June 8, 2007

Beatzcast #36: Crambe Repetita


Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music…

01: Chaim - Same Same feat. James Blonde [buy]
02: Baldelli & Dionigi - Dyprion [buy]
03: Cave Bear Cult - Catch the Worm [buy]
04: STFU - Shut the Fuck Up (Mouth to Mouth Remix) [buy]
05: Sebastian Ingrosso & John Dahlback - Lick My Deck [buy]
06: Lil’ Mama - Lip Gloss (William Russell Stirhouse Remix) [buy]
07: Sleeparchive - Papercup [buy]
08: Pan-Pot - What Is What (Original Mix) [buy]
09: Red Robbin & Jakob Hilden - Dandelion [buy]
10: TG - Cave the Speakers (Konrad Black Remix) [buy]
11: Baldelli & Dionigi - Darkflies [buy]
12: Gudrun Gut - Move Me (Burger & Voigt Remix) [buy]

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May 29, 2007

Various Artists - Shut Up And Dance! Updated

All too often when I admit my passion for techno music to someone, the image that they conjure up is far from my own perception of it. To them, the word seems to imply a sound of hard and infinitely spiralling industrial loops; in short, music for drugged up idiots with their shirts off. This stigma that seems to stem from the more aggressive side of 90’s techno has proved hard to shake from the everyman’s psyche, and is one of the main reasons why ‘minimal’ has proved such a popular term for DJs, producers, and fans alike as they desperately try to distance themselves from the boorish connotations that many people draw with the genre.

The minimal techno (no matter how “minimal” a lot of these so called tracks are) scene seems to have manufactured an image for itself that suggests an intelligence behind the music and its creation, whilst simultaneously being extremely danceable and able to assert transcendental experiences on the dancefloor through innovative sound design. Some of the more rockist critics may scoff at this supposed ideology, writing it off as yet another excuse for hedonists in their twenties to go out and take as many drugs as they can get hold of, but the same criticism could be levelled to almost any other style of music. Would they say, for example, that punk meant nothing because a high proportion of the audiences were high on speed? Another argument aimed towards techno as a mindless, pedestrian form of art focuses on its simplistic rigidity of structure. Whilst its true that 99 per cent of tracks share uniformity through their 4/4 time signature, it is this theoretical canvas that allows producers to concentrate on the finer details and layers within the music, in addition to maximising the benefits that stem from using patterns and repetition to absorb the listener into the sound.

Electronic evangelists such as myself may even stick their necks out on the line to say that modern techno music is high art at its peak of visceral effectivity; marrying artistry and craftsmanship with sheer functionality to create an end product that is capable of stirring the minds, hearts, and feet of even the most casual observers. Obviously there are exceptions to this sweeping statement, but there are many stables of artists that almost certainly subscribe to this way of thinking. The prime example of this would be Berlin’s Ostgut Ton label; an anomaly in today’s scene as its owners are also the proprietors of the infamous Berghain club. The club itself can even be seen in an artistic light; the unused power station being the perfect structural homestead for the machine music that inhabits its interior, whilst the Panoramabar upstairs hosts a painting by Turner prize winning German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans.

The label’s latest venture, Shut Up And Dance! Updated, sees them consciously attempt to bring techno music closer to being accepted as a form of high art by creating a project that merges the music with a form of dance that has been part of the high art status quo for centuries – ballet. The highly regarded Berlin Staatsballet are the chosen collaborators, and Ostgut have roped in an equally elite cast of producers to provide their soundtrack. Âme, Luciano, NSI (aka Tobias Freund and Max Loderbauer), Sleeparchive, and Luke Slater (as The 7th Plain) are the chosen few that were cherry picked to submit compositions, and all of the artists were given no instructions as to how the music should sound.

NSI open up the body of work with their effort, entitled “Bridge and Tunnel People”, which is possibly a comment on the suburban ballet fans travelling to the industrial locale of Berghain to sample the delights of the city’s vibrant techno scene (read more about the phrase here). The track begins with a section of typical orchestral instruments; a delayed harp, looped string section and a cascading piano, slowly building in intensity until the sounds are enveloped by rumbling bass and chaotic synth stabs that usher in the beat. The fourteen and a half minute piece continues to develop throughout, delicately segueing between and merging the sounds generally associated with both the techno and ballet worlds, and as such, is a perfect opening gambit for what is to come.

