September 9, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Weeks 33, 34, & 35

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 01
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 02
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 03

Pikaya - Cambrium (Cadenza)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: This is not house so much as the ivy that clings to it.

Will Saul & Lee Jones - Hug the Scary
(Aus Music)
Genre: Minimal/Tech, Electro-House

Charts: August 23 2007

Gavin Mueller’s guide to Ghettotech

Future Loop Foundation - The Sea and the Sky (Louisiana Recordings)
Genre: House, Neo-Disco

Osborne - Outta Sight (Spectral Sound)
Genre: Acid, House

Nate DeYoung: If we’re heading into the last days of summer, then by all means let it be soundtracked by shimmering piano-house.

Brendon Moeller - Jazz Space (Third Ear)
Genre: Techno, Dub

False - False (M_nus)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

Andy Stott - Fear of Heights
(Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Minimal/Deep

Peter Chambers: As a child, I used to build my Lego castles as per the instructions, but only the first time. The subsequent re-builds would slowly deviate, riffing around the structures of the original but adding, subtracting and supplementing elements, to the point where my later creations were unrecognisable as mutants of the original.

Tobias Thomas - Please Please Please (Kompakt)
Kaito - Contact to the Spirits (Kompakt)

Nina Phillips: Thomas is too busy crafting to see the dancers looking back at him from the floor. No wonder this was mixed live—in an empty dance club in Cologne.

V/A - Grand Cru 2007 (Connaisseur)
V/A - Rekids One (Rekids)

Nina Phillips: If you build bangers, they will come.


Wiley - Playtime Is Over
(Big Dada)

Chris Gaerig: Playtime Is Over proves that Wiley truly does run the grime game. Hell, he’s the only one left.

Arsenal - The Coming (Idjut Boys Mixes) (Play Out!)
Genre: Downtempo, Balearic

Beatzcast #47: Crambe Repetita

Deepchord Presents Echospace - The Coldest Season (Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Techno

Todd Hutlock: Basic Channel effectively invented the wheel of this genre, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t admire the latest models to roll off the modern assembly line.


August 31, 2007

False - False

There comes a time when a musician is capable of shitting gold and Matthew Dear has released an album titled 2007 to mark his. It takes a certain grace to make defecating metal sound like a talent, but it’s the same grace that makes Dear’s missteps sound just as captivating as full-strides. Thankfully, 2007 is full-stride, especially when placed next to the scattershot Asa Breed. Working under his minimal moniker, False, must be a liberating change of pace for Dear—2007 has none of the gratingly earnest pop-impulses (found under his birth name) or earnestly abrasive big-room techno (as Audion). Instead, 2007 is all burned-out ambience—the sound of a post-metropolis slowly ebbing away.

2007 is not just an album. It’s not just a mix. Somehow it gets to be both—it’s made up of all new material from Dear and fashioned into one giant smorgasbord. There’s none of the pomp you’d expect from an actual album and none of the tastefulness that you get from a mix. 2007 is a sleight of hand. A magic trick that begins off in the horizon with the rumble of distant cars (”Indy 3000″) and ends with a way-out-of-body blur of voices (”Forgetting”). To describe how 2007 travels between those points should include an important tangent—Dear sees his music under the False moniker as “clinical and mysterious.”

Which are an evocative pair of words and ones that describe a chunk of 2007’s label, M_nus. With their finely-honed textures and considered slabs of minimal techno, “clinical” could be as succinct of mission statement as M_nus deserves. Although 2007’s drizzle of percussion has been quantized good and proper with M_nus’ weapon of choice, Ableton, Dear’s compositions still find a way to drift, wallow, and entropy. It makes sense that 2007 is the result of a spring cleaning of Dear’s hard drive. Songs are an accumulation of forgotten tidbits and 2007 is an unwillingness to let dust lie.

And there’s little dust left in the nooks of the album mix—from Dear’s swallowed gulps of “shout!” on “Dollar Down” to the fidgeting synth that bridges “Timing” to “Alright Liar,” Dear isn’t able to stay still for long. Which is a welcome surprise from Dear’s last mix for Fabric—something that could charitably be described as static. Dear freely ditches rhythms for swaths of fuzz on “Disease/George Washington” and peaks with a swarm of bees on the single “Fed on Youth.” With each of album’s sixty minutes, there’s a compulsion that drives the mix with no hint of a resolution around any corner. For an album as porous as 2007, each track sounds opaque, calcified.

