Monday, June 30, 2008

Villalobos Is Alright With Bananaspam!

Mondays are always fantastic when accompanied by the meticulous ethno-futurist techno of Ricardo Villalobos.

Friday, June 27, 2008

This Weekend That You Walk Upon

We all remember Simple Minds’ musical contribution to the John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club. “Don’t You Forget About Me” was its title, the year was 1985, the movie was everywhere and so was this song, the first track on the soundtrack. However, many years before Simple Minds became the darlings of American stadiums they were the British (or more accurately the Glasgow) band that could…and did. Their early albums from ’79 and ’80 were intricate and forward looking, channeling diverse influences like Kraftwerk, Magazine, The Velvet Undergound, Giorgio Moroder, La Dusseldorf, Neu! and disco. These records were musically startling, containing strong, rhythmic rock grooves tinged with electronic and funk elements, and they paved the way for the band’s tour de force, the Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call albums which dropped in the fall of 1981. Sister Feelings Call came free as a bonus disk with the first 10,000 copies of the Sons and Fascination LP. At this point Simple Minds was comprised of Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Brian McGee, Mick MacNeil and Derek Forbes, the eighth embodiment of the band since its formation in 1977.

Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call also came on one cassette, and in 1984 and 1985 my red Walkman beat the ears off me with it and The B-52s' Mesopotamia. And though we now obsess on tracks like “This Earth That You Walk Upon” as part of Daniele Baldelli’s mythic dj sets (“League Of Nations” is the slo mo jam though and I’m sure Baldelli rocked this too), back then Simple Minds were on the same pedestal as Echo And The Bunnymen and U2. These outfits were all venerated as the zenith of new wave and the bands from the isles, which all could — and all did to some extent —take over the world. Over and above the blogger worship of “the unremembered eighties,” (my fave James Murphy lyric) Sons and Fascination/Sisters Feelings Call was a masterpiece of modern rock, effortlessly fusing grand anthems with lush, complex sounding electronics and driving funk and disco grooves.

Check “Love Song,” “The American,” and the old school Ibiza classic “Themes For Great Cities,” for proof of this. And wallow in the dislocated, alienated ambience of tracks like “League Of Nations,” “Seeing Out The Angel,” and “This Earth That You Walk Upon,” (in its awesome vocal version) to find an unnerved repose from wide screen epics such as “Sound In 70 Cities,” and “Boys From Brazil.” Perhaps “Don’t You Forget About Me,” has led us to completely forget about this stellar, if not jaw droppingly excellent, album, but a root through your local music emporium’s cd and vinyl sections will refresh your memory and allow you to withdraw from stadium sized worship and to plant your musical feet firmly on this earth that you walk upon.


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Summer Jams While The Hills Burn and Burn..

Here's one for the ladies and baby makers. Something for the summer while the whole of the state of California is a burning and burning. The hills are brown and even the air is chipotle smoky. Somebody save Big Sur, please! (Props to J.Stinz for the mix)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

SKATE ROCK Time Capsule

In 1983, Thrasher Magazine started releasing a series of tapes and vinyl that captured the outlaw skate-punk spirit of the day with bands like The Faction, JFA and Tsol. The Skate Rock compilation tapes will bring you back to the days when skate culture and punk rock first collided like meteors--something that went hand in hand ever since. If you didn't experience skate culture first hand during the early to mid 80s, these compilations will definitely bring you straight back to the Del Mar Skate Ranch and the Pipeline in Upland, California.

Remember a time before skaters were steeped in faux-hip/hop regalia, Hot Topic’esque mall attire and the glut of X-Games extreme sports consumption. Let’s take a trip back to this golden era where skating was fun, rebellious, rough and raw. Skateboarding Is Not A Crime.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Goblin: Magical Sound Worlds Of Argento

Some have wondered who was behind all of the magical sounds accompanying Dario Argento films? Goblin, formerly known as Cherry Five, an Italian progressive rock band, single handedly brought Argento films to life. Films like Suspiria, Tenebrae, and Profondo Rosso stood out and set itself apart from its American counterparts thanks to Goblin's work. Their revolutionary use of synthesizers and odd instrumentation provided the eerie backdrop that brought out the films' demons. Towards the end of their career in the late 70's, Goblin went on to do the soundtrack to Dawn of the Dead (originally known as Zombi) and has continued to influence the manner in which horror films are soundtracked. On the current tip, their title score for the movie Tenebrae was sampled by electro heavy weights, Justice, in their songs Phantom Pt. 1 and 2.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saluting Loosely

If you missed this one first time around when it was released on Chicago indie label Graveface (home to Black Moth Super Rainbow, amongst others) then rejoice in the fact that it is not an excellent indie album that will be discovered in fifteen years time, because British indie stalwart Heavenly picked it up and released it on June 2nd. I covered it for my nitewise column exactly a year ago and gushed enthusiastically about it at the time.