After the turbulent synergy of the opener, Sleeparchive contributes what is (as you’d expect from him) the most resoundingly minimalist track of the five; conjuring up a slowed down techno track that works its way from low frequency throbs and buzzes to wonky high frequency synth loops, removing them a minute from the end to give the music a sense of spaciousness that is only amplified by the low tempo. Sleeparchive’s sparse ending provides the perfect ending to flow into the compilation’s centrepiece, Âme’s seventeen minute long cosmic micro-houser “Fiori” (Italian for “flowers”). Foreboding arpeggios and subtle whooshing percussion set the tone, before other elements are slowly introduced to the mix. The rhythmic bassline gives some bounce to the delicate beats, and warm yet melancholic synths are washed over intermittently to provide some relief to the intensity that is only increased by the strengthening of the percussion just before the halfway point. As proved with Carl Craig’s ubiquitous remix of Delia & Gavin on DFA, the 4×4 kick is a a very powerful tool when it’s employed midway through a track, but “Fiori” also demonstrates the efficacy of its removal; reintroducing the introduction’s ingredients now provide respite to the toughened middle section.

Luciano’s contribution, “Drunken Ballet”, injects some much needed humour and light-hearted quirkiness to the aphotic productions that precede it. The usual organic swing that underpins his work is accompanied by an intertwining vocal (simply consisting of a male and female oohing and aahing) that gives it a childlike, yet strangely sexual feel. Things are neatly rounded off with Luke Slater’s “Symphony for the Surrealists”, unconsciously continuing Luciano’s theme of infancy with a lush, ambient introduction accompanied with bleeps and xylophones that bring a child’s music box to mind. As the title suggests, it’s this track that has the most in common with traditional classical music in both structure and aesthetics, the typical orchestra being replaced with ebbing and flowing synthetic sounds. Slater’s use of intermittent percussion, radio static, detached voices, and eerie electronics throughout the thirteen minute epic is astounding, and even though only the most adventurous after-hours DJs will be playing it, it definitely marks itself out as one of the best electronic tracks of the year so far.

At a time of the year where everyone’s looking to individual artists for 2007’s top electronic album, this release definitely shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. It’s certainly very ironic that by collaborating with an organisation that’s as exclusionary as the Staatsballet, Ostgut Ton have created a body of work that will appeal to a much wider range of people than the usual club-based techno album. Whilst it almost certainly won’t be enough to make Berlin’s older ballet crowd journey back to Berghain for one of their usual debauched parties, if it makes a few of the more open minded classicist and rockist listeners think differently about techno, then it’s done its job. One thing’s for sure, it’ll make a lot of electronic music fans very happy indeed.

Ostgut Tonträger / ostgut CD03
[Richard Carnes]

March 30, 2007

Beatzcast #25: Nativespeaker (Peter Chambers)


Nativespeaker - dysappearance

01: Louderbach - For Lack of a Better Solution [buy]
02: DJ Koze - Madame Zifandl [buy]
03: Sleeparchive - Image Photometer [buy]
04: Studio 1 - Gold [buy]
05: Auch - Tomorrow Goodbye (Villalobos mix) [buy]
06: NSI - Clara Ghavami (extended) [buy]
07: Efdemin - Post Script Blues [buy]
08: Moodymann - Dem Young Sconies [buy]
09: Plastikman - Hypokondriak [buy]
10: Pansonic - Pyokki Halko [buy]
11: Claro Intelecto - New Dawn [buy]
12: Nike.Bordom - Unfinished Symphony [buy]
13: Björk - Headphones (Ř mix) [buy]

