Friday, May 30, 2008

Sleepy Sun

Taken from a cd-r called "Embrace", this nice little 2 chordy stop-start psych number has a really good feel and the rest of the disc has nice moments with echoes of Brightblack, Spiritualized/Spacemen 3, and other heavier, fuzzier stuff balanced with a sweet Stonesy piano ballad somewhere in the middle. A friend of mine mentioned when overhearing this, that it could likely be his soundtrack for the summer. Check out "New Age" in the player below and their Myspace and blog.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Strut Records and Funky Nassau - The Compass Point Story

Newly reactivated label Strut, a British imprint famous for its Disco Not Disco compilations amongst other tasty disco comps, has recently released “Funky Nassau: The Compass Point Story 1980–1986.” Out of commission since 2003, the German label and distributor, !K7 has breathed new life into it as a new partner in 2008.

Compass Point was a studio built by legendary Island Records owner Chris Blackwell. He founded the independent Island imprint in the late 50s and moved it to the UK in the early sixties after realizing the huge business possibilities in selling Jamaican music to the immigrant communities there. He soon began signing rock acts and shifted his reggae artists over to its now famous side label Trojan. However, in the early seventies it turned to reggae again, with the signing of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

This move back to Jamaican artists happened while the label was home to rock bands like Roxy Music and Traffic. Blackwell embraced variety, but had a bigger goal, and that was to operate a studio with the best musicians he could find. Compass Point on the Caribbean Island of Nassau, the realization of that aim, was the destination to which he attracted a slew of highly accomplished players, such as reggae rhythm section Sly and Robbie, French keyboardist, Wally Badarou, guitar player Mikey Chung and engineer Alex Sadkin.

Compass Point opened in 1977, but really hit its stride in 1980, and up til 1986 a vast catalog of cutting edge dance music emanated from the studio-- tracks that would be championed by djs such as Larry Levan and Tee Scott. Some of these songs are featured on this thirteen-track collection, including club gems like Gwen Guthrie’s “Padlock,” – in its Larry Levan remix form – Will Powers’ Paradise Garage standard, “Adventures In Success,” and “Genius Of Love,” by Tom Tom Club. These are accompanied by more leftfield rock tracks like “Born Under Punches by Talking Heads -- the opening track on their era defining album, Remain in Light and a dance floor staple for many New York djs, including re-edit king Danny Krivit -- and Ian Dury’s controversial “Spacticus Autisticus,” a quirky British, new wave song which rocked the floors in New York and Chicago clubs due to its unbeatable dub segment courtesy of Sly and Robbie.

In the midst of all this activity -- including Grace Jones’ groundbreaking Warm Leatherette and Nightclubbing albums – the studio was utilized by a rock who’s who, for example AC/DC, which recorded its classic LP Back In Black at Compass Point. However, this compilation remembers the group of players and engineers that Blackwell gathered to provide assistance to a long list of innovative recordings like Grace Jones’ “My Jamaican Guy;” and Francois Kevorkian’s remix of “Dance Sucker” by Scottish electro funkers, Set The Tone.

The booklet accompanying the compilation features photographs from the heyday of this creative epoch. In it are pictures of Talking Heads members hanging out with Sly & Robbie; Sadkin and Badarou kicking it with Joe Cocker; reggae legend Desmond Dekker with Robert Palmer; Tina Weymouth, of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, with her sisters, Laura and Lani, and Chaz Jankel with Laura during a little romantic spell. Jankel, part of Ian Dury’s band the Blockheads, was a solo artist in his own right, a fact that was demonstrated unequivocally when his song “Ai No Corrida,” was covered by Quincy Jones. Jankel and Laura’s track, “Whisper,” is included on this collection.

To inject the spirit of The Compass Point Story into the current music world would require a selection of tracks from ten labels. Therefore it isn’t an exercise in excessive nostalgia, but a tribute to an era of adventurism and daring in music; to the creativity, which was an essential requisite of the recordings and to the joy and sense of fun that made their way into cars, homes and clubs across the globe, right up until today. The collection is replete with excellent music and is a timely reminder of what came before and what can be realized in the future.

Also available on Strut/!K7 - Disco Not Disco: Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Disco Classics - 1974-1986 and an Italo disco collection compiled by Stevie Kotey of Chicken Lips. Highly recommended.
Buy here!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cluster Visits Northern California and Beyond

The amazing and under appreciated German duo of Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius aka Cluster paid a visit to Northern California over the weekend. They are continuing to peddle the minimalist space dusted lullabies that originally laid the foundation for space rock and electronic hybrids from the early 70's to a continued relevance with old fans and new audiences alike.

They have been frequent collaborators with Brian Eno, Conny Plank and Neu!/Kraftwerk alumnus, Michael Rother.

San Francisco was the conclusion of a 3 day stint of Northern California shows, which started in Big Sur and ended at the Great American Music Hall. The beloved LP jacket images of long hair and giant, untidy stacks of beautiful, analog circuitry and it's requisite spaghetti-wiring had gone. In it's place were two older, balder geezers perched over the tidy 2008 version gear of Kaoss Pads, Nord Leads, and multiple DJ-CD players. Sonically whole and geometrically enlightened.
Wonderful night indeed..