Tuned to Love by English outfit The Loose Salute is an eleven-track opus of delicately countrified, and Americana inflected, indie pop that is full of unpretentious joy and melancholy, beautiful arrangements and thought provoking lyrics. It also has the wonderfully tragic, “Photographs and Tickets,” with its Don Henley referencing guitar riff (believe me it works).

Founding members Alan Forrester and Ian McCutcheon served time in Mojave 3. McCutcheon was also a member of British shoe gaze legends Slowdive, which spawned Mojave 3. Thus a taste for Americana had already been established. Velvety voiced vocalist Lisa Billson is no beginner either, and sang with English techno innovators Orbital on a number of their releases earlier in this decade.

I’m not going to gush too much again and will just say that this album is a great summer listen and a worthy accompaniment to those Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Byrds and Doors records that will be helping you through another endless California summer (even if you live in Croydon). By the way “The Mutineer” is meltingly gorgeous (the way a Cadbury’s Flake is over ice cream in the back of a hot car), and pedal steel guitar (my favorite instrument on the planet) pops up here and there, most effectively on “Why Do We Fight?”

I love this record, I surely do!!!!



I’m sure this one has been well documented, but I thought I’d put my own little twist on it. This was a British top 40 hit and I remember it as such. I remember it on the radio in early ‘80s when I was knee high to a small grasshopper, tuning in to BBC Radio One at six thirty on a Tuesday morning, getting ready for secondary school (high school). I grew up in the far north of the Republic of Ireland right on the border with Northern Ireland near the old city of Derry. This was a region where residual hate from the schism caused by the Reformation, and all of its political and economic machinations, still played out with brutality. Where death, destruction and despair rained from above, distorting reality, ruining lives and casting a shadow over youth.

Thankfully there was the music, coming in over the border from BBC transmitters, transmitters that we weren’t supposed to be able to access because we were on the Republic of Ireland side of the divide and weren’t paying license fees to the British government. But the air waves don’t adhere to borders, nor did the music that was playing on those morning shows in the early ‘80s. The Jam would rub shoulders with the Whispers and you’d hear Kissing The Pink’s “The Last Film” next to ABC. And Diana Ross, Soft Cell, The Undertones and Joy Division would all be swirling around in these illegal transmissions.

One of the songs you’d hear in 1981 was “I’m In Love With A German Film Star,” by The Passions. It was haunting and beautiful, with its sombre but pretty vocals and that guitar with the echoing effect. It was imprinted on my psyche forever, liable to burst out of my unconscious at any moment, issued from memories of a more innocent time. It may now be — to quote James Murphy’s lyrics in LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” — a facet of the “unremembered ‘80s,” but I remember it well. I remember it like P.I.L. button badges and new copies of Metal Box, in the Metal Box, Killing Joke and their channeling of War’s “Me And Baby Brother,” on the song “Change,” (which LCD Soundsystem later channeled on their song mentioned above). I remember it like Diana Ross’s “My Old Piano,” Odyssey’s “Inside Out.” and the Stranglers’ “Thrown Away.”

I remember it all so well, and I’m still in love with it all; the eclectic sets of music that paved the way for innovation by mixing up music forms that were always kept in their little, generic boxes. Black music and white music, soul and punk, reggae and new wave. If we can keep mixing we can keep moving on, and borders — whether real or generic — can never stop the music.


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Monday, June 23, 2008

The Kuti Dynasty Lives On! Stern Grove, SF, California

On Sunday, Seun Anikulapo Kuti took his father’s band Egypt 80 and its fusion of American Jazz and Funk with traditional West African Highlife to San Francisco.

At this point in time however, the strictly afro-beat music that was heard in the grove Sunday sounded completely traditional, even more so than the brand that was played there by his half-brother Femi in 2000. Seun Kuti, Fela’s youngest son, has been leading his band Egypt 80 since 1997, when he was 15 years old.

Seun Kuti seemed to embody the sound and physicality of his father, “the black president” Fela Anikulapo Kuti. As the capable band-leader of Egypt 80, it was like the Grove was transported back to 1979 to hear the continuation of the afro-beat style he almost exclusively pioneered with Afrika 70. One almost wonders if Seun also has a bevy of "queens" at his modern-day compound. He certainly looked the part with high-waisted lemon colored stretch pants and muscular, bare upper body flanked by a brilliant horn section, 2 backing vocalists, a percussionist relentlessly playing wood block, bassist, drummer, guitarist and keyboardist.

