September 7, 2007

Deepchord Presents Echospace - The Coldest Season

2007CD/AlbumTechnoDub

Dub techno is a bit of a challenging listen, much in the same way, say, free jazz is. On first listen, the genres are practically opposites, but in approach and execution, they are remarkably similar—it isn’t about the melodies, it’s about the sounds and the feelings. The “challenge” in free jazz is to follow all the different parts down their winding paths and to see the craft and invention in its rendering. The “challenge” in dub techno is the opposite, to find the excitement and movement in what at first sounds like a static and unmoving piece.

Since dub techno was pioneered by the Basic Channel camp in the early ’90s, casual listeners might not even have noticed much progression—after all, the template is basically the same concoction of deep, muted, echoing chords, subsonic bass lines, compressed hi-hats, and lots of tape hiss—and much the way that Ornette Coleman might sound just like Anthony Braxton to the untrained ear, so might Maurizio sound just like Thomas Brinkmann. Dig a little deeper into either genre, however, and the subtleties and nuances become more and more apparent, and one’s appreciation deepens. The devil may be in the details, but so are the thrills.

Detroit native Rod “Deepchord” Modell—he and Chicagoan Steven “Soultek” Hitchell are partners in Echospace, also a label—has been operating as a shadowy entity for some time now, unleashing limited-run singles over the years that fetch crazy sums on eBay. Now with this, their highest profile and best-distributed release to date, the pair have stepped up and released their masterwork. Judged on its own merits, The Coldest Season should stand as one of the best electronic releases of the year, and one of the best dub techno releases in the last decade.

Certainly, one can appreciate the music here on strictly a background level. The album definitely conjures a mood, and played at a low level, it creates a suitably laid-back, chilled atmosphere—downright icy, in fact. The beats don’t kick in on opener “First Point of Aries” until well past the three-minute mark, giving the swirling, hissing synths plenty of time to work up some steam (or frost, if you will). The tracks tumble and roll into each other through the entire first half of the album, each track morphing into the next, but distinct in themselves, and listening to these transitions, admiring the little differences from track to track, is half the fun of the dub techno experience. “Ocean of Emptiness” is nearly 12 minutes of beatless space; “Celestialis” is a shuffling, almost funky drive through the big city at night. Tiny trails of melody drift, barely audible, through “Sunset,” while “Elysian” ups the percussion and twists and turns the mix actively throughout its, almost aggressive. The biggest and best thrills are saved for last, however, as the closer “Empyrean” is the most inventive and downright catchy thing here, with a percolating rhythm track, spooked-out organ stabs, and a truly inspiring drop out. If anything here makes you leap for the repeat button, it’s this. Otherwise, just playing the entire album on a loop will do just fine, thanks.

With all this in mind, anyone going into The Coldest Season expecting some sort of radical departure from the dub techno style that has proceeded it will likely be disappointed. Basic Channel effectively invented the wheel of this genre, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t admire the latest models to roll off the modern assembly line. There are enough new wrinkles and, yes, thrills here to appeal to devotees and newbies alike.

Modern Love / LOVE 33CD
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


September 4, 2007

Andy Stott - Fear of Heights

200712"DubMinimal/Deep

Aside from relentless bleakness and a highly developed sense of minute sound-design, the hallmark of Andy Stott’s music is its continual restructuring. As a child, I used to build my Lego castles as per the instructions, but only the first time. The subsequent re-builds would slowly deviate, riffing around the structures of the original but adding, subtracting and supplementing elements, to the point where my later creations were unrecognisable as mutants of the original. I don’t mean to give myself airs by saying “I once owned a castle” or that my childish re-builds were in any way as creative as Stott’s music. I mention this to emphasise that, perhaps more than any other contemporary techno artist, Stott has mastered modularity with a playful, seemingly effortless ability to build completely novel structures into every track, despite the fact that each one is made out of similar sounds.

