Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A positively good album from Negativland

Perhaps you haven’t noticed, I know that I hadn’t, but Negativland has a new album out. It was released on July 15th on the group’s own Seeland label, and it is called Negativland Presents Thigomatic. It is comprised of seventeen tracks over the space of just over thirty nine minutes and is the first Negativland album that features actual songwriting and song arrangements as well as the samples, loops and found sounds that have categorized the group’s other previous releases. The album was composed by Mark Holser with help from San Francisco musician Thomas Dimuzio and others.

Thigmatic comes with a 36 page full color booklet featuring song lyrics and art work. It’s very nice and you should go out and buy it immediately.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Elastic Selection.

Compost Records in Munich come through with another volume of Elaste. This second edition strays away from the Baldelli/Cosmic focused material of first volume and follows a more soulful route. The full title of the album is Elaste Volume 02 - Space Disco, and it’s compiled by Tom Wieland of Austrian electronic music project Panoptikum. Another difference from the first volume is the fact that the CD version of this one is mixed. so you get over an hour of top notch, funky stuff that just might get your party bumpin’ or your Saturday night started off right. Wieland chose some choice cuts like Two Man Sound’s classic disco jam, “Que Tal America,” LEB Harmony’s euro disco nugget, “Feeling Love,” and the much sought after (well it will be after people hear this compilation) Frankie Knuckles dub of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody.”

This collection dropped in the US on July 29th and should be pretty easy to track down. It’s also released as a double vinyl version and that is possibly import only. Keep an eye peeled for it, it’s a keeper.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Are You Ready For A New Stereolab LP?

Stereolab's Eleventh album, Chemical Chords, will be released by 4AD on August 19th. It features fourteen tracks of blissful, lush pop for dancing, pondering, and lounging to. It's great. There will be more on it closer to the release date. Get ready to enjoy!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thirty Thousand Feet Of Excellence

A few weeks ago I wrote about a UK new wave single from 1981 called “I’m In Love With A German Film Star.” The band that recorded the song is called The Passions and as luck would have it, on July 21st perennial British indie rock label Cherry Red re-released the album from which this track was taken, The Passions’ sophomore effort, Thirty Thousand Feet Over China. I haven’t managed to get my hands on a copy so I can sample the five bonus tracks but I do have the original 1981 UK vinyl version of the album on Polydor Records.

The album has a similar mood to The Cure’s Faith or Seventeen Seconds, though not as claustrophobic, in fact, it sounds almost like a cross between one of those albums and New Order’s 1981 album, Movement, minus the synths. It’s no surprise that The Passions’ first album, Michael and Miranda, and some of their early singles, were released on the Fiction Records label, an imprint which was home to The Cure for over twenty years.

There must have been something in the air — or in the water, perhaps — in the British isles in those heady days of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The Passions fit right in with the Cure, Joy Division, early New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. All these bands were channeling the spirits of The Velvet Underground, and choice sixties psychedelia like Buffalo Springfield, Love, and The Doors, of course. But this penchant for sixties rock was augmented with the starkness and minimalism of early ‘80s new wave. It wasn’t a particularly great time on the isles; Thatcher was two years into her reign, the economy was bad, and the troubles in Northern Ireland were reaching new lows.

But amid this bleakness, records like Thirty Thousand Feet Over China shone through, showing that there was some hope embodied in the vibrant, creative spirit that gripped Britain and Ireland (this was the era that U2 were throwing bricks through windows and intoning “Gloria”). It was a magical time, the late seventies had seen a revolution in rock music with the appearance of punk and that decade ended by being dragged out kicking and screaming into the new wave inflected ‘80s. Perhaps we’ll see a simiar transition from this decade and what comes next. The present decade has deified the ‘80s and in some ways tried to recreate the vitality of punk with the edgy electro sound that has gripped the clubs for several years.

But edginess can only last so long, before the cultural Sturm Und Drang takes it toll and things have to naturally move down a gear. This classic album, available again after many years in deletion, shows how pent up, and openly expressed, rage moves into a more controlled mode, and innovation and imagination temper the heat of anger. When you get a moment do check it out, you’ll see that it’s a top notch, highly entertaining, and musically varied record, as well as an enduring testament to a turbulent, yet more innocent, time.


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A Roving We Will Go.

