Friday, August 29, 2008

Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.

A recent perusal through a couple of Sun Kil Moon albums — I always meant to get Ghosts of the Great Highway when it was released and I should have — has afforded me plenty to listen to and ample food for thought. What struck me the most was Mark Kozelek’s (the man behind Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters) cover of Modest Mouse’s “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes,” from the Sun Kil Moon album of Modest Mouse covers, Tiny Cities. The original from Modest Mouse’s 2000 album, The Moon & Antartica, is a punchy, caustic indie rocker with funk and post-punk overtones. The vocals sound sarcastic as do the lyrics, which seem to detail the pressures of modern life, consumerism, bad food and pollution.

In the hands of Kolzelek the song becomes a world-weary elegy to the way the planet is being wasted and to those lost souls who find themselves in the middle of the ruins. Gone are the pneumatic bassline and the distorted vocal segments of the original and in their place Kozelek places a folk tinged lament, with the lyrics sung in beautifully delivered diction. This is a song for when the machines have failed, the electronic instruments no longer work and we’re left in the dust with strings and skins and things. This is the pastoral music of the future when the pastures have all been covered and wasted. This cover version is timeless, melancholy and inspiring, and the original makes you want to dance and recycle!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

New album by Gang Gang Dance on the way

The good people of Gang Gang Dance have a new album called Saint Dymphna dropping on the 21st of October on the NY based label, The Social Registry. OK I’m being a little premature on this one, but I’m feeling it for a number of reasons. They approach the dance music/indie rock nexus in a very original, yet timeless fashion, their sound is lush, intricate and interesting and they have this tribal feel which brings bands like Japan, Codek and Dissidenten to mind while retaining a wholly original style. Imagine The Knife collaborating with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and you’re almost there.

The track “House Jam” sounds like something Todd Edwards would do if he spent a year in India with Kate Bush and “First Communion” comes over like an eight lane pile up of M83, Roxy Music, Shackleton and Bush Tetras. This band flirts with dance music, but goes on a date with it too, unlike the plethora of increasingly tired, rock swaggering electro which worships at a golden calf shaped like Daft Punk, yet doesn’t take the time to investigate the American house music that the visionary French duo cut their teeth on. Like the cocaine come down of late ‘70s disco and its descent into breakneck hi-energy, electro is going the same route. History repeats, as do politics and economics. The nu-‘80s is almost over thank God, or Moroder or Todd Terry even. Irony wears thin, and it’s threadbare at this point.

Bands like Gang Gang Dance will carry the spirit of rock/dance fusion into the next decade without, wearing it on its sleeve, dabbling in the kind of rock posturing that marginalizes dance music while ripping it off wholesale, or harping on endlessly about post-punk in that cloyingly irritating, rich kid at art school fashion that has become as de rigueur as a pair of dirty vans and going to dive bars on a 1,200 dollar, fixed gear bike. Post-punk was great, it’s done, time to progress. Ditto with all ‘80s stuff, it’s great, we love it, let’s use it and move on. But back to Gang Gang Dance. The new album rocks, check it when it drops and I’ll be going back to it. It’s that good. Can a band be experimental and accessible at the same time? This band can.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Yuppie Pricks give it the old college try!

In my humble opinion the death of any music form is when it loses its sense of humor, and there are ample occurrences of this down through the rock n roll age. From progressive rock in the early ‘70s to jazzy house and trip hop in the late ‘90s the history of popular music is strewn with the detritus (god I love that word) jettisoned from opuses (did you know that another plural form of opus is opera, hmmm) of an earnest nature. So when I got an email from those highly attractive, driven, astonishingly good looking yet humble and kind folks at Fanatic Promotion (sycophantic moi?) about a band from Texas called The Yuppie Pricks, I had to investigate.

Today I have their CD resting in my shweaty little mitt. It is touchingly (fnar fnar) called Balls and is ten tracks of break neck speed, melodic, driving and fun filled punk rock. The band comprised of pharmaceutical business magnate,Trevor Middleton (vocals), tgird generation divorce lawyer, Deuce Hollingsworth (guitar), Preston Hetherington (guitar), Ricky the Intern (bass) and Nigel Smythen-Wesson (drums) are based in Austin, Texas and are signed to the delightful Chicken Ranch Records label, which is also home to kick ass, Nashville, garage rockers The Clutters (check out their Don’t Believe A Word CD from last year).

Yuppie Pricks deal in reserve psychology punk by ironically celebrating the materialist excesses of the upwardly mobile in songs like “Greed Is Good,” “Fraternity Days,” and my personal favorite, “”Fuck You, I’m Rich,” which are tinged with old school UK punk, Black Flag and Dead Kennedys touches. And they get further love from me by covering a song by my one of my all time cherished bands, a tearing remake of “Male Model” by Derry’s finest, The Undertones, my local band when I was growing up and purveyors of top notch, total fun, pop punk. The choice of this tune by Yuppie Pricks is a testament to their fine choice in influences, which no doubt accompanies their fine choices in Brooks Brothers button down collar shirts and Bass Weejun loafers. This is punk rock with a message that you can laugh along to as well. Seems timely.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Groove Is In the Jung At Heart.

