June 4, 2007

Justice - D.A.N.C.E.

I’m sure that there are moments of brilliance in the very hip French filter-metal-disco scene (see: “Killing in the Name Of” simultaneously killing a dancefloor and [possibly] killing a movement), but as I just let loose in the parenthetical above, I sincerely doubt this thing’s got more legs. Justice’s upcoming album proves that much in short order and, if it weren’t for “D.A.N.C.E,” I’d predict their downfall for sometime in mid-2008.

But here it is and I’m forced to point out that it’s kinda structured like a song (a feat for these guys), is much lighter than their previous speaker-blowing plod-fests, and actually bounces along like something that an actual human being might dance to. It’s as if someone got a hold of these guys after they made the track “Phantom,” which appears here as a B-side, and told them, “You know what would be cool for those DJ gigs you guys’ll be going to soon? Music that girls actually like. Music that has a tension between hard and soft. Music built for the floor - and not the blog.” Thank God they listened.

Ed Banger Records / ED 017
Because Music / BEC5772071
[Nina Phillips]

March 25, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 12

DJ Koze vs. Sid le Rock - Naked (Cereal/Killers)

Peter Chambers: “Both Sid (Pan/Tone) le Rock and DJ (Adolf Noise) Koze take a ‘one eyebrow and a brimming glass raised’ approach to productionif their methods of mayhem intersect, its at a point where irreverence meets festivity to do the wild thang on your mixer.”

Misstress Barbara Barcelona (Border Community)

Motiivi:Tuntematon - Speicher 46 (Kompakt Extra)

Jacopo Carreras - Olanto (Lan Muzic)

Move D - Anne Will (Remixes) (Liebe Detail Spezial)

Tomboy - Serios DJ Album Sampler (Gomma)

Rhythm Plate - Music From Our Souls EP (Winding Road Records)

Mallory O’Donnell: “…those wanting a taste of classic, warm and spacious house would do well to check this EP out.”

Sideshow - Philly Soundworks (Aus Music)

Live coverage of the 2007 Winter Music Conference in Miami: Day One, Night One, Day Two, Night Two.

Weekly Staff Charts
Latest Beatzcast (#24)

March 23, 2007

Charts: March 23 2007

Peter Chambers
Beck - Cellphones Dead (Villalobos entlebuch remix) [Geffen]
Len Faki - Pearl Delta/Mekong Delta [Ostgut Tontraeger]
Tobias. - Dial EP [Logistic]
Andy Stott - Handle with Care/See in Me [Modern Love]
Carsten Jost/Efdemin - Split EP [Dial]
Lawrence - Fridays Child EP [Mule]
Donnacha Costello - 6.6 [Minimise]
Half Hawaii - Into Me/Out of Me [Perlon]
Move D - Anne Will (Lawrence remix) [Liebe Detail]
Repeat/Repeat Carpark (Second Edition) [Soma]
DJ Koze/Sid le Rock - Naked (Koze remix) [Cereal/Killers]

Michael F. Gill
Jan Leslie Holmes Im Your Superman [Jay Jay Records]
Domina You Got My Soul [Crash]
Automat Automat [EMI/Barclay]
Alloy Orchestra The Man With The Movie Camera [Junk Metal Music]
David Garcet Redemption (The Revolving Eyes Mix) [Dirty Dancing]
Roy Davis Jr Traxx From The Nile [Bombay Records]
Wolfgang Voigt Oktoberfest [Auftrieb]
Mike Uzzi & Ben Recht Reclaiming The 120s [Unfoundsound]
Loco Dice - El Gallo Negro [Ovum]
Nasty & Tresher - The Well Served Event [Terminal M]

October 20, 2006

Interview: Juan Maclean & Tim Sweeney

On the occasion of the 2006 US DFA DJ Tour, Stylus stopped for a moment to chat with the Juan Maclean and Tim Sweeney over sushi and Sapporo as they swung through Houston…

So, Juan, working on album number two?

Juan: Yeah, album number two is the next step.

Are you gonna be using a lot of players from the live setup?