As you may, or may not, know, Karl Rove, George Dubya’s one time, long time advisor, has ignored a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee. He was summoned before the committee to answer questions about the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. And you get worried if you try to flake out on jury duty. We can only admire Rove’s bravery in sticking it to the man, huh? But he is the man I hear many of you wail. Now there’s a conundrum wrapped inside a riddle, surrounded by a knee high fence of paradox. Regardless, enjoy the playlist below, dedicated to Rove’s plight for, and flight from, justice. Groan!


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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Feeling Ghostly near the motor city...

Travis Kirschbaum, over at Current TV in Los Angeles, was let out of the house again (second time since last Christmas) and toddled off to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF). While there he filmed this little doozy of a piece on the Ghostly International label out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He talked to a bunch of their artists and the label boss, the dapper Sam Valenti (I need one of those tank tops!). Anyways, if you haven't heard of Ghostly (i.e. you've been under a stone on Papua New Guinea since 1917) this is a solid introduction, so keep yer eyes and ears peeled for its releases, which cover house, techno, rock, hip-hop and electro, amongst other styles. The label has been around since '99 and consistently puts out quality material, I guarantee it (like the beardy guy from Mens' Wearhouse would).


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When your voices are running down!

So what is the relevance of The Police’s “Voices Inside My Head”/”When The World Is Running Down You Make The Best of What’s Still Around?” Though many of you probably hate Sting —and remember that his “If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free” is a Larry Levan classic — these two tracks from the Police’s 1980 LP,  Zenyatta Mondatta, pressed on a gourgeliciious twelve inchy single, are certified Paradise Garage nuggets and still get a fair bit of play to this day. Voices works ‘cos it’s so damned funky, chanty, wicked and otherworldly. When The World is Running Down etc. rocks ‘cos its world weary lyrics and unstoppable groove speak as much about the crap that’s going on today as they did in 1980. Hopefully Justice will do a tearingly banging remix which will utilize cold, austere synth tones that you’ve only heard five trillion times, and there’ll be a Digitalism mix on the flip, both will sound incredible after 247 lines of low grade charlie. Then the downer message of the song will be buried in a euphoric, but knowingly ironic, blizzard of software abandon.

But I’m missing the point here, all this crunchy electro is really modern punk rock and is descended from the ground breaking Daft Punk. Of course, that’s why Thomas Bangalter lives in Beverly Hills, he’s being ironically punk rock. The thing about punk rock is that it started off wickedly and ended up being preachy shite, just like the way electro started off wickedly and is now glitchy shite. An era is coming to an end (thank Christ), an era of conservative politics, war, poverty, fixation on cookie cutter celebrities, endless ironic nostalgia and nerdy white guys claiming that gangster rap is truly authentic because it isn’t as earnest as more conscious hip-hop. Please move to the places where this rap is being produced so you can be shot at because the only thing that view does is bolster your ignorance of black music in general. As Public Enemy once said, “Who stole the soul?” It’s not in dance music anymore and it sure ain’t in Usher’s daft (unpunky) dances.

Are the voices inside your head telling you that when the world is running down you should make the best of what’s still around too? The ones in my head are. Give these two tracks a spin today and pray for more top notch new music, that grooves most of the night instead of banging all night. Hey a few bangers are necessary to wake people up, we don’t want to fall into that dreaded jazzy house trap that killed the ‘90s, — in cahoots with wanky intellectualizing about Jeff Mills and Robert Hood, by nerdy white guys no less — the dreaded jazzy house that electro dj/promoters will always remind us about. Sorry guys, this era’s nearly over too, cue flutes and saxophone samples. The beast goes on, and you make the best of what’s still around. Zzzzzzzzz.


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My Bloody Valentine Interviewed Backstage At Benicassim

Monday, July 21, 2008

A slashing night out!

I’m always on the hunt for a decent night out in San Francisco and as the years have gone by I get pickier about what I want to attend. At this point any event that features the same type of music all night — especially house, techno or hip-hop — is a definite no no, unless a serious guest is playing and I know that his/her selection will be stellar. I take my cues from hearing the likes of Tony Humphries, Derrick May, Gemini, Simon DK (the best deep house sets I have ever heard period) and Afrika Bambaataa rolling out upfront selections that are peppered with the classics that really matter. And also I have a deep admiration for the kind of eclectic approach that was developed in Chicago, at the birth of the house music scene there, by the WBMX Hotmix Five djs and Ron Hardy. Variety is the spice of life and with music that is a concrete rule of thumb.

