Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Black Dog's still here!

On this, the last day of the year, it is customary to look over the year and evaluate what great musical things have come our way in the last 12 months. However, since every website, blog, publication, and their granny is doing this I’m just gonna write about something that I’m totally crestfallen that I missed. The most recent album by British techno/IDM stalwarts The Black Dog came out at the end of March of this Year and I didn’t get the memo. The fact that it was released on a label from the city of my birth, Glasgow, Scotland, adds even more insult to injury, the insult that comes from not paying enough BLOODY ATTENTION to what’s going on in the world of proper techno, as I like to call it.

Radio Scarecrow came out on Soma Quality Recordings on March 31st as a CD and a very limited — 230 copies — triple vinyl pack. Would I like to possess the aforementioned three vinyl set? Yesh, I soytenly would, but alas and alack ‘tis undoubtedly sold out. There’s still the CD or digital files from the Soma store, and those may suffice. However, regardless of format this album absolutely rocks from start to finish, over the course of its seventeen tracks. On it, The Black Dog, Ken Downie, Martin Dust, and Richard Dust (of Dust Science Recordings) return to that lush, tricky sound that has been their trademark on IDM classics like “Virtual,” Spanners and Temple Of Transparent Balls.

 The group has never really gone away,  the line up has just changed — estranged members Handley and Turner went on to trade as Plaid — and their profile has lessened somewhat since the ‘90s when IDM was a hot genre. Intelligent electronic music, that you can dance to sometimes, is always a welcome thing in my book, but the lowbrow turn that dance music has taken in this low brow decade has kinda left it in the shadows. Radio Scarecrow shows that though it may not be in the limelight there is always a place for it. This album rolls, twitches, glitches, turns and hovers excellently from start to finish and the boys even fire in a couple of dance floor burners just in case you might think that they’re a trio of glum, Northern English chinstrokers. In fact, “UV Sine,” an abstract fusion of Detroit techno and New Jersey garage shows why djs like Tony Humphries used to drop “Virtual” back in the day.

Radio Scarecrow is a real keeper, extremely listenable and a solid exercise in melodic abstraction. Scoop on sight!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ghostly Round Up

I often feel guilty when I give props to an artist or a label over and over again but sometimes you just can’t help it. This is the case with Ghostly International I believe. In the last week or so I have a covered School Of Seven Bells and Broker/Dealer, two outfits which record for the Ann Arbor, Michigan, based imprint. The debut album by the former is sterling piece of work, while Broker/Dealer’s “Soft Sell EP” contains one of the best dance tracks of the year, the title track.

However, it doesn’t stop there as Ghostly just continue to knock out the quality entertainment across a range of genres. This is what makes Ghostly truly admirable, a dismissal of the need to willingly pigeon hole yourself. Hats off to that in an era that has seen underground music cave to the myopic and narrow focus on sub-genres and the manufactured notion that club music — and black music in general — can only have rap, r&b and syrupy dance pop. Not that all of that is bad either as the commercial producers continue to dumbfound us with increasingly abstract and enthralling beats.

However, thank god there’s a world of music to choose from besides what the corporates prescribe for us. Ghostly’s existence is proof enough that good music will always find some way out of a tight, corporate controlled bind. And serving that purpose this year were albums by British odd rockers, The Chap, and their Mega Breakfast long player, Michna and his Magic Monday opus and singles by Kate Simko, Lawrence, and Matthew Dear with the excellent "Pom Pom." 

I could wax about this label for days, but why bother, it's to better to root through what Ghostly has and see how it suits ya. That way you can surprise yourself with just how kick ass this label is.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Roy Davis and Todd Edwards

What do you write about on Christmas Eve, when you have a gang of music to deal with but you’ve spent so much time downloading it, sending feedback and making sure that it’s somewhere you can find it easily when you do need to listen to it? Simple, you pick out a five-track remix EP by Chicago house music guy Roy Davis Jr. and you gush endlessly about the Todd Edwards remix dub. If only all writing conundrums could be solved this easily.

Scion, those purveyors of boxy, little cars, also have an Audio Visual arm, with which occasionally like to put out digital releases, and the odd rekkid too. So far their releases have centred in and around the accepted modes of club music, i.e. electro and hip-hop, or a combo of both. As I am completely over both of these genres — in their more mainstream leaning forms anyway — I was glad to see that the car people had decided to go into a more groovy direction with Roy Davis Jr. and a host of credible remix talent.

The song is called “I Have A Vision,” a title which smacks of late ‘80s and early ‘90s starry eyed idealism — we could all do with a bit of that right now I think — and makes you want to run and grab your super deep house records and uplifting New York and New Jersey garage toons. Luckily I have an ample supply of all of these types of music, which means I’m always on the hunt for something new and fresh sounding. As the decade winds out and the whole edit/disco retro scenario starts to get long in the tooth (or is it the beard?), we’ll hopefully see and hear some new new sounding gear.

Todd Edwards’s remix dub has a certain freshness to it; it’s fast, slick, groovy and has the producer’s signature chopped up vocal style. It reminds me of his wicked mix of “If I Ever Feel Better” by Phoenix, coupled with the power of Justice (with all their jagged corners smoothed down) and a bit of Speed Garage, which Edwards influenced heavily anyway. I’ve been into his sound since the mid-90s after hearing killer cuts like “Saved My Life” and “Winter Behaviour.” This dub on Roy Davis Jr.’s record is another Edwards classic, not that the other mixes by Fred Falke, The Juan MacLean and Davis himself are sloppy, not at all, but Todd Edwards’s dub contains an effortless funk futurism that used to be dance music’s MO. We’ve taken the step back to re-evaluate the ‘70s and ‘80s, might be time for that step forward. Hopefully.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Les Filles on Le Pop Musik

In the ‘70s and ‘80s you could always rely on the British media, especially the music media, to point out that the French had no real pop music of their own, that their interpretation of youth culture was heavily slanted by a dated reverence for Americana. This was based on the fact that in the English speaking world the only artists of note at that time were crooners like Charles Aznavour. There was a certain amount of xenophobia in these opinions, which bolstered the eminent position of the British as the first, finest and most current interpreters of American musical culture.

