September 14, 2007

Beatzcast #48: Crambe Repetita


Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music…

01: Ulysse - Sometimes [buy]
02: Reshuffle - Hedonism [buy]
03: Stimming - Getting Out of Something [buy]
04: Anthony Rother - So Good [buy]
05: Chymera - Valarian [buy]

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July 6, 2007

Theo Parrish - Sound Sculptures Volume 1


Like most well-known Detroit techno producers, Theo Parrish is as much a shrewd marketer as he is a talented musician. Since so much of what comes out of Detroit is shrouded in mystery, one needs to be really clued-in to all the limited edition vinyl, homemade CD-Rs, and mail-order labels to try to make some sense of what is going on in the scene. Having talked about this with people from the Detroit area, I get the sense that this protectiveness often stems from a demand that the listener take the music seriously. But there’s a reason why someone like Omar-S, with his handwritten vinyl sleeves, 12 inches that play inside-out, and one-sided white labels, has created a stir in techno geek circles the past couple years, and it ain’t just the music.

If you’ve been following minimal and techno the past year or so, you’ll have noticed that house and soul have been turning up more and more as an influence (or as a no-longer-latent fetish). What with Antonelli naming his last single after Bobby Konders, Efdemin’s “Just A Track” based on a Chicago styled preachapella, Ame writing “WILD PITCH I LUV U” on the back of their singles, the growing ubiquity of Schwarz/Ame/Dixon’s “Where We At”, Carl Craig remixes, and Larry Heard’s “The Sun Can’t Compare”, as well as the popularity of openly Detroit/deep house themed labels from Europe (Innervisions, Philpot, Delsin, Styrax), demands for jackin’ are high.

It’s the perfect time then for Theo Parrish to release this new triple LP on his own Sound Signature label. With the residual love from Carl Craig’s remix of “Falling Up” still coming in, Sound Sculptures Volume 1 arrives with high expectations, and a hefty import price if you live outside the States. The extra exposure might explain why Sculptures sounds like a more streamlined and accessible version of Parrish’s music, although you can’t really say it’s watered down. As always, the vibe here is as much mechanical as it is soulful. No matter how organically jazzy or funky the music gets, it’ll always be stymied by some hard-boiled drums and extremely tight programming and editing. What’s missing on these nine tracks is Theo’s wild sense of vocal juxtaposition and gratitutious use of live EQing, the stuff that often works miracles in his live sets, but can be more frustrating to plow through on his studio albums. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has problems listening to Natural Aspirations (released by Parrish’s collective group The Rotating Assembly), where vocals either sit too high or low in the mix, and are set against music which seems completely incongruous.

Listening to Sculptures in comparison is a piece of cake: everything here goes down smoothly and easily. The first three sides are actually pretty concise, almost song-oriented. “Second Chances” open things up strongly with vocalist Monica Blaire impressively soloing and vamping around a four line refrain and some subdued piano/rhodes lines. “The Rink” is very similar to Theo’s Ugly Edits series, where a couple of very short soul/disco samples are chopped up, put against each other, and then looped for five or six minutes. The final three sides are all extended eleven minute workouts, including album highlight “Soul Control” (another vocal showcase, this time for Alena Waters) and the rather straightforward acid-tech groove of “Synethic Flemm”, which was engineered by the aforementioned Omar S.

As far as a potential crossover release goes, Sound Sculptures does its job. It’s representative of Theo’s sound, it’s consistent from front to back, and there are some great standout tracks. For long time fans, it may feel a bit redundant, a bit safe. To me, there is still enough of a distinctive “soulful” (for lack of a better word) quality to this music that comes across as tangible, even when motifs are being heavily repeated. I’d almost even equate such a feeling to eating corn on the cob: it’s hard to not walk away from the experience with some flavor stuck in your teeth.

Sound Signature / SS 026 / 027 / 028
[Michael F. Gill]

June 10, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 23

Justice - D.A.N.C.E. (Ed Banger / Because Music)
Genre: Indie-Dance

Nina Phillips: You know what would be cool for those DJ gigs you guysll be going to soon? Music that girls actually like. Music that has a tension between hard and soft. Music built for the floor - and not the blog.

Michoacan - 2 Bullets (Glimmers/DJ Harvey Remixes) (Grayhound)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Indie-Dance

Peter Chambers: Are you DJ enough to like this? Youll get cred for trying.