Juan: Sureit’s really become a different thing livelike a happy acid house jam band. Like the Grateful Dead crossed with the Chemical Brothers.

My friend saw you play at the Winter Music Conference in Miami and he wanted me to ask you if you’ll be getting more use out of the big button? The one that makes everything super-loud…

Juan: Ohthe up-down button. We do this crazy thing where we break songs down really quiet, then build up a big drum fill that comes crashing in on the one, and I press the button and everything comes screaming back in.

Tim: The target button!

Juan: I do a similar thing when DJing. It’s very sneaky. I just set up two records but really there’s a mix CD in there, ‘cuz I don’t know how to DJ or anything.

They won’t notice here.

Juan: They’ll know. When they see my skills. Mad skillz! (Laughing) No, he likes to make fun of me (points to Tim) because he says that guys who play in bands can’t DJ. It’s true though, that just trying to DJ without having produced anything of your own is really tough.

How long have you been DJing? Even just playing with it?

Juan: Oh, I don’t knowyears!

Were you ever a radio DJ, or…

Juan: Yeah, years and years ago, but real club DJing I didn’t really take seriously until a little while ago.

I usually find it a lot more fun when people don’t take it too seriously…

Juan: No, no… I take it seriously…

As far as the mixing, or what you play…

Juan: Yeah, definitely! (Meaning all of it)

Well, that’s good tooit’s just another instrument, reallyif you can bring a musical approach to it, it really rewards the listener.

Juan: Coming from playing instruments, it’s just another instrument that I have to learn how to play, I’m not gonna just get up there and not be good at it.

That’s good, I guess what I meant more, is that I get tired of as a listener is the cult of the DJ where the DJ plays a four-hour set of basically the same song.

Juan: I hate that! It’s really boring.

Especially with the focus lately on minimal sounds…

Juan: I know… well, I won’t say their names… I have friends who are minimal guys. And I like that stuff, but it’s endless…all that stuff sounds like an endless track, like the same track after a while…

Tim: You’re talking about minimal stuff? Who?

He’s not gonna name names, we’re on the record here.

Tim (gleefully): Name names!

[Juan looks askance]

Tim: What’s your problem (teasingly)? I thought you had more of a diverse outlook on music than the rest of the DFA?

Juan: Well, they make fun of me at DFA for liking certain things.

Like what?

Juan: Well, I’m probably the most tasteless DJ on the DFA, cuz I’ll play things that are just like retarted and fun or whatever…

Tim (smiling): Oh, I’ll agree…

Juan (continuing): But there are DJs that are infinitely tasteful, but it’s like nobody wants to hear it…

Tim, give me your rundown on radio DJing versus live club DJing

Tim: Well… it’s two different things… on radio, you obviously don’t have to worry about the crowd, or if anyone’s listening…

Do you get into that vibe when you play live, or find yourself wanting that freedom?

Tim: No, I love playing with the crowd, because sometimes you have this connection or whatever and you work with that, but you get a lot more nervous, worrying if something’s going to clear the floor or whatever… but opening for Juan, it’s like I can’t do any worse than he does. (Laughter)

Juan: I can do whatever I want to, because of who I am!

You have carte blanche, then?

Juan: A blank slate, even.

Tim: Oh, you don’t have a blank slate.

[Mallory ODonnell]

October 13, 2006

The Knife - Like a Pen

Ronan Fitzgerald: There are few mainstream album producing artists whose remix packages are as fun as those of the Knife, but here the real surprise is that the best mix is their own club mix. By adding more jacking Carl Craig-styled drums, they extend Like a Pen into a fine piece of haunting techno. Thomas Schumachers remix is a growling bass-heavy piece of electro-minimal, proving that although the Bodzin production factory which makes his tracks may have overkilled things a bit, if they did more remixes instead of so many original productions some great feats could still be possible.