“Fear of Heights” takes the woofer-busting bass from “Handle with Care” and throws it over a new rhythm, with sharp, reverbed hats and a haunting melody where the rising call of one synth is met by the reedy fall of the other. It’s mind is Mancunian gloom, but the physical parts are precious high-gloss Dial darkness. “Made your Point” follows the rhythmic template of Claro Intelecto’s Warehouse Sessions, but, as is the norm now, the “student” outdoes the master, playfully rendering the Modern Love sound several shades darker in colour and lighter in touch. Again, the bassline is massive – this one rumbles just below the reach of small speakers, only to come humming out of a large system like the sudden presence of a heretofore un-named ghost.

Modern Love / LOVE 37
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


August 22, 2007

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 03

Mixes2007

VARIOUS ARTISTS - FREESTYLE ESSENTIALS 03
Mixed by Michael F. Gill

It’s not that there weren’t big freestyle singles during the first few years of the ‘90s. It’s that the majority of what was being produced wasn’t moving beyond the established template. The closest freestyle got to progressing was by adding more house rhythms and modern sounding hip-hop loops into the mix.

01. TKA - Maria - Tommy Boy Music 1992
02. Sa-Fire - Don’t Break My Heart - Cutting Records 1986
03. Jaya - If You Leave Me Now - Lefrak-Moelis Records 1989
04. Cynthia & Johnny O - Dreamboy/Dreamgirl - MicMac Records 1990
05. Lil’ Suzy - Take Me In Your Arms - High Power Records 1991
06. Collage - I’ll Be Loving You - Viper 7 Records 1993
07. Laissez Faire - In Paradise - Metropolitan Recording Corporation 1992
08. TKA - Louder Than Love - Tommy Boy Music 1990
09. Cynthia - Change On Me - MicMac Records 1989
10. Judy Torres - Love you, Will You Love Me - Profile Records 1989
11. George Lamond - Without You - Columbia 1989
12. George Lamond - Bad Of The Heart - Columbia 1990
13. George Lamond - Where Does That Leave Love - Columbia 1992
14. Lisette Melendez - Together Forever - Columbia 1990
15. Corina - Temptation - ATCO/Cutting 1991
16. Two Without Hats - 3 On The Mic - MicMac Records 1991
17. Rockell - In A Dream - Robbins Entertainment 1997
18. Jocelyn Enriquez - Do You Miss Me - Classified Records 1996


August 7, 2007

B12 - Practopia / Slope

UK duo B12 (Mike Golding and Steve Rutter) were a prime mover in Warp’s Artificial Intelligence movement in the early ’90s alongside acts like Richard James’ Polygon Window, Black Dog Productions, and Autechre. 1993’s Electro-Soma was their definitive statement. Fusing lush European sounds with Detroit-derived rhythms to great effect, it was fathoms deep and foot-tapping all at once. The five-track Practopia dates from 1996 and is just now getting a proper release (the original only made it to white label at the time), but still sounds like it sprung from some sleek Blade Runner-like futuristic society. Much like Kraftwerk’s timeless style, the classic melodic lines, Derrick May-inspired rhythms and sense of…space…place it firmly in the retrofuturist mold. The infamous cover of the original Artificial Intelligence comp features a robot chilling out in an easy chair with headphones on. This could easily have been what it was listening to.

The newly recorded Slope three-tracker, cut from the same template of sounds, is an altogether more bouncing and aggresive affair, built more on layered percussive elements than drifting keys and ambient washes. It’s good stuff and still distinctive, but lands closer to the Plus 8 sound than the original B12 recipe. The robot just might leave its chair for this one.

