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 worked—see Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young and Derek & The Dominos. Sometimes it wouldn’t—see 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 them—their 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 not—this is nothing if not a “fun” record—this 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]


September 17, 2007

Modeselektor - Happy Birthday!

Actually Modeselektor are excited to become cartoons. The group’s last couple of album covers are giddily aware of it. Inside the cover for Happy Birthday! and on its portly made-for-CD running-time, Modeselektor pound away with ACME anvils and beep beep through open ranges—covering the distance between bangers and ballads. Or, to be fair, it’s just bangers and ballads. That’s it.

Let’s not take away from Modeselektor’s strengths though, the pair is also good at bastardizing genres and music scenes. Their debut album wasn’t named Hello Mum! for no reason. Happy Birthday! just begs to be described in a pragmatic word like “chock-full,” but here’s an overlooked factoid—it’s the first album to be graced by one Thom Yorke which isn’t worried about being tasteful with a capital T.

Being tasteless suits the band just fine. With “2000007,” it also lets them out-prefuse Prefuse 73. Not stuck explaining their exquisite band name or racial politics must be fun, because it definitely sounds a helluva lot more brash and exciting than what Scott Herren is doing these days. The track might be in the genre-netherworld between glitch-hop and euro-crunk, but it’s definitely an unabashed sequel to group’s last album opener with the French rap group TTC.

Modeselektor continue to gleefully plunder their own past as well as others for inspiration throughout the 18 tracks. One notable choice is Scooter and their Teutonic happy-hardcore schlockfest, “Hyper Hyper.” The original isn’t waiting to be rediscovered anytime soon, which makes Modeselektor’s locked-jaw and straight-faced cover even more perfect. Enlisting Otto Von Schirach for the vocal role of Wizard-gone-Return to Oz, with a couple flying monkeys in tow, “Hyper Hyper” is bound to make another generation of kids yell for hardcore all over again.

When the tempo slows, the duo is wise to make their music just as sonically juicy and epic. On their collaboration with Apparat, “Let Your Love Grow,” the group let a field of bulbous synths and trip-hop drum patterns sprout around Paul St. Hilaire, ending up with a dead ringer for Massive Attack. The track is a highlight but one that’s sure to be trumped in notoriety by “The White Flash.” The group’s best contribution to “White Flash” is to let Thom Yorke do what he does best (i.e. play lost angel in our dystopia and moaning into the abyss), and Yorke is perfectly laconic in return—he even twists the euphoric “you have all the time in the world” into something preciously fleeting.

Happy Birthday! constantly reminds me of something Vitalic said in an interview—”I like people screaming in the sound with explosions.” When Modeselektor don’t try to fit every scream and explosion into its folds, the album sags. Tacks like “BMI” and “The Wedding Toccata Theme” sound dull when set against the cartoon-ish extremes of a song like “The First Rebirth,” which comes alive by being chopped and crunked before your ears. Luckily, most of Happy Birthday! finds Modeselektor being so busy being loony tunes that there’s little time to sit still and be bored.

Bpitch Control / BPC 159CD
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


September 14, 2007

Beatzcast #48: Crambe Repetita

Mixes2007

Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music…

Tracklist
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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September 12, 2007

Lopazz - Fuck Me!

A contemporary quandary: if a piece of music isn’t on Discogs, does it exist? I’m beginning to wonder the same thing about myself: without the mirror of myself on Facebook or Myspace (I refuse, I refuse), it’s easy to forget that you “are”. But here is Gigolo #211, a three track EP not noted by Discogs (likely because it’s an internet-only release,) but written by Lopazz in collaboration with Deafny Moon and Savas Pascadilis.

In moving to Gigolo, Lopazz has done the expected and grown in sawteeth and electroid muscles, producing three different tracks that attack the need to groove from three distinct angles: one spooky, one rumble-buzzing, and one poppy. “Fuck Me!” represents the first of the three takes for a dark Ivan Smagghe-ish electro-pop number where the lyric “hold your hand” could easily be mistaken for “gland” in the back room of some seedy nightspot. “What Should I Do” meanwhile rolls over itself like a clumsy polarbear tripping over Metope’s Nord Micromodular, while “Watermelon Man” takes Savas Pascadilis’ voice for a ride into the foolish world of slap-bass minimal disco, creating something not unlike pre-neotrance Schaben and Voss. This is all good stuff, but there’s some intangible factor missing for me to really recommend it. And judging by the high standard set by Lopazz’ recent material, this single is likely to be of middling interest. If indeed it does exist.


International Deejay Gigolos
/ Gigolo 211
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


September 11, 2007

Tussle - Alphabet Series R

Tussle have indie cred: Kit Clayton mastered their album, Rong music released their early EPs, and now Tomlab (home of Deerhoof & the Books) have offered a spot in their “Alphabet Series” of seven-inch EPs to the creative kraut/rock/frotting quartet. On the A, things start in a vein familiar to Trans-Am’s cosmically-inclined moments (like the opening to “Futureworld”), with a motorik jamathon that gathers steam and gradually gets ahead of itself.

