April 25, 2007

Joel Mull - The End Has Begun EP

Stockholm vet. The a-side’s first two minutes make good use of the “alien piano” keyboard preset, horrorflick longtones shimmering over rolls of syncopated drum programming, felt more than heard. When the beat drops finally—this bewildering cluck that’s treated with just enough reverb that it hits the left side of the pan before the right—Mull moves everything into pretty undeniable neu-trance terrain: arena-appropriate crescendos and plenty of growth/decay in the synths themselves. Still though I find myself rewinding back to the beginning just so I can hear the beat drop at minute two, which is saying something. On the flip, Mathew Jonson’s “Tiger Remix” has those pneumatic trainwhistle-type sounds that Superpitcher used in his underrated “Lick the Pipe,” but ambition gets the better of him. The track mixes everything from jungle-like rhythms, bar mitzvah scales and even kosmische synths that moan out like Moby Dick, often all at once, and never ends up popping.

Railyard Recordings / RYR007
[Nick Sylvester]

February 23, 2007

Luciano - No Model No Tool

Lucien “Luciano” Nicolet’s Cadenza label is an exemplar of long-playing minimalism. Like Mathew Jonson’s eternal arpeggios or Ricardo Villalobos’ endlessly bending squiggles, Luciano records can be mixed in and/or left low in the layers for six, seven, even eight minutes, without having to worry about “the chorus” or the rhythm shifting phase. So although they do bear close scrutiny as complete compositions on their own right, much of Luciano’s work is already a “tool” in the hands of a creative DJ. But No Model No Tool is three clicks further down the line of least variation. This new release, the first in a planned series of self-confessed tools, is both an artistic statement (”When only the least will do”) and a tacit admission that DJing itself has changed, and that there is an emerging market for nothing more than the individual sounds-the sonic equivalent of selling Lego blocks, I guess.

No Model consists of two long rhythmic pieces, one metallic, the other rubbery; five “atmospheres” consisting of vocal loops, spooky pads and alien atmospheres; and one long pop ambient-esque piece with KLF-style sheep baas and an orchestra recording a David Lynch soundtrack in the hallway. There’s enormous scope for these tools, especially harnessing the immediate capabilities of more recent CD-J players, so from that perspective, No Model is worth considering. But the funny thing is (and maybe I’ve really been listening to too much “too little”) that this is actually a really satisfying listening experience. Barring “Tonneres,” which sounds like a tweaked-out Arthur Russell track, the tools flow along nicely and work especially well at pasting over the cracks in the silence that threaten to distract you from what you?re concentrating on. Curiouser and Curiouser.

Cadenza Split Composition / CSC001
[Peter Chambers]

February 16, 2007

Midnight Operator - Midnight Operator


The first offering from Mathew Jonson and his drum ‘n’ bassier brother Nathan (aka Hrdvision) doesn’t sound too different from what you’d imagine it to be—squelching, menacing bass melodies set against housey breakbeats—but there is a warped sense of structure and an abundance of quick and filtered edits that makes it hard to fully grasp. Make no mistake, this is involving head music, but perhaps too involving for dancefloors.

The convoluted funk of the title track, which could be snuck into an adventurous dubstep set, would rather run in circles instead of leading you somewhere. On the B-side, a cut up of Mathew’s “Revenge of the Zombie Bikers” becomes more detached and solemn than the original, the famous bassline sounding closer to Kode 9 than Carl Craig. Worth investigating.

Wagon Repair / WAG 021

[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 10, 2006

Alland Byallo / Ed Davenport - Buckets / Swantalk

Liebe Detail consolidate their reputation for quietly-confident minimal tech-house with another split/winner, this time from San Franciscan Alland Byallo and London’s Ed Davenport. Byallo’s “Buckets” is a pail full of finely twined synth lines. The business end sounds generically tech-mnml, but it’s the nicely placed melody that grooves and builds on the soundbed that keeps one coming back. It moves out of loop formation with a nod to Broker/Dealer or Mathew Jonson, then detunes and growls a little for the breakdown like a neat, house-trained version of Sweetlight’s “Abusator.” Davenport’s “Swantalk” spreads itself over the Ableton-standard length of nine minutes, but fortunately it’s fairly worth the time spent, as the track builds and breaks around a Luciano-ish mnmlatino melody that sings into the big spaces made by the slowly swaying groove.

Liebe Detail / ld13
[Peter Chambers]

September 22, 2006

Mathew Jonson - Automatic


Mathew Jonson’s EPs don’t contain tracks so much as the blueprint for an evolving arrangement, one that’s only completed once it’s de/re-constructed in his own scorching live sets. He’s one of the few “producers” who, like the blues greats, have to be seen live to be understood properly. If his earlier work blissed out or brooded away on its own beautiful arpeggiating melodies, recent EPs have seen him return to the low-end party with bells on. “Automatic,” very much like “Zombie Bikers” before it, sounds like Zapp and Roger on mushrooms in the sunshine, or maybe Jonson hallucinating about seeing Zapp and Roger in the sunshine, while on mushrooms (ahem). It’s the B side that deserves your hard earned fungi though; it’s a massive expanse (a veritable Jonsonscape) of swirling drums and revolving grooves, turning and turning in and out of itself for nearly twelve minutes, only exhausting itself right toward the very end as it dissipates into the past, like the clouded memories of a hedonistic weekend.

