September 1, 2006


I first heard LFO’s self-titled debut single in September 1990, in the DJ booth at my first-ever club gig. One of the managers of the club—Leah Hunter, a big hip-hop fan who had a soft spot for some deep house records—brought a white label copy into the booth before my set started and told me to give it a listen. I dug what I heard, already having a bit of Detroit techno in my crate and figuring it would mix well with Model 500 and the like. I also wanted to get off on the right foot, and so I told her I would be happy to drop it into my set.

Peak time hit a few hours later and I took a chance on “LFO,” thinking as I cued the record that the Speak and Spell vocals would likely hook the crowd if the beat didn’t, and the low-end rumbles would sound amazing through the club’s giant system. Sure enough, the snapping snare and swerving, bleeping riff went down a treat, as did the ridiculous bass groove, sounding absolutely mammoth as I tweaked my EQ to accentuate the richness. But then a funny thing happened a little less than a minute in, at the point in the song where the bass riff drops another (I’m guessing here) three octaves or so and solos on its own for a few seconds. DOOM DOOM DOOMDOOM. DOODOODOODOOOM.

The speakers went silent.

The crowd thought I did it and I thought the needles skipped, but when the riff appeared again a few minutes later, I figured out what happened—the bass overloaded the club’s system and it just cut out altogether. They never even heard it. Being as how no one in the room except Leah and I knew what happened, it didn’t really cause much of a ruckus. After I calmed down a bit and realized that I wasn’t going to be on the hook for blowing out the club’s speakers, I relaxed and the rest of the set was smooth as glass.

“LFO” opened my eyes that night—it taught me a lesson about sound and the power and the fury of it all, about the things you could do with mixing and EQ and production that I literally had never considered. It was a revolution in my head, and based on the way Warp took off after “LFO” became a hit, I’d say I wasn’t the only one who felt it.

A few months later, when I purchased the Tommy Boy domestic release of the single, it came with a warning on the back: “Tommy Boy Music, Inc., its affiliates and licensees disclaim any and all liability for speaker damage resulting from the playback of this sound recording.” Amen.

Warp / WAP 5
[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 ain’t it, but I’ll endeavour to get as many details down as possible. It’s not that I wasn’t paying attention, but more that I was paying attention in the wrong way (with every sinew and fibre of my body—but 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 I’d 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.

Here’s how things end up being in London—Justice 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 weren’t any boggly-eyed pill casualties except for one mullethead who’d 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 don’t 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 on—hi-impact—with 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 Menace’s “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 I’d 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 didn’t 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 hadn’t stopped moving all night.[Patrick McNally]

March 24, 2006

G-Man - Mr. Loopy


After reviving his G-Man moniker last year, Ex-LFO member Gez Varley is back with his first release on his own sub-label for Italy’s Defrag imprint. Even though it’s playing by the rules of straight-up techno, “Mr. Loopy” is as a playful and bouncy as the title suggests, based on a smirking motif that still is able to retain a certain detached aloofness to keep it grounded. B-side “Shangoo” works a similar austere angle, crafting cerebral warmth through a squiggling pad that glides back and forth as if it were a fish trapped in a bowl. While there is nothing new or groundbreaking going on here, it’s a solid release and good to have Gez back in action.

Defrag/G / 001
[Michael F. Gill]

February 24, 2006

Paul Woolford presents Bobby Peru - Erotic Discourse

Why this is currently one of the biggest minimal anthems of the moment, being hailed by everyone from Francois Kevorkian to Ivan Smagghe to Richie Hawtin, is sort of lost on me at the moment. There is no hook, build up, or even a sense of dynamics throughout Woolford’s “Erotic Discourse,” it’s basically a flimsy sounding drum track with some dry clanging sounds and steady set of mildly wet toms that alternate from the left to the right speaker. Who needs an art-house version of Rotterdam Termination Source’s “Poing” without any of the poings? Next.

20:20 Vision / 128
[Michael F. Gill]