Yesterday evening, after meeting a friend at a sushi joint downtown, where the dj played the original tune Deee-Lite sampled for “Groove Is in Heart,” i.e. “Bring Down The Birds,” by Herbie Hancock from the Blow Up soundtrack, I sauntered back into the Loin and while strolling through the cross walk at Geary and Jones was passed in the street by a fast walking Lady Miss Kier, accompanied by none other than Shock G of Digital Underground. How coincidental indeed? 

Was this musical synchronicity, celebrity synchronicity (the name of a future reality TV show for the Jung at heart?), sushi synchronicity or burgeoning ‘90s revival synchronicity? Or was it all of the above? Either way it made me giggle. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the Lady in the Loin, but it was the first time seeing her accompanied by Shock G, the guy “who put the satin on your panties,” if you remember correctly.


Friday, August 22, 2008

The Wordless Music Series Featuring Works by Jonny Greenwood and more @ the Herbst Theatre, SF

The evening began with the beautiful, minimalist masterpiece "Shaker Loops", composed by John Adams, infamous for it's 1st movement's appearance in the Bukowski biopic, "Barfly"from 1987. The rigorous, dueling cello counterpoint earned nods of approval from the rock-bred crowd, hoping for a peak at their Radiohead hero, Jonny Greenwood.
This sweet cultural collision is one of the most fascinating aspects of a series like this. Someone like Jonny Greenwood, whose other role as lead guitarist in one of the biggest bands on the planet has the ability to expose the rockers to the more academic and sublime sounds of new music. Though much of the crowd seemed to be craning their necks around looking to see who might be in the audience and waiting for the final piece, I'm sure they left enlightened and with a head full of sound from a different place.

Next up was the amusing Fred Frith piece, "Save As", which paired silliness with profound melody. The percussionist was a total joy to watch as he toppled coffee cans, dropped ping-pong balls and played impossible vibraphone sequences along with sprays and punctuations of explosive percussion. The timbre of the treated cello implied amplified distortion only to reveal the recurring melody which resolved nicely to leave us with something beautiful to take away.
Arvo Part's "Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten" was a stately, sombre, pure musical form one might expect from a Part piece. Magik* Magik Orchestra rose to the majestic occasion.
Next up was Mason Bates's "Icarian Rhapsody" for string orchestra, which was an exquisite surprise from a young, San Francisco based composer who made an appearance during the ovation following.

Finally, Jonny Greenwood's "Popcorn Superhet Receiver" concluded the evening with it's Penderecki-inspired journey through sound. Screeching tense passages relieved by soaring, smeary, woozy glissandi recalled his other role's use of trailing ebow guitars and Ondes Martenot. The thrilled crowd seemed especially psyched during the pizzicato section of the piece in which the string players played their instruments like guitars, creating an energetic rock energy during this otherwise otherworldy, austere sonic place.
The 'head fans got what they came for and so much more. As Greenwood is in town for his band's headline appearance at Golden Gate Park the following evening, he poked his head out from the balcony,during the ovation, looking pleased, alongside Michael Tilson Thomas, conducter of the SF Symphony.

Props go to Benjamin Shwartz, conductor and the excellent Magik*Magik Orchestra. Much thanks to Terra Reneau and Ronen Givony for making this happen.

New Verve album is great, period, or full stop even.

I’ve never been a Britpop fan and that’s not to say that I don’t like Britpop, I just never really got into it that much. I liked a few of the tunes — probably some of the more obvious ones — like “Girls and Boys” and “There Is No Other Way” by Blur and a few tunes by The Verve, but never threw myself into it. I had friends back home in the old country who were bang into all of it, and who were constantly quoting Jarvis Cocker. OK, I’m talking about two guys in particular, who shall remain nameless for fear that their mammy will read this blog and great ructions will ensue. Anyway they were identical twins, or near identical, and they would quote Jarvis and pull Jarvis faces, which invariably involved sucking their cheeks in and speaking in a Nawthun English accent. They would also do chicken arm flap dances to David Morales remixes that had those hooty, M1 organ sounds that were so prevalent in the early ‘90s. If you have his Overweight Pooch remix then you know what I mean.

They were fond of responding to requests to do something or go somewhere with the retort, “Sorry but I’m practicing an Albert Camus novel right now,” which was a reference to a Manic Street Preachers interview in The Face, in which a typically English caption under a picture of an aloof looking Richie claimed that he was practicing an Albert Camus novel. And they liked having conversations with people on acid that involved verbally punctuating everything they said, for example, “Open quotation marks, hey Sean, comma, how — apostrophe — ‘s it goin' apostrophe, question mark, close quoatation marks.” This would go on for about a half an hour or until the unfortunate tripper on the receiving end of the conversation ran screaming for the door. High stair...ical as I would say myself.

