August 30, 2007

Brendon Moeller - Jazz Space


Beatz regulars might be familiar with my rendering of “Abletonitis”, the disease which seems to infect every promising Ableton-arranged track with the “limitations of almost infinite possibility”. Somehow, in being able to do almost everything, the program seems to prevent most people from doing, well, anything. Instead of painstakingly hand-programming drum patterns, writing hooks, and making sure the phrasing of all the instruments swing together as one on the one, you just stretch, mute, transpose, and if things are getting boring, drop in a ping-pong delay. Presto! The recent release of Robag Wruhme’s The Lost Archives function as Exhibit A in showing the corrosive effects of this sickness on talented producers, showing how lazy, formulaic and FX-dependent so many interesting music makers have become due to such “amazingly streamlined workflow” and the “incredible drag and drop VST plugins”.

Moeller’s Jazz Space should be just another victim of this epidemic, but somehow, the EP is more like the soundtrack documenting Moeller’s overcoming of the illness by doing pitched battle with several bouts of its symptoms. Sonically, we’re very much in the territory of T++ and Monolake, with dry, granular, and planar sounds rolling through spacetime, their flow interrupted by eruptions of parameter-tweaking breakdowns, which are kept in check by big, deep, round basslines.

“Pink Noise” reaches such proximity to Momentum-era Monolake that you’d have to flag a co-write on it, while “Jazz”, with its warm, friendly micro-boompty feel sidles up very close to Robag’s work on Vakant. But it’s “Space” which goes someway toward staking out Moeller’s very own place on the moon, working intimations of early new-millenium Force Inc into something approaching its own musical identity. While not nearly as accomplished or atmospheric as some of the recent Deepchord material, Jazz Space lays out a musical question-mark that flags the possibility of another talent taking their dub-tech workflow all the way to the cold satellites (and back), in a way that entertainingly re-frames the tried and true template of this narrow but seemingly inexhaustible sound-vein.

Third Ear / 3EEP 068
[Peter Chambers]

May 27, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 21

Shackleton - Blood On My Hands [Villalobos Remix] (Skull Disco)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: Its a ridiculous criticism to say that its too long, or that its not a track these are two other undeniable qualities that make this work so exemplary, just as they point out its limitations.

Lindstrom & Solale - Lets Practise (Feedelity)
Genre: Neo-Disco

Trusme - Browns (Still Love Music)
Genre: House, Disco

Nick Sylvester: The lines between jazz and funk and disco and house continue to be blurred into one gloriously incriminating mess.

Sorcerer - Surfing At Midnight (Tirk)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Balearic

Mallory O’Donnell: In the field of down-to-midtempo dreamy instrumentals with beaded fringe, Surfing at Midnight is dippy rather than hippy, and (quite happily) just baked rather than psychedelic, dude.

Robag Wruhme Als Rolf Oksen - Bart Eins (Freude Am Tanzen)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Trentemoller feat. DJ Tom and Vildtand - An Evening With Bobi Bros (Kickin Records)
Genre: Minimal/Deep, Dub

Sneak Thief - G String Orchestra (Klakson)
Genre: Italo, New Wave/Synth

Thinking Out Loud: Physical vs. Digital

Thinking Out Loud developed from a series of open-ended email conversations and ruminations between Beatz staff members. In this article, Michael F. Gill and Peter Chambers discuss the merits of dance music on vinyl and MP3…

Beatzcast #34: Crambe Repetita

May 23, 2007

Robag Wruhme Als Rolf Oksen - Bart Eins

Since I fashion myself as Beatz’s token hack, I spend my fair share of time poring over press releases to find out what music means when it doesn’t have lyrics to spell out those things we all like to obsess over - love handles, the “are two prunes too few or three prunes too many” debate and so on. Robag Wruhme might have cloned himself with the same sci-fi ether as Areal’s finest blurbs, but his alter-ego, Rolf Oksen, has an uncanny knack for self awareness that Areal might have missed when they described themselves as “advanced tech-electronic minimalism.” Rolf, as we’ve been introduced by the press release, “is so drunk, as drunk as a skunk! He has lost all control, and now his alter-ego Robag has to take control” (italics added for those keeping score on the sideline - we’re talking about an alter-ego’s alter-ego here).

