Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bullion - "Young Heartache" EP

I keep harping on about the looming post electro era and how it will manifest. It seems it will do so in a number of ways through a number of artists. From Nite Jewel to the diverse and artful onslaught of Exploited Records to this, one of my newest discoveries, Bullion. I can’t say I know much about this artist except for the “Young Heartache” EP, which I just purchased a few days ago and a few things I’ve listened to online, including the rather wicked “Rude Effort” off the “Get Familiar” 7” EP, mastered by MJ Cole no less, but I have to say that I've like what I've heard.

The “Young Heartache” EP is a sly amalgam of hip-hop, Balearic vibes — or a feel that can be easily placed in a Balearic context. Isn’t that the essence of Balearic? — and that abstract capacity for wide-eyed, Beach Boys type arrangements that make Animal Collective compelling. But this is British beat music; the raw, crooked edges of electro colliding with the enveloping warmth of the post-Bush, coke comedown. It’s infinitely less defeatist than Burial and though the music stargazes and sun worships it won’t turn into cocktail fare for yuppies.

Fire on “Time For Us All To Love” and “Are You The One?” for a brief glimpse of what is to come, and what has always been; tuneful forward, looking beat music that lifts a foot, a mood or a movement. This one creeps up on you, and that's always a good sign. A keeper, so keep harping on about it.


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Monday, March 30, 2009

Blank Dogs, Brilliant Colours and Nodzzz @ The Knockout, SF 3/29

Thanks to its staff and resident DJs, who have paid their dues through enough of the indie scene's ups and downs to know something good when they hear it, The Knockout has been able to host a number of up-and-coming Brooklyn bands all out of proportion with its size and location. Shows like The Vivian Girls last year (just before their album--the original pressing, that is--went to the top of the eBay watch lists of bloggers everywhere) and Blank Dogs last night are must-see events if you live in SF and care about what goes on in that far away land where indie bands move to "make it," whatever that means in this day and age. Blank Dogs definitely fit that NY mold, teetering precariously between punk and post-punk with hints of the Ramones and Television as well as early Cure and, most interestingly, with a rickety home-built synth lurking off in the corner, Pere Ubu. As you might expect from a relatively new band with a toweringly large discography (Mr. Blank Dog is an avid home recorder, apparently), some songs hit the mark more than others. The untapped potential of that synth, though, looking so weird and cool yet not making much of a sound, was the real disappointment of their set.

Despite the occasional heavy-hitting touring band, however, some of the most exciting stuff going on at The Knockout is decidedly home-grown. The only San Francisco band on much-hyped NY label What's Your Rupture?, Nodzzz humbly took the opening slot, starting the party off right with a different set of late '70s influences, this time closer to the nerdy Athens, GA college rock of the DBs, recalling the B-52's, even, in the time before they hooked up with a producer ("I'm from Planet Z!", shouted one guitarist). Nodzzz have gotten a lot of attention already, but it is nice to have them here as a local band and playing around frequently. They really do put on a fun show. Sandwiched between them and Blank Dogs were Brilliant Colours, a relatively new local band who have the honor of opening both this show and the aforementioned Vivian Girls gig last year, and who are quickly finding their sound, putting their own mark on the '80s indie anglophilia that their name evokes. Like a poppier Wedding Present or a less distorted Black Tambourine, they've been looking for the sweet spot between energy and melody, and they're getting pretty close to finding it; their debut 7" has just been released and is definitely worth picking up. All in all, it was one of those all-too-rare nights: come for the out-of-town band you keep hearing about, leave amazed instead by everything that's going on in your own backyard.

-DJ In the Manner of a Leprechaun

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lene Lovich.

While the ongoing ‘80s throwback, which has been gaining momentum since the ‘90s, gives us all the opportunity to relive adolescent glory, or imagine it if that era is a little before your time, it seems kinda sad that you pretty much get subjected to the standard hits that were ubiquitous at the time. Billy Idol, Madonna and Michael Jackson, that’s the ‘80s, hmmm, not the ‘80s I remember, but then I grew up on the other side of the pond and we had some stuff that wasn’t popular stateside and vice versa. I know that super obscure items from that decade have been exhumed via the newly found passion for Italo, Cosmic music etc., but the cool thing about the UK top 40 charts at that time was that some of that stuff was in there.