What has any of this go to do with the new Verve album? Well, they were, or are, a Britpop band, one of the finest, some would wager, and their new album, Forth, which was resting in my greasy little mitt not two score minutes ago, is pretty damned good, epic, intense and dramatic. Sometimes Ashcroft and the music itself sound a bit like U2, but with less pomp and more texture. It’s a strong rock album crafted lovingly by some old hands in the game. It’s ten tracks long, is out on Tuesday the 26th of August and I’ve only given it a once over listen and it’s grabbing me big style already. It's kinda shpacey shoundin' too.

Perhaps I should leave aside my David Morales remix fixation and start collecting all the ‘90s rock twelves I missed, starting with that tasty, remastered 12 inch of The Pixies’ “Debaser.” Hmmm, I wonder who has one of those? Anyways, keep eyes peeled for the new Verve and I’m off and away, comma, OK period.


Thursday, August 21, 2008


If you’re like me — ancient, grouchy and over-opinionated — and hopefully you’re not, then you absolutely love Rex The Dog. Who he? Rex The Dog is a very talented British dance music producer whom I hella do be likin’ at this point in history. “Why,” I hear you gently whipser (misspelling intentional). I like his stuff ‘cos it kicks ass, and when I buy a record by him it remains in my play stack for months on end. He’s been making music — as Rex the Dog that is — since about 2004.  Jake Williams, the real name and brains behind this little cartoon canine, has been making tunes since he was a teenager in the early ‘90s. He got a very lucky break when a demo caught the ear of Red Jerry, owner of British dance label, Hooj Choons. Club anthems like “Son Of A Gun” “And You Belong To Me,” were the fruits of that connection, with Williams trading under the name JX.

He has also recorded under the pseudonyms Mekka and Oblik and was part of Planet Perfecto with Paul Oakenfold. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh he makes trance.” No, Rex The Dog makes tough, melodic electro full of lush analog nuance and modern production and glitch, which is coupled subtely with the uplifting feel and drive of classic trance. If you threw Jam and Spoon’s remix of Age of Love into a pot with Dexter’s “I Don’t Care” and Hugh Bullen’s “Alisand” that’s what Rex sounds like. My friend Mark Slandersosimo turned me onto “Circulate”/”Italian Blond” on Kitsune and “Maximize” on Kompakt (the German minimalists like a bit a kicky shit and fair play to them) back in early 2007 and I’ve been hooked since.

His music has a melodic and uplifting feel that is missing from a lot of modern dance floor music and he makes tracks that you can use to peak out a set and get the kids rockin,’ without resorting to the predictable approach of most electro bangers. Also, his beats can at times be banging and hard or very syncopated and funky, like on “Circulate” where the percussion intro sounds like Latin Rascals on steroids, heralding a muscular form of electro inflected freestyle for a fast moving world. His new single “I Can See You, Can You See Me?” is a deft exercise in forward looking dance music that hints at some of the triumphs of classic floor scorchers. It drops on August 25th and will be followed by his debut album, The Rex The Dog Show. Both will be released on the Co-operative Music label. Check him out, if you haven’t already, his music makes the party rock hard!!!


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Shtereolab album, by the wayz!!!!

Stereolab’s new album, Chemical Chords drops today. It’s fourteen tracks long and displays the lush intricacy that the band are renowned for. It’s pretty, groovy, relaxing and challenging all at once. It’s their eleventh album — how many albums have British bands like Blur and the Brit pop elite released, pray tell? — but it’s their debut for British indie rock legend 4AD.

I’ve never been a Stereolab fan — I’ve too busy trawling thrift stores for 12 inch singles — but I’ve always liked what I’ve heard from them and I like this one too. Might be time to go out and get Dots and Loops and Emperor Tomato Ketchup, I’ll scoop ‘em while I’m getting a Burt Bacarach album, something by Neu!, Isaac Hayes’s Chocolate Chip and Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July.

I know what you’re thinking, “Gosh your music shopping lisht is so interesting, Orr!” You can replace gosh with "sacre bleu" if you live in France, or "Gott In Himmel" for our German readers. But I know I’m wrong again, what you’re actually thinking is, “I already own all of Stereolab’s albums, Orr, you boring old fart, and I don’t need your validation of the new one, hanx very much.”

Have it your way, their new 'un is a very nice album and I like it lots. Hokay?


Eno and Byrne Together Again!

Get it here!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another weekend of tunes!

What can I say? Another absolutely blinding weekend for tunes once again. This time around I unearthed a clutch of super early Chicago house tracks (like ‘85/’86 vintage — and an ’89 stormer), a kick ass boogie toon by Timmy Regisford and Boyd Jarvis, which was an early Chicago classic too, a Lee Ritenour twelve inch, which Baldelli played, and which I have been turning people onto for years plus some other nuggets. But out of the whole bunch I was truly delighted by just one, and that was a four track promo 12 inch by Stevie Wonder, a sampler from his Hotter Than July album, containing the Paradise Garage classic “All I Do.”