This was before the French fairly beat the British around the head with Daft Punk, Motorbass, Julien Jabre, Pepe Braddock et al. and their visionary versions of house music, executed before they handed the baton to Justice so that duo could shred the music through a refractive lens of irony, hair metal and good fun. However, the French always had their own, traditional popular music and song called Chanson, the origins of which dated back to the twelfth century and epic poem songs like The Song of Roland. This tradition has lasted up to this day, and is undergoing a renaissance as it looks to modern artists like Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel for inspiration.

Now there are a host of new French artists creating music in this vein and thankfully there is a German label that is championing it with individual artist releases and reliable compilations. The label is called Le Pop Musik and it is based in Cologne and one of its latest offerings is a compilation called Les Filles. It drops in Europe on January 26th and in the US on February 1oth. It is an excellent sixteen-track collection containing music by female artists. These include Barbara Carlotti, whose stirring “Mademoiselle Opossum” opens the record. Other stirring offerings include Fredda’s “Barry White,” the beautiful “Clash Dans La Tempo” by Constance Amiot and the girlish and irresistible “Cupide Et Stupide” by Austine. The risqué, joyful and hilarious video above is by Marianne Dissard, a French woman living in Tucson, Arizona, who has collaborated with both Calexico and Giant Sand, and whose husband, Naim Amor, has done likewise.

I was introduced to this label via Le Pop Musik’s Le Pop 4 collection in the sping of last year. I do like what I hear as it is perfect listening music and isn’t it nice to hear pop music sung in a different language (I get guilty pleasure from some J Pop too). Plus Jeanne Cherhal’s closer “Si Tu Reviens J'annule Tout” is magic and the album just gets better and better with each listen. Check this, it came out and if you're keen on fragile girls singing in French and making you sigh, then you might want to check this blog on the regular,


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Toob - Dervish Angel

This one came out on Monday and I think it’s kinda nice. The record is called “Dervish Angel” and it’s by a British act called Toob. The music is house inflected with dreamy, narcotic nuances and a dark little edge that catches you off guard. The Clouded Vision Remix will probably do the most damage on the dance floor and it sounds quite pleasant in your ear holes too, when yer away from the dance floor. The duo appeared on Bomb The Bass’s last album, Future Chaos, and have been putting out material on labels Process Recordings and Lo Recordings for a minute. Keep an eye and an ear peeled for them. Pretty boys they may not be, but they make a pretty noise, and that’s what counts. Or did.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Broker/Dealer in exquisite techno manoeuvres.

I’m kinda up to my naddlies in new records but pushed this one to the front of the priority pile as it rocks in a grand style. It’s a four track EP (on wax, five on the digital release) by San Francisco based duo Broker/Dealer on Ann Arbor’s Spectrum Sound label, a Ghostly International side imprint. The Ryans, Bishop and Fitzgerald, comprise the outfit and produce what is, in my humble opinion, some of the best dance music coming out of SF right now, along with releases by folks like Claude Von Stroke, the Martin Brothers and Nick Chacona.

Von Stroke and the Martins deal in techno with a bounce happy sound that is as abstract as it is playful, while Fitzgerald and Bishop opt for a galactic glide that hints at hours listening to Basic Channel, Il Discotto, Underground Resistance and Logic System. The title track of this record exhibits that tendency in all its glory and is hooky and majestic all at once

Thomas Fehlmann, a collaborator with The Orb and a former member of Palais Schaumburg, provides two mixes (only one appears on the wax, two on the digital release) which take a more minimal route with a gritty and funky groove. And there is an extra track called “Save It For Later,” which also works quite nicely on the ears and arse. The title track is the one for me though, deep techno from some sound heads. Check it, and wreck it.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas in Discoland

Here we see two completely different approaches to Christmas carol/song covers. The first, by Italo disco legend Alexander Robotnick, aka Maurizio Dami, is the completely barking mad, ravey, burn yer fake beard while lighting your fag approach. The second one is a much more Scandinavian and polite take on the idiom by Norwegian artist Lindstrøm, and friends. Both are equally valid, with Lindstrøm's Paul McCartney cover being a delightful accompaniment to the early and civilized part of the day, while Robotnick's will do just fine when all the food's been scoffed, quite a bit of hard liquor has been imbibed and the kids — rushing on a savage amount of sugar — are on top of the tree chucking baubles at you and screaming total gibberish in your general direction.

Thanks to Sir Anthony of the Mansfields for posting a link to the Lindstrøm vid on myshpace. Anthony makes rekkids with Nick Chacona, djs...a lot and runs the Hector Works label (I'm not sure if Hector works there, but call his mum too find out, if you're curious, or bi, curious even, snicker). He's based in Shan Francishco, and if you don't concur that his rekkids and remixes are fab –check his TJ Gorton remix and Greg Wilson's rework of "Oh Snap" — he will come to your town and point at you and then bear hug you until you relent. So relent now, as relenting laterz could lead to unrelenting embarrassment, and that's the tired and not so funny relenting usage put to rest.

I just love the Paul McCartney original and Lindstrøm's version is pretty damned faithful and you could have a bit of dance to it while pulling a cracker with granny, the Robotnick version is good whilst listening to the sleigh bells, and galloping reindeer in your your your mind. Can also did a version of "Silent Night" and it's on the b side of the 12 inch of "I Want More," and came to my attention in the winter of 1989 when I successfully blagged one off a friend back in ze old country. He wanted Sonic Youth's Sister on wax, which I had, and I wanted the Can 12" which he had. 

