September 19, 2007

Smith N Hack - Space Warrior

200712"Neo-Disco

Space is techno’s key fantasy. From Detroit to Moscow (via lower earth orbit), this is a music whose bedroomed machines have relentlessly beat out rhythms that dream of comet tales and gas giants. Starship Smith-N-Hack hits hyperspace blur right at this point, just as an eight bit melody rings out, and proceeds to do battle with the space invaders in a ship that looks like the Death Star gone disco – Darth’s daft mirror ball turned planetary assault machine.

“Space Warrior” begins with an ascending/descending eight-bit synth line which breaks into a pixelated rhythm just as the neon pads hit. When I play it loud, it makes the neighbour’s tomcat mewl in a way that suggests (as some have suspected) that cats are aliens after all. Or just horny and confused. Then the bassline grounds everything, colouring everything three shades more Italo for a moment until the lo-fi shenanigans of the “rayguns” start blasting away. There’s a touch of Legowelt at work in the madness, but none of the ironisation apparent in the work that Danny Wolfers relegates to the comments he makes around his music

If you can’t get the local felines going with “Space Warrior”, try them on the “Scratchapella” – without the drums holding all those rayguns carefully in place, the effect is the techno/laser-beam equivalent of an unmanned garden hose set to stun. “Falling Stars” begins very much like Roman Flügel’s remix of Audion’s “Just Fucking”, but quickly traverses any sexual fantasy to find itself among distant heavenly bodies. It glides beautifully, making it right across the galaxy in a little over nine minutes. Not bad for two geeks and their machines, is it? Forget all that new age twaddle, if you want to experience astral travel from the comfort of your own headphones/nightclub, this is just the (space) ticket.

Smith N Hack / Smith N Hack 03
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


August 14, 2007

The Chemical Brothers - Do it Again (Remixes)

Recently, my sister decided to through a ’90s retro party, something that has only become conceivable in the past few years. Until about 2004, the 90s, with all its big hair, baggy trousers and bad colour combos (lime green and tangerine?!) was still too fresh a scar, too painful a memory to be safely retro. Planning the programming for the party, something emerged – the ’90s feels like two eras with a brief threshold in the middle. For me at least, the ’90s begins in 1989 with acid-house and early techno crossovers, hip-house, New Jack Swing, “rap” (prior to its being hip-hop) and the last of the Stock, Aitken, and Waterman hits. 1995 feels like the threshold – “respectable” electronica like Autechre and Aphex Twin finds its way onto the cassette comps of indie kids and groups like the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers suddenly sit comfortably beside the Smashing Pumpkins and Tool on the rotating platters of 5CD mini-systems at teen parties. My sister and I pulled out all our old ’90s comps and gave some of the classics a rinse. The Prodigy still have brutal energy and addictive hooks, Fatboy Slim sounds even more irritating than it was, and KLF’s The White Room is an unqualified masterpiece. The Chemical Brothers’ albums get worse and worse as the nineties climb to the highpoint (lowpoint?) of “pre-millenium tension” – Exit Planet Dust is still their best work, while by 1999 the tracks rely on bombastic impacts to the detriment of groove and flow.

As if conceding the need to ride the coat-tails of the swiftly departing zeitgeist, the Brothers have enlisted the talents of Oliver Huntemann and Matthew Dear (here in Audion guise) to overcome redundancy. Huntemann’s track is lacklustre and dull – it takes little of the original version’s hyperactivity and replaces it with your typical Huntemann/Bodzin big rolling synth. The Audion version is actually closer to recent False material in style, but unlike the tracks on the outstanding 2007 record (a record that actually is 2007), this re-touch is relatively bland, with none of the compelling spookiness of the twisted medleys in the murk. The last song on the Brothers’ new album is called “The Pills won’t Help you Now”, and I can’t help but think this is a self-reproach (or maybe it should be) – but on “Do it Again” the lyrical content suggests the opposite. It details the misadventures of some hapless drugged punter in a way that seems to celebrate the very thing it’s condemning; this is probably not what they were aiming for, and the overall impression is “who cares?” more than “do it again”.

