August 8, 2007

Argenis Brito - Micro Mundo

Chileans must have techno intravenously injected in their blood from birth. The Chilean-gone-techno-superstar not only accounts for instant deities like Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano, but has also been a cliché going on five years strong. You might remember Argenis Brito’s contributions to the Chilean project Monne Automne, and it’s frequently brilliant album Introducing Light and Sound. So the prospect of Brito coming out with his debut album on Chilean ex-pat label Cadenza doesn’t sound surprising at all. Which might be the biggest detriment to Micro Mundo – its mythology overshadows an album that’s too modest to be noteworthy otherwise.

It won’t be too long before the wrinkles of warm bass that adorn tracks like “Disconet” and “Amplified” will be forever lost among the sea of German minimal techno. There’s also many cuts like “Sensorial”, which is something that could provide a nice bridge mid-set, but for the life of me, I can’t hum the main motif even though I’ve heard it at least 20 times. This sound-over-substance quality hides the few small surprises collected herein, like “Cepe”, an accomplished and laidback production that starts to build towards a climax when the bare bass and hi-hats swirl into an unexpected spoken vocal. A similar resonant effect can be heard on “Espejismo”, but for an album that never wavers and is never quantifiably bad, such highlights feel underwhelming on the whole. With Micro Mundo’s highs never too far away from its lows, the Chilean techno drug is no longer as potent as it used to be.

Cadenza / CADENZA 16
[Nate DeYoung]

April 14, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 15

Kathy Diamond - Over (Permanent Vacation)
Genre: Disco, Funk

Peter Chambers: Both the first fantastic All Woman EP and, now, “Over” intimate a collaboration that could see one of the year’s most accomplished syntheses of house, funk, disco and ’80s-inflected pop.

Substance & Vainqueur - Reverberate / Reverberation (Scion Versions)
Genre: Dub, Techno

Kavinsky - 1986 (Record Makers)
Genre: New Wave, Synth

Redshape - Dog Day (Millions of Moments)
Genre: Chicago, House

Michael F. Gill: Specifically, the aura here is towards the lesser-mined sounds of ’90s Chicago house, when artists like the Foremost Poets would detune, stretch, and staccato-ize a synth burst, and then repeat it until it became a viable, body-moving loop that sounded fresh over a kick.

Bobby Davenport - Time (Has Come Today) (Flexx)
Genre: Italo, New Wave

Antonelli - The Name of This Track Is Bobby Konders (Italic)
Genre: House, Techno

J.T.C. - Take ‘em Off / D’Marc Cantu - No Control / X2 - Barely A Track (Creme Jak)
Genre: Acid

Vulva String Quartett - Cranberry Song (Combination)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

Weekly Staff Charts
Beatzcast #27: Crambe Repetita

April 10, 2007

Substance & Vainqueur - Reverberate / Reverberation


Generally speaking: a second slab of Basic Channel-style minimal dub-techno from Scion heads DJ Pete (Substance) and Rene Lowe (Vainqueur). Particularly: Stays the course, but the course is great, so who can blame them. The first side’s really laid back, just one slippery groove sublimated into wisps of smoky reverb, again and again though never repeating its transformation exactly, with a steady non-intrusive subbass kick moving things along. Ground-zero sound with some rhythm behind it; you either hate this stuff or you absolutely love it. The busier backside progresses more quickly and into a number of different textures too, a slightly higher tempo and more prominent kick both helping matters.

Scion Versions / SV 02
[Nick Sylvester]

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 22, 2006

2006: The Year In Review

Welcome to the Beatz By The Pound year-end roundup for 2006, a veritable smorgasbord of lists, thoughts, and reflections about the current state of dance music. And while all of our writers handed in very diverse ballots, we were able to come to a consensus on a couple of key releases, producers, and labels. Let the madness begin…


December 1, 2006

Substance & Vainqueur - Surface / Immersion


Colin James Nagy: In terms of sound and style, there’s nothing particularly new or groundbreaking here, and that’s fine by me. The tried-and-true formula of Basic Channel-style dub techno doesn’t get old to these ears, and this instalment on Scion-seen as a successor to the Chain Reaction imprint-consists of two impossibly deep constructions created from a restricted palate of sounds. Per the style of the sub-genre, there are no clearly defined tones (i.e. discernible hi-hat) in the sound field, but rather everything is blurred together in a wet, spinning haze. “Surface” is the more up-tempo of the two tracks on the release, anchored by a deep, driving kick and space-echo drenched static clips and tones. On the flip, “Immersion” is absolutely essential. It is much more dynamic, building into a swirling crescendo with pointed, golden synth stabs and a bass line that keeps driving deeper and deeper then you thought it could possibly head.