We reached a harmonious accord in relation to the transaction and I haven't looked back since, except when I'm walking through the Tenderloin in the wee hours and behind me I hear feet shuffling, blades being pulled or someone screaming "wurrarrghaaah" (which is always, but coincidentally, the name of someone who lives on the third floor of a building and has a copious amount of serious narcotics). Enjoy the yuletide machinations that are laid out before us like a cornucopia of gorgeousfulness, dear readers, and I will take my leave. Hokay!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

School Of Seven Bells' Alpinisms Album

I was going to write a super long-winded treatise on this album using words and phrases like post-modern, musique concrète, neo-psychedelic and post ambient dub trip rock, but decided strongly against that and just vouched for a simple message instead. School of Seven Bells’ Alpinisms album fucking rocks — albeit in a gentle way that creeps over you in a wave of controlled euphoria — and I would advise everyone and their granny to go out and buy it immediately and without further delay, hesitation, pause or procrastination on anyone’s (or their granny’s) parts — not that this blog (or anywhere else) is a forum for discussing your granny’s parts or your parts either. There are other places to do that and this not one of them. Hokay!

Seriously though, this record is a damned good one, and Ghostly deliver ze goods once again. The Chap aren’t three bad eever.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ghostape - Many Stars EP.

Out of a lot of the new stuff I’ve heard recently in the electronic side of things a cheeky little five tracker from a Swiss artist named Ghostape was a breath of fresh air to say the least. It’s coming out tomorrow on UK label People in the Sky. It’s cute, quirky, danceable, unself-conscious and contains a coupla two or three tight remixes, especially the one by Danish artist Screen Tests. I’ve already reviewed it here, so have a listen and a read and enjoy yer Sunday. Hokay!


Meninblack Part 2

All this twee rock and dance music just pushes me to listen to edgier, harder music that truly exhibits angst, anger and hunger. The first three Stranglers albums do this with bells on and the fact they were lambasted as misogynists, racists etc. etc. was ample proof that they riled the British music press with their talent, lack of interest in punk pigeon-holing and general lack of respect for the journalists themselves.

Bass player JJ Burnel got into some fisticuffs with NME journalists and fellow musicians, but a lot of British rockers of that era — Siouxsie and Paul Weller included — made violent overtures about music hacks. The Stranglers just delivered on the threats and then wound things up more by pushing all the taboos they could in the press’s face. NME regarded the band as not punk enough because they were older, had members with long hair and featured a keyboard player. But the band weren't trying to be punk, they just happened to be around at the same time as the budding genre and had a dark, aggressive sound that resonated with punk rockers. 

Regardless, the first three Stranglers records are a great exercise in gifted musicianship, a non guitar hero approach to rock — Burnel and Cornwell shared lead vocals — and a musical style that couldn’t be put in a neat, punk box. The Raven, their fourth, is a pretty neat affair too, although showing more of a pop leaning. Some of the tracks from all these albums are timeless, and sound as forward looking and modern as much of the rock coming out now.

The combination of JJ Burnel’s bass and Dave Greenfield’s unbelievable, baroque tinged keyboard playing and synth work made their music intricate, aggressive and otherworldly all at one. They sounded like the Doors colliding with Kraftwerk and The Flamin’ Groovies. I grew up on those albums and I go back to them often for ideas and inspiration, now, more than ever. Their music proves that you can be angry, pissed off and intelligent all at once and that you don’t have to cave at the feet of an elite world view that’s fascist at one extreme and overly politically correct at the other, because there are no parameters in self-politics or good music. There are in dogma and crap music.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Meninblack Part 1

Thanks to the man like James Glass for hipping me to the absofuckinglutely killer youtube video above featuring the stellar talents of both The Stranglers and Peter Cook. James is a bit of a stellar talent himself, on the wheels of steel, and on the edit and like myself is an old school Stranglers fanatic. Check his selections of the Golden Goose label and keep an eye peeled for when he is behind the ones and twos.

We are both currently lamenting the fact that everything musical we love — dance music and rock — has become so damned wimpy that we might be forced to go metal. Even techno has wimped out as it becomes more of an ultra-generic software workout for jet setters with great programming skills and not a note in their head. Anyway as the cities become more and more expensive to live in, and you get less and less for your buck, the task of creating music has fallen hard on the delicate shoulders of the progeny of the wealthy.

Oh, they should show us the extent of their struggle and hunger while creating twee offerings replete with shrill vocals and music that has “always had an Arthur Russell and Liquid Liquid” quality to it.” This will be an antedote to our drab proletarian lives. However, I would rather just pull out Black And White by The Stranglers and wallow in its dark and caustic post apocalyptic vision to be honest.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Meninblack intro

In the last month or so I have been writing about new dance music and older rock music. And it’s only today that I’ve really thought about why that is so, because at this point I’m kinda a little bored with both and with some of the newer rock I’m hearing too. Perhaps, I got up on the wrong side of the bed today. Well, my bed’s against a wall so maybe I’m getting up on the wrong side of it every day (a chorus of chimpmunk voices chimes in saying, “Yeah you do, you fucking asshole!”). Hanx for that.

New dancey stuff is getting all quiet, cosmic and contemplative, kinda like trip hop without the minor jazz chords, dodgy compilations and start up parties with an ice sculpture (San Fran circa 1999). While some of the new rock I’m hearing sounds like “we made this album with the trust fund of the singer, drummer and bass player and we’re going to do our godsdarnests to exercise our bourgeois ennui if it kills us — or gives us a nasty blister on our pinkies. Twee to say the least, and then on the electronic front there’s been a serious outbreak of balearia.

Balearia is a disease that’s contracted when you mix the eclectic dj sets of ‘80s and early ‘90s Ibiza classics with yacht rock, Italo disco and Baldelli classics, It causes you to grow a beard and speak in a quiet voice like the whispering guy out of the Old Grey Whistle Test. Advanced forms of it reportedly make you Norwegian, but you’d have to check in with the World Health Organization for more info on that.

I think it’s hilarious that Balearic has become a genre, given that it’s a style of djing where eclecticism was a prerequisite. Welcome to corporate style marketing for underground music. Which leads to me to pull out one of my old favorites and write about it, basically because I want to hear something that’s keyboardy and weird but has balls. You could always rely on The Stranglers for balls and their music is a beautiful fusion of testosterone, an excess of good drugs, Devo, Kraftwerk, The Doors, acid rock and dark sarcasm.