Peter Chambers: Silent Shout is shaping up to be one of the years best albums, and the remix project has given us an impressive group of producers so far (Shinedoe, Troy Pierce, Trentemoller, Radioslave). Now its the turn of Pierces M_nus label mate Heartthrob and reinvented big room mnml floordestroyer Thomas Schumacher to cut their sliceand boy, has the knife come out dirty. Heartthrob is given two look-ins herethe first remix version is a lump-looped wonkathon that sounds like an auralization of Quasimodo avin it, but doesnt really take proper account of either the originals vocal or its wonderful melody. The Heartthrob dub is more successful, but like Troy Pierces wigglin & noodlin version of Silent Shout, the end result sounds very little like the Knife and a helluva lot like each of the artists latest scribblings of their sound signature. In comparison, Schumachers contribution is clean-shaved and well behaved, very much keeping the adjectives dark and ominous caged in parentheses. Judging from the selections on their recent humourless Fabric mix, I can imagine Tiefschwarz will be all over this version, and hey, its bound to keep the big room kidz gurning and grooving. To these ears at least, the Dreijers own versions show up the experts heretheirs is the more satisfying, carefully written and musical remix that is still 100% floor-functional.

Rabid / RABID 034

September 1, 2006

Ican - A Quien


Los Hermanos/Underground Resistance crew member Santiago Salazar grabs his amigo Esteban Adame and heads for Carl Craigs Planet E imprint for four tracks of amazing Latin-infused techno. The title track is a peak-time floor filler with a pounding beat and smooth, rolling bassline smashed up with salsa-style vocals and some killer Latin piano breaks. This is serious party music, and I guarantee that any DJ dropping this in the middle of a house or techno set will see the crowd go wildhell, I was rolling my hips like mad in my dining room. The other three tracks tone down the overt Latino influence in deference to straight-ahead dancefloor techno, but each cut leaves enough influential flavor to make things just the right side of spicy.

Planet E / PE 65286-1
[Todd Hutlock]

July 14, 2006

Lemon8 - Model8


It shouldnt come as much of a surprise to find this acid techno classic from the golden age of the genre reissued by none other than Richie Hawtin himself, as the track was a regular feature of his own DJ sets back in the day and was even included on the X-Mix-3 mix CD that he released with Plus 8 partner John Acquaviva back in 1994. Hawtins one-man revival campaign (see the last few reissues on Plus 8 for evidence, including Baby Ford + Eon, Link, and even Teste, originally released on his own Probe imprint) may be the result of a feeling of nostalgia or a longing for the good old days but it is sure making for some damn fine records to be rescued from obscurity.

Model8 was an early single from the aptly named Dutch producer and DJ Harry Lemon and you can hear the early Plus 8 sound all over its grooves. The classic drum pattern, bouncing bass riff, and especially the smashed-to-hell hi-hats might sound a bit dated now, but an enterprising DJ could likely still work it into a set. The original mix builds in layers to a big breakdown about halfway through before really letting fly with the acid/percussion madness. All well and good, but its the remix on the flip that is the real killer. It sounds infinitely more modern, with its stripped-down percussion attacks and positively HYOOOOOGE build-ups and breakdowns clearly prefiguring where Hawtin was going with F.U.S.E. and later with Plastikman. A massive, floor-filler of a record that isnt quite ready to be retired yet.

Basic Energy / ENERGY 103-5
Plus 8 / PLUS8089
1993 / 2006
[Todd Hutlock]

May 19, 2006

Live: Alan Braxe at ISSST, The Key, London, May 2006

Alan Braxe has sold over two million records that are aimed straight for the heart of the dancefloor, most of them copies of Music Sounds Better with You, one of the best ever tracks about dancing and a giant crossover record that even the people I know who despise dance music grudgingly admit to liking (it was #2 in the UK back in August 1998.) Almost unbelievably, before the beginning of this month Alan Braxe had never played a DJ set in public, apparently preferring to be known for his production work.

His doing so deserves an in-depth report. Unfortunately this aint it, but Ill endeavour to get as many details down as possible. Its not that I wasnt paying attention, but more that I was paying attention in the wrong way (with every sinew and fibre of my bodybut not many brain cells). Also, I was drunk. If I could just write I danced and had a lot of fun, I would.

