July 13, 2007

Beatzcast #41: Crambe Repetita


Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music featuring new music from Cobblestone Jazz, Lindstrom, one half of Metro Area, and Radio Slave…

01: Glissandro 70 - Bolan Muppets [buy]
02: Detalles - Sociber [buy]
03: Captain - Glorious (Radio Slave Mix) [buy]
04: Cybotron - Clear (Louderbach All This Space Remix) [buy]
05: Cybotron - Clear (Cobblestone Jazz Remix) [buy]
06: Lindstrom and Solale - Let It Happen [buy]
07: The Green Men - The Fog (Darshan Jesrani Remix) [buy]
08: Super700 - Millions [buy]

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May 16, 2007

Escort - All Through The Night


The appeal of this Brooklyn disco band, beyond the fact that all four of its twelves are completely kickass, is its unspoken role as aggregator: they take their genre’s best flourishes and leave the dreck behind. Think about how much terrible disco you’ve heard, like the really awful shit that basically just sounds like a boring r&b song with a faster beat and bombastic pro forma string arrangements, then listen to “All Through The Night”. All the signposts are here, the vocal/instrumental call-and-response games, the rhythm guitar produced uncannily to sound like Chic’s, the goofy synth splashes, the vocab (”If you want to sex me / give it up”), the duration (”All through the night”), the lush swells of strings, but it’s all streamlined and deployed really thoughtfully, without the excess. If you want a functional comparison, think about what Metro Area did with italo on their 2002 S/T. You just don’t get an album like that, or a track like “All Through The Night,” without the benefit of hindsight and time itself, the ultimate arbiter of classics and duds.

Escort / ESCRT 004
[Nick Sylvester]

April 25, 2007

Lopazz - Share My Rhythm

Peter Chambers: Lopazz has always positioned himself (or been positioned) between the airbrush-smooth electro-house that Get Physical mastered (and transcended) and its others: Trevor Jacksons cool-hunting Output inprint, and the spectre of Playhouse, first with the Villalobos remix of Migracion, and now the inclusion of an Isole remix.

Theres always a danger to having a gifted freak remix your work, even if you are one yourself (witness Villalobos showing Beck up on the stellar Information remixes). Share My Rhythm is a case in point. The original version is a lovely, sparkling electro-disco-house number with that greet the sunshine vibe that Metro Area or Danny Wang managed to infuse their tracks with. You listen to it, you dont think youre missing out on much: This will do nicely, I thought. Then I heard the Isole remix Its just like the original, but all the frequencies are stuffed full of that magical squawk, fuzz, and grit that he seems to have an inexhaustible supply of. Every sound has been lovingly treated in such a way as to bring out both its personality and Isoles (sigh). Im gushing, I know. Its unbecoming. Gimme Gimme, the B, is another serviceable track in the same sound-vein. Again, its tidily produced and sounds nice, but after hearing the Isole mix, it sounds like a thin approximation of something far richer, deeper and more interesting.

Mallory O’Donnell: While it might be tough to pin down the Lopazz sound, it’s oh-so-easy to enjoy. “Share My Rhythm” is no exception to this, boasting a starry, sparkling melody coupled with a stiff tech-house beat and warm, swirling pads. It plays a perfect middleman to introspective and deep-house styles, having a bit of the best of both worlds to offer, with none of the genre-inclusive traits that tend to drag. Isole turns in a typically fine remix, drawing out the bassline and dubbing up the accents blacker than dread. It’s definitely a chilly take, but one that’s refreshing, like a skinny dip in Autumn waters, rather than the numbed-senses bath of the minimal icebox. B-side “Gimme Gimme” ups the thunkability quotient considerably yet retains the sensuous elan of the title track. A complex, well-rounded EP from an artist who we’ll continue to expect big things from.

Get Physical / GPM 064

February 23, 2007

Blackbelt Andersen - Alfaz de Pi


Blackbelt Andersen is the scruffier dog on Full Pupp. His workouts, in comparison to Prins Thomas more polished epics, are stripped, raw and grunting, like his wonderful remix of Goettsching from 2005, which added that extra amount of grrrr the original needed. Alfaz de Pi continues in the same vein as his previous tracks, showing (to me at least) an inchoate connection between the Norwegian space-disco sound and Carl Craigs Paperclip People project by combining sampled disco percussion with delayed vocals and mids-heavy acid lines just begging for some further filter abuse from the lad(d)y at the controls.