While Femi has collaborated with current musicians such as Common and Mos Def, Seun has taken a more traditional path, presenting the music in its purest form (if it can be called that) the way his father created it. A full two-thirds of the original Egypt 80 remain in the band as was seen on Sunday. One of the original alumnus, 70 year old Lekan Animasahun, nicknamed Baba Ani, originally the Baritone Saxophone player, now directs the Egypt 80 orchestra behind his keyboards.

The band certainly sounded like one that has been together for over twenty years, bringing the hard funk and glorious sounds of 70's Nigeria to this eucalyptus-fragrant Stern Grove. Stern Grove should be applauded for bringing this wonderful free concert series to SF. Past highlights have been Os Mutantes, Femi Kuti, Youssou N'Dour and the Funk Brothers.

The only complaint that one might have is that the music felt like it was over too soon. At nearly an hour and a half, the music felt half as long. With extended jams that last into ten minutes and more, this is one of the original forms of trance music, played by a human ensemble that blends the raw, humane soul with the exhilirating joy of machine music.

The Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 album is available here.
For now, Seun audio tracks on the net are scarce, but enjoy this youtube video of "Colonial Mentality".

A Real Heartthrob

Jesse Siminski, aka Heartthrob, has a new album coming out on June 30th. It’s a minimal techno record, or just a techno record even. The whole sub-generic minimal thing is getting a bit schminimal in my humble opinion, and in the humble opinion of Kompakt boss man and Gas innovator, Wolfgang Voigt who, in a recent Wire magazine interview, decried the quality of the music in this late, inundated phase of the game. Luckily Mr. Siminski has just recently stepped onto the field. He debuted in ’05, and last year’s “Baby Kate,” and “Nasty Girl,” singles really cemented his renown in the crafting of tough, yet flexible electronic dance music that lumps brutal rhythms in with pretty, but odd, melodies and impossible bass lines.

His new long player, Dear Painter, Paint Me on Minus, is more of the above. It shunts, kicks, swerves, squelches and pummels in a harmonious fashion, even when it’s being dissonant. It makes you dream in equal measures about alien landscapes, dark skinned beauties replete with a fine mist of perspiration in Barcelona clubs (remember women perspire, as does any focus of your desire regardless of gender, rarely do paramours sweat), and large and exceptionally expensive items of machinery used for the excavation of new roads or parking lots. I’m all for dreaming with very disparate subject matter. Why dream generically.

Heartthrob obviously doesn’t mire himself in genre. For proof of this go straight to the track “Signs,” and revel in his mechanistic majesty, constructed from Detroit chunk, Teutonic tone and Alpha Centaurian ambience (or ambulance if you prefer…siren-like sounds). The rest of the album is of the same high quality and the production value is outstanding in its own field, or outstanding in your own field, and maybe at some point you’ll be out standing in somebody else’s own field while "Signs," — or any other track on this record — is driving through a huge sound-system to a gang of people. Does raving still exist? I hope so, ‘cos this is a damn good record to rave to, or rave about even. This here is good techno, no two ways about it.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Death Before Distemper 2

J. Saul Kane’s DC Recordings label has always been hard to pigeon-hole and that is a damned good thing in the generic world of modern music. Kane started out in the late ‘80s crafting spooky down-tempo tracks like “Bounty Killer; a flawless fusion of Spaghetti Western dialog, a slowed down Bizarre Inc. bassline and beefy funk breaks. In 1995 he kicked off his own imprint as an outlet for his Depth Charge, Octagon Man and Alexander’s Dark Band projects. Along the way he has signed up the likes of Richard Sen and Neal Beatnik’s Padded Cell, and outfits like Oscillation, The Emperor Machine (Andy Meecham of Bizarre Inc. and Chicken Lips), White Light Circus (Dean Meredith of Bizarre Inc. and Chicken Lips) and Kelpe.

The label’s new compilation, Death Before Distemper 2 – Revenge of the Iron Ferret, is a slick amalgam of psychedelia, funk, Italian horror movie soundtracks, disco and prog rock. There might even be a bit of Lithuanian Nose Flute music in there too, but whether there is or not, this record grooves, grinds, flutters, fidgets and spooks one into submission. Kelpe’s “Shipwreck Glue,” does the trick with its squelchy, alien funk, Padded Cell comes correct with “Beautiful Gloom” remixed by Liquid Liquid’s Dennis Young, who also plays percussion on the tune, and “Castle Of Doom” by Depth Charge is a moody little number for unsettling yourself to in the dark.