One San Fran party that has charmed me on the two occasions that I have attended is Suspiria. Yes it is the title of a Dario Argento movie with a Goblin soundtrack, and the music, venue, visuals and attire of the patrons add to this, creating a rather seductive setting. The night is a collaborative effort between prolific rock/electro/indie club promoter and mainstay DJ Omar, djs such as Mario Muse, MizMargo and Justin (of Shutter fame) and prolific visuals creator Chris Golden, a man who provides colorful backgrounds for many of the city’s successful shindigs. The music is an imaginative array of modern electro cuts — many with slnky female vocals — industrial classics, Goth rock gems and a smattering of moodier Italo pieces courtesy of Claudio Simonetti and other Italian outfits.

When you get The Chameleons up against Bauhaus, Goblin, Japan, a brace of upfront electro tunes, dark Italo disco nuggets and esoteric Euro, proto-industrial tracks by artists such as Malaria (of which Gudrun Gut was a member), Einstürzende Neubauten (Gut was also a member of this outfit) and Fad Gadget, you know you’re in for a night of deliciously dark sonic diversity. The crowd gets dolled up, the venue, Harlot, is beautiful in a very moody fashion; and the visuals culled from various European Giallo movies – with their penchant for horror, crime, mystery and eroticism — place an artistic crown on the event. Folks drink and dance, the soundsystem is great and Harlot itself is centrally located in SF’s SOMA district. Suspiria happens on the third Wednesday of the month and is worthy of your attention.


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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Trans Weekend Expression.

Kraftwerk was a disco outfit!!! No way! But yes way, to quote Bill and Ted, for some people they were. Nicky Siano, who was the dj at the seminal disco club The Gallery, was clearing the dance floor at Studio 54 with “Trans Europe Express” in 1977. However, in 1978, when this record was promoted (it was never released) Kraftwerk were beginning to become part of the dance music vernacular. Disco djs were dropping their tracks, r&b radio stations were featuring some of their tunes and within a few, short years the likes of Afrika Bambaataa and Juan Atkins would be incorporating key Kraftwerk tunes into the embryonic stages of hip-hop and techno respectively. It’s also highly likely that Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage in NY and Ron Hardy at the Music Box in Chicago were slipping Krafwerk numbers into their heady and bacchanalian selections.

Part of the band’s appeal was that it was inadvertently funky; it was groovy by mistake. This is the accepted lore on their revolutionary sound. However, we are talking about a group of guys in 1970s Germany, we are not dealing with a quartet from Papa New Guinea in 1904. In other words Kraftwerk’s music didn’t happen in some cultural vacuum. You can put money on the fact that these supposedly stoic Teutons were versed in the contemporary music of their time. They weren’t the only ones dealing in a forward-looking minimalism that would have ground breaking ramifications in the next decade. James Brown had deconstructed soul and r&b into the sparse, sleek and primal pulse of funk and I’m sure the Germans were cognitive of that fact. Would they have listened to the Beach Boys and their textural adventures, and were they bowled over by Suicide when Rev and Vega’s jaw-droppingly different first LP dropped in ’77? Yes and yes, I would guess.

And just as funk’s functionality materialized in the transmission of an instinctive need to dance, Kraftwerk’s music projected the zeitgeist of inevitable progress, of an electronics driven world where manufacturing and romance would be equally influenced by circuits and micro chips. Three years later in 1981 their stellar Computer World album would deal with these subjects in a semi-serious fashion. Because even though their music can be (mis)construed as earnest and academic, there is an obvious irony, a tongue in cheek aspect to many of their songs. Amazing, isn’t it? Especially when you’ve been under the impression that irony was invented 2002 in Williamsburg by a fixed gear bike rider from Boise, Idaho. Twasn’t, it has been a literary and comic device for yonks and yonks.

So the point is that these four tracks by the futuristic German group are a succinct window into their worldview, their vision of the future. Perhaps these songs were alien in 1977 NY discos but seven to ten years later other electronic music pioneers like Newcleus, Egyptian Lover, Rhythim is Rhythim and Model 500 would give the European sparseness a distinctly urban American twist and set in motion otherworldly dance crazes, and a capacity for abstract musical texture that remains with us to this day. So when you’re contorting to that new Justice remix, or Kompakt track or Chris Brown radio jam this weekend, remember that without the stoic Germans known as Kraftwerk, these tunes would probably sound a lot different, a lot safer perhaps. And the spirit of James Brown looms large too wherever the heavy funk is being played out through strings, skins, keys, pads, patches or filters. The beat rolls on like a locomotive, it’s always trans-European, trans global and eternally doing it to death.