It’s nice, but not as cute/irritating as the Yacht remix of “Second Guessing” on the flip, which takes a dosed-up kids choir and subjects them to a raucous attack of cut, paste, and loop. This being a 7″, both sides are pretty short, but Tussle have followed the injunction of Robert Plant and made it “every inch of their love”. To the metric among us, that’s 35.6cm of musical pleasure at stake here.

Tomlab / tom 89R
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


September 10, 2007

San Serac - Professional

It often seems that the sincere ones are the most susceptible to disappearing in the future. Is that ironic or realistic? I think back to the half-remembered NYC indie/new wave group My Favorite, who channeled and built upon the literate poetry and angst of The Smiths and New Order better than any other group I’ve heard. But there wasn’t anything flashy or shockingly innovative about My Favorite’s music, and the fact that they always wore their earnestness on their sleeves eventually sealed their fate to obscurity.

I bring up My Favorite in relation to San Serac because Professional makes a case for the two groups being kindred spirits (not to mention that SS did do a remix for My Favorite’s swansong, The Happiest Days Of Our Lives). However, San Serac, fitting more into the growing indie-dance community, has a more marketable flash in his pan to overcome tags of “sophistication” and “maturity”.

That flash comes from an deeper set of musical influences than your average Ed Banger types, moving beyond the standard Daft Punk aping and post-punk racket to also include a sincere love of ’80s R&B, Funk, Freestyle and, dare I say it, Yacht Rock. The slightly peevish vocals from SS mastermind Nat Rabb may not sound too different from a standard !!! or LCD Soundsystem record (even if he can do a good Bowie impression), but you never get the feeling he is putting you on, even as he is namedropping Luis Buñuel films, rhyming “commission” with “extradition”, and describing his plans for nihilstic love. This unbridled affection manifests itself in small ways throughout the record, but one of the key tip-offs is “The Black Monolith”, a rather heartfelt quiet storm number that could’ve easily been played for raised eyebrows and theatrical pastiche.

If there’s one criticism I might throw at Professional, its that some of the arrangements might be a bit overcooked for dance floor play, a qualm that is actually resolved by the CD’s addition of four dubbed out tracks (billed “for DJs only”) that follow the album proper. For the most part, San Serac has me excited about a fusion of indie rock and dance that is more sophisticated than the Modular or Kitsuné template. Garish and more distorted blog-house artists will get more words written about them, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a classier indie-dance record in 2007 than Professional.

Frogman Jake / FMJ 23
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


September 9, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Weeks 33, 34, & 35

Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 01
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 02
Beatzcast: Freestyle Essentials 03

Pikaya - Cambrium (Cadenza)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: This is not house so much as the ivy that clings to it.

Will Saul & Lee Jones - Hug the Scary
(Aus Music)
Genre: Minimal/Tech, Electro-House

Charts: August 23 2007

Gavin Mueller’s guide to Ghettotech

Future Loop Foundation - The Sea and the Sky (Louisiana Recordings)
Genre: House, Neo-Disco

Osborne - Outta Sight (Spectral Sound)
Genre: Acid, House

Nate DeYoung: If we’re heading into the last days of summer, then by all means let it be soundtracked by shimmering piano-house.

Brendon Moeller - Jazz Space (Third Ear)
Genre: Techno, Dub

False - False (M_nus)
Genre: Minimal/Deep

Andy Stott - Fear of Heights
(Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Minimal/Deep

Peter Chambers: As a child, I used to build my Lego castles as per the instructions, but only the first time. The subsequent re-builds would slowly deviate, riffing around the structures of the original but adding, subtracting and supplementing elements, to the point where my later creations were unrecognisable as mutants of the original.

Tobias Thomas - Please Please Please (Kompakt)
Kaito - Contact to the Spirits (Kompakt)

Nina Phillips: Thomas is too busy crafting to see the dancers looking back at him from the floor. No wonder this was mixed live—in an empty dance club in Cologne.

V/A - Grand Cru 2007 (Connaisseur)
V/A - Rekids One (Rekids)

Nina Phillips: If you build bangers, they will come.


Wiley - Playtime Is Over
(Big Dada)

Chris Gaerig: Playtime Is Over proves that Wiley truly does run the grime game. Hell, he’s the only one left.

Arsenal - The Coming (Idjut Boys Mixes) (Play Out!)
Genre: Downtempo, Balearic

Beatzcast #47: Crambe Repetita

Deepchord Presents Echospace - The Coldest Season (Modern Love)
Genre: Dub, Techno

Todd Hutlock: Basic Channel effectively invented the wheel of this genre, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t admire the latest models to roll off the modern assembly line.


September 7, 2007

Deepchord Presents Echospace - The Coldest Season

2007TechnoCD/AlbumDub

Dub techno is a bit of a challenging listen, much in the same way, say, free jazz is. On first listen, the genres are practically opposites, but in approach and execution, they are remarkably similar—it isn’t about the melodies, it’s about the sounds and the feelings. The “challenge” in free jazz is to follow all the different parts down their winding paths and to see the craft and invention in its rendering. The “challenge” in dub techno is the opposite, to find the excitement and movement in what at first sounds like a static and unmoving piece.

