September 6, 2007

Arsenal - The Coming (Idjut Boys Mixes)

200712"BalearicDowntempo

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
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 29, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 30

Jahcoozi - Reworks (Careless)
Genre: House, Leftfield

Tiger Stripes / Solomun - Hooked / Jungle River Cruise (Liebe Detail)
Genre: House, Minimal/Deep

Nate DeYoung: It didn’t take too long until I realized that yes, once again, the sky must still be quite pink.

Social Being - Free Your Mind (Tuning Spork)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: The guitar part is like a memory, like the raw acoustic riffs struggling against the walls of digital feedback in Fennesz’ Endless Summer.

Turbo Crystal - French Girl (Tiny Sticks)
Genre: Leftfield, Neo-Disco

Luciano - Fourges et Sabres (Perlon)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: Luciano, unlike Guns n Roses (theres a first time for every comparison), has achieved that rare thing, a track which almost totally suspends the sensation of time passing, which thrusts you into a soundworld which is propulsive and immersive.

Socks and Sandals - Rishi Saturn (Microcosm)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Beatzcast #43: Crambe Repetita

Kevin J. Elliott reviews Chromeo’s Fancy Footwork


July 26, 2007

Turbo Crystal - French Girl

Jean-Francois Mouliet is Turbo Crystal, a Frenchman armed with only a stiff drum machine, a slap-bass, some really goofy spoken-raps, and a sing-song falsetto reminscent of Chromeo or Mocky. His two short tracks here, self-described as “ghetto rock”, will be hard for any dance fan to take seriously, but to their credit, they’re perverse and sparse enough to at least keep your attention while they are playing.

The real interest here is in the remixes by Escort and Bear Funk’s Fabrizio Mammarella. Considering they have so little to work with, it’s no wonder Escort have “pulled an Aphex Twin” and completely reworked “French Girl” as a tidy piece of keyboard-free Eurodisco. They’ve added in female backing vocals, horns, and a live rhythm section to back up the main vocal. It charms, but they are a bit too generous. Mammarella gives the original the respect it deserves: he phones it in. He simply drops the vocals over a run-of-the-mill disco-tech rhythm, adding just enough reverb shots and synth drones so it could pass for being spaced-out. Being blase never felt so right. I guess.

Tiny Sticks / STICK 12
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


July 23, 2007

Jahcoozi - Reworks

200712"HouseLeftfield

Yet even more sweets for 2007’s remix piata. I’m not too familiar with Jahcoozi’s glitchy dub-pop stylings, but the “name” remixers piqued my interest here, and deliver three eargrabbing pieces of lively and stripped down house music. Leading things off is the nicely titled “Robert Johnson 6AM X-Ray Italo Rework” of “Ali McBillls” by Playhouse boss Ata and Moodmusic’s Sasse. It starts off a bit like an old MRI or Force Tracks record (dubby stabs on 2 and 4), punctuated by a heavily flanged snare at the beginning of each measure. As it progresses, things get slimier, with some disco-dub effects, pulsating eighth-note synths, and posh female vocals (”My Daddy’s rich but I don’t admit it”). There’s a line about Ally McBeal which is a bit cringeworthy, but thankfully it’s not so much a deterrent but a reminder of the fact that there are finger smudges in this chic pudding.

On the b-side, Arto Mwamb’s “Bubbles In The Bathtub Shake” remix of “Shake the Doom” is more straightforwardly housey, with simpler kick patterns and a two-note bassline. Arto maintains the interest level with an ever-shifting arrangement of staccato vocal chunks, colorful cymbal timbres, and a sneaky little chord progression revealed at the end. Cassy, Miss Panoramabar herself, remains in fine form with her own take on “Shake The Doom”. Similar in sound to her recent single with A Guy Called Gerald, this is a cyclic minimal house cut in love with its taut, old skool sounding drum rhythms. Yet it doesn’t feel flat or indulgent to me, as there’s a lot of spring to this remix’s step. Maybe I have a soft spot for drums that sound like they are made of rubber (i.e. they feel very flexible, yet still give a strong attack), but Cassy seems to get endless mileage out of this drum sound with only one vocal and keyboard loop laid on top.

Careless / LESS007
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


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
[Listen]
[Mallory O’Donnell]


June 11, 2007

DeepChord - Vantage Isle

200712"7"TechnoDub

Echospace [detroit] is a new label launched by Rod Modell (half of DeepChord, along with partner-in-crime Mike Schommer) and Steven (Soultek) Hitchell, two leading lights of the minimal dub techno scene. And as with anything DeepChord, the entire release has an air of mystery to it. With the minimal packaging, restricted distribution, and the fact that this set of two 12 inches and one colored 7″ is limited to 1,000 copies, everything about Vantage Isle is geared toward the underground, or “those who know.” This isn’t an elitist thing - there’s nothing but love of their craft driving these grooves, certainly not a cash-in effort - but it is a crying shame that more people won’t be able to hear this absolutely brilliant collection of spacial dub wonder. Take that as a warning: go out and find this now while you can, or you’ll be paying through the nose for it later.

That all said, Vantage Isle consists of a whopping 10 takes of the title track, reworked across the three pieces of vinyl by Modell and Hitchell in various guises (DeepChord, Soultek, Echospace, Spacecho), as well as a guest spot (and first ever remix) from Gerald “Convextion” Hanson (more on that one later.) Across their 9 versions, Modell and Hitchell manage to take the DeepChord template (analog synths, deep bass, gently throbbing beats, bursts of static and noise, and of course those deep, deep chords) into a surprising variety of directions, akin to looking at the same giant glacier from a helicopter from every angle possible: some are beatless and undulating, some are pulsing and dynamic, some are looking up from under the ice and some are towering overhead. The aforementioned Convextion version, however, is revelatory. It’s built on cascading and echoing pieces of the original that are layered like shifting sands, for a distinctly dark and shimmery journey to the bottom of the frozen ocean and back. It is literally breathtaking.

