluster & Brian Eno - Hollywood
Luomo - The Present Lover
Simian Mobile Disco - Hustler
Skyy - Let’s Turn it Out
John Tejada - The End of it All
Satoshi Tomiie - Glow (Spirit Catcher Remix)
Alden Tyrell - Knockers
Zongamin Spiral

Nate De Young
Auto Repeat - Auto Disco (Soundhack remix)
Giorgio Gigli - Geometrik Forms EP
Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom - Revelee (Carl Craig Remix)
Audio Werner - Trust
Unai - A Love Moderne
Skull Disco - Shackleton
Tolga Fidan - Now I’m Weak
Anja Schneider - Lily of the Valley

Michael F. Gill
J.M. Silk All in Vain
Band of South Sensitive
Ron Trent Altered States
Karen Young Deetour
SCSI-9 On the Edge
Remute & Riley Reinhold Polyester
Gary Low I Want You
Swingle Sisters Aria
Mark Conner - I Got Eyes
Franz Ferdinand Im Your Villain (Lindstrom Extended Mix)

June 16, 2005

Profile: American Microhouse

American microhouse? The essential problem, I think, is that the country is just too big. Whereas parties in Cologne and Berlin perhaps focus the energies of those scenes, the drive to other cities is almost oppressive in allowing sounds in the Midwest and the West to form properly. Thats why the self-run labels Ghostly International (and its dancefloor leaning subsidiary Spectral Sound) and Orac are so important towards the creation of a truly American aesthetic. Just dont ask me exactly what the hell it is.

Slavery When Wet
Orac / ORAC16

Mossas first 12 for the label seems to be as representative as any: Slavery When Wet is a cut-up house cut that boasts vocal tics, slivers of dub, and sundry bells and whistles inside of its glitch moments. Its all laid out by the one-minute mark and, by the time you reach five, it all seems a tad more repetitive than most. Ben Neviles mix of the song immediately dispels any qualms, as his faster-paced take runs through all of the possibilities of the song, rarely overdoing any one portion throughout the length of the song, which is incidentally the exact same as the original. The B-side, Gastrula, stretches out its arms and moves in the same arena as its predecessor, but does so more confidently. Its counterpart, Gastrula (Crushed), hammers the song into nearly half of the original and is a highly abstract joint that only really gets going two minutes in and doesnt really ever find its step completely. Some mixed feelings on this one, but Gastrula is definitely a keeper.

Bruno Pronsato
Silver Cities
Orac / ORAC09CD

You could hardly find anyone with a bad thing to say about Pronsatos Silver Cities full-length last year, which is why I tried to stay silent on it. That being said, Wuorinen reminds me much more of Pronsatos DJ sets, about which I have nothing but kind things to say (Go see him live, you wont regret it.). The song is first-rate microsurgery-house, intersplicing elements that only begin to make sense later on, but never take away from the moment. And its funky as hell. Jackmates remix is stellarexactly the sort of smooth rejoinder to the semi-schizophrenic original. Its Live in Cascadia that I keep coming back to, though, which takes the best elements of both tracks that come before it for an epic B-side of dubby micro-house that shouldnt be missed.

The Return of Caro
Orac / ORAC14CD

At the very least, you should get a good look at the cover for Caros first album for his own label. It features, presumably the label head himself, atop a pony and looking quite dapper. For a genre increasingly fond of humor, its a brilliantly pompous image that cant help but make you smile. Music-wise, the album veers over and says hello to just about everything imaginable: acieed, Italo, down-tempo, minimal house, and jazz. Heavy Wheel does one of these synthesized moments best, working a Keith Jarrett piano into a fascinating duel with acid bass. Of course, the previously released My Little Pony is a highlight, but honestly that tracks adherence to the one genre that Orac can be accused of favoring (cut-up house) is the exception and not the rule here. Cant Tell Why, for example, moves straight from dubby techno into a fierce jacking beat, for example, hardly stopping along the way. Caros The Return of Caro sounds exactly like what you might expect from the guy that is credited with helping create software called Jitter for Cycling74, but thats hardly a bad thingitll keep you on your toes throughout.

Geoff White
Spectral Sound / SPC-29

Labeled sketches, intended to show off his incredible production diversity, Etsche is Whites second 12 for Spectral in a series started with Ince. Unlike that more natural outing, Etsche finds White mining the more techno side of his personality, instead of the langorous ambient guitar side best exemplified by Aeroc. The closest he comes is Guitarjacked, which is too indebted to Steve Reich and Hurley to make much of an atmospheric impact. But Whites music, especially gem B-side Scillecta, never gets too hard That track rides bubbly synth pads and melodies, and a severe lack of low-end, into mid-set bliss.

Brian Aneurysm
Das Element Des Menschen
Spectral Sound / SPC-31

No lack of low-end on this, Brian Aneurysms initial entry onto the label. In fact its probably the hardest song that the label has ever put out. Ostensibly an ode to water, the A-side crackles with intensity and purpose, throwing out stabs along the way that pierce rather than comfort. Similarly, the B-side Unwanted is a single-minded slab of vinyl that doesnt let up. Otherworldly voices, shifting blocks of rhythm, and a melody built from a simple four-note bed distract but momentarily from the ferocious beat. James T. Cottons mix of Das Element Des Menschen turns on the acid and throws the vocals through a variety of effects changing the tenor of the song rather drastically, but keeping the high level of quality.

[Todd Burns]