This is one of those records that I should have gotten 15 years ago when the garage/disco thing was flavor of the month and every house producer and their mother was sampling these nuggets that Levan, Humphries, Scott, and Forest had been hammering for years. It’s one I always kept an eye out but never totally weaseled after, knowing full well that I would chance on it some day when I least expected it. Stumbling into your local Goodwill and finding all this gear is a boon and a half, the Stevie Wonder platter was like manna from above.

That’s it, right now I’m up to my armpits in tunes, and it’s time to bust out the masking tape, the Goo Gone and a sharpie and start bpming and cleaning up these puppies. Yeah, it’s a sad, nerdy ritual but it’s better than drinking the money and then pissing it up against a wall on Saturday night.


Spudboys Deliver!

When a band has true talent and vision, the end result is timeless. However, when a few generations have come-of-age since the band's hayday and are still in touring, bashing out the hits, some scrutinize. When they take the stage toting larger bellies, silvery manes, and wrinkles, many wonder if it is really the same. Maybe it is true that some bands should "quit while they're ahead" and it's true that sometimes legendary bands don't age well, and yes, hearing the same great songs over and over can get tired, but I certainly think this is not the case with the music of DEVO. They are not only inspirational to young and old alike, they appear to be inspired themselves.

This technologically quirky rock outfit is still touring, adorned in their plastic lemon jumpsuits, knee pads and energy domes, whilst preaching de-evolution and proclaiming their love for potatoes. I have to tell you, they still put on one HELL of a show. The stunning visuals recalling their artful and bizarre music videos from the 1970s and 80s set the stage for the technocratic messaging to come. As the band members prepare to take the stage, the crowd is seething with anticipation. This is sheer entertainment!
It gave me an uncontrollable urge to giggle with glee at such a spectacle. I mean, it was cool for me to experience it; what can I say? I can't help when I was born! (ed - ...before 1990 and later than 1985.)

To all who are quick to dismiss bands for continuing to tour through their silver years, do not put yourselves to shame by jerking back and forth. Just because a show is out of sync with its original context does not mean it doesn't take on new meaning to new fans. Maybe you should whip that prejudice, get straight, go forward and enjoy the show. But I guess I'm just a spud girl waiting for that real tomato.

-Liz Letterland

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Andrew Komis R.I.P.

I honestly thought there would be more dewy eyed reminiscing about the second summer of love 1988. Perhaps I’m not paying enough heed, but it didn’t seem to get the attention that I anticipated. Ah well, there’s been enough mythologizing about that summer down the years, especially in the British dance music magazines. The summer of 1988 was when house music etc. exploded in London, with acid house really taking hold in the clubs, and artists like Todd Terry, Phuture, Reese and Santonio, Baby Ford and Model 500 pushing through with new sounds.

However, amid this deluge of top quality American music coming across the Atlantic in all its shrink wrapped glory there were also quite a few Canadian records, produced by a group of individuals in Toronto. Among these were Nick Fiorucci and the late Michael Ova, who went on to found Hi Bias Records in the early 90s, Hayden Andre Brown and Ron Allen who founded the Strobe Records label, and a mysterious producer named Komix. In the late ‘80s they were producing tracks for a label called Bigshot Records, which was founded by Komix and Fiorucci.

Komix aka Andrew Komis was responsible for such Bigshot gems as “Give Me A Sign” by In-dex, summer of 1988 anthem “Come and Get My Lovin’” by Dionne (though the 1989 remix, also by Komix, was the orbital rave jam) and the incredible cover of E.S.P.’s “It’s You” by Mr. and Mrs. Dale (recently featured on the Kings of Electro comp by Trevor Jackson and Alter Ego). He also crafted a string of killer tracks for US garage vocalist Pandella. Komis didn’t have the profile of Kevin Saunderson, Blaze or Kerri Chandler, but he did deliver some exquisite house jams throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and his records made you sit up and take notice.

Why? There are many technical reasons why, but let’s just say that his tunes stood out. If you can find his 1994 remix dub of Donna Giles’s “And I'm Telling You (I'm Not Going),” a double pack also featuring mixes by Derrick Carter, Johnny Vicious and Kerri Chandler, you’ll see what I mean. Komis’s mix really delivers the goods, with its driving, square wave bass line, slapping beats and lush pads making it a perfect, abstract house groover, a secret weapon for the discerning house dj who steers away from sub-genres and focuses on good tunes instead.