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February 9, 2007

Len Faki - Rainbow Delta / Mekon Delta


The immediacy and impact of both sides here remind me of Roman Flügel’s banging techno alias, “tracks on delivery.” Faki is another delivery man, and his productions hand over the goods by using contemporary sound design to classic effect, conjuring the hard banging big room sound of a decade ago, but with delicacy. In fact, Faki’s sound is almost an inversion of the saying “an iron fist in a velvet glove”—what’s obvious from close listening is that, underneath the hard exterior, there’s a skilled hand in touch with the soft and subtle intricacies of the track—the “gentle art of dancefloor devastation,” if you will. “Rainbow Delta,” the A-side, uses drum sounds reminiscent of sleeparchive: blunt, wooden, dry hits which attack in formation. The drums are constantly shifting timbres, and new loops keep fading in every few bars. But things quickly get wild and woolly, with swirling, delayed melodies that, again, seem to mark the mood as a homage to ‘90s club techno. Elementally, it’s nothing compelling or novel, but it’s executed with such finesse that it manages, somehow, to sound fresh and it gusts up a floorburning storm over an immense ten minutes. The B (“Mekon Delta”) starts out dry as dust, but goes straight to your warehouse heart with big rave signals and a descending, delayed organ loop that slowly builds into a monster, with the help of some hyperdramatic tear outs and tight programming. There’s something gratuitous, almost parodic about this EP—but it’s saved from comedy by some of the most subtle beat work I’ve heard in a while. Big room techno for the new school, with a heart pounding for the old.

Ostgut Tonträger / o-ton 04
[Peter Chambers]

December 22, 2006

2006 Year In Review: Individual Writer Lists

As a companion piece to our 2006 year in review, here are the individual lists/charts from each of our contributors. Happy reading…


December 15, 2006

Africans With Mainframes - Mogadishu


Sometimes you wonder why he releases his weaker material, but when he’s on it, Jamal Moss is the heir apparent to the jack masters of old. These four amazing, jammed, slammed, jacking machine workouts with Noleian Reusse are doing acid in your ear. This is “proper” techno, made the old-school way, for the pure pleasure of the resonance and the wildness of the frequencies, as “lo-fi” as they may objectively sound. This is the hot, wet response to sleeparchive’s cold, dry machine drum beats, or the dark cousin of Tadd Mullinix’ wilder journeys into the freq as JTC or TNT. The goodness begins with “Faso”, which tumbles through a sea of snares and a filtered, low pH melody until it finds the floor with a flood of toms, and then brings the boom. “Djbouti” starts with everything delayed to buggery, conjuring the groove up from a series of beats which come thuddering back in the loop one on top of the other. “Yaounde” rolls with a massive, flanged out melodies and a tweaked up, seasick groove that nearly looses its lunch somewhere in the effects chain. Are drum machines animal? These ones are.

Crčme Organization / Crčme 12-28
[Peter Chambers]

December 15, 2006

Charts: December 15 2006

Todd Hutlock
Radio Slave – Weeeze [Rekids]
The Orb – Assassin (The Chocolate Hills of Bohol Mix) [Big Life/Wau! Mr. Modo]
Thomas Brinkmann - Questionary About Luck [Max.Ernst]
Kiki – Trust Me – [Bpitch Control]
Model 500 – Neptune [R&S]
Sleeparchive – Diagnosis [Sleeparchive]
Jeff Mills – Final Night of Ambient Light [Axis]
Martin Circus – Disco Circus [Prelude]
Audio Werner – Onandon [Perlon]
Linton Kwesi Johnson – It Noh Funny/Funny Dub [Island]

Michael F. Gill
Jerome & Jamie Anderson - Rotated [100% Pure]
Mock & Toof – Lycra Virgin [Empty Edits]
Clubheroes – Nothing But Net [Elektro.Komfort]
Brothomstates vs Blamstrain – Envelope Diving 2 [Narita]
The Hasbeens – Make the World Go Away [Clone]
Lil’ Devious – Come Home (Dave Clarke Remix) [Rulin]
DJ Overdose & Mr. Pauli - Atomizame Lentamente [Original Street Techno Recordings]
Parliament – I Misjudged You [Casablanca]
Stargaze – You Can’t Have It [TNT Unlimited Inc./Brooktown Records]
Alonzo Turner - Whoever Said It [LA Records]

November 10, 2006

From the Sex Drive to Beyond the Death Drive (via the Hard Drive)

The link between nightclubbing and music has always been tenuous at best. Classical music fans go out to listen to Mozart, Stones fans (still) go to see Jagger pout and strut. What do clubbers do? Clubbers go out to get wasted. Oh, and pull. Pilling and pulling (in that order) with music the distant, impoverished third link—functional for some, ornamental for most. The music is necessary, but it’s more of a soundtrack to a shared abuse trajectory than anything that people are passionate about. It’s noticeable only by its absence, like the saloon piano falling silent in a Western. The fact is that, qualitatively and quantitatively, we’re talking about a drug culture that uses music, not a music culture that uses drugs. Mikey, the drummer from Spinal Tap, really had his finger on this pulse, when he said, “Well… like, personally, I like to think about sex and drugs and rock’n’roll, you know, that’s my life… But as long as there is, you know, sex and drugs, I can do without the rock’n’roll.”

