July 3, 2007

Syncom Data - Beyond the Stars Remixes

200712"TechnoDub

It seems wrong to call Speedy J a stalwart, because that suggests the guy’s still making average records, despite being “hard at it” for more than a decade. If at times his production (however brilliant) goes a little bit off the hard/deep end for my delicate ears (I spook easily) - with an incredible live show and a few seminal albums behind him, you’d have to say the guy’s an innovator. And an undermentioned one. Maybe the problem with him, the reason why he never became a Craig or a Hawtin, was just that he’s singular - there’s something inimitable about his style that has deterred disciples, and his deep, textured, powerful music has remained a cul-de-sac or an appendix, albeit a beautiful one.

But when he pulls one out, he really pulls one out: this remix of Syncom Data is one of the most powerful, expressive, deep, and interesting tracks I’ve heard all year. Like some of the contributions on the Shut Up and Dance compilation as well as some of Monolake and T++’s more epic workouts, this is more freestyle/deepscape than techno pure and proper; their cylinders are too large, and there’s two much gas in them for this to be a bog-standard four-pot burner. Damn, it’s is just…fantastic (gush alert).

Oh yeah, and there’s two other remixes here too, which are both great in their own way, although not nearly as grand as the A. SD’s remix is much more digi-dub (similar to the Burialmix & ~scape sound), taking a melodica into delayed terrain with some heavy beats which move all the textures around. Meanwhile, Legowelt comes out with one of his best tracks of late, opting for something which (as always) is both steeped in his ‘85-’95 passions/influences and is in possession of an eccentric expressivity that’s solely his own. This one also goes bang around the two and a half minute mark, with a massive kick that puts the whole kaboodle into peaktime orbit.

Syncom Data Records / SD05
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 30, 2007

Marco Resmann - Watercolour

Watercolour gets a tough rap how many cred artists can you name who use them? Ive always had a weakness for those watery shades youve only got one chance to make it look right (no overpainting kids!). Sounds like an artistic challenge to me. But, to flip it around, what might watercolour sound like? Enter Marco Ressman (one third of Pan-Pot), with this neat EP: two sides, two kinds of paint, and one chance to lay down the strokes without “going out of the lines”, splashing, smudging, or soaking the paper (sorry, I was way back in my childhood for a moment there).

“Gouache” (or bodycolour) according to Wikipedia “differs from watercolor in that the particles are larger, the ratio of pigment to water is much higher. This makes gouache heavier and more opaque, with greater reflective qualities.” Ressmans take on the finicky pigment streamlines things with a mesmerising, metallic soundplane which rises and spins past, under-braided by steady tech-house drum patterns slowly drying into a soft-hued outro. I struggled to visualise the finished image, but was reminded of many previous Mobilee releases, with their low-temperature, high-pressure, single-minded aesthetic. In this case, the end-result is a nice rainy afternoon record.

Proper egg tempera (as opposed to prawn tempura) is not even a watercolour, but a way of bonding pigments to paints. It dries quickly, and has to be applied in thin layers, but unlike other paints, the colours dont shift over time. Ressmans interpretation on this binding agent likewise issues forth in thin layers of synth-pushed grooves, backgrounded by soft chimes and a snatched vocal. The louder you play it, the better it sounds. In this case, its easy to visualise a blue wash like an Yves Klein canvas on an overcast afternoon right before dusk. But maybe thats laying it on a bit thick.

Mobilee / mobilee021
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 25, 2007

Thinking Out Loud: Physical vs. Digital

Thinking Out Loud developed from a series of open-ended email conversations and ruminations between Beatz staff members. In this article, Michael F. Gill and Peter Chambers discuss the merits of dance music on vinyl and MP3.

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May 10, 2007

Move D - Ac1D

Being both a sucker for Modern Loves polished, neo-classical adult contemporary listening techno AND Move Ds deep, lovely jazz influenced, IDM-inflected deep/minimal/tech/house vibrations, I was doubly determined to give Ac1d as unsympathetic a listening as possible. If we are to spurt praise, let us at least align and aim the gush cannon, as it were. Yet spurt I must, or squirt at leastonce again David Moufang has dug deep and offered up two subtle, satisfying pieces of dubbed-out tech-house.