Oto Gelb / Daniel Wang - Magical Yellow Sound From Germania / Look Ma, No Drum Machine! (Balihu)
Genre: House, Disco

Tensnake - I Say Mista (Mirau)
Genre: Neo-Disco, Minimal/Deep

Gui Boratto - Chromophobia Remixe Part 1 (Kompakt)
Genre: Minimal/Deep, Progressive/Trance

Riley Reinhold - Light In My Eyes (My Best Friend)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

A Mountain Of One - EP1 / EP2 (AMO)
Genre: Balearic

Nick Sylvester: A lot of this stuff sounds to me like Talk Talk covers the Dances With Wolves soundtrack, at best when people actually believed rock & roll was something spiritual and not just a backdoor to preteen booty.

Beatzcast #36: Crambe Repetita

Derek Miller reviews Matthew Dear’s Asa Breed
Peter Chambers’ take on Get Physical’s 5th Year Anniversary Compilation
Mallory O’Donnell takes on Bondo Do Role’s With Lasers
James Cobo reviews the compilation Kitsune Maison Volume 4

June 7, 2007

Riley Reinhold - Light In My Eyes

Last year, Riley Reinhold released a co-written EP, Friends are Silence. It was rubbish, but the excuse was that it had been a collaboration. At the time, I wondered two things: was the release a by-product of a market where the “release reflex” had become compulsive, and secondly, would Riley (himself a label owner) have released his own work if he’d received it as a promo? But let’s leave the excuses and accusations aside for a moment - let’s give Riley a chance.

For the price of admission, what’s offered here are two different sides to one coin cast in the same alloy - wafting, introspective digi-trance with its heart on its sleeve and its finger on the mouse-key, dragging and dropping various kinds of delay plugins over the melodies. Yeah, I was once in a noise-rock band, and being beyond awful and in the throes of a particularly nasty Sonic Youth trip, we saw fit to drench everything in as much reverb, distortion and delay as possible. The Big Muff was my best friend.

I call the laptop equivalent of this “Abletonitis”, and Rileys only just besting his bout of it here. The A-side, “Light in my Eyes”, grounds the track with a static, dry kick-snare pattern which is left unmodulated in the back of the mix. Over the top, a simple synthloop is leant texture and shift (more by plugin than art) and then, right over the top of that like some imagined “northern lights” pattern, come several big blue synth washes, one after the other. Atmospherically its nice, but at over eight minutes long the soft rinse begins to dry, drag, and then drone on. Compare this track to Sascha Funkes recent “Ey” (reviewed here a few months back) which conjures similar blisses of navel-gazing but with no more complexity. Perhaps with this kind of music, it’s all about the ineffable qualities of the sounds chosen (’cos after all, if it sounds on every beat you’re gonna hear it over a thousand times in an eight minute track). The B-side, “Ghosts”, sounds…thats right, spookier (!) than the A, but again, the track relies too much on the emotive effects of FX gimmicks and pays too little attention to the small details of construction and nuance necessary to make such flights of fancy soar.

Theres the nub of something promising here, and it is an improvement on Friends are Silence, but while Id urge Riley to continue developing his sound/ideas, I still wouldn’t inflict this on the dancing public.

My Best Friend / MBFLTD 12013
[Peter Chambers]

March 14, 2007

Moonbeam - Eclipse / Sunshine

Triple R’s got a spy in Moscow, or at least a summer house. Yet Moonbeam, his latest Russian import, are a perfect fit for Traum, delivering two luminous tech-house tracks with sweetly detached melodies. Like their countrymen SCSI-9, everything here has been polished until it shines, so even the pulsing minor-key melody of “Eclipse” ends up with a stronger sense of wonder than melancholy. “Sunshine” is where it’s at though, showing its potency through a lulling synth loop that is effectively hypnotic, no matter how many sprightly prog-house melodies they throw on top of it.