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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Datapanik and Musical Heroes.

Though everything post-punk, new wave, synthpunk etc. etc. etc. has been successfully related to us by the rich kid hipster chorus of America via the miracle of the intraweb, I am oft amazed that some bands tend to escape the omniscient glare of these observant and independently wealthy purveyors of accepted wisdom and musical knowledge.That's not to say that these overlooked bands haven't been given some attention, it's that they haven't undergone the same level of scrutiny as say, The Au Pairs — a truly awesome band — or Josef K (another banging outfit, which was also Scottish, meaning it was absolutely fantastic). One band that I believe (and I could be wrong) falls into this category is Pere Ubu, especially their early recordings in the the mid to late '70s.

I know, I know, they have been talked about a bit, Simon Reynolds gives them a fair shake of the stick in his Rip It Up and Start Again tome, but I just don't think the Ohio band's ground breaking aspect has been given its rightful due. The five track EP pictured above is a real portal into their forward looking — and fun — approach to music. It's a heady stew or straight up garage rock, electronics and musique concrète, which perfectly fuses experimentalism and an odd sense of fun. I dare you to listen to "Heart of Darkness," which was recorded in the fall of 1975, and not think of Joy Division. "30 Seconds over Tokyo" — a reference to the amount of time US bombers would spend over the Japanese city on a mission, and the 1944 movie of the same name — is fractured, ethereal, sombre and very new wave for a track recorded in 1975.

Flip the record over and you have "Cloud 149," a dreamy and thuddy little rocker with plinky organ sounds, wiry guitar sounds and an overall approach that sounds like Jimi Hendrix crashing into Bill Haley, with a few synth bits thrown in to confuse everyone. It's terrific!!! "Unititled" has a sixites rock feel to it and is in fact an early version of "The Modern Dance," the title track of Pere Ubu's classic debut album. "Heaven," is just that, it's divine and akin to the weird, spacey, meltdown part in The Doors' "Hello, I Love You," injected into a sunny, folk song with some whispered vocals and synthy noises thrown in there for good measure.

I got acquainted with the band in 1980, within the pages of Smash Hits magazine. This was a British mag that kept one up to date on all the pop music factoids needed to maintain a knowing conversational style with judgmental peers. But not only did it contain pop music news it also had excellent indie rock and disco sections. Pere Ubu were constantly referenced, as were the likes of Delta 5, the Au Pairs, Red Krayola, Josef K, Swell Maps, Crispy Ambulance, the Fall, Joy Division, Dead Kennedys and Killing Joke. Reading about these bands was one thing, finding the records was another, especially when rare imports or limited indie pressings were hard to come by. Some would show up in weeks, some would take years to acquire in the pre download, blog wilderness of the eighties, when knowledge and info was difficult to access, it wasn't at your fingertips all the time. Maybe it was better that way, not because it left the resources in the hands of the few, but because you really appreciated something when it took forever to find.

Jump forward to 1986 and Northern Irish band That Petrol Emotion, a post-punk/dance-rock outfit that grew out of the ashes of The Undertones, had a live cover of Pere Ubu's "Non-Alignment Pact" on their "Natural Kind Of Joy" EP. I bought that and Ubu's Terminal Tower compilation, which came out on Rough Trade in '85, on the same day. The Petrols did a good job on the cover and there's also a kick ass version of the song on the Pere Ubu live album 390 Degrees Of Simulated Stereo : Ubu Live Volume One, on which singer David Thomas utters the title in an unusual fashion before launching into the song. However, the EP featured in this piece didn't fall into my hands until about 2003 in Rasputin Music in Berkeley, twenty three years after the band's mythology was introduced into my life. So, if you're vague on this excellent American outfit, or you're curious but haven't given the music a listen, then please do so, you will be amply rewarded by the sounds of a band who stood somewhere between the tail end of the '60s and the doorway to the modern rock that we now take so much granted. I hate using the word visionary, but it is applicable here.


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Steppa's Delight (Soul Jazz Records)

At the beginning of the millennium, London pirate radio and it’s club offspring were mutating garage and jungle sounds once again. Two-step was now oscillating it’s cultural pull away from silken Champagne affairs and moving into the darker and deeper turf of Dubstep.