The title track is propelled into twisted tone-pot territory with a repeated tscha utterance and some congas, and would make a neat way of transitioning into freak time. Snake Eyes sways along on layers of dubbed out drums samples which find their way toward a very Detroit synth melody. Sandoz starts off with a very dry, almost Metro-Area electro-disco feel, and slowly evaporates into a big, spaced out synthscape with a deliciously fluffy, euphoric feel. This is a really nicely put together EP with three congruent yet diverse sounds and grooves for those who love their space disco acidic. Well worth checking.

Full Pupp / FP07
[Peter Chambers]

February 16, 2007

Tracey Thorn - Its All True (Remixes)

Tracey Thorn has always been the Thin White Duchess of the dance diva landscapeher rich, sweet voice has graced countless dance EPs, from Deep Dish to Tiefschwarz. But this is one of her better efforts, first of all because (thank God) shes not singing about an abusive relationship. In fact, even after eight or nine listens, I still havent paid any attention to the lyrics, and don’t feel the need to. Its all true.

The really interesting thing here is how its managed to condense several threads or tendencies within recent dance music production into one artifact. In the first instancehow many people had even heard of Martin Buttrich a year ago? And yet now, based on the strength of no more than three EPs, Buttrich has become an in-demand remixer in the league of Matt Edwards or Ewan Pearson, who gets co-production credits on this track, along with Darshan Jesrani of Metro Area. Having Darshan, Martin and Ewan all in the room also brings three highly developed and particular production sensibilities into the same frame also shows not just a rapprochement, but an affection for and between dub-disco, electro inflected tech-house, and muscular minimala love that might not have spoken its name even a few years ago.

The original is hard to go pastit manages to showcase Thorns sweet throat and give itself a sparkling electro disco massage all in a radio friendly four minutes, easily referencing synth pop (a la Eurythmics), disco, and house along the way. Buttrichs mixes are meaty, nine minute affairs. They start off all Pokerflat (dry, strumming minimal house) and gradually build with a melodic refrain that threatens to break into Ames Rej at any moment, until Thorns vocal reminds you where you are. The dub version adds space for a bubbling up feeling. Kris Menaces version is a real stinkerunimaginative and unengaging, it adds cold pads and attempts to create drama with a break based around pitch shifting poor Traceys voice. Meh. Both the Escort extended mix and the DSE dub head for the dub disco, with the former opting for a more openly retro take and the latter taking things in a very Metro Area electro-disco vein (unsurprising, as it’s a Darshan production). Theyre both great, but I couldnt help but wish that M. Fulton had been brought on board to lend a pound more fruit and funk to proceedings.

Virgin / VST 1932 00946 3 83897 1 2
[Peter Chambers]

January 19, 2007

Escort - A Bright New Life


As with their last two twelves, one of which was Beatzs #1 of 2006, this ones just too well done to deny. On the a-side, Singer Zena Kitt dwells on various personal uncertainties in the verse over a spare synth octave thump and rich, long strings, but when the chorus approaches its like every sound starts getting really cagey, and when it finally does come the empty space is filled with cheeky chicken-scratch guitars, a healthy dose of horn stabs, and (naturally) a bri-yut newww li-i-ife. The songwritings smart, the stylized diction is perfect, the instrumental buildups and breakdowns are taut, no notes out of place, no smirks in sight. Just awesome. For his remix, Morgan Geist subdues everythingeven the volume is lowerand after a new bassline and lots more space and just enough reverb, weve got something of a Metro Area track, the instruments taking turns soloing in the lime.

Escort Recordings / ESCRT-003
[Nick Sylvester]

December 15, 2006

Disco Down, H-Town (Part One)

Cities and “scenes,” like the human beings that (partly) make them up, are mottled, confused things. Houston is, of all the places I’ve lived, worked and played, the most jumbled and the most vibrant. The cultural makeup here is more diverse than any northeastern city, but laid out in striated patterns not dissimilar to its sprawling architectural limbs. (Its like a thrashing monster with the downtown nexus as its heart.) Given very little other than crappy weather and a flat surface for its nature, nurture here has been given almost free reign. And, like the lack of zoning laws that allow cozy neighborhoods to reside in the shadow of huge apartment blocks, the action in H-Town is spread across an impossibly wide canvasa club or bar with a dance event is as likely a tenant in any building or shopping mall as a seafood restaurant, lingerie shop, or the ever-ubiquitous tanning salon. Extend this pattern across more than 600 square miles, with a population (the fourth largest in the US) that has huge Mexican-American, African-American and Asian-American communities and, well… you get the picture.