Sadly, Andrew Komis passed away last week in California, at the young age of 41 after a very short battle with leukemia. He will be missed greatly by the dance music community and his contribution to house music will never be forgotten. Thanks for the tunes Andrew, they soundtracked many moments and memories that will always remain precious.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Full Pupp's Greatest Tits

This one’s been out for about three weeks and I’ve been meaning to get to it, and now I have. Prins Thomas is a Norwegian producer who purveys cosmic and Balearic vibes, and is a disc jockey of some note. With the help of Steve Kotey of Chicken Lips, he runs the Full Pupp label, which features some top notch Norwegian, retro futurist disco bidness. Yes all the artists featured on this collection are from Norway, and you thought that Norway was all about oil rigs, fishing and fjords. How wrong you were, it seems that Prins Thomas’s homeland — reportedly a pretty laid back place — is also a haven for ridiculously talented producers and djs, who like nothing more than re-inventing the heady classics of past dance floors for the modern club set. Prins Thomas, Lindstrøm and Todd Terje all hail from Norway and these three have made an indelible mark on dance music over the last three years.

The Greatest Tits Volume One is a two-disc collection, featuring a mixed disc, courtesy of Prins Thomas, and a second, unmixed disc. Both highlight the work of this prolific label which has been in demand since its first release by Todd Terje in 2005. The music on here is a hi-brid of disco, Cosmic classics, Italo, funk and old school Ibiza/Balearic gems. The focus is on dancing for sure, but at a tempo that isn’t breakneck, in fact by the time you reach the third tune “Sandoz” by Blackbelt Andersen, you might just want to stop for a second to think about just how pretty it is. Ditto for the rest of the compilation, because even though it is all synthy and danceable, it also dreamy and lush, making it the perfect choice for home listening, discerning dance floors and inspired early morning dj sets. Scoop it when you see it.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Isaac Hayes R.I.P.

What can you say about the news that soul music legend Isaac Hayes has passed away? There’s not really much you can say except that the man was an innovator and a genius; up there with the best of them, like James Brown, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. You have to admire a man who began his life in poverty, picking cotton as a child, living with his grandparents after the death of his mother and father. He earned his high school diploma at the age of twenty and taught himself to play the piano, organ, sax and flute. Then he embarked on an illustrious music career that defined soul music in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, as he developed a lush, symphonic type of soul sound that paid homage to song writers like Bacarach and David — in fact Hayes covered several of their songs, turning then into lengthy marathons of rich orchestration and dramatic arrangements.

It could also be said that his music influenced disco and producers like Gamble and Huff, who developed the string drenched Philadelphia sound, which many see as the first stirrings of the genre. His song “I Can’t Turn Around,” was a huge hit on the Chicago club scene in ‘70s and early ‘80s and was reinterpreted as “Love Can’t Turn Around.” by Chicago dj, Farley Jackmaster Funk, an 1986 UK top twenty hit, which announced the arrival of house music in the European mainstream.

We will never forget Hayes’s music for the blaxploitation classic Shaft, or his cover versions of “Walk On By,” and the Glen Campbell standard, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix.” We will also never forget his role as the voice for the character Chef in the animated, comedy series South Park. To say he was a man of many talents is an understatement, as he seemed to excel at everything he turned his hand to; musical instruments, song writing, singing and acting.

In a time when soul music has almost seemed to disappear, replaced by bubble gum, top 40 r&b or urban adult contemporary (whatever that means), we can only hope that in some future time when our music is not ruined by accountants and talentless middleman, that someone will discover the work of Isaac Hayes and create a new era of soul music, a lush, futuristic and beautiful invocation of all that has come before and a manifesto for what will follow. With that thought in mind let’s be thankful for all the great music the man gave us, the beautiful, gospel inflected and sometimes tortured songs, which defined Southern Soul and the Stax label.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Tune of the weekend!

Back in 1988, yes that far back, when I was in school in Ireland, my boy Anthony came back from a summer in NYC with a DJ Red Alert mix-tape that he recorded off Kiss FM. It was a pretty firing mix as you can imagine and though I haven’t heard it in many years I remember a few tunes off it, “Ease Back,” by Ultramagnetic MCs, “Good Times” by Chic, “Running Thangs” by Busy Bee and the tune above, which was our favorite, I suppose, ‘cos we would dance at parties to it and recite the lyrics and giggle about them — there was a fair bit of gigglin’ done in 1988, believe me. “Small Time Huslter” by The Dismasters on Urban Rock records was the tune, though I didn’t know any of those details back then, before t’internet (as they say up north, not Detroit, but Bradford, England, where it’s grim supposedly).

Many years went by and we all parted ways as you do and as you especially did in Ireland, everyone bailed out to England, or Europe, or Australia, and the Shtates, and, of course, some stayed at home (cue mournful Celtic music). One day while sitting at my desk in 2000 at the offices of a very short lived but hopeful dance music magazine called Revolution — published by the folks who give you Future Music, they have a US office — I opened an email from Davey D, the renowned hip hop historian, journalist, deejay and community activist. I was on his mailing list and I used to check his mails regularly ‘cos he’s a smart cat and has been around for a minute.

