September 18, 2007

Supermayer - Save The World

Remember the supergroup? It was a big conceptual thing a few decades back, but it still pops up every now and again. Here’s how it usually worked: a bunch of high pedigree rockers would get together, proclaim that they really “dug each other’s music,” book a bunch of studio time, get stoned out of their gourds, and more often than not, release an album of half-baked ideas and poorly executed jams that proceeded to shift millions of units based solely on the reputation of the players. Sometimes the idea actually workedsee Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young and Derek & The Dominos. Sometimes it wouldn’tsee pretty much everyone else.

Diehard fans of the musicians in question usually lapped this stuff up, but somewhere in the back of their minds, they still felt somewhat let down more often than not. The problem was squarely on themtheir expectations were simply, inevitably too high. No matter how great one of these supergroups sounded on paper, they couldn’t possibly live up to that sort of hype on record. Blaming the musicians, on the other hand, was a futile exercise. After all, they just wanted to hang out with some friends, play some music, and enjoy themselves. Can you really blame them for that?

Which brings us to the case of Supermayer, a supergroup-style collaboration between two of Kompakt’s biggest names: Michael Mayer and Superpitcher. And while the collaboration has more in common with the above than notthis is nothing if not a “fun” recordthis is most certainly not a bad thing. If anything, Save the World is just the kind of project that Kompakt needed, given the (somewhat inexplicable) backlash the label has been taking of late. Too many have complained that Kompakt has taken to making records by numbers; Save the World is anything but your (stereo)typical Kompakt fare.

Just as the grooves of those ’70s albums are laden with artists just trying to have a good time and vibe with each other, so does Save the World exude a palatable sense of smiling, laughing musicians just having some fun and getting down, and most importantly, encouraging the listener to do so as well. Look no further than the first proper track on the album (after the spoken intro “Hey!”), “The Art of Letting Go”the lyric tells the story of the album in a simple idea: over a grooving bass, chunky guitar chords, and some decidedly un-Kompakt sounds (are those horns? Melodica perhaps?), the gauntlet is thrown, “Let’s get to it / Relax / Let me go.” This is a first-class party record, assembled by two of techno’s foremost minds, and if the instruction is followed, you’ll have just as good a time listening as they obviously did making it.

With their mission statement firmly established, Supermayer proceed to circle the universe, capes flying, in search of the magic note, and while they never quite find it, the thrill of discovery is clearly the intent for our heroes (there’s even a comic book insert). There’s atmospheric dancefloor techno, there’s some light techno pop, some swinging indie bouncers, there’s vocals, there’s ambient interludes, there’s horns, there’s even a fucking gong. “The Lonesome King” is Martin Denny in Ralf and Florian’s studio; “Please Sunrise” recalls 808 State and YMO; “Two of Us” is a classic floor-filler laden with peaks and valleys; closer “Cocktails for Two” is a late-night comedown complete with shag carpeting and a disco diva perched on the love seat waiting for an afterhours tumble. It’s a gloriously unorganized mess, but all of it is so lovingly and skillfully done that it sounds far closer to some sort of mad genius.

Save the World is not a work of high art like The Magic Flute and it’s certainly not a pretentious epic like Kid A. It lives in its own skin and its comfortable there. The key to saving the world according to Supermayer is simple: lose the pressure and enjoy things for what they are, not what you expect them to be. There is an art to letting go, and they seem to have mastered it here, at least as much as such a thing can be mastered. They might not have saved the world, but Supermayer might just have saved your next house party.

Kompakt / KOMPAKTCD 61
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


August 1, 2007

Ilya Santana - Quasar

200712"Neo-Disco

A few months ago, I had this to say about Discotized, one of Ilya’s last EPs: “You could locate this record somewhere between the Emperor Machine, Daniel Wang and Norwegian space disco, but what escapes that is the sedate, comforting groove here - no big ‘whoosh’ noises, no ‘frantic congas or tiresome solos’ - ‘Holding You’ is seven minutes long, but contains nothing superfluous.”