With those shards, Dear captures the sound of a city worn down not by time, but by disuse. Recurring throughout 2007 is the Doppler effect of cars racing past and sandpaper kick drums. Both sculpt an uncompromising environment of main drags and barren lots. But as willfully dark as Dear makes 2007, there are glimpses, like the low-lit chimes of “Face the Rain,” that make the album live-able if not understandable. And for an album as obtuse as 2007, the fact that it can be loved instead of just respected is reason enough to follow Matthew Dear like a gold claim.

M_nus / MINUS 55 CD
[Listen]
[Nate Deyoung]


August 7, 2007

Adam Craft / Grindvik - Catch Me / NAND-Grind

Pär 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
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


June 20, 2007

From The Archives #2

From The Archive is a selection of dance related articles and reviews from the archives of Stylus Magazine.

Sami Koivikko - Salmiakki (Shitkatapult)

Todd Burns: Quite simply, tennis has become less of a game of finesse and more of overpowering menaces that demand respect less because of their innate ability to outthink the other player and more because of their ability to stifle any response. For a long time, this was the state of German techno…

Various Artists - Inflation (Mu Label)

Michael Heumann: This is, in short, a remix album where the source material is inaudible and the artists must use these inaudible sounds to create audible music.

Monobox - Molecule (Logistic Records)

Todd Burns: The true highlight of the album comes with “The Diamond Age,” which oddly enough sounds much more like early Autechre or Posthuman than any other obvious antecedents to Robert Hood’s brand of minimal techno.

On Second Thought: Thomas Brinkmann’s Studio 1 – Variationen / Concept 1:96:VR (Profan / M_nus)

Todd Hutlock: In the liner notes to the release, Brinkmann explains his system (which one can assume he used on both releases) in detail: “I used a self-made turntable with 30 kilo plate, and two SME 309 Tone Arms utilizing both Ortofon and Van den Hul moving-coil pickups. The interventions with the actual vinyl are few: I slowed down the speed of the record and used the left pickup (arm) for the left channel, and the right pickup (arm) for the right channel. It’s possible to hear a melodic displacement between the channels. With a little intervention and displacement of elements, the Concepts are sounding different. The same information they had before, but two times present. Like the idea of cloning and twins: still Richie’s DNA with a little mutation. A different groove.”

On Second Thought: Pete Namlook and Dandy Jack - Silent Music (Fax)

Dane Schultz: Silent Music could be seen as a stylistic pastiche of the entire FAX catalogue.


May 17, 2007

John Daly - Sky Dive

200712"TechnoDetroit

John Daly’s Sky Dive EP is probably as good as any release to bring up the fact that 2007 has ushered in a rethinking of the role of minimal labels. The transition from a curator that reworks the boundaries of minimal with each release into a stockbroker whose strength lies in the diversity of its portfolio might be reflected only subtly in the music so far. But it’s hard to see that staying the case for long. While early ‘00s stalwarts like Perlon and M_nus have maintained brand identity of their music to this day, marquee upstarts like Mobilee and Get Physical appear to be totally oblivious to genre allegiances. Which brings us back to Daly landing on Plak Records – a Swiss label that might talk about themselves as deep and bouncy minimal, but more often sound like they buried their equipment in the garden for a couple weeks to hear what rotted sounds they could dig up.

Sky Dive can run among the best minimal/techno singles of the year so far, but the reason it’s so good might also be counterintuitive from what you’d expect from Plak. Sure, the title cut is built around a squelching hiccup that’s par for the Plak course, but the Irishmen Daly is far from the Swiss gardens. Invoking the best of Moodyman with the locked loop of slow chimes, submerged bongos and handclaps, “Sky Dive” is a deep and bouncy revelation for the label. And the b-side “Broken Juno” isn’t too far behind. It was enough to encourage me to take a closer look at Daly’s earlier records (quick primer – search for Freak Out or Get Out and destroy Solaris). The shift to more diverse portfolios may bring scoffs from the purists but it definitely is treating Plak well here.

