September 9, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Weeks 33, 34, & 35

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 01
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 02
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 03

Pikaya - Cambrium (Cadenza)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: This is not house so much as the ivy that clings to it.

Will Saul & Lee Jones - Hug the Scary
(Aus Music)
Genre: Minimal/Tech, Electro-House

Charts: August 23 2007

Gavin Mueller’s guide to Ghettotech

Future Loop Foundation - The Sea and the Sky (Louisiana Recordings)
Genre: House, Neo-Disco

Osborne - Outta Sight (Spectral Sound)
Genre: Acid, House

Nate DeYoung: If we’re heading into the last days of summer, then by all means let it be soundtracked by shimmering piano-house.

Brendon Moeller - Jazz Space (Third Ear)
Genre: Techno, Dub

False - False (M_nus)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

Andy Stott - Fear of Heights
(Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Minimal/Deep

Peter Chambers: 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.

Tobias Thomas - Please Please Please (Kompakt)
Kaito - Contact to the Spirits (Kompakt)

Nina Phillips: Thomas is too busy crafting to see the dancers looking back at him from the floor. No wonder this was mixed live—in an empty dance club in Cologne.

V/A - Grand Cru 2007 (Connaisseur)
V/A - Rekids One (Rekids)

Nina Phillips: If you build bangers, they will come.


Wiley - Playtime Is Over
(Big Dada)

Chris Gaerig: Playtime Is Over proves that Wiley truly does run the grime game. Hell, he’s the only one left.

Arsenal - The Coming (Idjut Boys Mixes) (Play Out!)
Genre: Downtempo, Balearic

Beatzcast #47: Crambe Repetita

Deepchord Presents Echospace - The Coldest Season (Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Techno

Todd Hutlock: 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.


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 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 Dear—2007 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 ambience—the 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 both—it’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 tangent—Dear 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 mix—from 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 Fabric—something 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
[Listen]
[Nate Deyoung]


August 8, 2007

Various Artists - Death Is Nothing To Fear Vol. 2

Whereas the first volume of Spectral Sound’s latest compilation series featured a side-long groover from the label’s biggest star, Matthew “Audion” Dear, the follow-up isn’t dominated by one act at all. The four tracks here are uniformly excellent and of enough variety to keep even the most OCD listener satisfied, driven as they seem to be by genuinely, um, “spectral” sounds (or perhaps “ghostly” is a better description).

Spectral mainstay James T. Cotton’s “2 Keys” leads things off with more of his familiar funky-acid-by-numbers action, but hey, acid isn’t exactly built on the idea of diverse sounds, so you can hardly be surprised. Jonas Kopp remixes Plan Tec into a building, percussive nightmare with inspired (and masterfully restrained) use of some very cool horrorshow effects and knob-tweaking, and you might swear that Geoff White’s minimal popper “Apartmental” is a long lost Daniel Bell cut, bugged out and bouncing along.

The cream of this particular crop, however, is Mikael Stavöstrand’s “Can You See Through My Eyes,” a clattering, spooked-out ride full of inspired textures and percussive tricks that rumble over the track’s spine like a skeleton being dragged on a bumper. The Cotton track may be a little samey, but three out of four winners these days is a mighty fine ratio. Oh, and bonus points for the cute skull-&-hearts cover motif.

Spectral Sound / SPC-043
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


July 31, 2007

Italoboyz - Viktor Casanova

There’s nothing like the sight of crisp tuxes and sleep-deprived ravers rubbing elbows. With a taciturn twirl, Shut Up and Dance! Updated dotted the first lines between high-art and minimalism a month ago. Composed as a soundtrack for the esteemed Berlin Staatsballet, the compilation’s seriousness was momentarily punctured by the stumbling detour de force of Luciano’s “Drunken Ballet.” And now that we’ve come across the first response of high-art digested by a minimal-machine (and fueled on clicks and cuts), there are surprisingly few hiccups in Italoboyz’s “Viktor Casanova.”

Instead, we’re introduced by the lull and hum of a soft-focus Ingrid Bergman conjuring “As Time Goes By.” It’s a sample so bleeding obvious and ghostly that it can’t help to be unsettling. Which, according to a choice pull-quote by Ricardo Villalobos, shows the most important thing about a good track is the idea behind it – something I’ll tentatively agree with. Especially since Villalobos’ recent work is a perfect opposite of “Viktor Casanova.”

