June 21, 2007

Skatebard - Marimba

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. I have to say this one took me a while, especially after the hardhitting Vuelo EP. “Marimba” is just so impressionistic, never really progressing toward an end, and you have to be in the right mood for that. That said I wouldn’t be surprised to see new faith in slo-mo disco give rise to more slo-mo techno like this, the wooze of 45-at-33 irresistible and hardly sarcastic when done proper. On the flip: “Pagans” is a simple minor arpeggio set to an equally simplistic rise-and-fall discobeat, with Metroid-like blasts of synth here and there but nothing truly moving until this wailing mechanical duet that recalls The Knife’s “The Captain.” I’m this close to editing that part out of the hodgepodge and leaving the rest.

Supersoul / SSREC 0056
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


May 15, 2007

Water Lilly - Invisible Ink

What a relentless track: it’s like your head is being run through a sewing machine, the synths needling away at every frequency range while the midtempo kick thumps along obliviously. Beyond the rhythm, Water Lilly keeps the pitches at really tense intervals, uninterested in resolving them until she breaks into the main riff, which is a lonely bit you might have expected on the last Knife album. If it went longer than 7:25 I’d say enough already, but that’s exactly where it stops, an etude in tension/release.

Arnaud Rebotini’s Black Strobe Mix on the flip is, as you’d expect, a harder, darker, “slamming” take on the original, something that’d fit perfectly into electroclash sets and current distorted-to-death bloghouse outings. It’s also the first time you’ll be able to make out the vocals from the original - “Except for me, what else do you want?” - which are presented here as a centerpiece, something of a meta-thesis for the rest of the mix. Rebotini bests the original when he moves into a sub-bass acid freakout towards the middle, and never lets up.

Mental Groove Records / MG 057
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


May 14, 2007

Battles - Atlas

Perhaps the greatest irony of all was indeed that Alanis song in its praise was not ironic. An arguably lesser but still significant irony is that math rock, as a genre, a sound, a stance dedicated to remorseless intensity and rhythmic, timbral, and harmonic experimentation, has become, twelve years later, one of the most conservative and unchanging of all musical scenes (which of course they would disavow being on both counts). In a parallel to the drumnbass scene, perhaps anything with such a particular sound and intensity is bound to attract two groups of people: those keen for the new, and those mad for the sound. Where the former engorge themselves on the signifiers and grow full and tired before sleeping it off and moving on, the latter seem to have an almost inexhaustible desire for that sound and nothing but that soundforever.

So I suggested to two (still) math-rocking friends that Battles’ new single marked an exciting new direction for a genre that had gone from being merely stagnant to somehow embodying the very essence of stagnation. But they both hate Battles, ever since they “turned electronic”. Nothing, apparently, will ever equal the heights of Don Caballero. To them, What Burns Never Returns is not a title but the site of worship, of mourning and of an unquenchable repetition-compulsion.

So Atlas is a kind of a betrayal and promise by a group who seem to want to actually enact the originally progressive spirit of Touch-and-Go. What is it? It riffs like a Thorogood beast, howls like The Knife, but schaffels with a vengeance. Its a fantastic rock epic and a great track. But thank God for the Koze mix on the flip. Its more than a matter of 1 + 1 = two good sides. Like all good EPs, theres a quality-multiplying factor lent by the proximities of creative differences-in-common. Kozes mix presents his typical “touch” based approach to sound, with twee melodies not unlike recent International Pony work but a structure and mood that conjures Aphex Twin. The two tracks seem to wind into each other, not so much remixes as silent halves of the other that mutually intimate, stroke, and ground. The diehard math-rockers will hate it, and its too weird for the functionally-obsessed dancefloors of the world, but thats (also) why its one of the more interesting EPs of the year so far.