Aside from the charming text, there’s something missing musically in this vodka-drenched haze. Blame it on the alter-ego, doppelganger, or your friendly neighborhood schizophrenic, but the shimmy drums of “Dopamin” are totally lost on the song’s threadbare hook. I can’t put my finger on it, but its too slow, too meandering, and its excessive glimmers makes the narrow scope of “Hakkatzen” feel like a virtue. There’s no reason to give “Hakkatzen” a backhanded compliment, though; its the highlight here, nuzzling like a sweater - prickling in all the right places as it expands and contracts. Rounding things off are three tracks of ambient found-sound which are more interesting in theory than practice. I spend enough time hearing the same cellphone buzz from telemarketers, so no thank you very much. Listening to “Rolf Auf Seinem Ausgukk,” the best of the ambient trio, I can only picture alter-ego Rolf, passed out on a train with his live recorder running, using the piece as his aural breadcrumbs back home.

Freude Am Tanzen / FAT 030
[Nate DeYoung]

May 18, 2007

Beatzcast #33: Crambe Repetita


Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mini-mix of electronic music…

01: Kollektiv Turmstrasse - Tristesse [buy]
02: Kissogram - My Friend Is A Seahorse (James Priestley & Dan Berkson’s Bariz e Syntho Remix) [buy]
03: Shackleton - Blood on My Hands (Villalobos Apocalypso Now Mix) [buy]
04: Solomun and Stimming - Eiszauber [buy]
05: Depeche Mode - Lillian (Robag Wruhme Mix) [buy]
06: Robag Wruhme Als Rolf Oksen - Dopamin [buy]
07: Chaim - Popsky [buy]

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March 27, 2007

Lusine - Podgelism / Podgelism Select Remixes

200712"CD/AlbumDowntempo • Ghostly International • Minimal/Deep

Seattles Jeff McIlwain has been cranking out quirkified electronic fare on Ghostly International since the labels early days, and now theyve set some interesting remixers (and Mr. Lusine himself, natch) loose on his back catalog to see what they can make of it, including such luminaries as Lawrence, Apparat, and Deru. That sounds like a great idea, and even if four of the mixes on the CD are from 2004s Flat Remixes EP, the whole thing still flows pretty well, despite the Frankenstein nature of the remix album.

The three Lusine mixes are spread throughout the running order, adding a unified sound to the proceedings and helping to draw the connection between McIlwains lush sound sources and the disparate styles of the remixers. Even the 2004-vintage mixes sound fresh and inspired here, especially the reworks from Matthew Dear (funky, bubbling minimalism) and Dimbiman feat. Cabanne (funky, soulful percussionism). If you already own the Flat Remixes twelve, no problem either, as Ghostly has seen fit to release a highlights four-tracker on wax including four of the best new mixes, including Robag Wruhmes ping-pong-in-orbit take on The Stop and John Tejadas swinging tech-house update of Make It Easy. On one format or another, theres a lot to love about Podgelism.

Ghostly International / GI-68 / GI-67
[Listen / Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]

February 2, 2007

Robag Wruhme - Pap-tonnik

Robag Wruhme (or Gabor Wighnomy Schlabitzki to his mum) did a fateful thing, the day he bought Ableton Live. Like a lot of other new users, it seems, it wasnt long before Mr. Wruhme was able to unlock the secrets of this amazing software by following the tutorials. I think its the third one that must have really grabbed him, because (if memory serves) its the one in which you learn how to use stutter. Between Abletons stutter, its reverb plugin, and his own talent for whimsical boompty, Robag managed to build an albums worth of tracks, with a sound signature that was startlingly different to his earlier Herbert-ish workouts on Freude am Tanzen and Musik Krause. The stuff sounded wild, and the album, unsurprisingly, got the big thumbs up from a lot of tech-loving pundits. Three years, a half dozen twelves and umpteen remixes later though, and Robags stutter patter is beginning to sound decidedly tired, and his tracks like a parody of themselves. Its something that plagued Akufen until he (thankfully) ditched the microsampling techniques that made his reputation. Unfortunately, Wruhme has persisted with the same formulas. Dont get me wrong, theyre great in their own right. Both Papp-Tonik and Ikke’s Schlonze kick along with the same housey rump, boisterous breakdowns and sudden, rearing echo chambers that made standout EPs like Kopfnikker and Backkatalog so fresh, and Pontifekks shows his obvious love for Richard D. James blossoming in new directions. Its just that, well, theres only so long that you can whip a one trick pony (even a champion) before it becomes a dead one. And Robag, with a reverb, a stutter, and barely a second thought, is flogging a dead horse. Will someone please buy this guy some new software?