I relocated here and have been here now for nearly three months (already?), and I hardly feel as though I’ve dipped a toe in the proverbial waters. But what I have found has been outstanding enough to excite my interest in plumbing the depths.

Of course, the most prominent scene in Houston (as your Aunt Judy could probably tell you by now) is the hip-hop one, which has gained enormous national attention in recent years. As a result, there are two kinds of specifically “dance music” events herethe ones that have a hip-hop element and the ones that don’t. Clubs such as the excellent, always free a38 have a loose “no hip-hop” policy and cater to those seeking a variety of house sounds. A number of regular events bring a classic retro feelthe requisite 80’s night, but also old-school garage and funk nights, classic hip-hop and disco-funk, etc. On the more eclectic tip, Rockbox! at the Proletariat (which also features possibly the most entertaining Karaoke night I’ve ever attended) and Danseparc at Numbers are the place to hear dancey rock, classic house, rap, old-school funk and discoSister Sledge rubbing up against Bowie and Kraftwerk, T.I. rapping over Metro Area while Justin brings the sexy back, etc. These type of freewheeling, anything goes events have become popular in most big cities of late, but there’s a real sense of looseness to the aesthetic in H-Town that keeps the events fun for the very mixed crowd they often draw.

The overwhelming virtue of Houston’s dance scene is one that can be found at any event: the casual, unpretentious attitude towards throwing a party that I’ve found sadly missing from too many clubs. There is very little focus placed on technique, a real off-center avoidance of the kind of “micro-scene” attitude to be found with many DJs, and almost no unnecessary stressing of “timeliness.” Unlike the been-there, done-that attitude of a lot of even the most eclectic parties in, say, the New York or DC area, people in the H, even the nebulous “hipsters,” don’t stress an overfamiliar 70’s disco cut or a played-out filter-house track (think Modjo’s “Lady”), an attitude I find deeply refreshingin fact, it’s helped in many ways to cure me of my own eye-rolling habits (which, luckily don’t run that deep).

And, yes, that means in the last two months I’ve heard both “Losing My Edge” AND “House of Jealous Lovers,” and you know what? I was on the dancefloor for both of ‘em.

(To be continued…)

[Mallory ODonnell]

September 1, 2006

Windsurf - Windsurf EP


Windsurf is two shorts-wearing Californian beardos doing what Californian beardos do. And thats chopping a razored-out line that connects Fleetwood Mac at their most emotionally numb to krautrock just as it became consciously beautiful (and thus uncool). Windsurf make yacht rock walk the plank and take Metro Area out of the city and onto the on the beach til you can taste the salt in their greasy hair as you kiss them. Therefore, The Windsurf EP is a blissed out easy-glistening glide-by thats unashamed to sprawl with a washed out Jan Hammer t-shirt riding up over a tanned, but slack belly. It may help you through hard timesit has for me. Id call it nu-balaeric if I didnt really hate people who like that crap.

Sentrall / SENDIGI001
[Patrick McNally]

July 28, 2006

Escort - Starlight


Forget Metro Areas arty recontextualization of digital disco, 80s R&B, and techno, the nine members of Brooklyns Escort unashamedly calls themselves a modern disco and boogie ensemble, and deliver one of the most convincing and satisfying throwbacks to the heydays of Prelude & West End Records that Ive heard in awhile. Starlight is great nearly to the point of suspicion, melding together the tight disco-funk of Chic with the exquisite production of an Environ record (Darshan Jesrani of Metro Area is on hand for a dub on the flipside, naturally,) and doing it so well that you not only wonder why it hasnt been done before, but how you lived without it. Augmented by violins, airy female vocals, and a bubbly synth hook, youd be forgiven for choosing this to be the summer jam for both 1983 and 2006. Recommended, and then some.

Escort / ESCRT001

[Michael F. Gill]

July 14, 2006

DJ T Vs Booka Shade - Played Runner

The instructions to Booka Shade seem clear here: Make me a record that sounds like all these great Carl Craig remixes. Walter and friends duly oblige with Played Runner, a pretty immaculate Detroit style house track. How long before this gets boring? Queen Lucid is yet another sleek, flawless Metro Area disco groover that follows in the path of Vertigo and Night Falls. Not got boring yet has it? Perhaps I should ask again after the next DJ T single, but for now Get Physical remains undeniably solid.

Get Physical Music / GPM 046-6
[Ronan Fitzgerald]

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