This record dropped a few weeks ago and it is very nice in a dark, foreboding and sinister kinda way. I would investigate and perhaps invest, and put it to the test. Who said that unnerving and spooky can’t be groovy too?


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Friday, June 20, 2008

Worthy Of A Weekend Dig.

Here’s one you could dig up over the weekend or have a scout around for in the used sections of the music emporiums in your district. Dot Allison’s We Are Science is a ripe old six years of age, and only caused a slight stir when it was released. It should have caused a major ripple, but alas and alack, we were all caught up in electroclash and interesting haircuts. Please don’t misunderstand me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with electro or arresting coiffure, but it is unfortunate that a quality album like this went undetected into music lore. This one should have been up there with Felix’s Kittenz and Thee Glitz, and everything by Tiga, but Allison chose to channel her folk and shoe gaze tendencies through the electro filter. The outcome was quite astonishing in places though it might have been a bit too dreamy for the charley fuelled and angst tinged euphoria of the sparse machine pop acolytes of that time.

She started out as a member of Glasgow band One Dove, which was originally signed to legendary Glaswegian label Soma, an imprint which also gave Daft Punk their start. One Dove fused dub tendencies with blissful pop and a techno undercurrent, Weatherall remixed their Transient Truth single to fine effect, signed them to the Boys Own label and produced their first album, Morning Dove White. Allison went solo in ‘99 with the album Afterglow on Heavenly, home to Saint Etienne, Flowered Up and Beth Orton. We Are Science came in 2002, showed her tougher side and featured production by Mercury Rev and Two Lone Swordsmen member and Weatherall cohort, Keith Tenniswood (aka Radioactive Man).

We Are Science swings between bliss and despair, with “Strung Out,” and “We’re Only Science” pulling you into a claustrophobic world of chemical romance and its inevitable come down. “You Can Be Replaced,” with its existential and cruel lyric “I’m not phased you can be replaced” gently knocks you for six while “Make It Happen,” sounds like Le Tigre colliding with Duran Duran’s “Save A Prayer.” “Substance,” is tough, fast electro, with a knocking boom bap beat and Allison’s waifish, distant vocals projecting a mood that encapsulates Morvern Callar in book or movie form. Stick “We Are Science,” into the party scene of that flick and it would work perfectly and put “You Can Be Replaced,” into the party sequence in “Garden State,” instead of Zero 7’s “The Waiting Line,” and ditto.

Her latest long player, 2007’s Exaltation Of Larks, a return to folkier vistas, was produced by Kramer of Shimmy Disc, King Missile, Bongwater and New York Gong (with Bill Laswell) fame. Seek out We Are Science and prepare to move with angst or gaze into the unknown. Rumor has it Allison will be exercising her pipes on the next Massive Attack record, so this album is essential coffee table banter material for the release date of that upcoming opus.


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cats In Paris

This Manchester based outfit, Cats In Paris crosses spastic with beauty and the results are wonderful. Check out the track "foxes" for proof. You'll be slapped with the idiot energy of SFA meets Deerhoof with some proggy chord changes, melodic arpeggios and some stellar drumming. The new album is rumored to drop soon!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What Does It All Mean Steinski?

The djing and music production facets of hip-hop culture are deeply inspired by past classics, and of those, Double Dee and Steinski’s Lessons mix collages on Tommy Boy Music are held in extremely high regard. Luckily for those of us who don’t own the original vinyl copies, these gems of hip-hop lore have been compiled on the two CD set Steinski: What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective, on the Illegal Art label. It includes a remix of Soulsonic Force members G.L.O.B.E. and Whiz Kid’s single "Play That Beat, Mr. D.J.," Double Dee and Steinski’s entry to an 1983 Tommy Boy remix contest organized to promote the act.

That remix won the contest and went on to be called Lesson 1 – The Payoff Mix, a cut and paste sound collage of funk, disco, soul and rock classics glued together with snatches of instructional records. Three more lesson records followed and these became what many regard as a foundation block of hip-hop itself, as well as an inspiration to artists such as De La Soul, Coldcut, Cut Chemist and Girl Talk (who records for the Illegal Art label this collection appears on).

Also included on here is Steinski’s sonic tapestry of the Kennedy assassination, “The Motorcade Sped On,” first released on Tommy boy in 1986 and given away free, as a seven inch single, on the cover of NME in February of 1987. And there are several collaborative efforts between Steinski and other artists like Slats Dolan and DJ P-Love on the tracks “Everything's Disappeared,” “Vox Apostolica,” and “The Big Man Laughs.”