This was street music, formed in the lab with extra helpings of cavernous bass and anxiety. The frenetic pulses, disembodied divas and echoes of Jamaica past are well represented by Burial’s 2 long players and continues to be championed by Rinse FM, who gave Wiley and Dizzee Rascal their first taste of notoriety.

The venerable, ever-rewarding Soul Jazz Records, who’s always first to connect with new and emerging sounds and reconnect with those musical traditions that should never have been lost in the first place has just released two excellent dubstep volumes titled, “Steppa’s Delight.”

Track highlights like Kode 9’s “Samurai” starts off as if you are attending a Jamaican Death march, then as soon as the tension builds, the uptempo slaughter ensues, replete with jaw dropping sub-bass that will face any dancehall. Closing out Volume 1, the remixed version of spacerock’s North Star, Seventeen Evergreen’s “Ensoniq”, which combines psychedelic electronics and vocal treatments with Dub Step’s trademark hypnotic, pulsing bass.

Steppa’s Delight is a portal that leaves you fiending for a Soul Train equivalent of a Dubstep dance show. Imagine Don Cornelius introducing Shackleton’s “Blood On My Hands” while clouds of smoke billow from the dancefloor.

Buy here!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Minimal Mondays or frugal Fridays? You decide

The Germans have taken the reins with techno over the last ten or so years and there is not stopping them. And why should they stop when such great work has been done. If you've been lying under a crab, which was buried under a stone in the Aleutian Islands then you may not have come into contact with Basic Channel, Monolake, Gas or Supermayer. These producers really pushed the German penchant for slick, sparse production, then reached out across the globe to find like-minded musicians and added them to their label, playlists or mindset. One of the most prolific labels in the world of minimal techno is Kompakt. However, its appeal lies in being eclectic in its output and in its influences. And whereas other labels display a starkness of sound, Kompakt often revels in a lushness that brings a welcome respite from the cold, ersatz dance music on offer from other imprints.

Just check out these two releases; Kompakt 177 and 178 respectively. The DJ Koze remix of Closer Muzik member Matias Aguayo's "Minimal," is about as deep as house (this ain't techno, sorry) can get, with a cocky, ironic vocal about music that "got no groove, got no balls," while a girly chorus seductive coos "si," and other utterances en Español. The original is a winner too, displaying a rhythm akin to that of reggaeton, while Marcus Rossknecht's remix doesn't stray far from the original, it just beefs things up a tad. The remixes of KOM 178, namely Justus Köhncke's "Yacht," and "26," are similarly sterling and staggeringly stalwart, methinks. Both Robert Babicz's and Aaron Carl's mixes display a chunky penchant for Detroit nuances (well, Carl is from the motor city) that is immersed in rich textures and buoyed on a paltform of tough, funky beats. Both are late night cruisers for dimly lit floors and well lit crowds, and are diamonds in the rough, so ignore at your peril. And as usual Kompakt has more in store, but we'll get to that later, so enjoy these for now.


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Friday, July 11, 2008

A Tune For The Weekend 'Cos It's The Weekend!

I know that this one will be a bit too obvious for those of you who will only give a tune a second glance if it was unearthed with the Dead Sea Scrolls by Larry Levan's joint roller, or is a super rare, limited pressing jack track, which was buried four hundred feet below a railway line near Vladivostock. However, for some of us acid house casualties — there are also acid and acid jazz casualties — this one holds a special place in our hearts. Todd was, is, and always will be god; a god of slick sampling, rocking beats that fused house, hip-hop and freestyle, and the purveyor of many gorgeousful remixes. I first heard this at a soul club in Ireland in 1988. I was just back from a long 1987 stint in Sarf London and was Phutured and Model 500ed out the ying yang. The dj at this club was a dude name Derrick Murray and he would drop in some cool cutting edge stuff along with the '60s and '70s soul and r&b standards. He used to play "Starpower" by Sonic Youth, then jump into something like Patrick Cowley's mix of "I Feel Love" and then play "Sympathy For The Devil" by the Stones. It were a right Balearic do I'm telling ya,and the entire club had a bad case of Balearia. Plus there were no purists stroking their chins in disapproval, everyone was too busy getting down and having the craic, as they say in the old country. The club was called The Soul Solution but we used to call it the Skull Pollution. Go figure.