B12 / B1215 / B1216
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


August 6, 2007

G-Man - Quo Vadis

20071990s12"TechnoDub

Like Baby Ford and Mark Broom, Gez Varley is one of the few British producers from the dawn of the era who has continued to make interesting, relevant minimal music that still adds something to the original template he helped formulate. I first heard “Quo Vadis” on Richie Hawtin’s 1995 Mixmag compilation, a mix that has aged remarkably well and is still definitely worth a rinse, especially in light of recent directions in house-influenced minimal techno. Given the survival of the track in this context (or, more generally, the fact that it’s never really stopped being played), who better to re-release the classic than Styrax Leaves, a label who are (thankfully, actually) stuck in the best bits of ’90s techno, a place of patchy perfections at the best of times.

The drum sounds themselves are as dated as you’d expect, but it’s the subtle seductions of their patterning that help this release retain the breath of life. Stripped, deep, and long, the themes rise out of a flat gas of beats, repeating and slowly mutating through the addition, reduction, or substitution of one simple element. With nothing more than plodding, dogged repetitions, these tracks lumber forward, only allowing the slow revelation of a timbro-melodic theme to happen “in the fullness of time.” It’s a strategy that gave rise to a lot of exceedingly dull records, but Varley knows exactly which tone-pots to touch, and how. Listen to these puppies and dream of candyflips in a sweaty bunker, consoled only by the natural warmth emanating from the rhythm machines. It’s enough to make you slowly bug out.

Styrax Leaves / strx leaves 005
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


June 25, 2007

Portable - Don’t Give Up (Remixes)

Bodycode’s The Conservation of Electric Charge would have been better titled “Flying under Fanbase Radar”, such was its woefully under-appreciative reception. Along with Jan Jelinek’s Tierbeobachtungen (a very different pleasure admittedly) nobody seemed to get it, to have gotten it, or even to care, despite my squeaky protestations that they should, they really should. Abrahams’ inclusion on the recent Death is Nothing to Fear EP along with rising star Par Grindvik and Matthew “Raygun Audion” Dear seemed to confer a good (dries sticky, sets permanently) bridesmaiding. All this by way of saying, get the album, have a listen, and give Bodycode the listening his subtle creativity deserves.

With that rant out of the way, let’s turn to the music at hand, and another great remix EP, but a remix of what? “Don’t Give Up”, apparently. But discog it however I might, I can’t seem to find the original. Is this proof of some kind of remix primacy, that the original doesn’t even have to be released anymore? Bodycode’s remix is a twelve minute journey through his sound, with all those cool little polyrhythms, that metallic flange, and a slow stabbing synth line. This track is a gem, twelve minutes of rolling, kicking techno plateaus with an overlong fade at the end. Cassy’s version takes her typical mixture of sparse and voice, adds a blues harmonica in the background, makes everything unsettled with a droning sample, and then (suddenly and almost miraculously) introduces a very Tortoise-y bassline, which brings it all back home. The rich bright metal of the strings sounds lovely against the shadowy background.

Meanwhile, somewhere near a bath-house, Lawrence is writing the gayest track he’s ever made (and not in the Cartman sense). I wonder how he saw his monitor with all that sticky steam. In truth though, it’s more like “Frankie goes to the Panorama Bar” with the blue synth washes undercutting the Mardi Gras vocal. Lawrence’s sound-design dead-ended itself on The Night Will Last Forever after a productive three preceding years, but here, as with the inklings on his recent(ish) Liebe Detail release, you get the sense of a new vector. All three tracks here work beautifully on their own, but together it’s an exceptional EP that shows three interesting artists doing some of their better work of the past year.

Sud Electronic / SUED 010
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 2, 2007

Andres Bucci - Chocopanda EP

Andres may not be the most famous of the three Chilean Bucci brothers—that distinction would go to his brother Pier—but 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. Bucci’s 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 countrymen’s work.