“Big Man Restless” by Kissing The Pink was a big Baldelli record, and thus an arcane delight, but the band also had a UK top twenty hit in 1983 with their song, “The Last Film.” Let’s just say that the UK charts back then seemed a little more exciting and a lot less prefabricated and ruined by quasi-payola. One UK artist who deserves more than just the cult adulation she has received is Lene Lovich. Born in Detroit to an English mother and a Serbian father, she moved back to the north of England with her mother when she was thirteen. The first time most of us heard of her was when her single “Lucky Number” got into the UK top ten in 1978.

It was a striking piece of new wave rock, with Lovich’s unusual vocals and noises, and a fast, funky and exhilarating backing track. It really stood out at the time, and 1978 was the first year when you could see new wave really taking shape. Lovich was a standard bearer for it, along with the likes of Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and The Pretenders. The single was followed by her debut album, Stateless, on the infamous Stiff Records label. Her career continued on into the ‘80s with songs like “New Toy,” "It's You, Only You (Mein Schmerz)" and “Blue Hotel,” though she never regained the profile that she achieved with that ground breaking single in '78.

However, she didn’t go away and down the years Lovich has also written lyrics, guested and performed with artists as diverse as Nina Hagen, Cerrone, The Residents, Thomas Dolby and George Clinton. Recently she has crafted lyrics for French house producer Bob Sinclar, including “The Beat Goes On,” and “Kiss My Eyes.” A cult artist she may be but her influence is still felt and tunes like “New Toy” and “Lucky Number” will never go away. Also if you have the “Lucky Number” single, flip it over and listen to the brilliant “Home,” an excellent track that I always played more than the a-side.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sebastien Tellier's Kilometer Single Is A Doozy!

I have to say that I really like this new Sebastien Tellier rekkid. Four mixes in all, including the original, and they’re all banging in my opinion. The original is a mid tempo euro disco tinged thing with kitschy, sexy vocals, the Aeroplane mix is a vocoderized Italo flavored work out at 112 bpm, Arpanet get all weird, austere and Detroity at a slower tempo and the dancefloor crown goes to A-Trak’s mix, which fuses disco, Daft Punk and Todd Terry, keeps the vocal, really playing on the “right over the top refrain,” and will secure this record in your crate for daze.

It will be in your crate for days ‘cos the house folks will like it, the electro kids will get a kick out of it and even the mainstream crowd, who bug out on anything Kanye or Kid Cudi, will feel the kindred spirit in A-Trak’s kicking mix. It’s a mix for all seasons, a renaissance mix, and the record in general is a little gem, if you’re a multi-tempo, multi-genre dj like myself. It’s pressed on gorgeousful red wax, so it appeals to the vinyl junkies too. Total keeper! Get it and work it!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Babe, Terror

San Francisco is feeling like summer at the height of this economic winter. At least for the time being. What better time to dig into this Brazilian artist: Babe, Terror.

For starters, his tunes pack the disembodied ghosts of Tropicalia past with woozy harmonic ideas constructed from looping voices and stuttering drones. Track 7, entitled "Julebord" from his new album, "Weekend" feels like the spiritual offspring of Caetano Veloso's amazing "Araçá Azul." This revolutionary Brazilian psychedelic influence with a few hints of Brian Wilson and additional spookiness may draw comparisons to Panda Bear/AC and El Guincho, but he's obviously inhabiting his own cosmic primordial ooze.

We know a few things about him. He's from São Paulo, he likes Super Nintendo and he gets "it." His music to date has all been self-released and free. Download his latest, "Weekend" here, UNTIL FRIDAY (march 27). Not sure where the record will evaporate to on March 27, but it will certainly be swimming the internet seas of availability. This is a concept that Babe, Terror understands and exploits to great success, because he gets "it."

We are at the dawn of a new era for artists who understand how technology is a great ally and that content need not be policed. The labels and artists who embrace this will not only survive, but flourish. As for the others, their future is in the balance and the lawsuits will continue to fly.

For us in the bananaspam-o-sphere, enjoy the false summer if you're experiencing what we are in SF. If it's cold where you are, enjoy the future tropicalia on offer here.
His EP is also available free for download.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blackbelt Andersen Takes Balearic To The Motor City

Though the whole Balearic scenario has left me in a state of advanced disinterest, especially in relation to its current manifestation, — Why isn’t Chris Rea revered, or Mister Mister for that matter?— schmooveness of a Shcandinavian ilk, or so many beards, so little time, I do have a little ting for Danny Blackbelt Andersen’s self-titled debut rekkid. He most definitely deals in the same kind of breezy electro fare that has become a staple sound for the likes of Prins Thomas — on whose label he records — and Lindstrøm, but adds a little techno flair to it.

