July 11, 2007

Pharoahe Monch - Body Baby Remixes

200712"HouseR & B

90’s Rawkus hip-hop hero Pharoahe Monch has returned, and he’s unexpectedly packed a whole lot of rugged organic house into his trunk for his first single. “Body Baby” is begging so hard for uptempo remixes that it practically provided them itself, centered on a 21st-century gospel-dance pomp that Pharoahe rides exceedingly well over. “Body Baby,” bouncy as it is, demands an aggressive but not overzealous reworking, so the kid-sized gloves are somewhat in order. Count of Monte Cristal and Sindin seem to have missed the point, however, treating Monch’s slight vocal as SP-1200 fodder, flanging phrases ad infinitum to sculpt something more fitting of a Beyonce trance voyage than an underground hip-hop remix.

Optimo, typically, have a much more cogent take, bringing out the gospel and deep-house elements of the source material. Escalating the bass kick, piano fills, and chorus vox, they build up the original into a dancier, more upbeat track that still retains the hip-hop feel of the original, albeit pumped-up to a more D&B tempo. The Optimo Dub take goes classic dub, running the rap through filters to achieve ultimate freak-house action. Lastly, the Vicious Circle remix gets a bit over-ambitious, attempting to cram the best of both worlds. Playing the hard-house breakdowns of the Cristal remix against the gospel-ized organic grooves of the Optimo remix, it’s laudable in terms of intent, but leaves something to be desired in the end result, making you wonder who exactly would dance to it. This single is a mixed bag to be sure, but one worth investigating, especially for those in search of rap / house crossovers that take chances, rather than skating to the easy route.

Island Records / 1736972
[Mallory O’Donnell]

May 25, 2007

Thinking Out Loud: Physical vs. Digital

Thinking Out Loud developed from a series of open-ended email conversations and ruminations between Beatz staff members. In this article, Michael F. Gill and Peter Chambers discuss the merits of dance music on vinyl and MP3.


May 10, 2007

Baby Ford / Benno Blome - Smoke Machine

Im a sucker for Sender. Theres something irresistible about Benno Blomes brittle, sawing, rocking vision of reduced tech-house that keeps on keeping on, even sixty or more releases in. But where earlier highlights in the catalog steered much closer to a tight, dry sound aesthetic, recent releases (perhaps since the first Baby Ford release here) have moistened and loosened things considerably. Until recently, it just wasnt plausible to say that Senders gonna house you.

But here it is folks, perhaps the loosest, housiest release on the catalog, probing the play in the groove on the A-side (without losing the menace), then plugging back into the click, spray, and clatter of Bruno Pronsatos microhouse-inflected revision on the flip. Ford and Blomes version nods forward with a big-ass bassline, surrounded by Fords cut-and-stuttered vocal utterances. The track grooves along in this pattern, until a huge tearout full of granulated static (or is that the smoke machine?) interrupts things, and then the bassline returns.

Pronsatos mix offers the same percussive spatiality of his recent (excellent) collaboration with Sammy Dee as Half Hawaii. Its got a smooth bassline, dry, panning congas, and a metallic vocoded vocal, all of which sound like they are jamming in a big, hard-walled room somewhere inside his laptop. Its a nice interconnection between the swinging micro/clapfunk of his work on hello?repeat and Senders overall aesthetic. Worth a look.

Sender / send064
[Peter Chambers]

March 21, 2007

Move D - Anne Will (Remixes)

Anne Will saw the return of Move D, an artist who had never gone away, but whose profile had been lost in the proliferation of side-projects, aliases, and creative tangents. The track in its original form was an initially unexciting but subtly impressive minimal tech-house number typical of the finely formed, elegant releases on Hamburgs Liebe Detail. Argys remix exhibits the aridity of his similarly super-dry workouts for Pokerflat. Gone is the bassline and the reeling loop melody over it; retained is the sleazoid yeah baby vocal and some of the incidental noises; added is a one-note piano loop and a whole new vibe. Its not particularly arresting, but might work nicely as a suture track.

Vincenzos mix opts for more giddy-up: a tech-leaning re-arrangement and a new melody which recalls some of the signature tones and tendencies of Mobilee. Its a decent piece in its own right, but loses too much of the original in seeking out the party. Lawrences mix, on the other hand, manages to creatively synthesize the originals melody with typically aching Lawrencian motifs. In this case, it’s the introduction of floating chimes (a little like those that function as a storm approaching signal in Alex Smokes productions), then a big build with an introduced synth line which then dissipates, leaving nothing but the chimes, the kick, and one or two other rhythmic effects. A nice, elegant, and efficient EP for fans of the dry, melodic minimal-tech-house thang.