One night in the spring of '88 Derrick dropped a tune that decked all of us. I remember my late — and unbelievably hilarious — buddy Vinnie turning to me and saying, "Jaysus, this is f@#$ing brilliant." We had the dj drop it two more times and each time it got better. Derrick showed us the sleeve, the song was called "A Day In The Life," it was on Champion Records, and was by a group (it was all groups back then) called Black Riot. Brooklyn was indeed in the house, and Todd Terry was the man to watch. And watch him I did, over the years until the mid-90s. Later on, in the summer of '89, Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock sampled it for their "Get On The Dance Floor" single which I believe came out the same week as "Pump Up the Jam" by Technotric. My buddies and I were watching the vids on Top Of The Pops, while taking a break from the Model 500, Separate Minds, Mr. Fingers, Geto Boys, Stetsasonic and Eazy E records that had been scooped by crew members who had been stateside that summer.

Halcyon days perhaps and many years later in 2000, while writing for a short lived dance music magazine called Revolution I interviewed Todd Terry, and had him sign my copy of "A Day In The Life." I'm sad, I know. And he told me something that I will never forget, he told me that the thing that saddened him the most was turning on the radio in New York and not being able to hear his own music, which was a product of New York. Well, you can hear "A Day In the Life" today at the end of this column and in a more just — and less greedy — world, tunes like this would be in heavy rotation beside all the hip-hop classics. House may well be a feeling (though one should never talk about it when one is having a discussion about feelings) but it is also an urban music form. One that has been much maligned and ignored by the US mainstream. It may well have had its day, but it is, as Frankie Knuckles said, "disco's revenge." What's next for disco's vengeful children you might be inclined to ask. Who knows but enjoy "A Day In The Life" in a day in your life.


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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Too premature for a new groove?

Perhaps you're like me and are a little snowed under by crushing electro, and an avalanche of irony. I thought I was just feeling my age, but then friends of mine in their late twenties started echoing my sentiments and I was quite amazed. The whole irony sketch was kinda funny — in a, polite, upper middle class/hipster in art school/daddy's paying for my apt in Williamsburg/Lower Haight/Mission/I'm too gentile to get real sarcasm sorta way — for a coupla years between 2001 and 2004. The '80s were exhumed and rinsed through Ableton/Vice Magazine etc. etc., and a great consumerist peace fell across the land as the U.S. plunged into a smidgen of right wing lunacy and a coupla little skirmishes in the middle east. Don't worry, be ironic. Don't know anything about music/culture/literature/fashon/facial hair? Be ironic. It solves all those problems of ignorance.

I'm dreading the moment when the '90s gets dragged from its crypt in full on mode because we'll get MC Hammer before Main Source and Haddaway before Todd Terry. And perhaps the only respite from all the inanity will be in the shape of that phenomenon that my friend Disco Dave in Socal has been alluding to since the late '90s; essentially how a groundbreaking genre is pounced on by white hispters ten to fifteen years after it was relevant. Currently, early, raw Chicago house is undergoing this process. Jack trax are now de rigeur fuel for the music oriented conversation of blog informed, bright, young, angst ridden rich kids with more than a passing interest in ESG and Arthur Russell. Yawn!!!! It's Marcus Mixx this and Jackmaster Curt that, of course punctuated with a "Oh, you haven't heard of that." Heads up kids, you hadn't heard of it either until you read about it on some blog, 'cos those records never left Chicago, and the only ones that did were smuggled out by savvy djs like Colin Faver and Jazzy M. So said Mark Moore in The Face Magazine dance music column of May 1988. I can photocopy you the killer article on Detroit techno that also appeared in that issue 'cos my copy is falling apart.

Bile aside however, I strayed into a local music emporium t'other day (as they say up north, where it's reputedly grim) and saw the glorious Nu Groove compilations gleaming under the mix of daylight and florescence. Reissues or booties? Who knows, but the toons on there are quite swiftnific. Thrill to "Annhilate" by Joey Beltram's Lost Entity project, gasp at Rob $teal's "Give In To The Rhythm," and wet yourself to 331/3 Queen's Debbie Trusty sampling "Searchin.'" These came out on the Network (formerly Kool Kat) label out of Birmingham, England, which was owned by an ex-Northern Soul dj named Neil Rushton. He recognized that Chicago, Detroit and New York didn't stop innovating musically after the early '70s and sought to expose the restless youth of the isles to the electronic vibrations emanating from those cities in the mid to late '80s.