The Key, in Kings Cross, is a club that Id had an awful experience with previously when it, along with other clubs in the same complex, was part of a hellishly overcrowded, incompetently organized, and hateful in all ways Soulwax warehouse party. Tonight, though, it was fine: friendly bar staff, a honeycomb dance floor that made me worry when the giant bees would be returning, and so much dry ice that I felt I was in a dream sequence from Manhunter or Risky Business. The sound was crisp and clear and bumping, but not so loud that I had no voice the next day from YELLING.

Heres how things end up being in LondonJustice and the Ed Banger Records crew along with Mr. Oizo were playing on the same night. In the club next door! And they got a bigger turnout, which is a shame but to be expected in the real or imagined constant NOW of dance music. On the plus side (for me, if not Braxe), it meant that there werent any boggly-eyed pill casualties except for one mullethead whod travelled all the way from Scotland to get mashed and forget everything by the next day. Even he was friendly enough in a I-am-gonna-give-you-a-high-five kind of way.

What made Braxe decide that now was the time to play out (and in London rather than his homebase of Paris), I dont know. Maybe it was the chance to DJ with Vulture label mate Kris Menace, who did the heavy lifting, manning the decks for most of the evening whilst Braxe cued up re-edits on his laptop. Not that division of labour mattered. As a force, they were hands in the air exciting all night, starting as they meant to go onhi-impactwith a pitched up LFO, Body Language and some Chicken Lips before moving into filter-disco. There was surprisingly little I knew except for Lifelike and Kris Menaces Discopolis and a vocal-less, re-cut and stripped-to-the-bone Music Sounds Better with You that removed the anthemic whilst keeping the disco propulsion. It was like a suite of variations on the first three seconds of the track, ever spawning and replicating. Near the end, three hours later, there was a baffling mindwarp of an edit of O Superman by Laurie Anderson (was it chosen because it also reached a highest chart position of #2 in the UK?) I emailed my brother to find out what Id forgotten but all he could add was that Braxe looks like a typical man from the Tricolour French textbooks from school… (i.e. like a sex criminal).

Then Cagedbaby stepped up and killed the vibe as easily as Braxe had killed EQs with a set of roided-out Bloc Party remixes and tracks that instruct you to have fun just a little too emphatically. It didnt really matter, though. The best was over with and I managed to get chucked out by the bouncers anyway. I stood in the cool morning light, ears still ringing, loose limbed, and sweaty because I hadnt stopped moving all night.[Patrick McNally]

April 24, 2006


My heart in time.

Thats the phrase Ive been saying over and over in my head recently. Its sort of a calming mantra as one looks over the engulfing terrain of dance music. Possibly more than any other popular genre, people who love dance music are notoriously picky, finely tuning their desires to a specific sub-genre, where only a certain set of sounds, textures, production values, and emotions will satisfy what they are looking for.

But it is the alternate meaning of the above phrase, the one that reminds me of the journey to find this perfect alignment, which has been comforting me lately. For if you look at it on the surface, keeping up with dance music sounds like a nightmare-ish job no one should force upon themselves. With hundreds of new pieces of vinyl out every week, and three decades of potent disco, house, and techno music hidden inside a deluge of 12 inches behind us, there is rarely a time where you can pause to catch your breath, or for your wallet to recuperate from taking a chance on mail-ordering a Finnish double album of minimal electro. And if you thought file-sharing would provide some relief to sorting things outthink again. Users can share hundreds of pieces of ripped vinyl in the same directory, with no notification as to what genre it is or what year it came out. Not to mention the number of possibly killer singles that Ive never seen physically or digitally (Reverso 68s Piece Together single comes to mind).

To actually illustrate how ridiculous things get, lets take a trip to one of Brooklyns most notorious vinyl/thrift shops, The Thing. You walk downstairs and are greeted with many, many tall shelves of discarded vinyl that are nearly unapproachable due to the amount of crates and boxes on the floor.

You turn to the left and can barely walk down the aisle, because the crates are stacked so high.