Fourteen of Steinski’s cut and paste work outs comprise disc one and on disc two there’s his 2002 Nothing To Fear mix, a sonic marathon constructed from classic funk and disco tunes, old and new hip-hop tracks, including Nelly’s “Country Grammar,” segments from instructional records (of course), and movie dialog. You don’t have to be a hip-hop junkie to appreciate this fab compilation, nor do you need to discuss it in the context of found sound, William Burroughs or Musique Concrèt. You could just listen to it and enjoy it, because it is very, very enjoyable.


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Crystal Castles: The Bastard Videogamed Glass Candy?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Factory Records Pt. 1 - A Brief Audio History

Manchester, England is probably best known for grey skies, football hooligans and for being the birthplace of the industrialized city. For a majority of us reading this, Manchester (or Mad-chester) played a substantial role in our musical education and adolescent woes. For me it was a series of records with often cryptic, yet stunning artwork and glorious waveforms. The sounds were similar from LP to single to EP albeit radically different from one another in myriad ways. When Tony Wilson, a media figurehead and Alan Erasmus, an out of work actor and band manager started Factory Records, little did they know how they would influence the terrain of independent music for years to come. Today Factory’s influence can be heard across a broad spectrum of artists today including !!!, Bloc Party, Arcade Fire, and of course, Interpol.

Factory’s aesthetic both sonically and visually can be traced back to the team of Martin Hannett and Peter Saville, also partners in the label. Hannett, a rogue recording engineer and record producer developed a unique style that is best represented by early A Certain Ratio and Joy Division releases (and drugs and guns legend has it). Often sparse with heavily effected drums and frequent use of delays were just two of Hannett’s signatures. Combined with Peter Saville’s stunning prowess for design, it wasn’t rare for an absence of title or band name on a majority of sleeves with an emphasis on New Order’s releases. Hannett and Saville working in concert created a mystique to this young label, which would ultimately suffer from its unorthodox business practices.

While most labels struggle at birth, Factory found success quickly with Joy Division and its troubled leader Ian Curtis. The caveat was written in blood, literally, when Tony and Joy Division entered into an agreement that basically gave Factory little to no control over their properties. This was just the first in a queue of monumentally bad business decisions by Tony Wilson. From the onset Factory engaged in a policy of no contracts with its roster. This policy, or gross lack of, directly attributed to the demise of the label. Factory’s two most bankable acts New Order and the Happy Mondays along with escalating gang trouble at the legendary club the Hacienda eventually bankrupted the label. Factory closed its doors in 1992 but left a mighty legacy that continues to inspire. To be continued..

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tune of the Weekend.

In the last few years a savage amount of chinstroking has transpired in relation to anything Cosmic or Balearic. In fact, you could say that a lot of folks have contracted Balearia. However, what shouldn’t be forgotten is that a lot of this music was unadulterated cheese, though it is magnificent in its fromageyness. Despite the fact that countless experts (usually guys with beards…and me) will attest to the significance of Italo in the development of Chicago house and how it allowed Ron Hardy to create long dialogs of electronic tension and soulful release with his crowd – in the context of blah blah blah, ad nauseum – some of us remember records like Sabrina’s “Boys,” or Ryan Paris’s “Dolce Vita,” (I mean for god’s sake who would call their kid Ryan Paris. Oh, I see, it was a stage name. I think Tarquin Verona has a nice ring to it). And we remember the things that accompanied those tunes; rah-rah skirts, mesh tops, “Frankie Says” t-shirts, long summers of no irony and layers and layers of glorious, luscious cheese.

William Pitt’s “City Lights” is cut from this cloth too, it’s a de facto Ibiza classic, a Balearic nugget, with corny melodies, a bassline ripped from Dennis Edward’s “Don’t Look Any Further,” and Euro accented lyrics detailing the ennui of life in opulent surroundings amid a beautiful European city. It’s totally cheesy, and I love every second of it. If you have it, bust it out, get out in the sun and listen to it on your player, ask the dj to take off that bloody Mariah Carey record about touching her bod (at a galloping 79 beats per minute zzzzzzzzzzzzzz) and stick this baby on. It’ll send most of the “we need corporate music that’s been drilled into our brains” contingent running to the bar – the dj will get paid more as a result – and you can stand on the dance floor in perfect bliss, pretending it’s 1987, you’re in San Antonio (Ibiza that is, Texas would be completely out of context, blah, blah ad nauseum), Oakenfold and Weatherall’s arrival on the island is imminent and it isn’t overrun with Euro lager hooligans. Yes, get out and see some citeeeee liiiiiights!!!!!