Traum / TRAUM V82
[Michael F Gill]

June 30, 2006

Various Artists - min2MAX Extension

Okay, see if you can follow along: Minus new min2MAX compilation has been released across three formats. There is a 12-track CD, a 10-track triple-LP set (available only in a limited edition featuring a Matthew Hawtin art print), and this four-cut Extension single, featuring two cuts featured on the CD release (but not the LP), and two cuts unavailable elsewhere. Got that? Good. Now, outside of the value to completists, this single actually works better than the longer formats, which suffer from a bit too much similarity between the tracks. Minus veteran Niederflurs z.B sounds a bit lost in the context of the CD, but given the spotlight here, its glitchy, poppy, ping-pongy goodness shines through. Ditto for Berg Nixons Victoria Station, already a highlight of the CD version, but standing alone, the bendy/bouncy riff sticks harder. Of the two exclusives, False (Matthew Dear) is the winner, as his Bathe sees him strip things to popping percussion and echoing keyboard stabs to great effect. The other, Barems Opal, bounces along on an analog riff and quick-snapping drums. Sadly, this means yes, you do need to buy this. Were such easy targets, arent we?

M_nus / MINUS 40 X
[Todd Hutlock]

June 30, 2006

Paul Kalkbrenner - Keule

Paul Kalkbrenners Tatu-Tata spawned one of the largest-sounding singles of last year. Instantly epic, Gebrunn Gebrunns anamorphic spread between low (insistent, gravity-accumulating bass) and high frequencies (ala wet-towl snaps) was its obvious secret. But insta-epics often spawn what I call the Triple X problem; that is, how do you get larger for the sequel when youre already wearing a size XXXL. Kalkbrenner sidesteps the issue with Keule and creates the superficial inverse of Gebrunn-Gebrunn. The bass wobbles and rearranges knees at loud volumes while Kalkbrenner has fun adding delaying effects to every synth, hi-hat, and finger snap he can find in the mix. This magic-mirror percussion doesnt let this up for either of the B-sides, although Atzepeng is accompanied by a stronger riff for a spine. Thisll do for now, but Im still eagerly waiting for a sequel to Triple X.

BPitch Control / BPC 131
[Nate De Young]

June 16, 2006

Triple R - Friends Are Silence

Riley Reinhold collaborates with four of his buds on five separate tracks, and if you can believe it, only two tracks here do the “talking sample set to ass beat” thing. One of the offenders, the Jorge Gebauhr-assisted “Tengo Suerte Esta Noche,” has that train-whistle doppler effect sound though, which raises the question: Can one clich excuse another? Negative times a negative equals a positive or something? Keep in mind the track might be making some kind of political statement. After that, skip to “Polyester.” Remute by his side, Triple R first goes for filterhouse but refuses to drop a steady beat, let his pastels breathe, etc., until he absolutely must. The break comes quiet but pitchbent and cocksure, though with all those Mouse on Mars microrhythms on either side I wonder if this wouldn’t make for a better IDM track. Five years ago, that’s a no-brainer.

My Best Friend / MBF 12021
[Nick Sylvester]

February 24, 2006

Bastien Grine - Where R U

Making the jump from DJ to producer during the last four years, French pseudo-minimal electro enthusiast Bastien Grine has ventured away from his previous label Scandium for a release on Kompakt’s new K2 off-shoot. K2 hasnt received nearly as much acclaim as Kompakts other sub-labels, but if audioscrobblers and blogs are any indication, Grine may help change all of that. Inciting a particularly (Get) Physical take on electro, the titular a-side of “Where R U” starts its engine with a hypnotic bass line before taking an off-ramp to a rave where the dancers are dirty and low to the ground. “Pastel,” on the flip side is like a stuttering bull running into a thick wall of bass triplets and being pounded into the ground by the beat. Shying away from the overdriven sounds of “Where R U,” the third and final track, “828,” presents a stark approach to electro that could maybe only be improved by a certain Chilean dropping his super sexy vocals on a remix. But by the end, Bastien has at least made this much clear: Where U R is somewhere near a rave, a big fucking rave.

K2 / 007
[Cameron Octigan]

February 10, 2006

Triple R - Selection 4

The self-imposed mix has to be one of the toughest to undertake. Each year, Triple R has about twenty tracks to use to construct his yearly mix of the Trapez labels greatest hits. Luckily for him, 2005 was one of the labels finest and, most importantly, consistent. From John Tejadas opening mix of Oliver Hacke through to Dominik Eulbergs Gasthof Zum Satten Bass to the climactic Painters Day by Ryan Crosson, the mix is a muscular version of the year past: and one, if you didnt check into the labels output, that you shouldnt miss.

Trapez / CD06
[Todd Burns]

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