And when I say techno I mean Detroit techno, not the current glut of funkless, melody free, software demo music that we have been inundated with for too long, in fact I’m always amazed by the tendency to intellectualize about music that doesn’t really do anything that interesting or musical, call it the emperor’s new clothes of music. That said, local minimal techno maven Roman Stange needs to get his stuff out to a larger audience. It’s nasty, funky and heady stuff and I want to hear it very, very loud!!

Back to Blackbelt Andersen already. His album is a melodic sojourn in a Balearic place that is smitten with early phase Detroit techno. So what you get are nice chunky, chewy bass lines, pitch bendy strings, à la classic Derrick May, and the kind of warm, alien textures that Carl Craig used to trade in before he became the “very long remix that does the same thing forever and then changes a bit near the end and then goes back to doing the same thing” purveyor.

We know Carl’s from Detroit and a certain amount of adulation is warranted (god knows I’ve done my fair share) but please take us back to the mystery and funk injected abstraction of BFC and Psyche. Sorry, but even though The Juan MacLean and the DFA posse will wax endlessly about Carl’s mix of “Falling Up,” it was good but it was no “Elements” or “Galaxy” or "Domina" remix. I’m not trying to be a purist, but I love Detroit techno, obsessed on it and collected it forever and then edited XLR8R’s techno section when the genre wasn’t cool in SF. My techno standards are high and I hate being minimally lulled into herd-like acceptance.

Mr. Andersen takes that sense of motor city mystery, the sound ringing in Johnny Gambit’s ears as he policed Cabaret 7, and rivets it onto his Nordic/Cosmic vehicle. The results are very pleasant and the whole album listens very nicely, has a few decent dance floor cuts but sounds better in headphones while on the sofa or on the beach (with Chris Rea per’aps). If you like pretty electronic music it’s a must and if you want to romanticize and remember the old techno or scheme the next wave of galactic robot music it will come in handy for that too.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Remembering Phil on Paddy's Day.

Smash Hits did a piece on Phil Lynott in the early ‘80s, which began by positing the question, “What’s Black, Irish and has a big head?” The answer is Guinness, of course, cos Philo was a rocker par excellence but he didn’t have a big head, no sirree. In the early ‘80s in Ireland, where I grew up, Thin Lizzy were revered, usually by young fellas with AC/DC patches on their denim jackets, but those of us who were bugging out on Joy Division, The Buzzcocks and PIL revered Phil Lynott too, for many reasons. Firstly, we recognized that Thin Lizzy was a seriously good band, secondly we saw from interviews with Phil that he had a lot of love for new music; punk, new wave and even synth pop.

Ultravox member Midge Ure was Lizzy’s stand in tour guitarist in ’79 and I’m sure his friendship with Lynott opened up the Irish rocker to Kraftwerk, Moroder and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Listen to “Yellow Pearl” (the Top of the Pops opening theme for a good chunk of the '80s) from his first solo album for ample proof of that. The third reason we respected him was because he was black and Irish, the real “black Irish,” and we understood, as members of a culture that had been down-trodden, decimated and finally wrenched apart by infighting, how his race made him more vulnerable to xenophobia, stereotypes and racism. All that made us really proud of him.

We felt this because we knew how we were stereotyped as alcoholics (the Irish can and do drink a great deal though), barbaric and stupid, even though we produced thinkers and writers like Jonathon Swift, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Lady Gregory, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. Phil Lynott was an icon for us because he could rock out with the best of them and then he could turn around and work with the likes of Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols and Midge Ure from Ultravox. You could hear blues, soul, funk and Kraftwerkian electro in his solo records. Simply put, Philo was a man for all seasons, a renaissance man, the man.