More on this is a bit.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Killing Joke Part One

My friend Raf who writes the absolutely banging blog, Gold Code, just posted about Killing Joke’s phenomenal “Almost Red” EP and it got me thinking about the band, one of my favorites, along with The Stranglers. I love Raf’s blog ‘cos it sidetracks away from all the dance music obscurer than thou dick swinging and occasionally focuses on stuff that’s under your nose and that’s not dance music while also keeping tabs on killer classics in the boogie, Cosmic, hip-hop, house and Italo realms. And he posts mp3s. It’s a good read, no doubt.

And Killing Joke was/is a good listen, a brutal, yet complex, fusion of punk, Moroderesque electronics, disco, funk, Kraut rock and dub reggae. However, this potent concoction of sounds didn’t detract from a rage that was palpable, an anger that was moulded from coming of age in Thatcher’s no hope, no future, class war plagued Britain. Listen to tunes like “War Dance,” “Psyche,” “Requiem” and “Change” for evidence of that, and a dark edge that set them apart, putting them somewhere in the same realm as the equally dark horse group The Stranglers.

Like the Meninblack they had a kick ass bass player, in the shape of Youth, the man who brought the disco and reggae quotients for sure. Legend has it that in the ‘80s he would sneak off to New York for a month every year to check out the music and clubs etc. He would tape every mix show on WBLS that he could and then bring the tapes back to the UK to share with friends like NME writer Kris Needs. This was the age of Shep Pettibone playing dubbed out, three deck clusterfucks of avant funk. Youth took that inspiration and applied it to the production he provided on cuts like Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill. He also dated Bush, the jammy fucker, as did Stranglers bass player Jean Jacques Burnel. Shoulda taken up the bass sooner, huh?

Legend also has it that the entire band ran off to Iceland in 1982 because their occultist beliefs led them to the conclusion that the world was about to end, and Iceland was the best place to avoid the fire and brimstone. It seems the opposite is the case in the current financial maelstrom. Despite numerous line up changes they always operated as a quartet with Jaz Coleman on vocals and synths. Coleman also managed to collaborate with Anne Dudley from Art of Noise on a project that combined electronic, middle eastern and classical musics, and produced an album of Māori inflected music using master Māori players. Thus he didn’t resort to samples like the new agey twiddlings of Enigma et al.

To be continued….


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank Ya, Thank Ya!!

It’s a day for giving thanks so let’s give thanks for two absolutely slammin’ jams that display gratitude in a very excellent fashion. First up is Sweet D’s absolutely banging Chicago house classic from ’86. This was the work of the legendary Chip E. — a man responsible for some early and innovative jackin’ moments — and Danny Wilson, who worked with the likes of Farley Jackmaster Funk, Victor Romeo and DJ International head Rocky Jones. For an early house jam it’s pretty well put together and has a real uplifting feel with this is not a moody, deep or acidic number, this one is brimming with bright, joyful keys and a driving bass line that could still rock a dance floor.

This one smacks of what Chicago house was all about, synthetic disco, and you need disco to synthesize in order to have the ersatz version. The disco tune that begat or inspired “Thank Ya” was Cheryl Lynn’s blinding 1978 number “You Saved My Day” from her eponymous debut album (the one which contains that Marina chick perennial “Got To Be Real”). No doubt this one was a favorite at the Music Box, The Warehouse and on the WBMX radio station. Sweet D’s imitation of Miss Lynn’s flawless soul nugget is a reminder that the soul needs to be put back in the mix. It’s good to remember r&b and soul in all its incarnations, but who’s gonna bring it back for the next phase? Hopefully one day we’ll be thanking some people for that.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New EP by Larry Heard.

Larry Heard - 25 Years From Alpha [Buy It Here]

Larry Heard has a new one out on his own Alleviated label in conjunction with Black Market in the UK. It’s a three track EP called “25 Years From Alpha” and as you can expect it’s a bit of a keeper. It was released yesterday so it should be showing up in the specialist stores pretty damned soon. On it Heard covers a range of moods, with the title track, a fifteen minute plus pulsathon and excellent dj tool, sounding like his take on Italo disco – not that his track “Stars” under the Mr, Fingers monicker didn’t do the same thing back in ’87. Track two, “Mercurian Funk,” is a kicky fusion of sleek electro, deep house and Fela sounding keyboards. And the final track, “Feathers Floating” is delicate like its title and displays the kind of subtlety that made his Sceneries Not Songs, Genesis and Alien albums so essential.

If you’ve been a fan of Larry Heard for many years then this one solidifies his reputation for creating beautiful electronic soundscapes that you can dance or chill to. Keep an eye peeled for this one as it’s a worthy addition to his already legendary canon of work.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another New Bear Funk Rekkid That's Rather Pleasant And Other Thoughts Of That Ilk!

It hasn’t been that long since I wrote about the last Bear Funk release by Italian producer Arturo Capone (and Capone has an album coming at the beginning of December). This time around the pressure comes from British musician Alex Cordiner aka Lusty Zanzibar. I imagine when his EP, For My Friends, (4 tracks on the wax, 6 tracks digital) drops on December 1st it should create quite a stir with the djs and dancers who have been getting kicks out of the stuff that the likes of Aeroplane have been putting out recently.

Once again this music is being thrust into ready made genres like Nu disco and Balearic (yeah Chris Rea and Mister Mister would sound dope next to “Pacific Air Race”) but the truth is that it is just great, well produced dance music, which happens to be melodic and nicely arranged. Melody is for airheads as minimal techno’s dearth of music and abundance of whooshy noises has sagely proven. Why bounce around to a tricky bass line with lush strings when you can stroke your chin to a two note bass line and no strings? And don't get me wrong there's a fair bit of minimal that I like, Konrad Black is the man, Heartthrob has done some nasty tracks, Dan Bell rules from on high, Kompakt can do no wrong and Will Saul is on point. It's just that there is a lot of it that's plain boring. Sorry.

I think you can almost map the direction that electronic dance music is taking: the melody of Italo, disco and Cosmic gear is being deftly absorbed into modern productions by artists like Reverso 68, Phreek Plus One and Aeroplane, and that is all set to crash into a just bubbling fixation with a diverse amount of late ‘80s and early ‘90s gear, ranging from Weatherall remixes and Balearic bombs from the likes of Sheer Taft and BBG to the NY garage nuggets which are being given the twice over.

