September 6, 2007

Arsenal - The Coming (Idjut Boys Mixes)


When Morrisey entitled his album Your Arsenal, he probably wasn’t just talking about football teams and weapons caches. In Venice of the fifteenth century, your arsenal was just a dockyard (arzenale), but less than a hundred years later, the British were already using (and saying) it as a place to store their weapons. This Arsenal is the Belgian kind, and not the ex-Big Black guitarist’s forays into cat-torture-noise rock. “The Coming” was a ploddy low-key track from their Outsides album, and here it finds its way reworked into downtempo dub-outs from the Idjut Boys, who produce three very different vibes in versions that alternately tickle, stroke, and romp some fluid from the original source.

That particular source is a dreamboat Fujiya and Miyagi soundalike, spongbathed into a bluntbeat fug with vocals that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Whale record. I suppose that makes it some kind of trip-hop whimsy. The Idjuts’ “Version 1″ goes the space-disco route, excavating some dancefloor sparkle from a track that previously wanted nothing but to skin up or roll over. “Version 2″ would work as a minimal tool for the groovewise inclined, and is grounded by a lumberous (to coin a word) bassline that sounds just like the one used on Serafin’s “Nidlenoch”. If it weren’t for the giveaway “spacy” handclaps and bass noodlings, you’d think you were right back there in mnml-land. “Version 3″ brings us back into the realm of the original, but adding in a little fruit juice and sunshine for a gauzy afternoon drift. It’s not overwhelming stuff in any sense, but the comforting roll and sway of each of the versions has made it a morning favourite the past few days. Nice and easy does it.

Play Out! / POM 005
[Peter Chambers]

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 Dear2007 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 ambiencethe 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 bothit’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 tangentDear 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 mixfrom 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 Fabricsomething 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
[Nate Deyoung]

July 11, 2007

Pharoahe Monch - Body Baby Remixes

200712"HouseR & B

90’s Rawkus hip-hop hero Pharoahe Monch has returned, and he’s unexpectedly packed a whole lot of rugged organic house into his trunk for his first single. “Body Baby” is begging so hard for uptempo remixes that it practically provided them itself, centered on a 21st-century gospel-dance pomp that Pharoahe rides exceedingly well over. “Body Baby,” bouncy as it is, demands an aggressive but not overzealous reworking, so the kid-sized gloves are somewhat in order. Count of Monte Cristal and Sindin seem to have missed the point, however, treating Monch’s slight vocal as SP-1200 fodder, flanging phrases ad infinitum to sculpt something more fitting of a Beyonce trance voyage than an underground hip-hop remix.

Optimo, typically, have a much more cogent take, bringing out the gospel and deep-house elements of the source material. Escalating the bass kick, piano fills, and chorus vox, they build up the original into a dancier, more upbeat track that still retains the hip-hop feel of the original, albeit pumped-up to a more D&B tempo. The Optimo Dub take goes classic dub, running the rap through filters to achieve ultimate freak-house action. Lastly, the Vicious Circle remix gets a bit over-ambitious, attempting to cram the best of both worlds. Playing the hard-house breakdowns of the Cristal remix against the gospel-ized organic grooves of the Optimo remix, it’s laudable in terms of intent, but leaves something to be desired in the end result, making you wonder who exactly would dance to it. This single is a mixed bag to be sure, but one worth investigating, especially for those in search of rap / house crossovers that take chances, rather than skating to the easy route.

Island Records / 1736972
[Mallory O’Donnell]

May 16, 2007

Solomun & Stimming - Feuer & Eis


Do you remember Chicago? No, not the city, I mean the Shuffle Inc tracks, with the wonderful Swag remixes. Surfacing in 2001 and doing the rounds with a lot of tech/house DJs for the next few years (including the second Tyrant compilation), the track had that wonderful pump, knock, and grind that Swag put into all their percussion. I mention the track (and Swag with it) only because hearing Feuer & Eis took me right back to the early 2000s, when minimal was still slippery and young, hitched by hyphens to house and techno, and didnt seemed quite as fixed as it is now.