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Thursday, June 12, 2008

John Tejada Where

John Tejada’s new album, Where, is his eleventh, and the fiftieth release on his Palette label. The LA based musician has been producing music for over fifteen years and his label was founded in 1996. The beauty of Tejada’s work is that he tips his hat to Orbital, Carl Craig, Derrick May, and Hardfloor, amongst others and doesn’t just adhere to a narrow techno sub-genre, as is currently the norm. These influences are clearly evident in his tough but melodic productions and because of these, and his vision, Tejada’s music has a timeless quality.

An example of this is “La Mer;” the closing track of Where, which is a beautiful, modern acid tune; a sound capsule, built from an alloy of Phuture and Robert Armani, gliding effortlessly into aquatic segments that hint at The Black Dog. It is inexorable, alluring in its repetition, and possessed of the robotic beauty that informs every track on this record. On Track five, “Desire,” Tejada places the ghostly but soulful vocals of singer Nicolette over 808 bass drums, and then takes the beats out until halfway through the track when they kick in again and shunt her spectral voice over a dais of bleeps and lush, electronic strings.

“Turning Point,” is comprised of clanking melodies, glassy keys, and an impossibly tough bassline, making it the epitome of abstract dance music. Ditto for “Raindrops;” a lush but electric prayer to an opening sky that is obviously brand new but could have been the b-side of a long lost release on the Retroactive label. It dashes, thuds and throbs through hazy textures until steely, luxated chords scatter its virtual precipitation. “Pivot” rolls around like a rubber box full of metal balls, its chunky but hollow square wave bass conspiring with airy strings, fidgety melodies and what sounds like molten steel spittle pinging off a shiny spittoon until spooky synths join the cartoon ensemble to create the soundtrack for a club where Deunan Knute works as security and Aeon Flux is the dj.

These five tracks, -- and there are five more to languish in -- from Where, show that not only has John Tejada paid close attention to the electronic music that has gone before but he is very capable of adding his own nuances, and when these talents are fused the result is a rich, electronic sound so graceful and melodic that it soars above the majority of techno tracks out there at the moment. This album will work equally well on a crowded dance floor at 4 AM as it will in headphones on a crowded street at 4 PM or on a sparsely populated sofa at midnight. And there’s double vinyl on this baby too! Oh yeah!!


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Extreme Cuisine and Food Jams

I was just outfitting my new web properties with dual overhead cam, fuel injected, V-8 space probes coated with 7 layers of delicious chipotle extreme jack cheese dipping sauce in a low-fat sour cream, guacamole, triple bacon flash-fried tortilla-wrap and it occured to me how bizarre the dual trends of threat oriented extreme food consumption and their bizarrely conceived and value marketed meal deals are.

Please enjoy this list of food jams, where the food sounds quite edible. Let's kick things off with some Camembert Electrique. If you want to contribute to Food Force who fights global hunger, click the image above.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

LinnDrum: The Forgotten Classic

The LinnDrum is a piece of majestic musical machinery oft-forgotten in the timeline of electronic/pop music. It bears the name of its founder, Berkeley's own Roger Linn, who applied the foundation and concepts he pioneered in that instrument to the later blockbuster Akai MPC series of sampling workstations. It seems as if it has been cast permanently under the shadow of its much more popular little brothers the MPC's 60, 500, 1000, 2000, and 3000. Although never quite a workstation, that little wonder box laid the groundwork for the features that would later be implemented in the MPC series, such as sampling, tuning and volume control over individual sounds, external triggering of sounds (pre-midi), and the ability to load new sounds into the machine. It went through three iterations in four years- the Linn LM-1, the LinnDrum, and the Linn 9000.

As the first sampling instrument, it is a transition instrument that bridges the link between the early drum machines like the Rhythm Ace, a box that had fixed sound and rhythm patterns that sounded much like the ones that emanated from your grandma's home organ- and the powerhouse musical swiss army knives of today- sampling MIDI workstations equipped with tons of onboard memory, advanced sequencing, and banks of realistic-sounding drums.

But there is a certain characteristic that defines the LinnDrum. When one talks about the LinnDrum, the first thing that your brain conjures up is “that sound,” and the next is trying to remember all the songs that it was featured on. Most recognizable is that knocking kind of “boxy clank” rhythm best represented by the song “When Doves Cry,” by Prince. The unique sound of the LinnDrum was probably the reason for Prince's decision to leave a bass line entirely out of that song and to feature those drum sounds, center stage.

Prince is the artist most closely associated with the LinnDrum sound, seeing that it was featured on every 80's record of his, save for Dirty Mind (because it wasn't invented yet). He put it into service with every artist he is closely associated with, and that is a long list: Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, The Time, Shelia E, Jesse Johnson, Sheena Easton, He even used it with other artists that he produced, like Andre Cymone and Patti Labelle.