Since dub techno was pioneered by the Basic Channel camp in the early ’90s, casual listeners might not even have noticed much progression—after all, the template is basically the same concoction of deep, muted, echoing chords, subsonic bass lines, compressed hi-hats, and lots of tape hiss—and much the way that Ornette Coleman might sound just like Anthony Braxton to the untrained ear, so might Maurizio sound just like Thomas Brinkmann. Dig a little deeper into either genre, however, and the subtleties and nuances become more and more apparent, and one’s appreciation deepens. The devil may be in the details, but so are the thrills.

Detroit native Rod “Deepchord” Modell—he and Chicagoan Steven “Soultek” Hitchell are partners in Echospace, also a label—has been operating as a shadowy entity for some time now, unleashing limited-run singles over the years that fetch crazy sums on eBay. Now with this, their highest profile and best-distributed release to date, the pair have stepped up and released their masterwork. Judged on its own merits, The Coldest Season should stand as one of the best electronic releases of the year, and one of the best dub techno releases in the last decade.

Certainly, one can appreciate the music here on strictly a background level. The album definitely conjures a mood, and played at a low level, it creates a suitably laid-back, chilled atmosphere—downright icy, in fact. The beats don’t kick in on opener “First Point of Aries” until well past the three-minute mark, giving the swirling, hissing synths plenty of time to work up some steam (or frost, if you will). The tracks tumble and roll into each other through the entire first half of the album, each track morphing into the next, but distinct in themselves, and listening to these transitions, admiring the little differences from track to track, is half the fun of the dub techno experience. “Ocean of Emptiness” is nearly 12 minutes of beatless space; “Celestialis” is a shuffling, almost funky drive through the big city at night. Tiny trails of melody drift, barely audible, through “Sunset,” while “Elysian” ups the percussion and twists and turns the mix actively throughout its, almost aggressive. The biggest and best thrills are saved for last, however, as the closer “Empyrean” is the most inventive and downright catchy thing here, with a percolating rhythm track, spooked-out organ stabs, and a truly inspiring drop out. If anything here makes you leap for the repeat button, it’s this. Otherwise, just playing the entire album on a loop will do just fine, thanks.

With all this in mind, anyone going into The Coldest Season expecting some sort of radical departure from the dub techno style that has proceeded it will likely be disappointed. Basic Channel effectively invented the wheel of this genre, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t admire the latest models to roll off the modern assembly line. There are enough new wrinkles and, yes, thrills here to appeal to devotees and newbies alike.

Modern Love / LOVE 33CD
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


September 7, 2007

Beatzcast #47: Crambe Repetita

Mixes2007

Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music…

Tracklist
01: Johan Agebjorn feat. Sally Shapiro - Spacer Woman From Mars [buy]
02: Basteroid - Error Del Disco [buy]
03: Tensnake - White Dog [buy]
04: Staffan Linzatti - Quibble (Efdemin Remix) [buy]
05: The Viewers - Blank Images [buy]
06: Samim - Heater (Claude Von Stroke Mix) [buy]
07: Solomun - Jungle River Cruise [buy]
08: Innersphere - Phunk (Ricardo Villalobos Remix) [buy]

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September 6, 2007

Arsenal - The Coming (Idjut Boys Mixes)

200712"BalearicDowntempo

When Morrisey entitled his album Your Arsenal, he probably wasn’t just talking about football teams and weapons caches. In Venice of the fifteenth century, your arsenal was just a dockyard (arzenale), but less than a hundred years later, the British were already using (and saying) it as a place to store their weapons. This Arsenal is the Belgian kind, and not the ex-Big Black guitarist’s forays into cat-torture-noise rock. “The Coming” was a ploddy low-key track from their Outsides album, and here it finds its way reworked into downtempo dub-outs from the Idjut Boys, who produce three very different vibes in versions that alternately tickle, stroke, and romp some fluid from the original source.

That particular source is a dreamboat Fujiya and Miyagi soundalike, spongbathed into a bluntbeat fug with vocals that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Whale record. I suppose that makes it some kind of trip-hop whimsy. The Idjuts’ “Version 1″ goes the space-disco route, excavating some dancefloor sparkle from a track that previously wanted nothing but to skin up or roll over. “Version 2″ would work as a minimal tool for the groovewise inclined, and is grounded by a lumberous (to coin a word) bassline that sounds just like the one used on Serafin’s “Nidlenoch”. If it weren’t for the giveaway “spacy” handclaps and bass noodlings, you’d think you were right back there in mnml-land. “Version 3″ brings us back into the realm of the original, but adding in a little fruit juice and sunshine for a gauzy afternoon drift. It’s not overwhelming stuff in any sense, but the comforting roll and sway of each of the versions has made it a morning favourite the past few days. Nice and easy does it.

Play Out! / POM 005
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


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