Plak Records / PLK 14
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


April 17, 2007

Audion - Mouth To Mouth Remixes

Whenever I see a remix single of an absolutely amazing, individualistic record—like this is, one of 2006’s biggest and best tracks—I have to wonder why in the hell anyone would want to remake it. It just seems to be a losing proposition to try to put your own work up next to a classic in the making, especially less than a year after the original release.

The brave souls here are M_nus man Heartthrob (who takes it on twice, no less!) and Wagon Repair vet Konrad Black, both of whom should be commended for not only having the balls to take on a record bigger than the both of them put together, but also to do a fine job with it, all told. Heartthrob takes two similar routes, both maintaining the original’s singular sense of menace and stalking ability, and on the “Mantap Mix” he takes the swelling analog noise from the original that made you scream your balls off last summer. Beyond that, it’s pretty much par for the course: a tight, funky, minimal, throbbing analog steam. Konrad keeps it more on the lowdown, working the bottom end and the atmospherics into a thick, sticky froth, only to let in some light just in time to keep it from getting suicidal. Disaster averted.

Online exclusives are here, too, from Matthew “Audion” Dear himself and Ryan Elliott. Dear’s “Mund zu Mund” version rearranges some runs and kicks a bit more Latin-esque funk into the mix while still managing to turn those noises in for more thrills than they should be worth. Elliott strips it down for spare parts, working the perc into a frenzy and dropping a few of those big swells, too, just to keep it interesting. It’s a damn shame the online tracks aren’t available on wax, they are worth the trouble for fans.

Spectral Sound / SPC-42
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


April 8, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 14

Knight Action - Single Girl (Clone Classic Cuts)

Nick Sylvester: One of those missing link-type tracks you’ve heard about or just plain intuited to have existed—one of those synthpoppy bridges from Moroder-ripping disco to early house’s heavy jack. It’s as if this track invented the very sweetspots you’re looking for; it probably did and you didn’t even know it.

Metope - Braga/Breep (Areal)

Joakim - Lonely Hearts (Versatile)

Kotey Extra Band feat. Chaz Jankel - Sooner Or Later (Bear Funk)

Heartthrob vs. Troy Pierce / Gaiser vs. Heartthrob - MVS1 (M_nus)

DJ T - Lucky Bastard (Get Physical Music)

David Garcet - Redemption (Dirty Dancing)

Lazy Fat People - Pixelgirl EP (Planet E)

Claude VonStroke - The Whistler (Remixes) (Dirtybird)

Peter Chambers: I don’t mean to suggest this is a cynical release, but this EP strikes me as being cheekily “designed” to achieve a certain response from a certain set of ears, to position itself as some of “the stuff you hear in clubs.”

Weekly Staff Charts
Beatzcast #26: Crambe Repetita


April 4, 2007

Heartthrob vs. Troy Pierce / Gaiser vs. Heartthrob - MVS1

200712"Minimal/TechTechnoM_nus

The Minus roster is a fairly close-knit little circle—touring together, remixing each other, sounding more than a bit like each other—so it makes all the sense in the world for them to be making tracks together, as they do here on the first of what looks to be a new sub-series of “Versus” releases on the label. Maybe it’s the added aggro in the mix here, but these “battle” tracks are light years more interesting, lively, and downright fun than any tracks or remixes heard from this camp in a good long while.

Heartthrob takes on Troy Pierce on “Horse Nation Amended” with a dramatic spaghetti-western stance intro that soon breaks into a funky little rain dance, but the track’s secret weapon is the rolling locomotive of noises that lead into the fuzzed-up “ooh yeah yeah” and “bullshit” vocal samples that keeps it infectious and just the right side of lighthearted.

Further evidence of this is all over the flipside’s “Nasty Girl,” channelling Prince through Detroit minimal, peppering Gaiser’s trademark bubbling percussion fills with Heartthrob’s downlow rap about the track’s subject. You don’t expect humor and good-time dancefloor antics from Hawtin’s crew, which is a shame because apparently they do it very well, better than most in fact. Minus has never grooved this hard or sounded this loose, and it fits them to a tee. Hopefully we’ll get more of this and less cookie-cutter minimal from them in the near future.