Lusty Zanzibar’s killer EP from Steve Kotey’s Bear Funk label is another step in the right direction. It’s driving, yet extremely musical and uplifting. No pianos. but I’m sure those are just around the corner, when someone in NY gives the Baldelli chinstroking a miss for a second, puts down that Steel Mind record and picks up an FPI Project 12 inch it’ll be on like Donkey Kong. Now a prayer,

Dear Father who carts in obscene
amounts of obscure rekkids, hallowed
be thy slightly worn copy of LB Bad’s EP
on Nu Groove. Will thou send us a party
thrown by people who aren’t proprietary
and who aren’t generic with their music, and
give us rekkids with melodic synthy bits,
strings and girls singing about life affirming
stuff. You can also ditch the banging electro,
irony and no name djs from LA who can’t mix
but are real handy with traktor. You can send
some that can mix and that might be handy with
a tractor (like a John Deere peut être ).

Nice one Steve Kotey. Keep em coming, and keep on keepin’ on and on (Fears Keep On).


Thursday, November 20, 2008

New stuff, old stuff and Sideshow

Sometimes it takes me a minute to get inspired and it’s hard to be all perky when the economy is going down the drain and you’ve spent the entire decade having your self-esteem downsized, struggling under the imbecile prince. Also the very tiring fixation with the ‘80s is beginning to seriously wear thin and that includes the slavish hunting for rare boogie, Italo etc. When you’ve gone through some music like three times in your lifetime — when it was released, when it was exhumed in the ‘90s and when the carcass is finally flogged in this decade — then you know it’s time to move on.

However if you're a younger vinyl junkie then you are where we old, jaded vinyl whores have been and we enjoyed every second of it and so should you, whether you're reading blogs, checking discogs or chancing on the tunes at used stores and thrift outlets. There's worse things to be doing than scooping old toons and may all the Mid Airs, Samson & Delilahs and Assos fall into your sweaty mits like manna from heaven. Plus you'll have the joy of turning up all the tunes we missed!

Time for some new shit perhaps, or time to shift up a gear to fixate on the records that came out after the boogie, Italo and raw house. And lo and behold there are some dope new records coming out, and though they may tip their hat to the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s so what. The great thing about slavishly hunting down old records is that their ideas and the joy you feel at scooping them can be projected into making new music yourself.

If you haven’t checked the Control EP by Ecce, which I wrote about on Sunday, please do so. The more I listen to both the original and the Justus Köhncke remix, the more excited I get about this kick ass record. The same can be said of the forthcoming Sideshow record, which will be dropping in January 2009 on the impressive British label Aus Music. A full length will follow in February, and this, first, single is a wicked piece of work. It features remixes from both Chateau Flight and Appleblim & Komonazmuk, with the digital release giving you two more mixes than the wax; a dub of the original mix and an Appleblim & Komonazmuk dub.

What more can I say about this frigging fantastic record? Well the Chateau Flight dub is outstanding, it’s a minimal techno thing that isn’t boring (a rare thing indeed), is very dubby and rather dancey. Also Paul St. Hillaire aka Tikiman — who sang on all those dope Rhythm & Sound and Round records — sings on this here record, I thought I’d leave the best to last. The A & K mixes are no miss either, fast, dubby and uplifting, they’ll sound good pitched back a tad too. Keep an eye out for this, it’s definitely a keeper.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Rapture come correct with a kick ass mix!

I’m always on the look out for a good mix cd, and to be honest they don’t come around too often. Howeverz, !K7 have just dropped a doozy in the shape of The Rapture’s Tapes mix. OK, it’s been out for a minute, well since the end of October — that explanation is for people who regard a record old if it has been out for more than four months. I think a record is old if it’s been out for more than four decades. It’s obvious that The Rapture feel the same way as the playlist touches on a number of decades, and a number of genres…thank god!

There’s a lot to be said for the non-generic mix, but a lot can be condensed down into one tried and tested truism, variety is the spice of life. It works for food, and so “If music be the food of love, play on,” to quote the great scribe. As I keep saying, generic stuff bores the knickers off me: house all night — unless it’s played by the likes of Tony Humphries —is tiring, minimal techno mind numbing and so on. And a surplus of generic retro leaves me similarly fatigued, be it boogie, disco or Italo.

Dance music is a continuum, and Djs like Humphries, Levan and Hardy knew that in the mid ‘70s. Now we have three more decades of it to cherish, program and rock. On The Rapture’s Tapes mix this passion for dance music down the ages is displayed in spades, with tracks from the ‘70s sharing space with tunes that dropped a month ago. Plus dance is viewed in a broad sense, in that genres like hip-hop and Go Go make an appearance too, showing that the essence of this mix is completely in tune with the spirit of eclecticism that gave rise to music forms like house, techno and hip-hop.

The current uber-penchant for pigeon holing yet still referring to the music as underground has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Pigeon holing, in reality, is deference to corporate label niche marketing and that is at once irritating and treacherous to the underground. Wanna keep the underground alive? Mix it up. Scoop this CD a listen to how it’s done properly. That a rock band should be showing the dj community the correct use of dance music is definitely food for thought… and deed, indeed. It’s a kick ass mix and will hopefully inspire a new wave of djs to drop the top 40 mash up shit, and mash up the club classics of the past and the present. So come and join the future!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ecce - Control EP

Sorry for the delay in posting some new material. I’ll admit it, I’ve had a block and so I spent the time compiling a humungoid mailing list from the seven years of emails that I have saved. I’ve only gotten as far as the ‘Js’ so there’s a lot more to do. However, what’s the point in having a mailing list for yer blog when there’s nothing new written? So true!

To that end let me tell ya about a new rekkid that crossed my path. It’s called the Control EP by an artist named Ecce. It’s on a label called August Day Recordings, which is a sister label of Tirk, a UK label that has given some some gorgeousful music in the past and evidently continues to do so. Ecce is a pseudonym used by Nicholas Lisher, whose music was discovered by ex-Cure keyboardist Roger O'Donnell. O’Donnell released a couple of Lisher’s tunes on his “Nothing Concrete” 99x/10 label sampler.