Liebe Detail Spezial / LDS 002
[Peter Chambers]

March 19, 2007

DJ Koze vs. Sid le Rock - Naked

Personality is often a codeword for obnoxiousbut even when it is, theres an affectionate connotation that tacitly states that its no bad thing. With this in mind, let me tell you: this EP has personality. Both Sid (Pan/Tone) le Rock and DJ (Adolf Noise) Koze take a one eyebrow and a brimming glass raised approach to productionif their methods of mayhem intersect, its at a point where irreverence meets festivity to do the wild thang on your mixer.

And boy are they hard at it herethe original manages to conjugate a moody tech-house number to an attack-ready electroid track with the kind of lubricated ease that fractionalises all its friction. Kozes remix grabs the quirky parts by their love handles and wrestles them into a wheezing microhouse groover that sounds like Moodymann dreaming of pre-millenium Herbert. Theres even a vocal sample that sounds like 80s Iggy Pop. The track just keeps growing and morphing, even featuring a signature Koze anti-climax breakdown and breaking strings falling into the abyss with all the vocal snippets. Just these two tracks would be enough to give this work a big thumbs up, but wait kids, theres more.

Es Scheppert Wie Def Leppard reveals the entire vocal from Kozes remix, but here it leads a wonky-ass pop number that rocks like a baby elephant on a rowboat. Then theres Keep it simple, stupid which shows both producers back in their Kompakt Extra/Sender mode and about to saw shit up. I nearly killed my own cereal playing this over a hungover breakfast this morning. Interestingly, Koze and le Roks noise tendencies combined seem to make something like a Basteroid. But thats what happens when people this depraved get naked.

Cereal/Killers / c/k02
[Peter Chambers]

March 2, 2007

Heartthrob - Baby Kate Remixes

Heartthrobs Baby Kate was something of a summer anthem last year after its pole-position appearance on the min2MAX compilation, and while it wasnt really all that memorable in and of itselfsome routine minimal beats, a deep, bending, two-note analog riff, a few stuttering noises and little elseit worked well in everyones sets and that sense of space is also what likely gives it such appeal as a remix. Theres so much room to roam here, so much that can be done with a track that is essentially nothing more than a half-dressed mannequin waiting for someone to come along and drape it in their own fashion. Which is exactly what happens here across seven remixes (including some of those pesky download only versions, which are really starting to boil the blood of we vinyl purists), as the remixers take turns making the cut sound like their own work.

Deep breath and were off. Magda plays it straight by simply rearranging and tweaking the riffs and noises a bit while keeping the same general pulse and tempo of the original in what could easily be mistaken for an alternate take by Heartthrob himself. M_nus newcomer Konrad Black adds some more noises (the ones Magda left out, perhaps?) and a bit more rhythmic percolation to the pot, while Troy Pierce dispenses with the main riff altogether in favor of the sort of noises that come out of a fax machine when youve accidentally dialed one on the phone. Even M_nus boss Richie Hawtin takes a crack heretwice. Hawtins Plastikman mix is a refreshing trip down memory lane to the days of Spastik and Krakpot that keeps things low, thumping, and repetitive, with a few tweaked stabs of the original riff to break the hypnosis. Hawtins other mix is under his long-dormant Robotman guise (remember Doo Da Doo? Aw, yeah!) which follows the same rhythmic template as the Plastikman version, but with a bit more funk to it, not to mention a hi-hat and other bits of sorta housey perc. Good to hear the old boy remixing again, even if the tracks sound nearly exactly like things he did a decade ago.

As for the non-M_nus guests, they provide the more interesting and original work here. Sasha Funke gives the rhythm track a much-needed seeing to while clipping the riff into an altogether more sprightly sounding thing, while Adam Beyer and Jesper Dahlbck up the tempo a bit and work the riff into a big, bouncy dancefloor monster with more energy than the other remixers combined. See what happens when your beat is more than a simple minimal thump in 4/4, kids?

Everything here is good if not great, but I definitely walked away wishing that more remixers with different styles had been invited to contribute, as a few of these versions tread pretty similar territory. What might, say, Audio Werner have done with these elements? Or Alan Braxe and Fred Falke? Or Radio Slave? Or, hell, the DFA? Even if they had failed miserably, the whole package would have been better served by a few more truly different takes. If youre gonna bother with seven mixes, you might as well mix things up a bit more than this.