Peter Chambers: There’s a rumbling about in the dubbier parts of the Berlin techno underground: first the See Mi Yah remixes, then the recent Monolake “Alaska Melting” reworks, and now this puppy. Are we witnessing the productive rebirth of Basic Channel, or perhaps even a new sound alliance between the deepest of minimal techno and the maturing dubstep sound? René Löwe and Peter Kuschnereit may still be preoccupied with “nothing much,” but what a wonderful “nothing much!” Ten years on, and nobody (except the rest of the Basic Channel crew) produces dub techno that sounds so beautiful, deep, and timeless. Working with the barest of palettes and the sharpest of ears, the duo have here managed to blend Vainquer’s sound (which tends to a liquidity, the sound equivalent of a pint of Guinness slowly developing on the bar) and Substance’s clangier, mineral/metallic tone palette. The audible result is another two pieces of time-and-space conquering heaven, the very essence of techno stripped of all its tinsel and glowsticks. Amazing, once again.

Surface / Immersion
Scion / SV 01


December 1, 2006

From the Desktop to the Hilltop (via the Pill Drop)

A few weeks ago I put forward the proposition that clubland has become a drug culture that uses music, instead of a music culture that uses drugs. I’m still not sure if I agree. But the reactions of my nocturnal f(r)iends to the rant has been more interesting than my unresolved doubts: the beer monsters and stay-at-homes mostly agreed, saying (surprise, surprise) that the disco was too late, too hard, too loud, too taxing. The hedonists conceded a point, but felt that I’d overstated things: it isn’t just “that”—a party’s all about the people, the venue, the atmosphere—you can’t blame the essence of the problem on a substance, or separate it from the crazy tangle of elements that makes an event. But what was really interesting was the number of people who argued a combination of these two points:

a) “It didn’t always used to be like that” [historical]
b) “It’s not like that in {Hawtingrad}” [geographical]

I scanned the dark recesses of my own discotheque memory tapes for confirmation of both assertions, and found that… yes, it had been true. I’m not old school, so I can’t speak for the spirit of ’89, but I do remember where it was possible to go and see Laurent Garnier play for six hours to a room full of adoring fans and the best sound system you could imagine. Ah, Tokyo’s old Liquid Room, RIP. Sure, it cost the equivalent of forty US dollars to get in, but it was the business. But this is rare anywhere, and perhaps only metropolii that have the critical mass of both people and objects in circulation can make it happen. Tokyo of 2006 has Unit, Offenbach has Robert Johnson, Berlin has the Panorama Bar—but these places are the exception, rather than the rule.

The Rule is Rex. I have this wonderful/terrible memory of seeing Isolée play at Rex in Paris. Isolée was bringing his set to its crescendo with a speaker-blowing rendition of “Face B,” and there in the audience was this utter penis and his two mates, shirts off, fanny packs strapped across their fronts. I thought it was fist pumping. I thought it was praise. But no, these mofos were heckling the good man. They weren’t losing their shit, they were giving him shit. Now, I don’t speak much French, but it was pretty obvious what this guy was saying. I’ll offer what is probably as accurate as a machine translation:

“C’mon you pulsating glowstick, pump it up! I paid hard euro for this!”
“My pill is kicking in, you German pigdog!”
“Can’t you see my prune is pulsating—play Gehts Noch!”

Below said ‘ecklers in a small semi-circle were the discerning few, smiling that smile, dancing that dance, blowing that smoke, and all that jazz. Behind that were everyone else, not really dancing, just kinda nodding along. We could not have been listening to the same music, and yet there we all were…

All over the world (with the exception of the exceptional places mentioned), the same scene seems to be repeated. Is it Abletonitis? Is it the perennial sigh of the “misunderstood” artist casting his pearls before swine? Is it the fact that the nightclub and its needs are fundamentally at odds with the appreciation of, well, music? Maybe Isolée played his next set to an adoring, appreciative crowd the following Saturday somewhere in Hawtingrad, but my experience at Rex was typical of what I saw in Europe outside of the handful of “truly great” clubs.

It’s not just the drugs, boredom, or booze. The real enemy here appears to be habit. We need habits, no question. Repetition is our only defence against something disappearing—you wanna build something, you wanna make something happen? You’re gonna have to do it again. Try building a house, try being a drummer, try making a baby. Maybe life itself is nothing but the transformation of this repetition compulsion into pleasure, and our fear of death is simply a fear of breaking the habit of living.

But the problem with habits is that they brook no breakage—once established, their inertia will outlive common sense, boredom, even the end of the organism itself. Like Matthew Dear’s lyric from “Dog Days”: “Tell another story to your body so it makes sense / The reason for this story is to give away your last chance.” Indeed. And clubs, being what they are, are the final resting place of our deepest habits, the zenith/nadir of our bodily needs wanting to step on the good foot and do the bad thing again and again and again. It’s good that we have a space for our habits to prance about, but the problem for creativity is that habit will have its needs met, and nothing else. The drinkers want to keep drinking, the DJ wants to keep playing, and the dickhead hassling Isolée… well, he just wanted to “go off” in a timely fashion. They’ve paid hard euro, they came to get wasted, and your job is to satisfy their urges. Hey, they work all week, this is their only outlet, have some compassion! Point is, we may never “give up” our habits, but the thing we need to cultivate, more than anything else, is a sense of the “exceptional.”