Virgin / Astralwerks / 3941480 / ASTR 92726
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 22, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 29

Deetron feat. DJ Bone - Life Soundtrack (Music Man)
Genre: House, Techno

Simon Baker - Plastik / Jitters (Playhouse)
Genre: House, Minimal/Deep

Peter Chambers: Just like some people’s nudity is more naked than others, some repetitions are somehow more repetitive than others, while others are seemingly less repetitive, more transformative.

Lee Douglas - New York Story (Rong)
Genre: Neo-Disco

Nate DeYoung: It’s wide-eyed and effortless as a wind-up toy, but packs 500-lb chimes straight out of Blondie’s “Rapture”.

Len Faki - Rainbow Delta/Mekong Delta Remixes (Ostgut Ton)
Genre: Techno, Minimal/Deep

Various Artists - Sasomo EP (BAR25)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Michael F. Gill: With the world remaining indifferent to my personal peaks and valleys, why not have my music be the same way?

Avus - Furry Hat / Spnkr (Border Community)
Genre: Progressive/Trance

Brother From Another Planet / .Xtrak - 7th City Classics Vol. 1 (7th City)
Genre: Techno, Acid

The Beatz staff pick their favorite dance releases of 2007, so far

Beatzcast #42: Crambe Repetita

Nina Phillips reviews Efdemin self-titled album on Dial Records.


July 19, 2007

Brother From Another Planet / .Xtrak - 7th City Classics Vol. 1

20071990s12"TechnoAcid

Daniel Bell’s fabled 7th City imprint was working the whole minimal techno vibe long before there was even a name for it, and early sides on the label are treasured by that community not just because of their rarity, but for their enduring quality. While reissued tracks from Bell himself (or hell, new music!) would likely be the most welcome to collectors (he didn’t record much for 7th City himself), the two tracks chosen for the first of the three-volume 7th City Classics series are certainly worth additions to anyone’s crate.

Claude Young’s Brother From Another Planet alias contributes the mighty “Acid Wash Conflict,” which, naturally, sounds exactly like the title would lead you to believe, but its Todd Sines’ .Xtrak entry that really should open some ears here. “Multiplexor” is a stomping stealthmode workout in the mold of DBX himself, with a popping riff and acid-style knob-tweaking that moves insistently as much as it jogs in place. If the 7th City sound was before your time, the Classics series are essential. Now, if DBX would get to reissuing those classic Accelarate sides…

7th City / SCD 022
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


July 17, 2007

Simon Baker - Plastik / Jitters

“Repetition changes nothing in the object repeated, but does change something in the mind which contemplates it.” It may be redundant to apply David Hume’s famous idea to a specific track – this is dance music, after all. But just like some people’s nudity is more naked than others, some repetitions are somehow more repetitive than others, while others are seemingly less repetitive, more transformative. Basic Channel is a case in point – and how many people’s lives (let alone musical universes) have been transformed by those sublime repetitions?

Maybe this is reaching too high for Simon Baker – “Plastik” ain’t that fantastic. But the use of repetition here works wonders somehow. The whole track consists of one repeated riff that attacks, fades, and modulates relentlessly (now a little rougher, now a little flatter, now a little heavier, now a little lighter). Some recent Redshape smashers have tried this same approach, and its also been a staple of many Planet E classics, not least Gemini’s “Crossing Mars”, which turns the act of looping into a type of cosmic transport.

“Jitters” is the tense other to “Plastiks’” unbridled compulsion; on the verge of unleashing the urge, it contemplates intensity again and again with a touch of menace and lots of little microrythmic garnishes around the main groove. Just like the A, it effectively features a short-tempered synth bassline with a penchant for timbral variation (attack, retreat, yell, whisper, repeat). Reaction to this whole caper among my technoid geek friends has been mixed, but what the hell would they know? This is deadly simple, fun, and effective. Or, to put it another way, there’s a joy in repetition.