The LinnDrum touched almost every corner of popular music- its sounds were heard in Rock, Pop, R&B, Hip Hop and even soundtrack music- witness the Giorgio Moroder track from the movie “Cat People” and the ubiquitous hit “Miami Vice Theme.” John Carpenter and Vangelis also put the box into service as a compositional tool. A whole new branch of synth-flavored R&B dance music was ushered in due to its usage (check out the classic electro track “Freak-A-Zoid” by Midnight Starr) . Again, much of that credit is due to Prince. He first used the LinnDrum on his 1981 album “Controversy” on the song “Private Joy.” The stiff (in a good way) drum sounds complement the rest of the synth-funk track quite handily.

Prince was certainly amongst the first to use the LinnDrum on an album, but the distinction of first goes to Steve Hackett, a guitarist with the band Genesis. On the track “Overnight Sleeper” he manages to make innovative usage of its sound with intricately programmed drums in a Prog-Rock style in the vein of say, Tangerine Dream or Synergy.

The first appearance of the LinnDrum to surface on the mainstream charts was in the song “Don't You Want Me” by The Human League. A huge hit, but one that severely underutilized the capabilities of that machine. Really all the drums are doing in this song is keeping time.

You'll notice that a lot of LinnDrum drum tracks are recorded extremely dry to enhance the direct gritty, dirty quality of the sounds. Many of the tracks were programmed to utilize the machine's mechanical “funk.” Prince, being the musician that utilized the instrument the most, is also the one who worked the hardest on pushing the sounds and rhythms into a new realm. The LinnDrum's sequencer was said to have time lag limitations, but many musicians turned that supposed weakness into a strength. The LinnDrum was one of those legendary machines that is said to have strong “feel.”

Some producers used it to augment the sound of real drums. Listen to the way it's used on the Todd Rundgren song “Bang the Drum All Day.” The distinctive whomp of the snare is right there underneath the regular drum kit. Sometimes producers would layer drum sounds from this and other machines, so on a few of these tracks, you might not be hearing just the Linn.

The 80's (especially the mid-80's) were definitely the time for the LinnDrum. They would have not sounded the same without it. It helped push music into sonic territory that had yet been unexplored, even on a “Pop” level. Artists like Madonna, Midnight Star, Peter Gabriel, Prince, and The Thompson Twins created major hits with it. Would Michael Sembello's hit “Maniac” from the movie Flashdance have sounded the same if not for the LinnDrum? The rolling percussion of that song virtually defines it.

There are new artists that go the LinnDrum for that certain sound as well. Check out the song “Burn Rubber” by Dam-Funk. It is a retake on the classic by the Gap Band, given a modern run-through, but retaining its ties to the past through its use of the simple LinnDrum patterns and that distinctive “thwak.”

After 20 years, the old LinnDrum is making a comeback. Only now its taking the innovative mindset that started with the original and applying it to a whole new generation of music makers. The LinnDrum ll is a meeting of the minds, a collaboration between Mr. Linn and Mr. Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits and Prophet 5 fame. The machine was created from the idea that with so much electronic music being performance based, why not have a machine that caters to it? I'm sure this new instrument will do as much for music in the 2000's and beyond as the LinnDrum did during its heyday.

Here's a little musical tribute to the beautiful machine that Roger Linn created- the LinnDrum.
-Marcel Grimsley

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Apple II Forever and Ever!

Is Apple II really forever? We're not entirely sure about that. But, please come with us to a very different time. The land of corporate zeal and inspired power balladry..this is titillating stuff, Irene Cara meets Bonnie Tyler meets 4KB RAM! (Thanks DC for finding this.)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Disco Italia

Italo disco has been a catch phrase for a while now among trainspotters who obsess over records that were cast into the abyss of high energy by the earnest, chin stroking dance music programmers of the nineties, and are now returning to the crates of serious collectors and djs whose love never faded. Whereas nineties holdouts would gladly dwell on the efficacy of Jeff Mills’ crunchy loops and their effect on the dance massive, it’s not unusual for their peers in this decade to ponder the depth of lyrics like “You look like Nostradamus, although you’re not as famous,” or other pearls of Italo lyric writing.

And though it is easy to regard this European dance music as mere cheese, there has been some excavation of the genre and more than a few absolute gems have turned up. Italo disco didn’t just disappear to be replaced by house and techno but rather, the latter genres were influenced by the much maligned European disco styles hammered in the clubs of the ‘80s by djs who – not so coincidentally – pioneered both house and techno (and that includes Jeff Mills btw).