Royce - Tuff Love

Tuff Love by Royce slipped by a lot of people when it was released in the summer of 2006. The album is on the Galapagos 4 label and the Chicago outfit is remarkable for the subtlety it displays in fusing disparate elements from that city’s rich musical heritage, with soul, indie rock, IDM, hip-hop, funk and house touches rolling around each other fluidly throughout. However, the beauty is that this fusion feels effortless. It seems to translate the worlds that separate Can from the Shins and Tribe from the Sea and Cake.

Tuff Love opens with the title track and evocative lyrics like, “I lost you somewhere in the streetlights, watched your shadow in the twilight, drinking underneath the cartoon moon…” The words are draped over beats evoking classic hip-hop dovetailed with Can and early Mr. Fingers. Though this song conjures up images of past, or unrequited, love drenched in the light from street lamps, or hidden in a dark back alley; Royce are no misery merchants and this is evident on “Girls on Bikes,” a nerdy hipster retort to Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” with a tongue in cheek approach, hinting that the tongue would rather be in the cheek of a bike girl.

“Ebbs and Flows,” combines stripped down beats, pretty lyrics and some rapping, resembling Sam Prekop cooing over Edan's abrasive rhymes. It’s an odd but very appealing mix, with footwear ogling vocals punctuated with loose rapping because Royce doesn’t shout at you, it reels you in with a raw, yet smooth approach that nods to soul ‘70s soul jams. Track three, “Ginelle” continues with the sensual assault on your ears and mind as a loping, house style groove is added to scattered beats and the tender vocalizing that characterizes the whole record. It was probably inspired by an elfin temptress, who cycles around the streets of their neighborhood.

“Vladimir,” track six, is an inspiring amalgam of influences culled from Ashra Tempel, WBMX classics like Dharma’s “Plastic Doll,” and early AM Chicago house gear such as “Cruising” by Vincent Floyd. Then, all this is stirred into plaintive vocals that conjure up immeasurable distance and unforgettable loss. Simply put, it’s beautiful, and perfect. To call Tuff Love charming is an understatement for it sounds like The Shins and A Tribe Called Quest in a bicycle crash with Kreidler, while Larry Heard and Plaid call 911. It is groovy, psychedelic, funky, poignant and brimming with humor all at once. You can get lost in it, fall in love to it, dance around your apartment with your buddies at 3.30 AM to it and then kick back to it when you’ve finally kicked their drunk asses out. It’s really good, and even the beardy guy at Men’s Wearhouse would guarantee it.


Friday, May 23, 2008

M.I.A. and Hottub Slam the Beat Children of the United Nations

M.I.A. stopped off in San Francisco on May 21st, as part of her 2008 US tour, playing to a packed house at the Concourse at SF Design Center, a 3,500 person capacity venue that was sold out and brimming with enthusiastic fans. Opening for her were local hip-hop party animals Hottub, and M.I.A.’s dj, Hollertronix deck technician Low B.

Hottub, took the stage first, and knocked out a solid thirty minute set
of feel (really) good hip-hop party jams. 808 bass hits emanated from a stage occupied by the finessed (we might be missing an “a” but the girls get one for performance anyway) playing of the ladies, Co-Co, LoLi Pop, and A.M. breezy, backed by the live robo-funk beats of Jay-Sonic and Funky Finger Mark. This quintet have been slaying Bay Area party scenes for the last year and this show was a good indication of what they can do in front of a larger crowd: a lot one might wager.

Low B jumped on next to deliver a well mixed and scratched deluge of crunked, and blissfully mashed, party jams comprising – but not compromising -- the likes of Mims and Soulja Boy, poured and strained through high octane breaks, fuzzy electro on steroids and kicky house beats; all of which were perfect for the post rave come down, or was it the pre rave jump up? Who cares: it rocked, the kids ate it up and Low laid out the sonic red carpet for M.I.A. to glide in on, and command proceedings thereafter.

This she did in style, backed by Low B on the beats and scratch and accompanied by two dancers and a rather large visual screen which blurted out all manner of dayglo imagery, Nintendo graphics and politically charged video snippets as
M.I.A., replete in big shades and a platinum wig, took control of the party with tunes like her opening number, “Bamboo Banger.” This rocker from her 2007 long player, Kala, sent a ripple through the bang-up-for-it crowd and got the show off to a nice start.

Things only got better from there as she blazed through an hour longish set, punctuated with revelry rousers like “Pull Up The People,” “Galang,” and “Bucky Done Gone.” At one point of the show she invited a large group of ladies from the crowd up on the stage to gyrate en masse to a couple tunes, including the Bollywood and house inflected “Jimmy.” Shortly after this she invited a bunch of the lads up to get down to “Boyz”(what else?) and they stayed up there for “Bird Flu.”

At this point the entire venue was a mass of waving, air punching and flashing camera phones and this energy level persisted until M.I.A. left the stage only to return for a two song encore, the last tune being
the Clash, “Straight To Hell” sampling “Paper Planes.” Given the fresh-faced and lively nature of the crowd it’s obvious that M.I.A. has crossed over to the kids, and they love her, and she loved them back
with a killer show filled with excitement and youthful abandon. The people were most definitely pulled up.