Playhouse / PLAY 137
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 1, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 26

Portable - Don’t Give Up (Remixes) [Sud Electronic]
Genre: Minimal/Deep

Turzi - Seven Inch Allah (Record Makers)
Genre: Indie-Dance, Leftifeld

Nick Sylvester: Three pretty different tracks from this French act, though they all could have ended up on Optimo’s Psyche Out cosmic/dance/kraut mix from two years ago had they existed then.

Andy Stott - The Massacre (Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Techno

Underground Resistance - Electronic Warfare 2.0 (Underground Resistance)
Genre: Detroit, Techno

Todd Hutlock: I’m a pretty mild-mannered dude, but this shit made me want to punch some oppressive fucker in the face! Uh!

Andomat 3000 and Jan - L Delay (Cadenza)
Genre: Minimal/Deep, House

Peter Chambers: If you’ve a troublesome vocal to mix out of, this rather plain track could save your fretting DJ ass.

Various Artists - 4 Season Sampler, Volume 1 (Jet Set Records)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Downtempo

Studio - Life’s a Beach! (Remixes) (Information)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Balearic

Peter Chambers: Oddly similar, the two mixes here are sun and moon to each other.

Weekly Staff Charts

Beatzcast #39: Crambe Repetita

Nick Southall reviews Rushup Edge by The Tuss, on Rephlex Records.

Ben Good’s take on Adapt by Milanese, new on Planet Mu.


June 12, 2007

Ame - Balandine

Ame might’ve kept their doses in a time-released capsule for their last hit “Rej,” which, despite being one of the largest tracks of 2005, still ended up doing a victory lap throughout clubs in 2006. So it needs to be said from the start that “Balandine” isn’t as likely to have the same set of legs. And that’s totally fine, as the track is just too busy ratcheting up tension over its 11 jaw-clenching minutes to worry about its shelf life (note to DJs: start your engines now). For once, the baiting mid-song quip - “As if anyone of you could just go back” - is unabashedly appropriate. The song’s bass is more than happy to try to hit the legendary brown note, shake up planets like snow globes, and even make the frantic backbeat sound measly in comparison. It’s bound to get caned to death this summer, so appreciate the sprint of “Balandine” while it’s still fresh. B-side “Enoi” tries to play the same game but falls short, this time the vocal samples wind up puncturing the song’s inflating tension.

Innervisions / INNERVISIONS11
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


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 5, 2007

Lazy Fat People - Pixelgirl EP

200712"TechnoDetroitPlanet E

Wherein Ripperton (and Lazy Fat partner Mirko Loko) meets Carl Craig on the dancefloor and a rumble is on. The 11-minute “Club Silencio” stars on one side and works a stripped and tripped percussion groove into a fine powder designed to get asses, well, stripping and tripping, I assume. Mission accomplished, then. The b-side, however, is where the real fun happens, as the title track appears in the original and C2 mixes, showing the two producers going head-to-head (sort of).

Ripperton’s original is a modulated beast that flanges its way through its first three minutes with a one-note riff and lots of knob-turning, unashamed of its near nudity. Then, suddenly, the groove snaps into focus and all hell breaks loose and the sizzle finally hits the steak, before some nice mellow washes at the end. Craig’s mix is loose’n’fonk-ee, with a truly ill hi-hat/scratch loop ushering in a deep and pong-ing analog riff, each part multiplying itself and sending chills up and down your spine, eyebrow, elbow, whatever. If you can’t move to this shit, you’re dead. Buy it now. Period.

Planet E / PE 65289-1
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


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. It’s 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. I’m sure the drink prices were out-of-hand, but I didn’t 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 wouldn’t 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. I’ll 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) we’d 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 I’d 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]


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