And, comfortingly perhaps, not much has changed here on Quasar, except the speeding of the proceedings. Maybe it’s all the slow-mo/po-mo Harvey disciples Santana is marketing his tracks at, but Quasar has definitely taken the BPM and the intensity down a few clicks. Play this at -8 and you could probably even mix it with Severed Heads’ “We Have Come to Bless this House” at the monged speed Harvey himself plays it at.

But as fun as “Quasar” is, to such a talented artist this is treading water. There’s no innovation going on here…the same old (albeit enjoyable) formulas are in full effect. But hey, nobody criticises AC/DC for being formulaic, do they? Interestingly, the B-side, which is initially far more arresting, ventures into the very territory that Daniel Wang derided I don’t know about tiresome solos, but there’s more than a few frantic congas being brought to this particular party. But before you can say, “oh no, psytrance hippies”, Pete Herbert (he of Reverso 68) saves his side with a funkin’ bassline, a whole lotta wiggle, and a neat melody. Like the bellhop in Some Like it Hot, this track is “the way I like ‘em big ‘n sassy.”

Disciple of Groove / DOG 002
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


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]


June 24, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 25

Chymera - Satura / Arabesque (Tishomingo)
Genre: Progressive/Trance, Minimal/Deep

Nina Phillips: How else to revel in the neo-prog essentials? Deep Connaisseur chords and a lithe melody line cutting over top, natch.

Baldelli / Dionogi - Cosmicdiba 2007 (Gomma)
Genre: Neo-Disco, New Wave/Synth

Dopplereffekt / Los Angeles TF / Mike Dunn - Gesamtkunstwerk / Magical Body / So Let It Be House (Clone Classic Cuts)
Genre: Chicago, Electro, Italo

From The Archives #2

Skatebard - Marimba (Supersoul Recordings)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Minimal/Deep

Nick Sylvester: Something like “Feed The Mood” after two decades of looped disintegration, or really any children’s toy on its last five or six seconds of battery life, “Marimba” pines for early Detroit through a fog of tired synths and last-legged drum machine clatter, and yes there are marimbas.

Cassy / A Guy Called Gerald - Somelightuntothenight / Bodecka (Beatstreet Berlin)
Genre: House

Peter Chambers: The whole EP here is old-school, or the classic house sound just the basics, no faffing around. These tracks dont have to unfold, theyre already laid out.

INFLUX #004: CHELONIS R. JONES

Stylus editor Todd Burns talked to Jones about his upcoming album Chatterton, the cover art to Dislocated Genius, and whats it like to be the “Franz Kafka of electro-pop”

Beatzcast #38: Crambe Repetita

Weekly Staff Charts


May 8, 2007

Ilya Santana - Discotized

200712"Neo-Disco

Ilya Santanas soundworld is like some gloriously sunny, pre-scrambled version of Isolesbut where the latter filters every pet sound through the mangling monstrosities of stomp boxes, old tape players, and junk equipment, Santana has channeled his own idiosyncrasies into a vision of sound like the strange refraction of the memories of mid-80s disco. On his magnificent Walking on a Crystal Sea EP from a few years back, Santana laid out the program, which Danny Wang describes on the back with typically rhapsodic eloquence: Without frantic congas or tiresome solos, its structure makes perfect sense from the very first measure. It is so unhurried, yet delicate and memorable, like a Satie theme on a disco beat. Every time the filter on the bass goes down, I get a shiver around my head. I just want that sound to go on and on forever! Lets dam the gush-flood for a momentit wasnt that good. But there was the suggestion of something unique, and here, the promise of Ilyas personality returns re-pressed and ready to discotize you.

You could locate this record somewhere between the Emperor Machine, Daniel Wang and Norwegian space disco, but what escapes that is the sedate, comforting groove hereno big whoosh noises, no frantic congas or tiresome solosHolding You is seven minutes long, but contains nothing superfluous. Discotized is much closer to Walking on a Crystal Sea and nudges toward neo-italo filtrations of house a la Justus Khncke, but with its more elaborate structures and interesting, digressive parts; theres something far more musical here than Kompakts queeniest producers works. Great stuff.