Theres that and, on the main track, something like a very synthetic version of mes “Rej” yes, strings, things, and anthem-potential. But theres less pomposity to these fiddled arrangements (tapped out on midi-keyboards though they may be): more funk, and more swing. Guido Schneider seems like the perfect man for remix duties, given the click and tech-inflected house directions in play, but this track lacks the mans usual polish and unmatched attention to detail and steals barely a bar of thunder from “Feuervogel”. But to me its the B thats the heart-thief. Harking back to the early 2000s yet again, Im reminded of moments on the defunct Classic records label, especially Brett Johnsons “Here and Now” (whose stucco homes likewise appears on the aforementioned Tyrant comp). “Eiszauber” is a track with the lot its gentle, playful, neatly structured, anthemic, whistleable its got the loose swing of house and the dry clonk of continental tech-house records. You can never guarantee whether these kinds of tracks will blow up (Im in two minds), but all the ingredients are here. Hit? Maybe. But definitely dont miss.

Diynamic / DIYNAMIC006
[Peter Chambers]

March 2, 2007

Pom Pom - Pom Pom 28


Granted I haven’t gotten through all the Pom Poms, but front to back, top to bottom, the ones I’ve heard have been four tracks acting more/less as variations on a single theme. This one features four unrelated cuts though: A1’s a mellow take on stuttering twinkle-techno rhythms that remind me of a straightforward, ultra-minimal Radio Slave, if only for the amount of space in the middle; A2’s a brash house track in a timid techno body, unable to fully emote; B1’s practically a Plastikman cover, so funky in the treble; B2’s a screwed-down soundscape-type cooldown track, like if Throbbing Gristle wrote a track for a Buddha Bar comp, or if Excepter ghostwrote the next Enya.

Pom Pom / POM 28
[Nick Sylvester]

August 11, 2006

Goat Dance - Sizzle


Hector Rodriguez: Goat Dance is a side project of Chicken Lips member Dean Meredith. While recent Chicken Lips material hasnt quite sit right with me, this EP, particular the lead cut Sizzle, has been a staple from the moment I heard it. The sound is a plodding disco-dub with a sprinkling of cosmic keys, rock dynamics, and chicken scratch guitar. In contrast to the clean shimmering disco of someone like Prins Thomas this makes me think more of New York City: dirty funky sounds for ass shaking, where you can almost see the sweat on the walls.

Nick Sylvester: This may not be my favorite neo-disco-funk slowburn 2K6, but it might be the weirdest, so uncool it’s coolest, etc. On the title track, every sound seems off, as if Goat Dance recorded a straightforward Moroder rip, slowed it down 40BPM, then tweaked notes first a quarter sharp and the next a quarter flat. Hi-hats don’t snap, they sandpaper, and the echo treatment on the drums turns this uptight march into a drunk amble. Goat Dance friend Adrian McLaughlin offers an over-processed maximum pomp guitar solo for the otherwise minimal effort, a nice enough reminder that over-processed maximum pomp guitar solos are not funk-antithetical, i.e. Maggot Brain totally exists. “High Voltage” takes a minute to kick out similar slow funk, and also like “Sizzle” all the tuning’s off, so the bass call and synth responses up the octaves are infuriating and grand in a post-post-punk fake-DIY kind of way. Who knew machines were capable of such glorious fuckups?

Bear Entertainment / BE011

June 2, 2006

Pom Pom - Pom Pom 24


Don’t bother with this one on headphones, even expensive ones. Compressed it’ll sound exactly like a Gabriel Ananda track and The Hug, and neither of those are proper references. More than the other Pom Poms I’ve heard, this one’s about the sub-bass and ethereal trebs and often nothing elseas if to spite the MP3, to say nothing of AAC or WMV. Four tracks here: A1 is really spooked out, and its curiously slow and steady beat may be the creepiest thing here. Slight mods to a modest bassline move it from “Yankee Doodle” to that Toadies song. If you like both those you’ll obviously love this. A2, on the other hand, sounds like Isolee’s “My Hi-Matic” on clock radio speakers, a sort-of comedown for A1. B1 is a little too fey, too much Pom Pom forestfucking tinkerbell for my ears, but I like B2 lots. Producers have been trying to do the hospital pulse vs. heartbeat vs. weezy paranoia and imminent needles sound for a while; B2 is a welcomed addition.