It’s remarkable enough to get all these takes on one basic template to sound somewhat different, given that the source material is really just a skeletal array of sound sheets. Consider it a bonus, then, that all of them are masterfully realized and capable of mixing and matching with each other into entirely new shapes and forms by an enterprising sound sculptor with two decks. Vantage Isle is perfection for anyone looking for the logical successors to the Basic Channel throne, or just looking for something mellow for those steamy late summer nights. A stone cold classic of the genre. Dont miss it.

echospace [detroit] / echospace001
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


June 6, 2007

Gui Boratto - Chromophobia Remixe Part 1

Like Booka Shade or Hkan Lidbo, Gui Boratto has an extensive background as a “hired gun”, and has produced all kinds of tracks to order. Chromophobia, his debut on Kompakt, is likewise a finely fashioned piece of work by somebody who knows their way around a studio and is intent on manufacturing a product with polish and care. The album sounds exactly as Boratto had intended, which is both its strength and (ultimately) its limit.

This remix EP is also “exactly what you’d expect” - close your eyes and imagine either Robert Babicz or The Field remixing Boratto and (if you’ve any imagination) you’d probably conceive of something almost identical to what’s being offered here. Babicz’s mix of “Mr. Decay” is typically loud, fruity, and rich (his tracks always “sound” about 10% fatter than anyone elses) with his quasi-Wagnerian love of massive stabs and huge malfunctioning reverb breakdowns. With the mids-heavy bassline driving things along here, this is also as close to Alex Smoke as Babicz has ever sounded, but ultimately it’s neither Babicz’s best work nor a magical translation of the original. The Field’s rework of “Hera” does the equivalent of cutting a photograph into tiny squares and then sticking them back togetherin almost exactly the same place. Both mixes are competent works by talented producers reworking decent tracks by a conspicuous professional - but thats not enough, theres no surprise here, nothing dangerous or truly unexpected. Ho hum.

Kompakt / KOMPAKT 158
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 17, 2007

John Daly - Sky Dive

200712"TechnoDetroit

John Dalys 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 its 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 its so good might also be counterintuitive from what youd expect from Plak. Sure, the title cut is built around a squelching hiccup thats 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” isnt too far behind. It was enough to encourage me to take a closer look at Dalys 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]


May 8, 2007

Force of Nature - Sequencer / Afroshock

200712"Neo-Disco

I’ve hit the tipping point with Force of Nature. Black Moon, the duo’s debut for Mule Musiq, might have been my first belated exposure last year, but hell if I was willing to accept the feat of tracking down the rest of their stuffdudes at ritzy boutiques were charging 30 bucks for just a CD. So for the sake of my wallet, I chalked it up as an anomaly and moved on. But now, after both Sequencer and Afroshock have hit, and hit me hard, that gnawing feeling of inevitabilitythe opposite of consumer bliss?has started to creep in.

And the strangest part of this feeling is that I’m not even sure if “Sequencer” works. From the very beginning, the waves of a foreboding arpeggiator set against a gentle bobbing wheeze epitomize the track’s confused tone. It isn’t really helped out by the ghostly machine sighs or the hopscotch synths. Instead, each part uncomfortably hangs together, in a way that draws me into the structure and pulls me away from the actual sound of the track. Rekid fixes and vamps it. Built around billowing delay, his remix feels like the best cross-pollination with his Quiet Village remixes: he teases out and slowly builds a heavy pulse that goes for the gut. The single’s standout, though, is the b-side “Transmute.” Built around a slo-mo melody, defanged electro backbeat, and drizzle of massaging acid, the song is light and ephemeral in the best possible way.

It takes a grown man to acknowledge when he goes out of his way to find dishwashing music and this timelike alwaysForce of Nature’s “Afroshock (Broken Rule Mix)” just fell on my lap. The song’s original giant toms might have been muddled under the wipes, scrubs, and splashes of Broken Rule’s rework of the percussion, but the spy-film bassline sneaks through enough to add well-needed intrigue to my domestic life. It’s this Afroshock single in particular that has me totally seduced by Force of Natureboth sides are perfect for mid-set, mid-run, or pushing past the midnight doldrums. Be warnedit could end up costing you more than for just one vinyl.

Mule Musiq / MULEMUSIQ 11
[Listen]
Headinghome Records / HHR-016
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


May 2, 2007

Andres Bucci - Chocopanda EP

Andres may not be the most famous of the three Chilean Bucci brothersthat distinction would go to his brother Pierbut as his debut solo release proves, he might just be the funkiest. Opener Get Up bounces around with some inspired, elastic layers of percussion, shifting time signatures, and a schwerving bottom end, conjuring classic Mr. Oizo crossed with Villalobos and Luciano. Sentinel follows the same sonic template, albeit with a more consistent, insistent rhythm track, but still abuzz with echoing perc and rubbery static bass tones.

On the flip, Dandy Jack and the Vitteloni rework Get Up into a spaced-out abstraction that shuffles along until a more standard kicking rhythm comes in upon which to hang the stretched and turned noises from the original, as well as some well-placed and apparently friendly UFOs. Buccis version is more inventive, but those looking for something to mix with should head here. All in all, an impressive debut that twitches around with the best of his countrymens work.

Kupei Musika / 12S06
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


— Next Page »