Minus / MINUS 47
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


March 20, 2007

Misstress Barbara – Barcelona

It could be said that minimal is “the continuation of techno by other means,” at least in the case of labels like M_nus. For other camps, substitute trance for techno. For Border Community… well, what was so wonderful about the label was that, initially at least, you didn’t have to choose sides. As the label name promised, you could be a nomad’s lad, living in the lawless provinces where a bit of creative banditry could nab you a few hits against the stuffy “village people” below. There’s a double irony then, in Misstress Barbara’s “Barcelona” arrival on the label. Barbara, formerly an exponent of “hard as nails” club-tech, has produced a tech-trance record that seems to be retreating back into Tranceland, with all of the implications that name gives.

If techno bores the shit out of a lot of people for its lack of melodic variation, the problem with “Barcelona” in its original version is that by focusing so much on the inter-relation of melodies, the mistress takes her eyes off the rhythmic ball, producing a track that sounds like three big wedges of melody thrust through each other, while a dull thud simply marks time in the background. Holden’s “tool” mixes seem to be a tacit recognition of this, and overcompensate—they’re four minutes of constantly tweaked, prodded, torn out, and kicked drum patterns. There’s something interesting about the constantly mutating inter-relationships, but it sounds like Holden’s managed to mic up the brain of some poor sap whose overdosed on caffeine. But then, the “tool” appellation is a get-out-of-jail free card on this tip, isn’t it? Music that’s not designed for listening… hmmm.

“Jamais moi sans toi” sounds like a study piece of sorts—as if Barbara was intentionally trying to mimic the label’s previous releases. As when an attack dog bares its teeth gradually over five minutes, it’s difficult to stay scared, or even attentive—and likewise here too little takes too long to “happen,” and it’s an unexciting knock-off of Nathan Fake’s sigh-trance when it does.

Border Community / 15BC
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


March 2, 2007

Heartthrob - Baby Kate Remixes

Heartthrob’s “Baby Kate” was something of a summer anthem last year after its pole-position appearance on the min2MAX compilation, and while it wasn’t really all that memorable in and of itself—some routine minimal beats, a deep, bending, two-note analog riff, a few stuttering noises and little else—it worked well in everyone’s sets and that sense of space is also what likely gives it such appeal as a remix. There’s so much room to roam here, so much that can be done with a track that is essentially nothing more than a half-dressed mannequin waiting for someone to come along and drape it in their own fashion. Which is exactly what happens here across seven remixes (including some of those pesky “download only” versions, which are really starting to boil the blood of we vinyl purists), as the remixers take turns making the cut sound like their own work.

Deep breath and we’re off. Magda plays it straight by simply rearranging and tweaking the riffs and noises a bit while keeping the same general pulse and tempo of the original in what could easily be mistaken for an alternate take by Heartthrob himself. M_nus newcomer Konrad Black adds some more noises (the ones Magda left out, perhaps?) and a bit more rhythmic percolation to the pot, while Troy Pierce dispenses with the main riff altogether in favor of the sort of noises that come out of a fax machine when you’ve accidentally dialed one on the phone. Even M_nus boss Richie Hawtin takes a crack here—twice. Hawtin’s Plastikman mix is a refreshing trip down memory lane to the days of “Spastik” and “Krakpot” that keeps things low, thumping, and repetitive, with a few tweaked stabs of the original riff to break the hypnosis. Hawtin’s other mix is under his long-dormant Robotman guise (remember “Doo Da Doo”? Aw, yeah!) which follows the same rhythmic template as the Plastikman version, but with a bit more funk to it, not to mention a hi-hat and other bits of sorta housey perc. Good to hear the old boy remixing again, even if the tracks sound nearly exactly like things he did a decade ago.

As for the non-M_nus guests, they provide the more interesting and original work here. Sasha Funke gives the rhythm track a much-needed seeing to while clipping the riff into an altogether more sprightly sounding thing, while Adam Beyer and Jesper Dahlbäck up the tempo a bit and work the riff into a big, bouncy dancefloor monster with more energy than the other remixers combined. See what happens when your beat is more than a simple minimal thump in 4/4, kids?

Everything here is good if not great, but I definitely walked away wishing that more remixers with different styles had been invited to contribute, as a few of these versions tread pretty similar territory. What might, say, Audio Werner have done with these elements? Or Alan Braxe and Fred Falke? Or Radio Slave? Or, hell, the DFA? Even if they had failed miserably, the whole package would have been better served by a few more truly “different” takes. If you’re gonna bother with seven mixes, you might as well mix things up a bit more than this.

M_nus / MINUS48
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


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