Musik Krause / MK 19
[Peter Chambers]

October 6, 2006

Interview: Nitzer Ebbs Bon Harris

From 1984 to 1995, U.K. duo Nitzer Ebb pioneered a unique sound that fused elements of techno, punk, and industrial into a ferocious string of singles and LPs. Through tracks like Murderous, Join in the Chant, Let Your Body Learn, Lightning Man, Getting Closer, and many others, Douglas McCarthy (vocals) and Bon Harris (drums, programming) spread relentless minimal menace to dancefloors worldwide, influencing the likes of Richie Hawtin, Darren Emerson, Sven Vth, DJ Hell, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, and countless others along the way. Now, a decade after calling it quits, Nitzer Ebb are back with a two-disc compilation (Body of Work), a new remix collection (Body Rework: Remixes), and a worldwide tour. Stylus editor Todd Hutlock caught up with Bon Harris recently to discuss the bands comeback, legacy, and future.

Stylus: So what happened to bring Nitzer Ebb back into the limelight? Last I had heard a few years back, you and [vocalist] Douglas [McCarthy] werent even speaking to each other.

Bon Harris: I think Douglas and I decided to stop doing work as Nitzer Ebb more than a decade ago because wed been together a long time and it was certainly an intense sort of band anyway. We wanted to go off and do our own things and taste life as individuals rather than as part of a band. We did very well over that decade, actuallyI went into production and worked with the likes of Marilyn Manson and Billy Corgan and so on, and Doug went off and became quite a successful commercial director and worked in film a bit. So weve had a long time apart from each other, but both of us really enjoy performing live, and we both had a sense that the time would perhaps come around when we would feel like working together again and that it would feel right. And basically that is what happened. People were always asking us, Will the Ebb ever get back together? and we just got asked so often that we finally talked about it and it went from there. It just felt like the right time and the right thing to do.

So the two of you have essentially patched things up now?

I would say that working together again on this tour has probably been some of the most fun weve had in the band since it first began. There was a period when we didnt talk to each other at all and did our own things, but weve been friends since school and I think it was just one of those things where we needed to cool off. Granted it was a long cooling-off period, but it was intense and that amount of time was necessary to offset the intensity of the work we had done. It seems to have worked, and were getting along really well.

One of the things that struck me when I was listening to Body of Work was how so many different acts took little things from the Nitzer Ebb sound and have cited you as an influence. Do you look back now and feel that you have a legacy?

We are aware that we have been influential in a lot of ways, but all that really stems from the fact that when we first created the tracks, we were really trying to do something special. We really did care about it and wanted to uphold a high standard of work and we were constantly searching to break barriers. There was always that thirst for uncovering more, pushing ourselves, and that meant that we did come up with some groundbreaking things. So I think we are aware of it and we are quite proud of it.

The other thing that struck me was how much of an evolution in sound there was from the early tracks to the later days. There are strings on tracks, you worked with George Clintonyou were all over the musical map more than people might realize.

Yes, and we were also always trying to do things that were more on the subtle side. I think there are little things going on during many of the tracks that people dont really appreciate even now. Its interesting that for all the amount of acceptance weve had and being cited as influential, I do think that in a lot of ways we are still quite misunderstood, even by people that really like us. There was always this whole thing where we were lumped in with what they call industrial music. When I listen to tracks like Lightning Man, I think to myself, Well, theres a synthesizer in there… but other than that, you tell me what else is industrial about that song? So as much as people did get it, theres still a lot that perhaps people dont get.

Even on the new remix album, Body Rework, its really something to see Derrick May on an album alongside The Hacker and Robag Wruhme, and that speaks to the diversity present in your sounds. Do you see a connection between Nitzer Ebb and the minimal dance music that is so in vogue today?

Well, someone like Richie Hawtin has been a champion of our music over the years, but hes also been a pretty groundbreaking chap himself. Those are the sort of people that you are proud to have been an influence ontheyve picked up the baton and taken things in all sorts of new directions. So I see that connection, in that there are inquiring minds and people that arent afraid of a challenge, especially in dance music because it can be a confined sort of thing to do.