And then you end up turning to the right because the quasi-organization looks initially soothing, even if the sheer volume induces a sigh or two.

So why would one want to become a fan of dance music? Who has the energy and the time to sift through the millions of disco and house records found at places like The Thing, hoping to find those few nuggets that could mean so much to them? To me, although dance music is notorious for changing on a micro level at a maximum pace, the key is patience, letting time pass, and understanding how much more you will be able to hear in the next few years (or even decades!) at a relatively slow, but constant pace.When I was in college one of my music teachers told me, in regards to creating music, that every note is a tiny dripping of emotion, a little fragment of yourself that may or may not be sharply defined. Therefore, the idea behind creation is that you have to constantly pour out a torrent of notes, textures, or sounds in order to find the pieces of inspiration among the litter. Its not too drastic a shift to make the same comparison to trying to find the music that you love.Now of course wheat-from-chaff sorting occurs in every musical genre, but dance musics functional nature enforces this notion to a personal and artistic level. Dance music works for you, it works for DJs to create an uninterrupted flow of disparate musical pieces that nevertheless work together as one. Thats why being a good DJ can be so damn hard: you have to think at an individual track level as well as in terms of the overall mix. Its like crafting a perfect mixtape in real-time.But with greater ambition can come greater rewards, and to me there is so much rewarding artistry in being able to orchestrate a DJ mix, to create a study in composite sonority. There is also something humbling in finding people who produce music that can gives up part of its notoriety in order to become a small, sometimes anonymous part of something bigger (its no wonder why DJs often have bigger egos than producers.) What brings things full circle is that despite the hyper-individuality of a DJ mix/set, in the end he or she is nothing without the community of producers. Both groups are riding on the communal exchanges of influences, the diverse emotional smears, and the reactions each provoke out of each other. So when I question myself on why I bother going to intimidating places like The Thing, endlessly listening to one minute web-clips of vinyl, or searching thoroughly for information on record label X, scene Y, style Z, I rationalize myself by saying:I collect feelings, I travel to find pieces, fragments of desire, pain, love; feelings that ignite me and open me, open myself up to new experiences. Im trying to build a bibliographic control of my life and identity, and combing through rubbles of vinyl, and sorting though a flood of emotions is one way I can help achieve that.

[Michael F. Gill]

February 10, 2006

Love Saves The Day

A high, clicking percussion sound starts, followed swiftly by a nimble bassline. Everybody knows this one, several people whooping while others rattle tambourines, bang on cowbells and shake homemade noisemakers. The song is “Expansions,” by Lonnie Liston Smith, a piece of cosmic soul-jazz recorded for Flying Dutchman records in 1974, and one of the host’s signature songs. “Expand your mind to understand / We all must live in peace,” Donald Smith sings, and there is no doubt that everyone dancing on the packed floor is mouthing those words and feeling, if only here and now, that sentiment.

David Mancuso stands at floor level between two turntables placed on stacks of cinder blocks. He puts a record on, lets it end and then plays another record. As the night progresses, people actually clap at the end of certain songs. The volume level is the lowest I’ve ever heard in a “club,” but the sound is impeccably clear, speakers placed above floor level on all sides of the room. The bass is thick and resonant but not overbearing, and the treble and midrange are perfectly tweaked to allow dancers to enjoy the nuances of each song, rather than bludgeoning them with constant thumpage. Referring to himself as a musical host, not a DJ, David approaches the sound as a whole, concentrating on the experience of his guests rather than engaging in displays of mixing technique.

Of course, Mancuso has earned the right to call himself whatever he likes. His first Love Saves the Day party (the capitals are important here) was on Valentine’s Day, 1970, and he’s rarely stopped since. Begun in his own converted loft apartment (hence the informal name of the event) on 647 Broadway, north of Houston St., the initial house parties were just thathandmade invitations were passed out, the punchbowl was laced, balloons were inflated, and the dancing commenced. Later, the move to Prince St. and the rise of disco brought on a slightly more conventional approach, but the home-like atmosphere (one of the old school crowd reminisces about the showers at the Prince St. ‘Loft!’) remained. In the thirty-six years since David first brought friends together to eat, drink, and listen to records, much has changed. The music played tonight and then (a mix of African, jazz, soul, funk and rock) would coalesce into ‘disco’ and then ‘house’ and so on, until the average person on the street could hear the phrase ‘dance music’ and immediately have an idea what that meant. In 1970, such was not the case.