Lisher has been producing more material, and his music is a subtle fusion of shoegaze rock, krautrock and electronics. This new EP, out on November 24th is just that and more. Plus German minimal star Justus Köhncke provides a kicky and melodic mix of the title track. The other three tracks are lush, layered with crisp and ever so English vocals. Great stuff actually, and lyrically engaging. Can’t wait for a full length!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Spirit Catcher at Mighty this Friday, November 14th.

The more I listen to these Belgian electro types the more I like 'em, and their performances — of which there are quite a few on youtube — seem really passionate. I'm looking forward to throwing down some tunes with these guys. Once again more quality entertainment from Mighty, arguably the best club in San Fran thus far!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Pavement - Brighten The Corners Reissued/Remastered

When I’ve spent a week up to my nadulettes in dance music and dance records and thoughts about dance records etc. etc. etc., what I want to do is settle down with a nice rock record and then try to formulate some coherent thoughts about it. Incoherent thoughts can work too, but hopefully my disjointed brainwork will somehow appear in an organized fashion. It’s all I can hope for.

I also hope for promo rekkids, and today I got a nice one. On December 9th Matador Records will release a remastered and amended version of indie rock heroes Pavement’s classic 1997 album, Brighten The Corners. The two disc set is called Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creedence Ed. and it contains the original album in a remastered form plus out takes of the original recording sessions, Peel Session material, KCRW sessions, single b sides, unreleased tracks, songs from various compilations and tribute collections and cover versions of The Fall, Faust and Echo and the Bunnymen toons

Altogether it is a faboolas paskage and I will be listening to it until the cows, ducks, hens and a small number of disenchanted ponies come home. Keep ears and eyes peeled fo it. Also keep an ear and eye peeled for a new solo LP on Stones Throw from Omar Rodriguez Lopez of The Mars Volta. There will be more on that later.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Blame It On The Boogie Part 4

The New York producers took the deep, abstract, Chicago vibe, melded it with the garage classics of their beloved hometown djs and created a utopian robot disco that sprung forth from imprints like Strictly Rhythm, Nu Groove, E-Legal, Nervous, Quark and Bottom Line Records, amongst many, many others. A new era awaited, a new era awaits, and obviously some of the new players have done their homework. Let’s wait and see what comes, if the spirit and optimism of 89/90 is recreated and advanced. And don't laugh at the youtube movie at the top, this was one of the raw, early '90s tracks that really defined the sound and pointed it in the direction that house/garage took, from the sparse MAW dubs that followed to Pierre's Wild Pitch sound and the stripped down and bassy vibe of Kerri Chandler's tracks. If you're tripping on Italo and boogie, you're in no position to laugh believe me, even if you are getting messages from the stars. Ha ha!

And I know what you’re thinking, how can I be doubtful about the retro fixation around boogie yet champion the retro sounds of the early ‘90s? Well, the early ‘90s were a watershed for club music. All the innovation that had been going on since the mid-70s, through the ‘80s with the post-disco and electro –funk/modern soul/boogie sounds and out into the raw sounds of Chicago house and the robo-funk of Detroit techno somehow seemed to come to fruition in the slick sounds emanating from house producers in NY, NJ, and Miami (let’s not forget about Murk).

Another aspect of the ‘90s that separates it from the ‘80s and its raw, analog dance music was that the Europeans jumped wholesale on house and techno. The British really excelled, and the Italians, well the Italians kind of invented house music and so their take on it was as forward looking, inspirational, under publicized, and as hard to find as its Italo disco predecessor. In fact the Italian producers just kept going, and the shift from Italo disco to Italo house was almost seamless like one of Alex Neri’s or Andrea Gemolotto’s transitions on the decks. Smooth was not the word for the early ‘90s, — the late ‘90s yes — slick was the word. Watch it all roll around again!


Friday, November 7, 2008

Arturo Capone's New EP On Bear Funk

Amid all the reminiscing there is still time for some new tunes across a whole range of styles. Those gorgeousful types over at Bear Funk in the UK sent me this little doozy a coupla days ago and I have to admit it’s a keeper. This three track EP is a is a sampler for Italian producer Arturo Capone’s forthcoming album, Miocuore, and is firmly in the neo-Balearic — that’s a new sub-genre I just invented ‘cos we really need another one, no doubt — Cosmic disco ballpark. “Curcuma” and Max Essa’s mix of “Waves” really do it for me and will be receiving repeated spins. It drops on Monday the 10th of November so rush out and scoop it himmediately. Hokay?


Blame It On The Boogie Part 3

Months went by and the Virgo LP didn’t show up in my local vinyl emporiums. I was living in Galway on the west coast of Ireland and though some good US, UK and Italian imports would come through, the Virgo Four album didn’t materialize and I wasn’t flush enough with cash to do mail order from the UK. I figured if I waited it out, it would show up, being the tightwad Scotsman men that I am. The Techno 1 album I’d heard from my buddy Damian who made a timely trip to London in late summer of 89 and came back with some gems, including Model 500’s Interfearance EP on Metroplex. I liked Techno 1 a lot and I needed one for myself. Now I have a few, que shouts of "Sad bastard." Thank you!

Then one day months later — probably a wet, cold Saturday evening in January or February of 1990 while scurrying around Derry, Northern Ireland during a trip back home to the north — I stepped into Woolworth’s and while looking through their vinyl section and its sale items I found a mint Virgo Four LP for one pound sterling. Nice! I was delighted, and I still am. This is a great record, it continues with the cerebral house music that Larry Heard blueprinted with Mr. Fingers and the Amnesia album.

While the phrase deep house has been misappropriated and misunderstood — mostly by showboating new jacks who near sightedly associate all house with yuppies and jazziness — the Virgo Four and Amnesia records are the true essence of deep house, as is Baby Ford’s first LP. The sounds are still electronic and abstract however, the rough, yet endearing, corners of the early jack trax have been smoothed off, leaving a machine music that is at once robotic and utopian. This is the music that would lay the foundation for the visionary dance music that was beginning to come out of New York and New Jersey, garage as it was known. That music form fused the lush creations of the Chicago innovators with the canon of club classics that had been played by Tee Scott, Larry Levan and Bruce Forest.