In the middle of the mail was a competition with an mp3 link that said if you could name the tune a grand prize was all yours. So I clicked on it and there it was playing back at me after being out of my life for twelve years, the tune off that mix-tape, which soundtracked an idyllic summer in a far off place and a lost time. I emailed Davey back saying that I wasn’t interested in entering the competition but could he tell me the name of the tune, telling him its relevance to me. Davey hit me right back, telling me it was “Small Time Hustler,” by The Dismasters. The next day I was heading into San Francisco to interview Dilated Peoples for the magazine and I ran into Frank “Rasta Cue Tip,” a kick ass local hip-hop dj and producer, and one time hip-hop buyer for the Amoeba stores.

He was coming from The Independent (then called the Justice League I think) where Dilated Peoples were doing a sound check. We stopped on the street to say wazzup and I asked him if he knew the tune, and he replied, “Oh yeah, it just got repressed, I have about twenty copies at the store.” Yowza, I stopped up there that evening, scooped three copies, two for me and one for my friend Damien back in the old country, ‘cos he used to bug out on it too. When I took it home, cracked open the shrink wrap, slapped it on the platter, put the needle to the groove and closed my eyes, I was back in 1988, in Ireland and Anthony was looking at with that big toothy grin on his mug, saying, “so what do you think of that then, Chris Orr, ya critical bollocks, huh eh?”

Yeah, it took me way back, and for a minute I didn’t feel that far away at all and all the people that I hadn’t seen since the day I graduated, or the sad day I left the country, were back in the room, the music was loud, the craic was ninety and friendship was everything. Music can do that, can’t it? It can forge a bond, build a bridge, bust through the bullshit and transcend time and space. It brings you back, takes you forward, re-ignites your memories, disposes of the politics and renders love eternal. It rocks the disco tech and sets dreams in motion, oh yes. Enjoy the tunes and have a great weekend!


Last Night at Mighty for the Murphy/Mahoney Special Disco Version.

Murphy and Mahoney came, saw, conquered and played a bit of disco. A good night, a packed house, a gang of disco and some tight tune selection from the two boys. Plus they didn’t paint the place, move any furniture, pull any pints or bury anybody — except the crowd, in a wave of luscious grooviness (oooh shouldn’t be allowed!).

Nice one!


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Murphy and Mahoney's Special Disco Version at Mighty

At Mighty tonight,  James Murphy and Pat Mahoney, of LCD Soundsystem, are coming through — and they’re not gonna be movin' the furniture or paintin’ the place, but they will be movin' the crowd. God I never get sick of that stupid joke, but with names like Murphy and Mahoney, and my time spent on the emerald isle, I just cannot resist it. And then you add Tim Sweeney into the mix and you have the three plastic Micks of the aah...discomix. Plastic mick or Paddy, is Irish slang for folks born abroad — especially the U.K. and the U.S.— of Irish parents or of Irish decent. I’m one myself given that I was born in Glasgow of an Irish father and Scottish mother, so no offence meant lads. Anyways nonsense aside, Murphy and Mahoney will be knocking out a Special Disco Version dj set , which will be brimming with funky, soulful grooves of a mostly vintage nature, for your bumpin’ and a grindin’ plaisir.

Special Disco Version is a new party that the pair throw in NY and now they've opted for taking it around the country and abroad too, with dates in far flung locales like Chicago, Brighton, Lisbon, London and Glasgow — of course! If you’ve heard their top notch mix for the Fabriclive series then you know what to expect. If you haven’t, then you are most certainly in for a big treat. Doors are at 9:00AM and the opening dj is Still Rob G from OM Records. After Juan Atkins at Bodyheat, and Glass Candy at the Rickshaw on Monday, this will be the third do in a very enjoyable hat trick of nights. See youz on the dancefloor I hope.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Glass Candy after party.

On Monday night I took a stroll over to the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco for the after party that followed the Glass Candy/Faint show at the Fillmore. DJ Omar and Aaron Axelsen threw the do and it was a pretty good time by all accounts. A young dj named Corrine was throwing down some jams when myself and my friends walked in, in fact the Crystal Waters song “100% Pure Love,” was playing and that’s not what I was expecting. Omar followed with an Italo, acid, disco combo that got the floor moving nicely and Glass Candy came on an played a kick ass little set that kept the floor in that state of motion.

It was a good way to get the week off to a strong start in this over-expensive and increasingly less fun city. Thankfully there was no bloghouse, and the crowd was laid back and up for a laugh. More please of this please!


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Does It Offend Me? Maybe. OK, not really!

There’s a crotchety old notion floating around with crotchety old vinyl collectors, djs and disco dancing experts. It is this, that these damned hipster kids are starting to steal our music from us and are talking about acid trax, Nu Groove, R&S Records, Larry Levan and what have you. And I’ll admit it, I’ve entertained thoughts like that myself (hell, some of them have even spent the night), but every time I do I am whisked back to the balmy summer of 1985, and the words of a long deceased friend of mine. 