Mikey, like the blissful majority of clubbers, is under no illusions. But then there’s those others… you know, those silly people who think that groove-based electronic music is, well, an artform ‘n’ stuff. Absurd people. Fools. Me, for example. What do you do if you want to go out, want to listen to some techno, want to have a dance? What’s a guy gotta do? Well, first of all, you’re going to have to wait until it’s late, until the wee-smalls cave in on themselves, until time becomes a wounded snail and you’re already well on the wrong side of Sunday morning. “What is it with you electronic music people?!” a photographer who covered the Red Bull Music Academy asked me recently. I get asked, “Can you make sure you get down and get some pics of DJ Blah-di-Blah’s set tonight?” “Sure,” I ask, “What time’s he playing?” “Five in the morning! For God’s sake, whose hours are those?’ I tried to explain to him that five AM is a respectable lunch time in Spain, but my dig couldn’t evade the truth his question laid bare: whose hours are those?

Well, I hate to be the fella that says, “Dude, why is there an elephant in the room?” But, the truth is that those are the hours of four groups of people: bakers, religious ascetics, insomniacs, and amphetamine users. A real hardcore beer user might get all bendy and make it ‘til five, but it’s the exception, not the rule. Only when large numbers of people are on amphetamines can there be a room full of munters who are not only awake, but who feel like having a good ‘ol boogie at 8 AM. Maybe that’s your idea of fun. If I’m not wasted, it’s a grim foretaste of eternity.

So you reach this untenable situation that’s either intensely pleasurable, darkly humorous, or tantamount to torture, depending on how you’re getting on with your pleasure and reality principles. Clubbing’s fine if you wanna tie one on, but what if you don’t want to get munted? What if you don’t smoke, or don’t even drink? What if you have to concentrate on Sunday, or it’s your only day off, or it’s your only chance to shop for groceries, develop your own musical interest, or fill those pesky potholes in your lawn? Even if it is a whole lotta fun, in the long term, it’s just not compatible with human flourishing. And then there’s the cruel irony when you realize the status quo ain’t gonna go changing, no siree. Not when the very things that make listening to music in clubs unbearable are the same conditions that ensure its profitable sustainability. So what’s it gonna take to change? Or how much?

Well, the rise of methamphetamines has solved this problem, at least temporarily. You can out-dance the death-drive, then come home, mount your partner for four hours, and still find time to polish off a literary masterpiece and two bottles of whiskey before collapsing into the loving arms of oblivion. But what about Monday? And Tuesday? And your teeth? But apart from that, it’s just great. If a bright idea is represented by a light-bulb, what does it mean that you smoke Tina out of the broken end of one? So my biographical solution to this systemic problem has been simple: I don’t go out anymore. It’s not ideal, but something had to give, and the nightlife was all take-take-take.

In certain ways, it doesn’t really matter. The internet has meant that I now have access to more incredible music than I have time to listen to, and in between downloading last night’s incredible set from Berlin and listening to it with a portable hard-drive and high-quality headphones, I stumble blissfully (and rhythmically) through the cityscape with two cans full of heaven. Last year I nearly lost it listening to Roman Flugel playing in Frankfurt, while I was in a freakin’ second-hand bookstore in the Australian suburbs. In some strange way, information technology has made everyone a DJ. As one “real” DJ said to me, the difference between a person with an iPod and a “real” DJ is that the “real” DJ plays out. That’s it. It seemed trite at first, but the truth of it has stuck. If I can get all the latest tracks for free online, Ableton can beat-match them for me and I can listen to them in an environment that’s cheap, convenient, and allows me to hear the music in the order I prefer, at a quality far above and beyond what’s presented in most clubs, why the hell would I go out anyway?

Online information networks have enabled diffuse communities of like-minded people to create a common space of critical appreciation and sharing. It’s great, but if it’s Jack, then it’s Jack the bodiless. It makes something like a dividual disco, this strange, paradoxical shared/private space that manages to be at once the promise of a universal language and the very thing that makes going out to dance to music with other “real” people less and less probable. You might be sitting opposite the girl who you were chatting with last night online—and she may be the only sexy girl in the world who likes sleeparchive. But how would you know? And if you did, would you even feel comfortable talking to her in the flesh?