To be continued


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Blame It On The Boogie Part 2

It seems that we are indeed on the cusp of a new era, but will that mean a new era of music also? There are definitely rumblings in the underground — an underground that can’t stay underground for too long these days — Balearic signals, promises of future party euphoria, and perhaps a move away from the raucous irony that has befallen us, and the bling that won’t stop.

If a wave of the type of music on the record pictured above fell on us I wouldn’t be complaining at all. Virgo Four’s album from 1989 is essentially a UK compilation of two separate EPs on the infamous Trax Records label out of Chicago. One of the EPs is credited to Virgo Four, the other to M.E., but both are by Eric Lewis and Merwyn Sanders, who moonlighted as Ace & The Sandman. Virgo Four was often confused with the Chicago project that featured Adonis, Marshall Jefferson and Vince Lawrence, and which gave us the magic EP that featured the stellar, abstract house/boogie creation "R U Hot Enough." Wrongly naming the Virgo Four album Virgo by Virgo didn't help matters either.

I read a review of this record in the fall of 1989 in an electronic keyboard magazine that also featured an interview with Derrick May and a review of the Techno 1 compilation on KMS. I was intrigued by the description of the music and also by the fact that the reviewer used the word 'electronica' to describe tracks on the Virgo Four record and Techno 1 as well, R-Tyme’s “Illusion” in particular. Electronica wasn’t a word that was in general use in 1989, 1999 maybe but not ten years prior, and even if wikipedia says it wasn't used until the early 90s in the US, it is incorrect because it is used in that review in a British magazine from 1989 and I'll wager the term was floating around in the pre house/non-dance electronic music scene from the '70s onwards.

It’s use in this article was in relation to the fact that both records featured tracks that had a dreamy mood, an ambience much like that of the heady German music of the mid to late ‘70s. To me this is the real meaning of electronica, not the bastardized version of the word that popped up in post rave America as the perfect tool to sell dodgy compilations to dotcom yuppies. Ashra, Cluster and Kraftwerk; this was the electronica that the review referred to and to place the lusher and more abstract Detroit techno and Chicago house tracks in that realm was interesting to me at the time — though everyone around me was too busy having a good time to indulge my earnest chinstrokery, and a typical reaction to any poignant thoughts by me on the subject was a salty, Irish wave of "shut up Orr, quit the pontificating and put on another record, ya bollix." Nice, huh?

To be continued


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blame It On The Boogie Part 1

Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s some kind of collective end of decade psychosis or it might just be all the economic panic that’s been happening of late, but I’m a bit out of sorts. I’ve been shaken from my work-a-day routine and pushed in the direction of some unknown future. I’ve been through some unknown futures before and faced them bravely, but perhaps I was younger then and not as bedeviled by self-doubt. I admire those who are rarely plagued by this frame of mind, but when those who show no self-doubt hit some snag or encounter some disaster I rarely want to be around for the ensuing egoist melt down. It’s just not my bag!

I’m also encountering other things that are not my bag as the decade — thankfully — fades out. One of these things is the slavish adherence to retro music styles, especially within the realm of dance music. I’ve done my fair share of frantic digging, believe you me, but the current uber fixation on disco, Italo, and in particular boogie, seems not only a little late but also a reflection of a past time, surprise, surprise!

In 1987 in London there was a similar retro fixation. It was called Rare Groove. It centered around obscure ‘70s 45s and LPs. DJs and collectors would spend silly money on the tunes, and a faithful would show up, often decked out in the then trendy '70s look (often referred to as 'radical chic'), and a lot of posing and semi dancing would ensue. Sound familiar? Even though I am up to my armpits in obscure records I have always viewed dance music as a continuum, from which you could pull some appropriate classics and mix them with stuff that was newer or brand new.

Focusing on one retro era or genre just seems redundant to me and, like London in the late ‘80s, a harbinger of the shock of the new about to hit, and what a timely day to think about this. In 1987 rare funk and hip-hop ruled the London cool dancefloors and hi energy and Euro-disco ruled clubs in general. In 2008, we have rare groove boogie and we have the high energy sound of electro, in its crunchy, glitchy, ultra white, Ed Banger derived form. In 1987 house music culture swooped down from Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham cleared all the posing, standing about, cocaine yuppie fests and bad music out of the way. And of course there was the London crew of Oakenfold, Holloway, Weatherall and Boys Own whose frequent trips to Ibiza had also shaped the musical outlook of that city's dancefloors.

Who needed to pay three hundred pounds for a funk 45 that was sampled by EPMD when you could buy a new Rhythim is Rhythim 12 inch for six quid? The new is not always good, but a glut of anything is just that, and when you’ve just lived through a decade that has been a re-run of the ‘80s do we need a last hurrah of  idolatory for that decade, and for the next one to be a re-run of the ‘90s? Maybe not, but there are some late ‘80s/early ‘90s musical attributes that might be welcome.

To be continued.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Oíche Shamhna Shona Daoibh

You wot, come again. All the post title means is Happy Hallowe’en To Everyone, but in Irish Gaelic. Hey, the Celts started all this spooky stuff hella way back in the day, as they say. Hallowe’en is a Christianized version of the ancient Celtic Festival of the Dead and the Celtic New Year, or Samhain in Gaelic, but I won’t bore you with tedious details just check out the links for some more info.

Hallowe’en in San Francisco is a whole other kettle of bananas altogether, or is it? Dressing up, getting down, painting the town red, or a nice shade of pink, preferably with some No On Prop 8 stickers festooned throughout — bigotry ain’t big and it’s not clever. Anyway, Hallowe’en is always a blast in this here town. And although there is an arse load of stuff going on tonight I think I will be pointing myself in the direction of the newly re-opened Paradise Lounge, where the man like TK Disco and Conor of Red Dot have teamed up with Maly and Ryan of Gun Club to bring in UK electro-funk DJ legend Greg Wilson. It should be a blast, the tunes will be exceptional and I will be on the dancefloor.