Wagon Repair / WAG 016
[Peter Chambers]

August 11, 2006

Cobblestone Jazz - Dump Truck


Hector Rodriguez: Being unaware of this side project of Mathew Jonson’s, I cracked it open expecting something along the lines of his slamming electro fuelled tracks, but I could not have been more wrong: it’s fuelled by a more jazzy, vaguely Detroit groove. The B side, “Peace Offering,” is the highlight. An electronic bass line with a simple break provides a foundation, which is punctuated with the occasional reverb soaked keyboard flourish. It works well as anticipation for some incredible jazz inspired keyboard work by band member Tyger Dhula. It’s the kind of track that could easily be slipped into a Lindstrom set, especially as a bridge to something a little more forceful.

Nick Sylvester: Apparently Cobblestone Jazz privilege heart over head, are bringing back improvisation to dance music composition, all that… I dunno. Of the three CJ guys I only know Mathew Jonson’s work, but after seeing two monster Ableton sets of his in Montreal a year ago I’m willing to bite. “Dump Truck” has all the makings of Moodymann redux but then somebody in CJ decided to get his glitch on (his words not mine), somebody decided to throw down a boxed Eurohouse progression, somebody decided to over-vocode a bad female vox hook—so the less said the better. A better time can be had on the flip. “Peace Offering,” if you remember the no-man’s-land minute between LCD Soundsystem’s “Yeah” (the song) and LCD Soundsystem’s “Yeah” (the indulgent acid-house freakout), sounds exactly like that for eleven minutes. It’s a ticking bomb set to rock drums, and it never blows out, not even when CJ add more percussion or trigger (old Herbie?) jazz-funk keyboard riffs in succession. It could have been a “Yeah” disco edit, but there’s no fun in that, which might be the larger lesson here.

Wagon Repair / WAG 014

June 30, 2006

Sian - Gypsy Life EP

The gypsy and proud of it Spaniard takes his time letting these tracks pop—”Grixle” is two minutes on the same three loops, no heavy snare clicks—but goddamn do they pop when they do. If you’ve seen Mathew Jonson do a live set, it’s the same well-manicured paranoia, small sounds all around but a little reverb on the bassline goes a long way. Not crazy about “R U Aware,” which wants to be Kompakt Pop, but “Zeroid Flight” is fantastic neo-jack music, the progression straight out of Chicago 85 but the round faux-analog sound out of Basteroid’s sound bank. Rhymes with Zeroid, and you wonder why.

Karmarouge / KR 19
[Nick Sylvester]

March 10, 2006

Charts: March 10 2006

Mallory O’Donnell
Soft Cell - Seedy Films
Gaznevada - IC Love Affair (Chinese Version)
Kano - Baby Not Tonight
Erasure - Love to Hate You
Gwen Guthrie - Seventh Heaven (Larry Levan Remix)
Don Ray - Standing in the Rain
Telex - Moskow Diskow
Machine - There But For the Grace of God Go I (Remix)
Underworld - Dirty Epic
New Order - Video 5.8.6

Cameron Octigan
Alexander Robotnik - Problemes D’amour
Claro Intelecto – Peace of Mind
Claude Von Stroke - Chimps
Joakim - Wish You Were Gone (Dub)
Konrad Black - Medusa Smile (Don\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’t Look Back)
Lifelike & Kris Menace - Discopolis
Mathew Jonson - Decompression
Mikkel Metal - Victimizer
Nathan Fake - Charlie’s House (Apparat Remix)
Scsi-9 - On The Edge
Sebastian - Smoking Lills

Nate DeYoung
Sleeparchive - Radio Transmission
Mobius Band The Loving Sounds of Static (Junior Boys Remix)
Peter Grummich - The Roll
Mark Broom - From London with Love…
Pantytec - Maybe
Break 3000 - Lights
Delon + Dalcan - La Migale Infernale
Daso - Go Upstairs
Jonas Bering - Behind this Silence
Nhar - Adrenochrome EP

Michael F. Gill
DJ Goon & DJ Koyote - Diamond Grills
Marcellus Pittman - M. Pittman EP #2
Fuckpony – Dave Brubeck
Fela Kuti – Ako
Quentin Harris - Let’s Be Young
Sutekh – Fire Weather
Virgo – Mechanically Replayed
Barbara Mason – Yes, I’m Ready
Kid – You Don’t Like My Music (Hupendi Muzikil Wangu)
E.G. Daily – Say It Say It

February 24, 2006

Profile: The Red Bull Music Academy


Even if it sponsored by the popular energy drink, The Red Bull Music Academy is perhaps a bit too good to be true. It’s a traveling mini workshop that zooms in on micro-cultures and new musical hybrids, while bringing together young producers of diverse backgrounds to interact with their contemporaries as well as with established producers in the field. It’s a place were people openly discuss aspects of dance and DJ culture, explaining how they create their own tracks, what motivates them to make them, and how they go about promoting themselves.

Now this isn’t an advertisement for the workshop, the main draw to the Academy’s website is that it has archived, in both streaming video as well as in full text, the majority of all the guest lecturers they have had in the most recent years. Just a brief scroll through the current diaries and lectures sections brings up video interviews and transcripts with Sway (one of Stylus’ favorite MCs,) Kerri Chandler, Alexander Robotnick, Atom Heart, Carl Craig, Claudio Simonetti, Leon Ware, Leroy Burgess, Legowelt, Madlib, and Michael Mayer. I haven’t even gone through the entire archives yet, but previous sessions that you can view also include Theo Parrish, Mathew Jonson, DJ Harvey, Tiga, Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Steve Spacek, Morgan Geist, Larry Heard and Danny Krivit. It’s often hard enough just trying to identify the faces behind dance music, but to be able to actually watch them ruminate on how and why they create their own music is something I find completely fascinating.

[Michael F. Gill]

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