Ac1d, the A, moves through a repeating, decaying padded acid groove, whilst rich, textural elements (bleeps, vocal snatches, snipped squelch effects) are flung by. Were close by the Luomo of Vocalcity here, where straight beats belie hidden depths that surge out at large volumes, or intimate strange feelings if left in the background. Sheffield Dance is a little more retro and less effective, beginning from a waddling bassline and building toward an emotional release that curves too slowly and releases too littlebut works well as an ebbing, fading track, slowly dying away like five AM.

Modern Love / Modern Love 028
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


April 16, 2007

Theo Parrish - Children of the Drums

200712"Detroit

Theo Parrish is (by all accounts) a real character, an impassioned curmudgeon who spouts strong opinions, demands outrageous appearance fees, and produces highly idiosyncratic deep house that (likewise) oozes a deep self-assurance. Maybe the spirits are helping him, who knows? But theres a righteousness to the man and his work that infuses even the wonkiest of his tracks with an undeniable, irrepressible energy. Even when hes making seemingly counterintuitive production decisions, its obvious that he really means it, and time has largely endorsed himclassics like Ebonics and Overyohead are still as exquisite as when they were released almost a decade ago. Its something thats seen Parrish (rightly in my view) elevated to the status of a key innovator in the deeper strands of reduced house and techno and namechecked by Henrik Schwarz, Lawrence, and others as a godfather figure of sorts. CCs mix of Falling Up becoming a smash cant have hurt, either.

And here, folks, is a timely re-release of two classic Parrish cuts, just in time for the continental re-discovery of deep house that appears to be going on at the moment. Children of the Drum contains all those elements that make Parrishs music ticka descending mesmer-melody thats used as backdrop for rolling percussion (beautifully played by Jerry the Cat), a vocal very high in the mix, and these crazy drum machine patterns in the distant background somewherebongos going quietly bonkers. Deliciously bent deep stuff. I Am These Roots is infused with the same great feel, and while the arrangement isnt quite as interesting as the A-side, theres nonetheless that same intangible thing that keeps you coming back again and again. I think they call it soul?

Sound Signature / COD1
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


March 23, 2007

Spread the Love - Om Party @ Y Ultralounge (WMC, Night One)

ultralounge-crowd.jpg

Om Party @ Y Ultra Lounge, Thursday Night:

First of all, the Y Ultra Lounge is huge. Its actually three clubs (plus a restaurant through a fenced-off lobby): Y Ultra Lounge (why? because we love you). Tottem and Tottem Gardens. Trying to find friends was a mistake. The only thing to do was ride the butter churn into the next room, and over the course of a an hour we began to establish a rough map of this labyrinth. Or so we thought - attempting to leave actually led us into the largest areas of the club, especially the great Tottem Gardens, which have a great Tiki Party vibe and plenty of space. Not to mention close access to the $3 hot dogs and $6 burgers. Im sure the drink prices were out-of-hand, but I didnt ask. Luckily, the crowd was thick as stew and the music was excellent. To be fair, I was a bit wary- while I love some of the artists on Om, their roster is large and diverse enough that some of it (like most any larger label) has slipped through the wack crack. Two artists, both new to me, that played during the time we were there hooked us in and wouldnt let go.

bassnectar4-headbanging.jpg

First up was Bassnectar (yeah, I know). As we entered, chunky electro breaks slapped us right across the cheeks with bold, up-front basslines and pounding drums. A whip of hair thrashes over the DJ deck as a wiry figure bounces infectiously to the beat of his own drum. Bassnectar looks like somebody you might buy windowpane from outside the Phish concert (fittingly, he broke through at Burning Man). He sounds like someone from his own damn planet though - raw, bass-dominated tracks that draw from dub, electro, hip-hop, jungle, you name it, all re-edited and tweaked by himself, then burned to CDr. As a pan-cultural purveyor of bust-your-shit-open beats, Bassnectar delivered with enthusiastic elan.