Beyond the tour, will there be new recordings? Yeah, that was something we discussed as soon as we got together and agreed to do the tour, so we threw the door open on that way back. We said that if we enjoyed working together and its fun and everything then well do it. Doug and I have been getting along together really great and weve been working together on some new ideas. Hopefully well have some time near the end of this year to put something together. Were hoping to have something ready for the spring of 2007, perhaps. The whole thing has been like a stone rolling down a hill and gone so much better than anyone even thought it was going to be. And if the ball is rolling, you might as well roll with it.

What should audiences expect from the Nitzer Ebb live show in 2006?

Its a really stripped down, back-to-basics approach to doing things. When Doug and I discussed it, we decided to concentrate on our earlier era, with the mainly electronic tracks, and with the whole basic, minimal militaristic image that people seem to like. People have been telling us that it is everything it used to be but somehow even better with maturity or experience or whatever it is. People have told us that we havent lost any of the energy, and in fact it looks like we found more from somewhere. So you can expect it to be pretty loud and feisty, because thats the way we like it.

Body of Work and Body Rework: Remixes are out now in Europe on Mute; Body of Work is released in the United States on October 17. For more information and remaining tour dates, visit and

[Todd Hutlock]

September 8, 2006

Moritz Piske - Ein Knguruh Im Clubraum / Huldigung Den Triole

This just in: unpronounceable German single to be saved from obscurity by getting a cushy spot on the new Heidi compilation on Get Physical. English speaking public thrilled to realize it’s about a kangaroo being let loose in the club. Said kangaroo has been seen hopping to a wild series of cut up vocals, and claims to be the animal incarnation of a more disciplined and clubbier Robag Wruhme. Beware, flipping over of record will result in agitated computer funk that grows more ugly, inorganic, and insistent in its attempt to teach kangaroo to dance. Film at 11.

Opossum Recordings / OPSM008
[Michael F. Gill]

July 14, 2006

Charts: July 14 2006

Todd Hutlock
Bandulu - Phaze In Remix [Infonet]
LocoDice - Seeing Through Shadows [Minus]
Johannes Volk - Synergetik [Mission 6277]
Ben Watt - Old Soul [Buzzin Fly]
Quadrant - Infinition [Planet E]
DJ T Vs. Booka Shade - Played Runner [Get Physical]
Ellen Allien & Apparat- Way Out (Robag Wruhme Vati Mafonkk Remikks) [Bpitch Control]
Goldfrapp - Fly Me Away (C2 Remix 4) [Mute]
Electronic Resistance - Marvelous Night (Claude Young Remix) [Shktek]
Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia - Pull [KK]

Michael F. Gill
Tri Atma Mikrokosmos [Erdenklang]
Lindstrom Breakfast in Heaven [White]
Wali & The Afro Caravan - Hail the King [Solid State/Harmless]
Squallor - I Love My Disco Baby [CGD]
Stars On 33 - I Feel Music in Your Heart [Vulture Music]
Galoppierende Zuversicht Klumpknolle [Dachkantine]
Gys Lon (Soultek Remix) [Zer0 G Sounds]
To Rococo Rot - Music Is a Hungry Ghost [Mute]
King Tubby Sir Nineys Rock [Metro]
Franoise Hardy Parlez-Moi De Lui [Asparagus]

April 10, 2006

Onur zer - Twilight

The daily work-routine can deliver a sense of stress and basic-issue tension that often isnt as palatable as it is passively numbing. But after listening to a terrifying release like Twilight, perhaps its for the better that we dont carry our emotional blood on our hands. The title track on this, the third EP by Onur zer (after previous releases on Vakant and the Wighnomys Freude-Am-Tanzen) is a horror film in itself, the moment when thoughts of hatred refuse to thaw from ones head, and just lie there unabated. Its a venom that can never be logically released, an effect mirrored by the high-pitched string drones which are cemented into the background, making the eight minutes of Twilight seem like an eternity. The b-sides cant help being a tiny bit lighter, but they complement the a-side with some of those large fizzling reverb blowouts that Robag Wruhme is so fond of, and a couple of remotely aquatic basslines. The centerpiece is definitely Twilight though, a tumultuous predator that should be played sparingly.

Vakant / 008
[Michael F. Gill]

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