M_nus / MINUS48
[Todd Hutlock]

February 23, 2007

Paco Osuna - Crazy

Barcelona DJ Paco Osuna makes his Plus 8 debut with this four tracker (and again, a fifth available if you download it from Beatportam I the only one who doesnt like that trend?) and the bouncing, layered minimal tech-house grooves fit the imprint nicely. The title track features a bunch of little ping-ponging analog bleeps and riffs that build in frequency and intensity nicely over the six and a half minutes, but the secret weapon is the sizzling, distorted hi-hat sound that he uses on the breakdowns. Alsound and Joakhim feature a more standard and more fucked up percussion pattern respectively, with the former being more of a trad banger and the latter being more of a funky workout thang.

Closer Sechamps sounds a lot like vintage Plus 8 stuff from the early 90s, but in a good way, and online bonus track Cretine is a slightly slower take on the same style. So all in all, another solid Plus 8 release, but whats really amazing to me is how Richie Hawtin manages to recruit all of these totally diverse artists for his label, then they turn out tracks that fall perfectly in line with the Plus 8 house style, even after more than 15 years. Neat trick, but no one else really does it and we techno fans do tend to be creatures of habit, so I cant complain. Whens Speedy J coming back?

Plus 8 / PLUS8093

[Todd Hutlock]

February 9, 2007

Charts: February 9 2007

Todd Hutlock
Can - Mother Sky (Pilooski Edit) [D*I*R*T*Y Edits]
Tony Allen - Ole (A Remix by Moritz Von Oswald) [Honest Jons]
Riley Reinhold - Point Zero [Trapez]
Damero - Mope [BPitch Control]
Claude VonStroke - Whos Afraid of Detroit? (Tanner Ross Remix) [Dirty Bird]
Thomas Melchior & Luciano - Solomons Prayer [Cadenza]
Villalobos Ioda [Playhouse]
Mikkel Metal - Untitled (Vainquer Remix) [Echocord]
Dub Syndicate - Pounding System [On-U Sound]
Ron Trent & Chez Damier - Hip To Be Disillusioned [Prescription]

Mallory ODonnell
Wendy Carlos - Sonic Seasonings [Columbia]
Morton Subotnick - Silver Apples of the Moon [Nonesuch]
V/A - Sub Rosa Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music, Volume 4 [Sub Rosa]
i-F - Mixed Up In the Hague, Volume 2 [No Label]
Kraftwerk - Ralf & Florian [Vertigo]
Drei Farben House - Any Kind of Feeling [Force Tracks]
Nathan Fake - Outhouse Remixes [Recycled Loops]
Legowelt - The Land of Lonzo [Bunker]
nofloatoutput - the sound of systems failing [Greystate]

Michael F. Gill
Mash Somebody’s Property [Glasgow Underground]
The Work Just Talk (Skatebaard Remix) [Powerblytt]
Sam K Doesnt Matter (Ripperton Remix) [Perspectiv]
Los Angeles T.F. Everliving Fever [Proxima Centauri]
Fake Donna Rouge [Did Records]
Mouzon’s Electric Band Everybody Get Down [Vanguard]
Ritchie Family I’ll Do My Best (For You Baby) [RCA]
Julia & Company Breakin Down (Sugar Samba) [London]
Modeselektor Hello Mom! [Bpitch Control]
MAT101 - Goodbye Mum! [Balance Records]

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 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. Im 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 Id overstated things: it isnt just thata partys all about the people, the venue, the atmosphereyou cant 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 didnt always used to be like that [historical]
b) Its 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. Im not old school, so I cant 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, Tokyos 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 Barbut these places are the exception, rather than the rule.

The Rule is Rex. I have this wonderful/terrible memory of seeing Isole play at Rex in Paris. Isole 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 werent losing their shit, they were giving him shit. Now, I dont speak much French, but it was pretty obvious what this guy was saying. Ill offer what is probably as accurate as a machine translation:

Cmon you pulsating glowstick, pump it up! I paid hard euro for this!
My pill is kicking in, you German pigdog!
Cant you see my prune is pulsatingplay 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 Isole 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.

Its 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 disappearingyou wanna build something, you wanna make something happen? Youre 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 breakageonce established, their inertia will outlive common sense, boredom, even the end of the organism itself. Like Matthew Dears 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. Its 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 Isole well, he just wanted to go off in a timely fashion. Theyve 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 youve 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 weve 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 youre 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]

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