The Greeks had the Dionysia, the Romans the Bacchanalia, the Haitians have Voodoo rites, and if you’ve seen Borat you know that even evangelical Christians get to freak out and speak in tongues for a few moments every week without guilt. Maybe we can leave the serpents, satyrs, and bloodlettings for another barbecue and just take the lesson that all these events dip their lid to a seemingly immutable human need to lose it without the fear of guilt or recrimination. It seems to me that we’ve inherited a potentially fantastic idea from Jamaica in the form of the sound system. Monsters and misfires aside, from Coxsone Dodd through the Wild Bunch to rave kidz and their rigs, a mobile sound system retains the greatest potential as a spacemaker. Alls you got to have is a kick-ass PA, some great DJs, choose your space carefully and imaginatively, and make sure you invite the good peepz. Mix, stir, and voila: instant party. Kids, if you’re listening, consider getting access to a sound system and throwing your own parties. It sure beats bitching about other peoples’… or does it?

[Peter Chambers]

December 1, 2006

Charts: December 1 2006

Todd Hutlock
Substance & Vainqueur - Surface [Scion]
Ricardo Villalobos - Africolaps [Perlon]
Robert Hood - Still Hear (Los Hermanos Rmx) [Music Man]
Tractile - Silent Movie [Minus]
Depeche Mode - Everything Counts (Absolut Mix) [Mute]
Dominik Eulberg - Bionik (Guy Gerber Red Light Rmx) [Cocoon]
Todd Sines & Natacha Labelle - Cum Closer (C² Mix) [Planet E]
Super Flu - Lady In Pink [KarateKlub]
Thunderground - Canz [Infonet]
Altern 8 vs Evelyn King - Shame (Hardcore Mix) [Network]

Michael F. Gill
Sierra Sam – Perfume (Quenum Remix) [Surprise Records]
Luna City Express – Mars Attacks [Moon Harbour Recordings]
Melon – Spring [ratio?music]
Ken Ishii – Extra [R & S]
Kevin Blechdom – Me Saw Me Momma [Chicks on Speed Records]
Bobby Konders – A Lost Era In NYC 87-92 [Gigolo]
Raze – Break 4 Love [Champion/Grove Street]
David Howard feat. Jhay Palmer – U & I [Locked On]
Strikers – Body Music [Special Instrumental Version] [Prelude]
Elijah John Group – Keep A Little Love For Yourself [Keylock]

November 17, 2006

Charts: November 17 2006

Todd Hutlock
Alex Under - Naran Jamón, jejeje [CMYK Musik]
Villalobos - Fizheuer Zieheuer [Playhouse]
Robert Hood - Still Hear [Music Man]
Unknown Artist - #100 [Wooling]
Konrad Black - Coma Couch Surfing [Items & Things]
The Knife - We Share Our Mother’s Health (Radioslave Remix) [Brille/Mute]
Tres Demented - Demented Drums [Planet E]
Kate Simko - Strumm (Jonas Bering Remix) [Kupei]
Lindstrom - Take Me To The Metro [Capricious]
Gaiser - Neural Block [Minus]

Michael F. Gill
Zwicker – Made Up [Compost Black Label]
Yennek – Without (Acapella Mix) [Substance]
Jeff Mills – The Art of Connecting [Nextera/Axis]
Pieces of a Dream – Warm Weather [Elektra]
The Temptations – Zoom [Motown]
Jorge Santana – Darling I Love You [Underdog Edits]
Bjork – Pagan Poetry (Ripperton Remix) [White]
Jomanda – Got a Love for You (Hurley’s House mix) [Warner / Big Beat]
Todd Edwards – The Journey [i! Records]
Klimek – Music to Fall Asleep [Kompakt]

July 14, 2006

Northern Lite - Cocaine

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve heard anything by Northern Lite—nothing, in fact, since “Treat Me Better” on City Rockers (R.I.P.), lo these many years ago. JJ Cale receives no songwriting co-credit for “Cocaine,” Northern Lite’s tribute to all things potent and powdery. First up is the “2nd Edit,” the most bone white, burnout-dry of the versions. It’s the tail-end of the love affair with blow, all ashen-faced and numbly regretful. The main mix is present in both a “Single Edit” and “Long Version,” and the aura is decidedly more polychromatic; the paddling headrush is towards the initial euphoria rather than the tedium of prolonged substance abuse. Just underneath the robust kick drum and doubled-up percussion are distorted, dusky waveforms and a flanged vocal wail, simulating cocaine as protean matter. Rounding things off is the Troy Pierce remix, all twitchy bell-tones and vocal snippets, sounding great on headphones but something you’d likely have to save for a rather fucked-up dancefloor.

ARMUT24 / ARM 007
[Mallory O’Donnell]

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