Thankfully some of the most influential tracks have been committed in recent years to retrospective collections, which have given the younger – and often more passionate – collectors and djs a chance to fall in love with the music for the first time. A new release that is worthy of investigation is !K7/Strut’s Disco Italia – Essential Italo Disco Classics 1977 – 1985, a thirteen track collection compiled by Steve Kotey of Chicken Lips. Kotey has done his homework on this one and dug deep into his disco collection to pull out a selection of Italo numbers that reflect the more soulful side of the genre, as opposed to the robotic and New Wave tendencies that were featured on the fine I-Robots and Confuzed Disco collections; both released on the Italian imprint IRMA.

With Disco Italia you get a perfect amalgam of the intensity of New York and the balmy Mediterranean overtones of Rimini or Ricione, complete with that bewildering, yet endearing, penchant for pidgin English lyrics. The groove was everything in Italo and if the lyrics didn’t make sense (because neither the producers nor the singers could speak English) then so be it. And when that groove is as infectious and devastating as it is on tunes like Kano’s “Now Baby Now,” – from their self-titled album from 1980, which also contained “It’s A War,” – “Dreaming” by Rainbow Team and “The Kee Tha Tha” by Five Letters, who’s complaining? You’re too busy dancing to be bitching about grammatical train wrecks.

There is such a thing as poetic license and a dip into the annals of Italo disco will show that it was exercised with liberal abandon. However, there aren’t really too many tunes on here that will have you running for the Webster’s Dictionary or The Elements of Style, but plenty of numbers that will have you running to the nearest dance floor or open area of carpet. Primary among those that radiate with a rug cutting fervor is “Let Me Be Your Radio (Part 1)” by Red Dragon Band. This baby, released on the tiny Italian indie label, Atlas Records, is a tough and percussive slice of funk infused with that special Italian touch. Radio style voice over vocalizing and shouted chants echo over rolling drums, lush keyboards and sharp horn stabs, and all this will keep it at the front of your crate.

Kotey also pulls gems from the discography of some of the more famous Italian producers of the late 1970s and early 1980s. “1979, It’s Dancing Time” by Revanche was produced by Mauro Malavasi, who is renowned for his work – often in conjunction with fellow producer, Jacques Fred Petrus -- as B.B. & Band, Brooklyn, Bronx & Queens Band, Change, Macho and Peter Jacques Band. This Revanche number is a straight-up good time party banger with a bass-line that brings Chic to mind and a vocal that brings banging, good time partying to mind.

Maurice Cavalieri and Maurizio Sangineto (aka Sangy) were another Italo powerhouse production team and their boogie standard, “Love (Is Gonna Be On Your Side)” by Firefly is included here. These guys, under various guises, crafted some very forward looking records in the ‘80s. Sangy produced Vallery Allington’s “Stop,” and “Sounds Of Humanoid Kind” by E.T.M.S., while Cavalier was behind such epic Italo tracks as Charlie’s legendary “Spacer Woman,” and Daniele Baldelli favorite “Stand Up” by Nexus.

And a compilation of Italian dance music would be sadly lacking without the inclusion of at least one track by Claudio Simonetti, and Giancarlo Meo. Thankfully two are featured, “Brazillian Dancer” by Kasso and “Do It Again” by Easy Going. Meo and Simonetti also recorded as Capricorn, a project, which spawned “I Need Love,” a driving electro disco cut from 1983 that made a huge impression on the nascent Chicago and Detroit dance scenes. Simonetti was a member of Italian doom rockers and soundtrack legends, Goblin, and together with Meo he produced Italo diva, Vivien Vee.

This is the kind of caliber that Kotey has actively sought out, and on Disco Italia, this type of quality is threaded through all thirteen tracks. Though he is probably the consummate collector, Kotey concentrates on tracks that contain a definite sense of fun, including, “Burning Love,” by D.D. Sound (aka La Bionda), which was written by the La Bionda Brothers and engineered by Harry Thumann of “Underwater,” fame; and Tullio De Piscopo’s grandly titled, “E Fatto 'E Sorde! E? (Money Money).” De Piscopo is a drummer of some note who played on early records by Kano and was responsible for the Balearic classic, “Stop Bajon (Primavera).” This compilation finishes on an appropriately high (and somewhat silly) note with Valentine’s “Tina Are You Ready,” a chunky, loping electro disco cut released on Banana Records (home to Vivien Vee and other Meo and Simonetti productions) in 1983 that seems to be about a lady friend who takes an eternity dolling herself up for a night out (on the dance floor of Discoteca Cosmic or Tenax, no doubt).

If you need a summer soundtrack for your dancing pleasure then you’ve definitely found it in this top-notch record. Hopefully Strut will be coming up with more releases like this one in the near future. If their past record is anything to go by, that is undoubtedly a given.