ChuckLove1.jpg

As we attempted to exit, we found ourselves in the fab Tottem Gardens - man-made streams, bridges, white fabric tents and the lingering aroma of hash competing with the heady scent of grilled pork. Edging through the crowd towards the dj booth, we were lulled in by a really suave and sensuous jazzy house record, only to find out that the bossa-style guitar draped over the beats was being played by an actual human being. It took a few shouted times to get his name right, but the name is Chuck Love (not Josh Love as I bemusedly first heard). Anyone who thinks so-called deep house is a dinosaur ought to check the man out. Over soulful, funky beats, he sings and plays guitar, flute, trumpet, and melodica (pictured above), Chuck Love makes some seriously funky and uplifting shit. The live-instrumentation is far from a gimmick- that and his boundless energy and positivity make him an artist worth watching, someone who brings the crowd somewhere and keeps them there. Ill accept and endorse Om despite a million crap compilations if they keep unearthing gems like Chuck Love. Who, of course, was followed by Collette. Who I predicted would be entertaining for precisely five minutes. I was about two minutes off:

collette.jpg

The only genuine disappointment of the evening was the one which cut into my most anticipated event -the Get Physical showcase at Studio A. Well, not so much cut into as decimated - by the time (4 am) wed made it down to 11th St., the entry price (this event was not WMC-affiliated) had gone from $10 to $20 to $40. As much as Id really love to see a four hour M.A.N.D.Y. DJ set and the last fifteen minutes of a live Booka Shade concert, $40 is $40.

So instead we get an impressionistic shot of the very beginnings of sunrise:

dawn-on-the-beach.jpg

[Mallory O’Donnell]


January 19, 2007

tobias. - Street Knowledge


It was a sweet inevitability that once computer technology plateaued in plug-in heaven, increasingly large groups of nerds, purists, idiots, and visionaries would run for or cling to their old gear. Street Knowledge, produced by Cassys partner and NSI half Tobias Freund, shows that theres good reason for the flight into obsolescence. Street Knowledge is one of those brilliant deep EPs that stay put in your box for years. The title track is one of the funkiest, deepest, driving-est tech-house grooves youve heard in agesthe kind yo mamma warned you about.

As with his NSI release on Cadenza, Freund proudly displays all the gear used for the music on the back cover of the EP, so I can tell you that the bass on this puppy was generated by a Studio Electronics se 1 (defunct in its original form, of course). Man, its the business. This track just rolls along, with the bass overshot by short horn stabs, and 808 claps, shots, and cowbells (real 808, of course.). Solid State appears to have been composed from the same arrangement of machines, and while not as obviously killer as the title cut, its a groover with the same quietly classic mood, movement, and presence that marks the EP as a whole. Bayside on the B is another winner, a slightly more sober, gliding record that skims to a calm halt right in the middle, then spins off into the clouds. Ah.

The gear sounds great, but its Tobias intuitive use of all the sounds available here to generate a record that sounds just right thats so inspiring. Its about the touch. With barely a fat lead or a farty bassline in sight, Freund has created an incredibly attuned, proper EP that wont go platinum, but may well become a classic.

Logistic / LOG055
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


December 22, 2006

2006: The Year In Review

Welcome to the Beatz By The Pound year-end roundup for 2006, a veritable smorgasbord of lists, thoughts, and reflections about the current state of dance music. And while all of our writers handed in very diverse ballots, we were able to come to a consensus on a couple of key releases, producers, and labels. Let the madness begin

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December 8, 2006

Roy Davis Jr. - This Is How We Do It (House Music)

200612"House

Can you say “Dad-house?” I’ve long been a fan of Davis’ soulful, often spiritual Chicago house, but here he seems a bit creatively spent, detouring towards the lounge with an abundance of smooth jazz saxophone, tepid percussion, and easy, nagging hooks that repeat without much sense of development. This is a bit surprising considering Davis’ recent albums Water for Thirsty Children and Chicago Forever found him comfortably easing into a mature mix of uplifting R&B, soul, and house. What’s worse: if one were to listen to this single blindfolded, you’d surely think the included Andre Harris remix was the most authentic Davis production of the bunch.

Large Music / LAR-107
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


November 17, 2006

zgr Can - On a White Day

Fuck me, for some reason I thought this was a Holger Czukay record. Instead it’s this Swedish guy practicing with his sweet new computer but on my time, shitting out three minimal trance cuts (i.e. short on ideas, zero build) of the same flimsy loops: a quote spooky whatever bells in the water riff, a faceless kick, and some stuttering percussion. A1 (”Whitest”) to A2 (”Whiter”) to B1 (”White”), Can changes up sub-genre dressing but keeps that ass bell loop, all to increasingly bad effect. The electro-housed A1 gets by because it sounds like a Bpitch demo, but A2 couldn’t even cut it on a Spectral comp, and B1 desperately wants to be acid-house but forgets the mindmelting squelch. Buy this record only if you have a comically large coffee mug and happen to need a coaster.

Precinct / PREC 014
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


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