Pom Pom / POM 24
[Nick Sylvester]

June 16, 2005

Profile: American Microhouse

American microhouse? The essential problem, I think, is that the country is just too big. Whereas parties in Cologne and Berlin perhaps focus the energies of those scenes, the drive to other cities is almost oppressive in allowing sounds in the Midwest and the West to form properly. Thats why the self-run labels Ghostly International (and its dancefloor leaning subsidiary Spectral Sound) and Orac are so important towards the creation of a truly American aesthetic. Just dont ask me exactly what the hell it is.

Slavery When Wet
Orac / ORAC16

Mossas first 12 for the label seems to be as representative as any: Slavery When Wet is a cut-up house cut that boasts vocal tics, slivers of dub, and sundry bells and whistles inside of its glitch moments. Its all laid out by the one-minute mark and, by the time you reach five, it all seems a tad more repetitive than most. Ben Neviles mix of the song immediately dispels any qualms, as his faster-paced take runs through all of the possibilities of the song, rarely overdoing any one portion throughout the length of the song, which is incidentally the exact same as the original. The B-side, Gastrula, stretches out its arms and moves in the same arena as its predecessor, but does so more confidently. Its counterpart, Gastrula (Crushed), hammers the song into nearly half of the original and is a highly abstract joint that only really gets going two minutes in and doesnt really ever find its step completely. Some mixed feelings on this one, but Gastrula is definitely a keeper.

Bruno Pronsato
Silver Cities
Orac / ORAC09CD

You could hardly find anyone with a bad thing to say about Pronsatos Silver Cities full-length last year, which is why I tried to stay silent on it. That being said, Wuorinen reminds me much more of Pronsatos DJ sets, about which I have nothing but kind things to say (Go see him live, you wont regret it.). The song is first-rate microsurgery-house, intersplicing elements that only begin to make sense later on, but never take away from the moment. And its funky as hell. Jackmates remix is stellarexactly the sort of smooth rejoinder to the semi-schizophrenic original. Its Live in Cascadia that I keep coming back to, though, which takes the best elements of both tracks that come before it for an epic B-side of dubby micro-house that shouldnt be missed.

The Return of Caro
Orac / ORAC14CD

At the very least, you should get a good look at the cover for Caros first album for his own label. It features, presumably the label head himself, atop a pony and looking quite dapper. For a genre increasingly fond of humor, its a brilliantly pompous image that cant help but make you smile. Music-wise, the album veers over and says hello to just about everything imaginable: acieed, Italo, down-tempo, minimal house, and jazz. Heavy Wheel does one of these synthesized moments best, working a Keith Jarrett piano into a fascinating duel with acid bass. Of course, the previously released My Little Pony is a highlight, but honestly that tracks adherence to the one genre that Orac can be accused of favoring (cut-up house) is the exception and not the rule here. Cant Tell Why, for example, moves straight from dubby techno into a fierce jacking beat, for example, hardly stopping along the way. Caros The Return of Caro sounds exactly like what you might expect from the guy that is credited with helping create software called Jitter for Cycling74, but thats hardly a bad thingitll keep you on your toes throughout.

Geoff White
Spectral Sound / SPC-29

Labeled sketches, intended to show off his incredible production diversity, Etsche is Whites second 12 for Spectral in a series started with Ince. Unlike that more natural outing, Etsche finds White mining the more techno side of his personality, instead of the langorous ambient guitar side best exemplified by Aeroc. The closest he comes is Guitarjacked, which is too indebted to Steve Reich and Hurley to make much of an atmospheric impact. But Whites music, especially gem B-side Scillecta, never gets too hard That track rides bubbly synth pads and melodies, and a severe lack of low-end, into mid-set bliss.

Brian Aneurysm
Das Element Des Menschen
Spectral Sound / SPC-31

No lack of low-end on this, Brian Aneurysms initial entry onto the label. In fact its probably the hardest song that the label has ever put out. Ostensibly an ode to water, the A-side crackles with intensity and purpose, throwing out stabs along the way that pierce rather than comfort. Similarly, the B-side Unwanted is a single-minded slab of vinyl that doesnt let up. Otherworldly voices, shifting blocks of rhythm, and a melody built from a simple four-note bed distract but momentarily from the ferocious beat. James T. Cottons mix of Das Element Des Menschen turns on the acid and throws the vocals through a variety of effects changing the tenor of the song rather drastically, but keeping the high level of quality.

[Todd Burns]