His name was Mario Da Silva and he was a very cool Scots-Italian dude who had great taste in tunes, threads and other stuff. He came over to Ireland in ’84 or ’85 to kick a certain habit, and as Major Tom experienced, the planet was still glowing. Regardless of that proclivity, he always said, “Don't knock the young team,” meaning, if the kids are giving it a twirl then leave them to it, hope that they enjoy it and wish them the best.

And as I was a kid myself way back when, those words didn’t really resonate with me, but I remember them to this day, and now they do. Mario passed away many years ago, in a car accident in Portugal in ’86. All my friends and I were crushed and saddened by the news that our super cool, insanely funny friend was gone forever. And though this sounds corny and superstitious —Hey I grew up in Ireland and Scotland, you don’t need to tell me about superstition — about six months after he passed away I was walking down a road in Galway, Ireland, where I went to university, and there was Mario sitting in a passing bus, mutely looking out at me, not smiling, just blankly gazing out and reminding me of the things he said and his accepting view of life. And as I wasn’t even thinking about him at the time it made me think that it wasn't my overactive imagination. I still believe it was him and I cherish those words of wisdom even more after all the years, and tears and beers.

So every time I get an earful from a crotchety old dj about “these goddam kids and their f#*ing electro blah blah blah,” I always remember Mario and his thoughts about the young team. I do this too when I pick up magazines that criticize an entire youth culture as vacuous, dumb and in the thrall of its corporate masters. And I’ll entertain the notion and maybe even agree with it for a while, and then I remember not to knock the young team. Yeah, maybe the hipster look is contrived and a lot of the kids dress the same, but ditto for mods, skins, punks, new romantics and ravers.

Perhaps the youth tribe has fallen too much under the influence of mainstream media and its inescapable pull: so has everything and everyone else. Haven’t you noticed? Youth culture reacts against what preceded it, and it embraces what it sees around it. In the case of hipster kids it was jazzy house, tasteful downtempo collections and dotcom bullshit (I mean excess). And what does that bloody word, hipster, mean anyway. Hipster, what is this, North Beach in the 1950s? It is the latest youth subculture that has absorbed most of the sub cultures of the past, and thankfully jettisoned others. 

It is young and keen and unsure of its place in an increasingly crass, cruel and greedy world. It embraces some of those reptilian tendencies and then soul searches about them. It wants to be noticed, celebrated and adored, just like the celebrities or artists whose lives seem to transcend the tedium of no money, a broken home, a broken heart, rich parents who didn’t care, poor parents who couldn’t, boring retail jobs and unrequited desire. But that's entertainment, huh?

It fawns, fucks and fights, and the crotchety old critics wish they still could, perhaps that is the source of their criticism. It struggles to see the point in a world where your fifteen minutes are up as soon as you blink and life seems like one long tunnel from triumph to mundanity. But as Tom Robinson once sang; “Only the very young and the very beautiful can be so aloof, hanging out with the boys all swagger and poise.” We can afford the kids the swagger and the poise that we afford(ed) our heroes, from Elvis and The Who to Public Enemy, Justice and Does It Offend You, Yeah? It would be bad form not to.

So let’s take some time out from hating on the kids, and why don't we hate on other things that are more deserving of it, like poverty, starvation, war, the gaping maw of income inequality, our calcified political system and a media that projects the vacuousness we criticize in our young friends. Yeah, ignore the plank in the eye of the media and focus on the splinters in the eyes of the kids. The Who said it and it’s true, the kids are alright. Alright?


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Juan Atkins at Bodyheat! Part Two.

With the fear of being labeled a whore (a vinyl whore not a label one, and anyway it would be better grammarz to be called a label whore, not labeled one, right kids?), I have to say a lickle something about last night's Bodyheat with Juan Atkins, Steve Summers and DJ Niklas. 'Twas fab, in fact I would go as far as to say that it was fandabbbydozy, not merely fab. "Pray why?" I hear you tentatively gasp in a low, subdued breath that's replete with hanticipation and hexpectation no less. It was great because for the first time in a long time I felt that I was being entertained and not witnessing the powerful effect of a promoter's facade; that kiss ass act that takes about fifty seconds to execute as a flyer is deftly handed over and an insincere compliment delivered. The result being thoughts of (in loud, squeaky voice), "Oh gosh that promoter is so nice, I have to go to that party so I can witness more of how nice he/she is and feel like I'm important. Golly, I hope that there's a photographer there, so I can stare at myself through a cocaine headache all day Saturday. I don't remember the music, but the photographer's name was Cindy De L'Abortion," etc. 