“I been livin’ in a world of fantasy, said I’m goin’ back, goin’ back to reality”

This is the second time I’ve been here, to a rented space above a Ukranian restaurant on 2nd Avenue in newly sanitized Manhattan. The first time was in February of last year, for the 35th anniversary party, and I was full of high expectations and uncertain notions of the experience to come. As we headed downtown, my girlfriend and partner-in-disco April asked me, and I wondered, “Do you think we’ll be the youngest people there?” Laughable now in light of our experience, it was a valid enough question at the time. Once we were there, though, forget about itevery time you try to get a bead on the Loft crowd, all you have to do is look around to have it changed. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, young, old, scene veteran, newbie, child, adult, people in wheelchairs, men, women, gays, straights, hairy hippies, and slim professionals, in all the world of dancing there is no crowd like a Loft crowd. Period.

The Sunday evening begins at 5 o’clock, airy but slowly pulsing instrumental jazz forming a backdrop as the revelers arrive, many sitting at the circular tables ringing the room, couples with or without their children, groups of friends, total strangers meeting and greeting. Out on the dancefloor, the serious few are already stretching and getting into a fluid, limber groove somewhere in between ballet, aerobics and jazz dance. Steadily, gradually and with unparalleled grace, David picks the beat up, widening the scope to take in Afrobeat, a sublimely funky hi-life track, percolating ambient techno, and a killer version of the evergreen My Favorite Things. The dancers begin to gather underneath an inspiring display of balloons, thickly woven together around a giant discoball like strands of DNA.

“Reach… reach… reach / You’re almost there…”

As the night progresses, David plays nothing but classics, great song after great song, to an almost frustrating degreetrying to leave to mop sweat off of my face or get a drink of water, I find myself pulled right back, unable to resist one jam or another. The dancefloor fills up and never thins out, but people here move and let others move with an unspoken respect. Stepping on someone’s foot in my ecstatic rump-shaking, I turn to apologize but they’re smiling and waving it away already. When the crowd of dancers is at its wildest and thickest, a circle clears near the discoball and I see a tiny girl, maybe five years old breakdancing to the cheers of the onlookers. After a few minutes, her father finally drags her away, laughing, knowing there was no need to worryeveryone around her giving her space, smiling and clapping as she tried to execute a 360, making sure no one stepped in without seeing her.

Though the dance scene has undergone a bolt of fresh energy in recent years, the influence has been one of a more skeptical, dark nature. Not necessarily a bad thing, given the times we are living in, but one which ignores a vast wealth of human emotion which resides at dance music’s core. Throughout the night we hear songs from sources as varied as Chuck Mangione, Depeche Mode and Stevie Wonder, but all resonate with love, optimism and a desire for the kind of communal joy that is the ultimate goal of any quality dancefloor. Much has been made in the critical writing on dance music culture of the inapproachability of this kind of spiritual unity. If the Loft doesn’t put the lie to that kind of thinking, then there is nothing on this Earth that could.

“Loving you/ Until the day that you are me and I am you/ Now ain’t that loving you?”

When we leave on that first night in February, we walk down the stairs opening onto 2nd Avenue, fallen balloons clutched firmly in hand. As the heavy door swings behind us, we discover that it’s snowing, and has been for a while. Walking through the pristine flakes, watching as they descend and liquify on the (comparatively) hot pavement, I am immediately struck by the difference between tonight and so many others. We evaluate everything so constantly today, so quickly and so indiscriminately even a believer like me is judging something while it happens. It’s only as I walk out into the black/white/red smear of Manhattan midnight that I come to realize I hadn’t wasted any time thinking about my experience as it occurred.

“Now that we found love what are we gonna do with it?”

[Mallory ODonnell]