Warp Records / WAP219
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 1, 2007

Junior Boys - Dead Horse EP

200712"TechnoIndie-Dance

A lot of people might say that the remix is nothing newand in a sense, theyre right. But what is new is the emphasis, and the excitement. Where in the old days a remix was a way of disco-nizing a pop hit or letting the studio heads show off their skills, these days, the remixes are often not only more anticipated (and fascinating when they do drop), but also a way of establishing connections between talented artists, and showing the points of condensation and digression among and between various mutations of music. Hot Chip (and the Knife, with less success) have grasped this shift in the logic of (re) release and presentation, driving completists mad with a vast array of remixes, many of which are offered with multiple colours on the cover art. Junior Boys were always the third in the holy trinity of highly rated electro-pop releases last year, but unlike the Knife and the Chip, this is only the Boys second remix EP, after 2006 gave us Smokes beautifully calming mix of In the Morning and Morgan Geists disappointing crack at The Equalizer. But herewow, talk about big guns oh no, did somebody say zeitgeist again?! Carl Craig, Kode 9, and Hot Chip all on the one piece of wax. So? Whats it like, you ask?

Well, fantastic, in a word. Fantastic, with a big but (Ill get to that). Hot Chip pull out all the stops here for a typically heart-strings yanking electro-pop anthem, adding (as they often do on their remixes) their own new lyrics over the top. The vocal harmonies of the original become a background choir, and in the front is a big, fat, and warm rave synth that drives the mix along. Like their wonderful version of Steve Malkmus Kindling for the Master, the group manages to not only add, subtract, or re-arrange, but to multiply the songs melodic elements into something wonderful, touching, and entirely new. Marsen Jules pop-ambient offering (for obvious reasons the least in-your-face of the bunch) is likewise a transformative effort that brings the originals vocals close to some of the work on Panda Bears great new album Person Pitch, with its own heart-on-sleeve remembrance of beaches and boys of yore.

Carl Craigs re-work reduces in order to enlarge (for the big room), turning Like a Child into Like a Bad Weekend. Its too easy a criticism to say its too long, but theres something not un but undersatisfying about the track here. Its definitely Carl Craig, but by the book, if not by numbers. Theres no button being pushed here that hasnt been pushed better, harder, and more passionately elsewhere. Kode 9s mix here brings us back to the grimy, alien/zombie-filled landscape of the dubstep imagination. No doubt Hardwax thinks this is the best mix (and it is neat) but its a whole lotta Kode 9 and very little of the Junior Boysis there any overlap between the black, paranoid, science-fiction imagination of Kode 9 and the white, floppy-boy romantic snow-borne sorrows of Junior Boys? That would be a negative. Ten Snakes mix goes for a spacey/italo/electro rendition, which jars with the other offerings here, though it does have its own discrete charms.

The big but after this long description is that, with the possible exception of Hot Chip, none of these admirable mixes comes close to the aching beauty of the original tracks. I finished listening to all these tracksand I just wanted to hear the album again.

Domino / RUG251T2
[Listen]
[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…

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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

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November 17, 2006

Charts: November 17 2006

Todd Hutlock
Alex Under - Naran Jamn, 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 Mothers 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]


October 13, 2006

The Knife - Like a Pen

Ronan Fitzgerald: There are few mainstream album producing artists whose remix packages are as fun as those of the Knife, but here the real surprise is that the best mix is their own club mix. By adding more jacking Carl Craig-styled drums, they extend Like a Pen into a fine piece of haunting techno. Thomas Schumachers remix is a growling bass-heavy piece of electro-minimal, proving that although the Bodzin production factory which makes his tracks may have overkilled things a bit, if they did more remixes instead of so many original productions some great feats could still be possible.

Peter Chambers: Silent Shout is shaping up to be one of the years best albums, and the remix project has given us an impressive group of producers so far (Shinedoe, Troy Pierce, Trentemoller, Radioslave). Now its the turn of Pierces M_nus label mate Heartthrob and reinvented big room mnml floordestroyer Thomas Schumacher to cut their sliceand boy, has the knife come out dirty. Heartthrob is given two look-ins herethe first remix version is a lump-looped wonkathon that sounds like an auralization of Quasimodo avin it, but doesnt really take proper account of either the originals vocal or its wonderful melody. The Heartthrob dub is more successful, but like Troy Pierces wigglin & noodlin version of Silent Shout, the end result sounds very little like the Knife and a helluva lot like each of the artists latest scribblings of their sound signature. In comparison, Schumachers contribution is clean-shaved and well behaved, very much keeping the adjectives dark and ominous caged in parentheses. Judging from the selections on their recent humourless Fabric mix, I can imagine Tiefschwarz will be all over this version, and hey, its bound to keep the big room kidz gurning and grooving. To these ears at least, the Dreijers own versions show up the experts heretheirs is the more satisfying, carefully written and musical remix that is still 100% floor-functional.