"Gosh, you're so bitter Orr," a chorus of five trillion young, socially overactive, go along to get along operatives gleefully opine. No, I'm fucking bored to the tits with shite parties, crap music, whack soundsystems, phony, attention addicted promoters, terrible photographers and incapable djs. OK? It's alright, you're still allowed to have an opinion in America, it won't be made illegal until eight months into McCain's presidency, when if the "Seldom Is Heard A Discouraging Word" law is broken you're sent off to Guatanamo to be lobotomized and spend the rest of your days stacking bottles in front of you. 

Anyways, ranting aside, Bodyheat rocked last night for these reasons; Steve Summers live set was a pretty damned good selection of jack trax, acid tracks and deep, string drenched numbers that brought Vincent Floyd to mind.  No computer to be seen (by me anyway), all hardware and Shteve up there playing, and turnin' knobs til his heart was content. Nice one son. Then Dj Niklas got up on the decks, played some top notch disco and house music and shook his funky ass about too, which the crowd loved and responded in kind to. People like it when the dj dances, and not the air punching, "we rock" type of dancing that is spread (like manure) over Flickr, myspace et al. these days. His mixing was spot on and he delivered a couple a two or three shlick cuts too, as one does when one is playing dishco. Outta sight!

Then Juan Atkins got on, mixed out of Quando Quango's "Love Tempo," (golly I lovez me that song) and played just under two hours of disco, house, techno, and there was even a rather cosmic (in every sense of the word) middle eastern musical interlude that kinda floored everyone. He started off a little unsure of the crowd, as one does when one is a human being (or carbon unit for those who are fond of science fiction references), but a few a songs in and he was sticking it to us, playing dance music the way it needs to be played, and showing us the continuum that connects Chic's "Dance Dance Dance" (and we did did did) to Red Planet's "Star Dancer," Alexander Robotnick's "Problemes D'Amour," A Number of Names' "Shari Vari," Infiniti's "Game One," Fonda Rae's "Living In Ecstasy," and some brand new, minimal gear. 

The crowd ate it up and it coulda been 1988, 1992 or 2011. 2011, huh? Well, a few more nights like this and people will remember, and some will be introduced anew to, the concept of going out for some good music. Also there were nice, not overdone (as usual) rave inducing visuals from AC of Donuts! fame and fam. So hats off to Logan and the lads and lasses for a top night out, and for reminding me why I love dance music! 

Oh, and before I forget: Elbo Room, please do  something  with that damned soundsystem of yours, like put your manager in a time machine and send him back to 1907 when the thing was set up. Here are some blunt hints: loud, clean, soundsystem equals mad dancing, whooping, hollering, whistling, joviality, and A LOT MORE DRINKING AT THE BAR! It's a well known psychological fact that people drink more when there's loud music. Jesus, I can't count how many damned venues I play at or go to that have spent a quarter of a mill on the decor and there's two messed up CD decks in the far corner of the venue almost buried behind the bar. And when you protest about it you get responses like "Well we're in the bidness of selling drinks, not spending untold amounts money on sound." Nice fucking chandeliers Broseph, unfortunately I don't go out for bidness I go out to be ENTERTAINED, which connects to ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS. You can walk into a hole in the wall in South Beach Miami and the soundsystem will rule, while here in SF, it's all about the bidness. Well if it is, do it right!


Friday, August 1, 2008

Juan Atkins at Bodyheat! Part One.

If someone had told me in 1996 that Juan Atkins (aka Model 500, Infinti, Cybotron, Audiotech, Triple XXX etc. etc.) was playing at Elbo Room in San Francisco I would have been flummoxed and flabbergasted, as well as being baffled, browbeaten and bamboozled. But tonight he is indeed going to rotate some platters at that there venue there. This is all thanks to a party called Bodyheat and a young man named Logan Grosenick. Bodyheat has given us some choice entertainment in the last few months, including dj and live sets from the likes of Boom Bip, Woolfy, DJ Rahaan, Morgan Geist, Dam Funk, Quiet Village and Broker/ Dealer.

The boy is not funking about when it comes to quality entertainments for your listening, and gyrating pleasures. Long may he continue to make SF night life a little brighter as it labors under a deluge of top 40 feculent, maddening mash ups, boring bangers, tedious techno and ho hum house. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on your music or your scene, good luck to all of you, but I just don’t want to hear one style of music all night, variety is the spice of life in every facet of life.

I think Logan knows that mixing up the styles, and the old with the new is the way forward. It worked for Ron Hardy, Afrika Bambaataa, Tony Humphries, Grandmaster Flash and a host of other influential deck techs, so it should still work now. And yes Juan Atkins is a techno producer and dj — he invented the genre — but in the past I’ve heard him drop disco, U.S. garage, Italo, electro and WBMX gear. You can always count on the mid-western djs to bring some eclectic flavor. Tonight should be a good ‘un, so if you’re in SF and you like dancing to driving, synthetic music, Bodyheat should be a top bet. Local live jackmaster, Steve Summers and resident dj Niklas supply supporting music.