Thank god he did, because some choice deck fodder was pressed on those two great imprints (Kool Kat is a treasure trove of rare mixes, exclusive to the UK versions). Add the Jack Trax label into the stew and we was drowning in a sea of house. So before you cut your hair into a flat top, try to download House Party from Limewire and practice your walking man dance, please listen to "Legends" by Project 86, and if you think Justice make hard electro shit, listen to the Lenny Dee track in the playlist at the end of this piece. That's what the kids were bouncin' around to in 1992. As the song says, "Whatever comes tomorrow happened yesterday." Give in to the rhythm.


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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Marco Carola's Get Set EP

This is the second release on Italian producer Marco Carola's 2M label, which is a sub-label of Richie Hawtin's Minus imprint. The three track digital EP of tough, dense, rolling techno has been available since late June, while the round plastic version — that you can hold in your hands and cherish forever and ever — came out this week. If you like stark, mechanistic dance music that doesn’t relent in its gallop into the future then you might be likin’ this one here.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Dance On The Cheese?

"Dance On The Groove (And Do The Funk)" by Love International is a tasty slice of finely aged Euro dance that shouldn't be overlooked ever. It's not every day that you walk into a local thrift emporium and find a little gem like this sitting at the front of some certifiable cheese and it's only a buck fity. Some people would say that this record has a fair topping of fromage itself, but hey, that's part of its charm. This Euro oddity from 1981 has grabbed the attention of record nerds and chin strokers globally due the fact it was used in Baldelli's dj sets and was recently featured on the Compost Records "Cosmic" compilation Elaste Vol 01.

I needn't describe it, just listen to the gorgeous Seepod link below and wallow in it's slo mo, chunky Eurodisconess. And though it is a Cosmic gem and gets major props from beard caressers (chin strokers with more facial hair) all o'er this fair land and o'er yonder too, that didn't inspire me to write this here piece here that you do be reading. A guy called Phillipe Krootchey was part of Love International's line up: this was France in 1981. Jump forward a few years and a few thousand miles to Dallas, Texas in the mid to late '80s and you have the infamous Starck Club, where a Frenchman name Philippe Krootchey shows up as a resident dj.

Could this be one and the same guy? What little else I know of him is that he also shows up singing backing vocals with Arto Lindsay on a Lizzy Mercier Descloux record in 1981. He passed away in 2004, but maybe someone out there is an old Starck head and can give me some info. If he was talented and flamboyant enough to be crafting slick — albeit a little cheesy — French disco then he could also have went on to direct the mix at the Dallas den of ecstatic dancing in the middle of the city's oil boom glitz and hedonism? If you know let me know. And always remember to dance on the groove and do the funk. Hokay?


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tune of the day even though it's like not even the weekend or anything.

This gorgeousful slice of Detroit electronics came out in 1990 so it's timely that I should write about it as we teeter precariously on the edge of a '90s revival that will no doubt focus on Kid n Play flat top haircuts, raving, flannel shirts and Ace of Base. However, before the omnipresence of irony that serves to revive crap, corporate music and inflate major label CEO's salaries there was a thing called decent music. In the early '90s decent music could be anything from Throwing Muses to Ice Cube to this here record here. I know irony is so irreverent and hilarious, and anyways passionate artistry and earnestness should be clowned incessantly 'cos it says so in the "Staying Hip As You Approach 40" handbook that's de rigeur reading at Vice Magazine headquarters, but for an honest appraisal of its role in youth culture read No Logo by Naomi Klein, she kinda nails it...to the wall, where it belongs.

But, back to the music. Octave One's "I Believe" is a lush, driving and naive slice of Detroit techno and copies of it should be placed in a capsule and shot into space by NASA so that other lifeforms can swoon to its beauty. Supposedly it was crafted on gear bought second hand by the Burden Brothers from fellow Detroiters Was (Not Was) (whose "Wheel Me Out" is essential disco not disco gear and according to Juan Atkins, was the record he learned to mix with). It was released on Derrick May's Transmat label which, at the time was home to Atkins' Model 500 project, and had released serious dance floor numbers like Rhythim Is Rhythim's "Nude Photo," and "It Is What It Is," and R-Tyme's sublime "R-Theme"/"Illusion" EP.