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


April 19, 2007

Convextion - Miranda Remixes

200712"TechnoDub

Dallas native Gerald Hanson originally released “Miranda” as an untitled cut way back in 1995, as the first release on Sean Deason’s Matrix label. As it was a small pressing and unavailable for many years, it has grown and grown in stature exponentially since then, buoyed by lots of club play from famous jocks. Now, Hanson finally cashes in by repressing the original mix and adding three new remixes in a very limited (1,200 copies worldwide) double pack. The hype has been ridonkulous, and after waiting for months and through several delays (apparently there was a pressing-plant/mastering issue or something) that served only to stoke the flames even further, I felt lucky as hell just to get a copy. So the question on everybody’s lips is, of course: is the hype justified?

Well, no, of course not. The original mix is a damn fine piece of second-wave Detroit techno, all jumping rhythms, dubbed-out keyboard stabs, and ring-modulated riffage, but fuck, this ain’t the second coming of “Strings of Life” or something. I mean, it’s good, and I can say from experience that it sounds great in a club through the big system, but it hardly makes the top 10 Detroit techno tracks of all time—maybe top 30.

The remixes by Deason (as Psykofuk), Deep Chord, and Echospace are a bit of a letdown too. Deason doesn’t do nearly enough with it (sounds like he just turned up the kick drum, sped up the tempo a bit, and added a fairly useless vocal sample, none of which the original needed), and ends up with what amounts to a decent Jeff Mills-esque track. Deep Chord and Echospace both turn in 12-minute Basic Channel-style cosmic dub versions that are quite nice for what they are, but are hardly the stuff of legend. So in the final tally, rather than move heaven and earth (or knock over an ATM) to get one, you might be better advised to wait for the inevitable single-plate reissue that is sure to come around eventually. In the meantime, I’m quite sure you can hear the original in clubs all year round and likely on some mix CDs in no time.

Matrix / MATRIX 1.5
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


March 25, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 12

DJ Koze vs. Sid le Rock - Naked (Cereal/Killers)

Peter Chambers: “Both Sid (Pan/Tone) le Rock and DJ (Adolf Noise) Koze take a ‘one eyebrow and a brimming glass raised’ approach to production—if their methods of mayhem intersect, it’s at a point where irreverence meets festivity to do the wild thang on your mixer.”

Misstress Barbara – Barcelona (Border Community)

Motiivi:Tuntematon - Speicher 46 (Kompakt Extra)

Jacopo Carreras - Olanto (Lan Muzic)

Move D - Anne Will (Remixes) (Liebe Detail Spezial)

Tomboy - Serios DJ Album Sampler (Gomma)

Rhythm Plate - Music From Our Souls EP (Winding Road Records)

Mallory O’Donnell: “…those wanting a taste of classic, warm and spacious house would do well to check this EP out.”

Sideshow - Philly Soundworks (Aus Music)

Live coverage of the 2007 Winter Music Conference in Miami: Day One, Night One, Day Two, Night Two.

Weekly Staff Charts
Latest Beatzcast (#24)


March 22, 2007

Rhythm Plate - Music From Our Souls EP

200712"House

The trend of artists looking towards the late ‘70s / early ‘80s watershed for clean, long-limbed, and uncluttered production styles continues to make inroads into the more overtly “house” community with this four-track release from the UK’s Rhythm Plate duo. While “Hard Times” is a strong (but slightly-generic) deep house number, opener “Silence Is…” balances a rugged drum pattern and a cheerfully wonky bassline with a jagged synth and a deucedly clever Slits sample, Ari Up reminding us that “silence is a rhythm, too.” Damn right - sublimely tactical use of silence and space distinguish both that track and the b-side duo of “Remember the Days” and “Node Out.” The first whips up a tight funk storm of the Glasgow Underground / Fila Brazilia variety that floats a gospel vocal on its cloud. The latter is the second standout track, a disco intro reconstructed into a piano-driven workout with two vocals woven atop. It might not be enough to sway the DH haters, but those wanting a taste of classic, warm and spacious house would do well to check this EP out.

Winding Road Records / ROAD017
[Listen]
[Mallory O’Donnell]


— Next Page »