Wherever you will be, have a happy, happy Hallowe’en folks. We’re living in ever toughening times, so whoop it up tanite, aiight?


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spirit Catcher in San Francisco, Friday November 14th

Belgian outfit Spirit Catcher will be playing live at Mighty on Friday, November 14th. The duo is comprised of Jean Vanesse and Thomas Sohet, a pair of synth nuts who imbue their chunky house sound with ample helpings of squelched out electro funk that tips its hat to Earth Wind and Fire and Mr. Flagio. They have recorded material for prolific labels like Silver Network, Freerange, Winding Road, Missive and Moodmusic, and played at clubs and festivals the world over Mighty is the perfect setting for these guys, with its warehouse like feel and sterling reputation for kick ass shows.

I’ll be donning my dj hat and laying out a set that will touch down in Detroit, Ghent, Riccione, Chicago and SF. Come through, it’s gonna be a rocker, no two ways about it.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shoegazer Disco

Richard Morel, aka Morel, and Pink Noise, is an extremely prolific musician based in Washington DC. He has worked with Deep Dish on many occasions, co-producing, co-writing and singing on tracks from the house music duo’s Junk Science and George Is On albums. He also co-produced and co-wrote songs on Cyndi Lauper’s last album, Bring Ya To The Brink, and has remixed Depeche Mode, New Order and the Killers amongst many others. And if all that wasn’t enough, he promotes, and djs at, the montly Blow Off parties in DC, a collaboration with Bob Mould, of Hüsker Dü and Sugar fame, in whose touring band Morel also plays. Expect Blow Off shindigs around the country soon, including San Frandisco.

His new album, The Death Of The Paperboy, which will be released November 4th on his own Outsider Music label, is a refreshing amalgam of sounds and influences that range from shoe gaze rock (Richard Morel calls the sound of this project ‘shoegazer disco’), to house, electro, indie rock and disco. On top of this, it is a two disc set, with the first disc being more or less straight ahead rock, albeit with the lushness that is a prerequisite of shoe gaze, and some subtle electronic touches.

The second disc opens out into house and electronic vistas, with remixes of tracks from the first disc and extra tracks like “Sweet Thing” and Shoegazer Disco.” The whole package is a surprisingly adventurous, yet listenable and accessible album, which will appeal to people who like Brit pop, shoe gaze, alternative rock, house music and downtempo gear. As this decade wears on, or out, it is obvious that there are more ways than one to skin the cat of dance/rock fusion. Here’s another very worthy addition to the canon.


Feel This: Deerhunter - Microcastle

Highly recommended! Bigger and brighter things are on the way for these BS favorites who are continuing to push the beautiful--noisy axis to it's ends. Pre-order here! Released early December.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dick Around!

"All I do now is dick around, All I do now is dick around, dick around" - these are words from the profound and mighty Sparks. This song taken from their 20th album, "Hello Young Lovers."

Please take some time to "Dick Around" with Sparks, one of our favorite things at Bananaspam headquarters. Happy recession Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bend an ear to The Morning Benders!

If you haven’t heard Talking Through Tin Cans, the last album by the East Bay’s finest, The Morning Benders, then you need to grab it asap. It’s on the Plus One Music label, was released in May and contains a coupla two or three kicky tunes, including the notoriously infectious opener “Damnit Anna.” Also the Oakland/Berkeley, Caleeforniaaaay four piece have an i-tunes session coming on the 11th of November and they are playing their final show of the year at Rickshaw Stop on December 5th.

And go here for some rather inspired cover versions that these young men have crafted. The set is called the Bedroom Covers and they’re not half bad or fully shabby at all. You have been warned, aiight?


Monday, October 20, 2008

New School of Seven Bells Album On The Way!

School of Seven Bells, the new band comprised of former Secret Machines member Benjamin Curtis, and sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza once of On!Air!Library!, has a new album dropping next Tuesday, the 28th of October. It’s called Alpinisms and it will be released on the fine and very awesome Ghostly International label.


Friday, October 17, 2008

James Lavelle at Mighty Tonight!!

Mo Wax founder, trip hop innovator and legendary dj James Lavelle graces the decks at SF’s best club, Mighty, tonight. Lavelle is known for his role in UNKLE, bringing DJ Shadow to the world’s attention and for playing banging ass, eclectic sets that get crowds hyped and the parties rocking.

Should be a fucking good one!!!


New Unabombers/Electric Chair Mix Out On Tirk.

The UK label, Tirk has just released a banging mix by Manchester’s Unabombers, the resident djs at the infamous, but sadly defunct Electric Chair party. The CD is called Electric Chair Saved My Life and it celebrates the club’s thirteen year run from 1995 til January of this year and includes some of the biggest tunes played by the Unabomber djs, Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford. The boys plough through eighteen of the tracks that defined the Electric Chair’s long history. These include, “Beau Mot Plage” by Isolée. “Let’s Be Young’ by Quentin Harris and NY Gospel/dance classic “Stand On The Word,” by Joubert Singers.

Cowdrey and Crawford deftly mix the electric with the soulful and bring you through the emotional changes that any good mix should manifest. The inclusion of classics like “I Need You Now,” by Sinnamon, “Gabrielle,” by Roy Davis Jr. Feat Peven Everett and Daniel Wang’s Sleeque sampling “Like A Dream I Can’t Stop Dreaming” will delight the trainspotters and groovers alike. Unfortunately, Electric Chair banger and boogie monster “Heat You Up (Melt You Down)” by Shirley Lites isn’t included. 

Back in 2000 when this classic was reissued by Paradise Garage founder Mel Cheren’s Westend Records label, my recent magazine write up on the track was chosen for the sleeve sticker by kick ass label manager turned kick ass publicist, Andy Reynolds. In it I gave the Unabombers big love for being champions of this song, the first record I ever bought on American soil, in Vinylmania on Carmine Street, NY in ’95.

But they do close their set with the Frankie Knuckles dub of Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody,” another fave that I’ve been firing on mix tapes since the mid ‘90s. Electric Chair Saved My Life dropped on October 6th so go get it, it’s great.