"I Believe" is also sublime, containing the very uplifting original mix, Jay Denham's Inner Cityesque interpretation and Juan's sensational, sensual, sexy and swiftnific mix which features a bassline from the depths of the ocean, layers of dreamy strings and fifteen year old Lisa Newberry's plaintiff vocals. It is the perfect fusion of forward looking dance music, star gazing optimism and hydraulic funk inflected dub. Before any more schminimal techno is written this record should be listened to. It is truly inspiring and sonically stunning, and it will sound great in a mash up with Vanilla Ice. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.


The Lines Memory Span

Dan Selzer over at Acute Records in New York Citay is a label owner, dj, blogger, tastemaker, mover, shaker and quantum physicist (who btw only uses the manuals that are written in Chinese). Sheesh! How does he find time to put out a host of excellent reissues on his Acute imprint? Christ, if I boil an egg I need to lay down for half an hour to regain my strength, so hats off to Mr. Selzer and to this latest release, namely The Lines’ Memory Span album. This retrospective of the cult UK post-punk band traces the development of their sound from 1979 til 1983.

The Lines played live with the likes of The Cure, Bauhaus, and The Birthday Party but never scaled the heights of acclaim enjoyed by those outfits, and disbanded after their last album, Ultramarine. However, this Acute retrospective, which has been lovingly remastered by ex-member Rico Conning (who went on to be in William Orbit’s Torch Song project), shows the band at their finest; from fledgling efforts in 1979 like “White Night” and “Not Through Windows,” both from their debut seven inch EP, to more sophisticated tunes such as “Transit,” and “Cool Snap.”

Starting off as a straight up new wave rock/power pop band, by the early ‘80s the Lines were experimenting with funk and dub elements within a starker, more atmospheric and danceable sound. So if you’re a doyen of late ‘70s and early ‘80s new wave and post-punk and you thrill to Young Marble Giants, Liquid Liquid, Subway Sect, The Feelies, Gang of Four, Delta 5, The Undertones, Josef K and XTC then you’ll be pleasantly delighted with this top notch release. It came out a week ago so go scoop it.


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Rockin' you Cosmically!

The Glimmers’ Eskimo Recordings imprint has put DJ Daniele Baldelli to work compiling and mixing a kick ass cd containing some of his favorite rock tracks, blended, remixed and re-edited for your dancing and listening pleasure. Baldelli, renowned for his multi-generic “Afro Cosmic” sound, has been playing records since 1969, so when he puts a mix together you know it’s gonna be a damned good one.

Eskimo Recordings Present Cosmic Disco?! Nah...Cosmic Rock!!!
is a damned good one, and there are no two ways about it. Any dj mix that places Ray Parker Jnr., William Orbit, Martha and the Muffins and Spirit together in a logical way has to be lauded, as does the mind and ears of the person who crafts it. But that’s only part of the story, as Baldelli brought in his friend Marco Dionigi to help him add remix and re-edit touches in order to render the mix compatible with modern tastes without sacrificing its overall musicality. That in itself is a feat — of subtlety seasoned by experience — especially in a music industry that is plagued by generic marketing, linear djing and a minimalism which is presented as a high brow intellectual pursuit, proffering sparse and repetitive music as a logical end to countless centuries of sonic experimentation, and fun, when in fact most of it actually reflects just under two decades of musical lethargy, myopia and inability.

Baldelli’s colorful dj mixes stand in marked contrast to the easy fix, “same beat all night,” cul de sac of most modern dance music, and celebrate the real role of the dj: that is, to find the best tunes from any number of sources and blend them together to create a physically and emotionally compelling dialog with his or her audience.Eskimo Recordings Present Cosmic Disco?! Nah...Cosmic Rock!!! achieves this admirably with its divergent and involving playlist. This includes the tunes listed above plus tracks by La Bionda, Thomspson Twins, Spider (with a tune that Tina Turner later covered) and my personal fave, — being the Plastic Paddy or Mick that I am — “Ulster Defense,” by Bronx Irish Catholics, an electro/industrial track by a New York band that details some of the misery suffered in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

We not only have to thank Daniele Baldelli’s catholic tastes for the inclusion of an item that exotic, but also the Glimmers’ sense of musical adventure for putting this baby out, as well as dropping two, three track vinyl samplers to accompany the CD and digital releases. They’ve all been out since May (excuse my tardiness) so keep an eye — or two — peeled for them. It’s refreshing stuff, a peek into the past and a blueprint for a musically richer future — I hope.


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