So I’ll enjoy the sights of “fucked up girls trying to imitate the opera singer“ as much as hearing the minimal percussion which delicately avoids overshadowing or under-lighting the track’s main attraction. But what I enjoy most is that “Viktor Casanova” can be as earnest or glib as you want and still be incredible. On the remix front, Samim’s pleasant retooling come with a nagging sense of being superfluous, while Lee Curtiss’ radical and dark mix flourishes under the weight of the original’s instantly iconic composition.

Mothership / MSHIP 001
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


July 27, 2007

Socks and Sandals - Rishi Saturn

The fugged-out duo of Socks and Sandals are certainly prone to an unfashionable disappearance. The latest came after their samplethon of Herbert-ian proportions with the Shatter EP over a year ago. The follow-up, Rishi Saturn, sounds like it made up for lost time – taking less of a stride than a full-on leap from critical beats to minimal wobble.

Like the hints of ghostly whistles and xylophones on “Space Stuff,” Socks and Sandals sound far more willing to splice and regurgitate everything, a la Jan Svankmajer’s Dimensions of Dialogue. “Pura Vida” gives tech-house a good name by immediately locking into gear and toying with an indecipherable array of clicks, pops, and crackles. The same goes for the damp-Latin-droplets of their own remix of “Lucidril”. But there’s something I miss about how straight-faced these songs are – they’re so demur when I expect them to be completely off-kilter.

Microcosm / MCOSM1020
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


July 26, 2007

Social Being - Free Your Mind

A few weeks ago I reviewed a DJ Harvey remix of Michoacan with a very swampy, swirling, early-Funkadelic feel to it. This time, these “Social Beings” (aka Ricardo Villalobos and Jay Haze) have gone the whole hog and plonked Eddie Hazel’s amazing solo from “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts” right onto their EP.

I tried doing this myself, years ago. If you haven’t heard the song, you should – I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music, well, ever. Full stop (or “period” as Americans say). So I got the solo and I chopped it in an editing program, and then I fiddled with it in Audiomulch for a few hours. No matter which way I mangled it, it was almost totally destroyed by the fiddling. It really wanted to be left alone. It didn’t want to be part of my silly loop orchestra. Nor did I.

I get the feeling that Jay & Ricardo realised this themselves, somewhere along the way. Villalobos has been sampling a lot lately, from his Floyd-cribbing number “Frank and Hennes” on that Bruchstuecke compilation a few years back to Fizheuer, the original version being found by some nerd and quickly blogged. With Fizheuer, Villalobos put the sample front and centre, making those horns rise out of the system like a revelation to machine-tired ears. But here, Hazel’s licks (and even the huge stream of feedback) are kept in the background, mostly unedited, in a gesture which seems to realise that the integrity of the original is best left alone. As it is, the guitar part is like a memory, like the raw acoustic riffs struggling against the walls of digital feedback in Fennesz’ Endless Summer.

Rhythmically, this is the straightest thing that both artists have released in a while; Haze’s influence recalls Villalobos to “808 the Bassqueen”-era patterns, and that ain’t no bad vibe. I’m tempted to think, in six months hence, Haze will brag in an interview that he wrote the whole thing (just like he did to Samim after the Fuckpony album). But hey, maybe he did for all I know. Anyhow, this EP is not quite the success it could be, given the confluence of talent and source material it marshals. All the same, it’s a very worthy, useful, and blissful track for the wrong side of the morning.

Tuning Spork / TSXTRA 001EP
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 18, 2007

Various Artists - Sasomo EP

Hi! I’m back from a dream where I had a brief look into the future. Here’s the news for you: eternity is dulled, but she remains resolutely horizontal. So, with the world remaining indifferent to my personal peaks and valleys, why not have my music be the same way? During its twelve minute duration, Matt John’s “Soulkaramba” consists of three plucked bass notes, some dried out percussion run through damp effects, live-sounding drum skitters, the occassional idle chatter, and a recurring synth drone on one note. It goes nowhere, it does nothing, and sounds nonchalantly cheerful while doing it. I empathize with it a great deal. I could write a short story and walk through a street festival while listening to it on loop, such is my comfort level towards its tender indifference.