Rabid / RABID 034
[Listen]


September 15, 2006

Charts: September 15 2006

Guest Chart: Troy Pierce

JPLS - Program [Minus]
Marcel Dettman Radio [MDR 1]
Dapyak - Uma [Mo’s Ferry]
Andre Chrome - Bodenturen [Leftroom]
The Knife - Like a Pen (Heartthrob remix) [Rabid Records]
Audion - Mouth to Mouth [Spectral]
Heartthrob - Baby Kate (Konrad Black remix) [Minus]
Frankie - Hunt [Frankie Rec]
Acid Circus - Minimal Junk (Jason Emsley Remix) [Droid]
Reagen - Dirt [Unreleased]

Todd Hutlock
iO - Claire [Cheap]
Michael Ho - Frisky [Tuning Spork]
Sleeper Thief - Chasing Rainbow [Mobilee]
Octave One - DayStar Rising [430 West]
Los Hermanos - Freedom Dancer [Los Hermanos]
Donnacha Costello - 6.1 [Minimise]
M.I.A. - Schoolcraft Bump [Underground Resistance]
Marc Houle - Bay of Figs [Minus]
Miss Fitz - Plak Du Jour (Mossa Remix) [Archipel]
Dominik Eulberg - Bionik [Cocoon]

Cameron Octigan
Misc. - Among Thieves [Sender]
Silicon Teens - State of Shock [Mute]
Partly Clouded [Fucked]
Extrawelt - Doch Doch [Traum]
Heartthrob - Baby Kate [M_nus]
Dominion - The Light of Day [KK Records]
Heroin - Meaning Less [Gravity]
Coil - The Snow [Wax Trax!]
Martin Buttrich - Full Clip [Planet E]
Troy Pierce (feat. Gibby Miller) - The Day After Yesterday [Items & Things]

Michael F. Gill
The Creatures - Believe In Yourself [Teldec]
Kasso Walkmen [Rams Horn Records]
Evelyn Champagne King - Love Come Down [RCA]
Mystic Merlin - Just Can’t Give You Up [Capitol]
M.I.A. - Safe Night [Sub Static]
Max Berlin - Elle Et Moi (Joakim Remix) [Eighttrack Recordings]
Likwid Biskit - Sound Orgy [Dynamite Joint / People]
Baby Ford & Mark Broom - Bubble Bath [Pure Plastic]
Plaid Squance [Warp]
Craig David - Whats Your Flava? (Akufen Remixes) [Wildstar/Atlantic]


September 8, 2006

Spektrum - May Day Remixes

As far as extended dub remixes of campy electro songs go, this one’s not bad for showcasing the sounds behind the sounds: the drums grittier than you ever knew, and that hornhonk trashbarge synth riff prettier too, maybe even a bit mellifluous. There’s no room for the extra minutes in a DJ set, but your pop lab scientist /discogs jockey types has it in a beaker. TRAMP! did a remix. It starts like any number of Radio 4 songs (the shit-for-brains agit-dancepunk act, not the BBC station), with the minor thirds on the bass and bad percussion. But when the isolated vocals kick in, there’s an impressive Knife-like gloom to the track that flips the original’s may-day! may-day! lolligagging to something a little more Right Now, technocratically cagey, humanly concerned. Escapist by contrast, DJ T’s remix switches the main riff for boogie playground spaceship sounds, which wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t failed one-upsmanship.

Spektrum / SPEK 005X
[Nick Sylvester]


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