Clubbing’s done the full fling with me—I’ve gone from the sex drive to beyond the death drive, via the hard-drive. My new musical community’s got everything but anybody—and I want Jack back. House nation, anyone?

[Peter Chambers]

October 13, 2006

Metope - Kobox

In my opinion, Metope was always the least interesting artist on Areal. His tracks, while possessing the same Machinedrum and Nord barbarity as his label mates, never contained any satisfying melodic shapes or rhythmic structures, repeated too much and developed too little— but hey, he runs Areal and gave Ada her break, so maybe I should do him the same favor. Sleeparchive has swarmed all over the original—like all his own recent productions, this mix is a fuzzfest, full of air and static. Increasingly, his techno seems to be utilizing distortion as a constant presence, like a sitar’s “javari” or a shamisen’s “sawari.” There’s something magical in his subtle understanding of drum machines and their resonances, and this cut, whilst hardly in dialogue with Metope, shows why he has a closer affinity than almost anyone else with his own circuits: he seems to be able to faithfully translate what the machines themselves want to say but can’t. Ada’s mix displays her usual gift for melody and structure—she takes his track and turns it into a song. After all the intimations on her amazing Blondie album, I think it’s time for Ada to come right out of the pop closet and make a fully blown pop album. Basteroid’s contribution here is a real disappointment. Far from the tech-electroid perfection of “Against Luftweiderstand” or the fist-pumping rushes of “Sympathy for Disruption” or “Sonnenbrilliant,” this mix noodles around without focus, looping irritating sounds into an ungainly, annoying hodge-podge.

Areal / Areal039
[Peter Chambers]

September 29, 2006

Charts: September 29 2006

Guest Chart: Kiki

Mr Gone - Do 4 Love (Radio Slave Remix) [Rebirth]
Henrik Schwarz - Imagination Limitation [K7]
Stefan Goldmann - Sleepy Hollow [Innervisions]
Lazy Fat People - Shinjuku [Wagon Repair]
Jamie Jones - The Capsule [Freak n Chic]
Latex - The Porcupine [Rebelone]
Underworld - Pig Play (Buick Project Mix 2) [White]
Shonky - Closer to Pluton [Resopal]
Kiki - Trust Me [Bpitch Control]
Martin Buttrich - Full Clip [Planet E]

Todd Hutlock
InBetween DJs - Horns in the Attic [Wallshaker Music]
Raudive - Ultraviolet [Klang Elektronik]
Marc Houle - Edamame [Minus]
Andrea Parker - Ballbreaker [Mo’ Wax]
Cobblestone Jazz - India In Me [Wagon Repair]
Metope - I’m So Ready (Sleeparchive Remix) [Areal]
Christian Dittmann - Buena Decision [Echocord]
Paul Kalkbrenner - Queer Fellow (Ellen Allien & Apparat Remix) [Bpitch Control]
Fraktion - This Fever Works [Resopal Red]
Thomas Melchoir & Luciano - Father [Cadenza]

Mallory O’Donnell
Morgan Geist - Crash Tracks EP [Metamorphic]
Daso - Daybreak (Oliver Koletzki Remix) [My Best Friend]
The Rice Twins - Reach for the Flute EP [K2]
Putsch 79 - Doin’ It Remixes [Clone]
Scarlet Smears - Spitfire [Blank Start]
Lindstrom - It’s A Feedelity Affair [Smalltown Supersound]
Scissor Sisters - I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ (Linus Loves Remixes) [Polydor]

Michael F. Gill
Chris & Cosey - Walking Through Heaven [Rough Trade]
Rammellzee vs. K-Rob - Beat Bop (Instrumental) [Profile]
Ahzz - New York Moving [Land of Hits]
Curtis Mayfield - Superfly Soundtrack [Curtom]
The League Unlimited Orchestra - Love and Dancing [Virgin]
Legowelt - Bonn 1978 (Discodubmix) [Legowelt]
Dilo vs Gurtz - Piedras (Dandy Jack and the Latin Elvis Remix) [Roman,Photo]
Cohen vs Deluxe - Just Kick! (Carl Cox Mix) [Intec]
Kevin McKay - Summer Breeze [Muzik/Glasgow Underground]
V/A - Idol Tryout Two [Ghostly International]

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