The other two cuts here aren’t so bad, but lucid and undisturbed they are not. With “Elevator”, Phage and Daniel Dreier appear to have slightly lifted their head out of the minimal kitchen sink, but both of their ears remained submerged. There’s still too many restless percussion fills cluttering up the track by itself, but these Bisy Backsons remain great cannon fodder for minimal DJs who play out. Audio Werner is also on hand with “Kabarett”, a more low-key techy affair with a recurring motif of grainy, synthetic plucks that never really let the groove settle in. These two b-sides feel like escapism or distraction compared to John’s side of straight up reality. And I can’t help wanting to continue walking down the endless straight line of the latter.

BAR25 / BAR25-2
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


July 16, 2007

Deetron feat. DJ Bone - Life Soundtrack

200712"HouseTechno

Deetron’s “Life Soundtrack” was one of the revelations of Radioslave’s “tough toys for tough boys” Misch Masch mix - mostly for DJ Bone’s wonderful vocal. There’s a lot of this malarky going about at the moment - get a European to put together the track, then get a black American innovator to add a vocal part. Maybe it’s just because most white producers have such reedy, weak little voices. Imagine a Frank Oz preachapella and you’ll get the gist.

So anyway, the solution to a possible horror: first there was Coldcut’s soppy “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” with Robert Owens, then Innervisions’ “Where We At” with Derrick Carter, and now “Life Soundtrack”. If the first was all about sentimental tears on the dancefloor, and the second was a head nod and a whoop in agreement, then this baby’s a pumping fist and a set jaw - the big bad techno other to its softer, wüssier housemates. The reason’s the content, as Bone can tell you himself. It’s because “this sound comes from dirt, pain, boredom, cold streets, nothing from nothing to everything, from frustration to innovation, this sound makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you hate, makes you stomp, makes you clap. This music, deep down, special place, special time, special sound, lives forever - life soundtrack.”

And damn, doesn’t it sound great, especially where, as with the Radioslave version, Bone’s sonorous voice is given enough space for each of the phrases to hit you as the whole thing chugs past. It’s a fresh demonstration of Matt Edwards’ intuitive understanding as to which elements of the track need repeating, which need foregrounding, and which need binning. But then there’s Redshape’s version, which utilises the mystery man’s masterful re-manufacture of the mid-nineties Detroit vibe, harnessing yet another crunchy, percolating groove to a whole lotta late night dirt. It doesn’t treat the vocal as well, but it’s so sharp, rich and grinding that you’ll barely care.

Deetron’s edit is like hearing backwards to the elements of a track after both the Radioslave and Redshape remixes, each of which gives a very strong, singular impression. Deetron’s version is still a great track, but it’s less stylish, more generic, less tense. Last of all there’s the “Rejected Interpretation”, which is stripped right back and pulled down into the deep, as a concession to DJs who are playing too small a room at too early in the evening for the scale and growl of the other versions. It starts off well, but loses it for me in the later sections with a proggy, generic arrangement that will age very quickly.

Music Man / MM 133 / MM 133R
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 11, 2007

cv313 - Dimensional Space

200712"TechnoDub

More mystery mastery from the Detroit underground, as the second release from Rod (Deepchord) Modell and Steve (Soultek) Hitchell’s Echospace [Detroit] imprint isn’t exactly laden with information - no proper names at all, no writing credits, no sleeve notes (or even a sleeve; the grey marbled vinyl comes in a clear plastic envelope), and even the mastering was done by “PCMJR,” (although that one’s not too hard to figure out with a quick visit to Discogs). As soon as the needle hits the groove, however, the mission becomes clear, as these two long cuts continue the recent string of sublime dub techno issued from the Echospace camp, albeit with a bit more bite than most.

If the recent Deepchord double-pack was a monolithic glacier examined from all angles, “Dimensional” is a smoldering, pre-eruption volcano, bubbling with throbbing-bass fire and an insistent drum loop, waiting to explode on some village in the South Pacific. On the flipside, “Space” ups the percussion ante and introduces what just might be a little funk into the mix. I still have no clue exactly who or what cv313 is, but I honestly don’t care at this point. If you thought you’d already heard all the dub techno you need to hear in this lifetime, think again: the Echospace crew are currently reinventing the wheel.

echospace [detroit] / echospace002
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


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