Permanent Vacation / PERMVAC 009-1
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


March 2, 2007

Carsten Jost / Efdemin - Split EP

200712"HouseMinimal/Deep

The happy Hamburg-ers at Dial have always shown a cryptic interest in deep house, but until recently its a feeling that bubbled up as an interpreted influence, rather than an openly presented take. But listen to Lawrences betalounge DJ set from last year, and the open embrace of this foundational sound is becoming obvious. Dial is digging the deep house of old.

The Split EP perfectly complements this gesture, offering a pair of tracks at once openly reverential and unapologetically, distinctively their own. The tracks have an inverse relation to each other in a sense: Josts begins with a conga-led groove that could easily be Moodyman, but the Detroit house thang slowly subsides as Carsten piles on the blue notes and reverb, finally adding sibilant tambourines on every beat and more melancholy piano. Its a return to form of sorts that sees Jost re-capturing the lovely gloom of his criminally under-rated You dont need a weatherman album.

Efdemins track, on the other hand, begins sounding light-years away from the deep house vibethe intro has more in common with the silicon dryness of Donnacha Costellos recent 6×6 release. The angular pixelfunk nods along for a few minutes (enough time for Magda to play six tracks over the top), before a (you guessed it) blue sounding melody intrudes, giving absolutely no forewarning for the sudden interjection of a Chicago-style house nation preachapella. The contrast between the outrageously sparse rhythmic arrangement and the vocal works a treat. More than that though, the splitness of the EP somehow belies a synthesis between the old and the new, between the happy and blue, and also between Jost and Efdemins work. For all these reasons, its another superb EP from Dial.

Dial / dial 34
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


January 26, 2007

Beatzcast #16: Michael F. Gill

Mixes2007Italo

The Dancing Therapy mix started off as a sort of self-help mixtape for myself, but later evolved into a generally uplifting set of vocal oriented italo/synth-pop hits….

01: International Music System (I.M.S.) - Dancing Therapy - Bellaphon, 1984
No better way to start off than with this, the impetus for starting this mix. The seemingly naive lyrics about using music to escape from your troubles take more of a poignant turn here. “Fusion to the beat really clears my mind” sums up a great amount of dance music’s appeal in just one line.

02: The Creatures - Believe In Yourself (Special Remix) - Full Time, 1983
Not to be confused with the Siouxsie Sioux side-group, The Creatures’ biggest hit is a bouncy, heavy-synth number with endearing dorky vocals extolling self-esteem with perhaps too much zeal (the opening line being “Boy, don’t be so shy!”).

03: Taffy - I Love My Radio (European Mix) - Emergency, 1986
Probably my favorite latter-day Italo track, it hits many of the overblown hallmarks of the mid ’80s (faceless vocals, huge synth-drums, chipper keyboards) while refusing to remain grounded to the template. Plus as a night owl myself, I can relate to the rather silly lyrics proclaiming love to a midnight radio DJ.

04: Brand Image - Are You Loving? - Il Discotto Productions, 1983
Il Discotto Productions were a high profile Italo label that briefly catered to the sci-fi/robotic side of the genre before moving more towards the candy-sweet pop end by the mid ’80s. One of their big releases was “Are You Loving?” by the little-known Brand Image, which continues this mix’s focus on defiant/strong vocals and aggressive keyboards.

05: Alden Tyrell feat. Fred Ventura - Love Explosion 05 - Clone, 2006
“Love Explosion” was a cult hit for Alden Tyrell in the neo-italo/electro circuit ever since its release way back in 1999. It gained its popularity as an instrumental, so when Alden finally released his debut album Times Like These last year, he re-recorded it as a vocal version with well-known italo vocalist Fred Ventura. Tyrell is one of the very few neo-italo composers whose productions could nearly pass as vintage, and the fact that the vocal version is nowhere as sleek, icy, and chic as the instrumental is testament to this.

06: Fokewulf 190 - Body Heat - Market Records, 1984
“Hey! You! Take a look at me! Look me in the eyes, there is something new.” The second cut in this little trilogy of Fred Ventura tracks finds the dear Italian vocalist in a near desperate wail. While most lyrical subjects in Italo are lightweight and superficial (following in the Eurodisco tradition), the tortured passion of Ventura is very much an anomaly. I have no idea how well-known “Body Heat” (or as Ventura says, “Badi hit”) was before it ended up on one of the C-B-S Top 100 lists, but it surely is one of the most angsty and lyrically sound italo tracks I know.

07: Flexx - Love Theme From Flexxy-Ball - Hole, 1983
“Love theme” is so close to the sound of “Body Heat” that it begs to be mixed in as the final Ventura vocal track in the trilogy. It’s a bit more on the uplifting side, and is probably responsible for naming the disco-friendly mail-order site Flexx.

08: Gary Low - I Want You - CAT Record, 1983
“I Want You” was a big hit among gay clubgoers in the ’80s, and was recently heavily sampled by Miss Kitten and the Hacker for their Mental Groove single “The Beach.” It’s definitely got a summertime feel, and even if the cheeseball vocals take a while to warm up too, it remains a perennial club favorite.

09: Pineapples - Come On Closer (Extended Club Mix) - Danse, 1983
What can I say about this recently reissued track, probably one of my favorite singles of all-time, and one of the most beloved, uplifting italo tracks around? Its likely that the bizarre cocktail lounge croon of Douglas Coop elevates it from perky synthpop to a feel-good anthem, but explaining the rest of its magic is impossible: you just have to hear it for yourself.

10: Trilogy - Not Love - Il Discotto Productions, 1982
Another Il Discotto Production, and another favorite of mine that seems to be overlooked. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the vocal version of “Not Love” used over the instrumental. It’s a shame, because the vocal really buys into the melodrama of the arrangement, and nearly seems confrontational.

11: Ottawan - D.I.S.C.O. (Instrumental) - Carrere, 1979
Ok, OK, the original is a total novelty (and even uses the same bassline of their previous hit, “Hands Up”) but I was surprised how much calmer the instrumental version is after hearing it. It also provides a nice vocal break until the next track…

12: Jimmy Ross - Fall Into A Trance (Remix) - Quality/RFC Records, 1982
…where the vocals are back to being zealous again. Jimmy Ross was one of the few italo vocalists who put more of an American soul influence in his music, so it sort of helps that his English is so slurred and heavy handed: it often makes him sound out of breath with emotion. “Fall Into a Trance” was his second biggest hit next to the boogie disco of “First True Love Affair,” which was later remixed by Larry Levan. There’s a compilation CD on Unidisc of Ross’ entire work that is recommended if you want to hear more.

13: Alexander Robotnick - Intro for Live Performance - Creme Organization, 2005
Mr. Robotnick has been going through a revival lately, with two rarities compilations coming out in the past few years. “Intro for Live Performance” is from the second volume, put out last year by Creme, and while it may seem odd for someone to walk onstage to anything this noir-ish, it’s probably one of the most minimal tracks in his oeuvre.

14: Ministry - I Wanted To Tell Her - Arista, 1983
Ministry might be a surprising name here, but their first album “With Sympathy” was a dead ringer for a lot of the Human League-esque new wave going on at the time. “I Wanted to Tell Her” combines this upbeat synth approach with a bit of the funk A Certain Ratio was doing, and has a great vocal to boot

15: Memory Control One (MC1) - Basic - Crash, 1984
This 1984 synth-pop single by the newly-feted Beppe Loda and Francesco Boscolo always sounds so triumphant to me, like it should soundtrack an athlete’s victory lap or the end of a sports movie. Hence, I’m placing it here as something of a coda to the mix, a sort of stand-alone resolution to the theoretical therapy of all the previous tracks.


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

(more…)


December 1, 2006

Super Flu - Lady in Pink

Containing three shimmering cuts of precision electronics, the Lady in Pink EP grooves impeccably but still provides the listener with a slight flash of menace. Consider them tactical dancefloor weapons”Ein Tag Em Meer” could be deployed to enliven a minimal set with its percussive fluidity and see-sawing synths, while its brother “Der Wohltemperierte Bass” might leaven the madness of a psyche-house rave without feeling too out of place. The title cut is the real heavy artillery though, evocative of the EBM-inflected style so popular of late, it displays an almost childlike sense of glee while it’s pummeling you.

KarateKlub / KK 011
[Listen]
[Mallory ODonnell]


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 (C 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]


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