It’s been twenty three years since he passed away and I can think of no better way to tip my hat to Saint Patrick — the Christian, Roman British slave who began the Christianizing process that civilized all of western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and the barbaric slide into the Dark Ages. This is why we honor him. — than to do likewise to Phillip Parris Lynott. So drop the green beer, the corned beef and cabbage (we don’t do any of that in the old country) and slap on a tune like “Old Town,” “Girls” or “Don’t Believe A Word” and revel in one of the best Irish exports ever, black as Guinness and Irish as all get out. Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas da anam.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Gilberto Gil, Quilombo

In the ‘90s I never really spent much time listening to Latin music, not that I didn’t like it or was dismissive of it (how could you be?) but the way Afro Latin music was turned into ersatz yuppie jingles for chintzy cocktail bars and earnest nights of “serious” club music just put me off being curious about it at all. I had flirted with it briefly in the ‘80s — in a more innocent age that wasn’t replete with corn ball acid jazz casualties (please god don’t bring that back in a ‘90s revivalist manner) in dodgy hats — but somehow that didn’t resonate with me in the latter half of the next decade.

However, having gone back to Brazilian music again, only to be stunned by its beauty and sense of transcendence, and picking up Caetano Veloso’s book about the Tropicalia movement, Tropical Truth, I am newly refreshed by it. Especially when you listen to it and think about Velosos’s extremely literate, thoughtful and intellectual detailing of that turbulent period in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. One of Veloso’s many, but probably his closest, compatriots was Gilberto Gil, a legendary Brazilian musician who, like Veloso, was exiled to Britain by the military dictatorship.

On the Brazil Classics One record, which was compiled by David Byrne, Gil has a track called “Quilombo, O El Dorado Negro,” taken from the soundtrack of a 1984 Brazilian movie called Quilombo. The movie is based on the history of an independent republic set up by escaped black slaves in seventeenth century Brazil, and Gil wrote the music. I was very familiar with the title track from Byrne’s compilation but recently found a French copy of the soundtrack in great condition and discovered another beautiful track called “Chegada Em Palmares,” which is a slower and deeper reprise of “Quilombo, O El Dorado Negro.” Overall I find the album much more polished than Gil’s earlier work and thus not as interesting to me, but the two tracks mentioned above make it a worthwhile find. I think it’s still in print on CD too, so keep an eye peeled for it.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Humungoid Ghostly Party in SF Tanite!!

Ghostly International is ten years old and is having banging parties across the country to celebrate the fact. Tonight they’re throwing a shindig at Mezzanine in San Francisco. There’s no need to introduce this wicked label, it covers a vast array of exciting music from rock to heady, techy downtempo and minimal bidness, and consistently puts out quality music. Matthew Dear is on the imprint and local techno outfit Broker/Dealer is on one of Ghostly’s subsidiaries. Tonight’s line up should be a winner; it’s varied — as you would anticipate — and will undoubtedly rock from start to finish. If yer goin’ I’ll see yuz there.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

DJ Hell does the Devil's work!

The guy who kicked off the whole electro deal — well I-F and Stuart Price deserve some serious props too — DJ Hell, is back with a new album, which will be released in late April. I’ll be honest I was ready to dismiss it, not because I dislike what Hell does and has done, but because that cold electronic shudder that he trades in is beginning to wear on me. However, that would be a disservice to the man’s talent, taste and reputation. Teufelswerk (Devil’s Handiwork in English) is the name of the record and it’s no tha bad (as they might say on a sunny day in Glasgow).

It’s comprised of two discs, one is devoted to day, one to night and the album features collaborations with Bryan Ferry, Peter Kruder, Billy Ray Martin, P. Diddy, Stefan Robbers and Christian Prommer. The first disc opens with “U Can Dance,” a track that features Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry and displays Hell’s tougher more techno oriented side. Legendary rap producer P. Diddy adds some vocals to “The DJ,” a bumping, techy house track with the bassline from Sandee’s “Notice Me” and the rest of this disk features six more tough work outs drawing on Hell’s Detroit techno and Chicago acid house influences.

The second CD gets a little more interesting with Hell moving back to some of his earliest influences, German Kosmiche Musik, space rock or Kraut Rock as it is more commonly known. Here he takes a more ambient and downbeat approach, with some subtle rock touches and melodic synth textures. Overall it sounds like Hell colliding with Lindstrøm, except it’s better than Lindstrøm, has more of a raw edge and retains the inherent psychedelic quality of the music. “The Angst/Angst Pt. 2” is a prime example of this, as is the masterful cover version of Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine” which closes the record and sounds like the British space rockers co-opted into a Daniele Baldelli set. Maybe Lemmy should have been asked to guest on this track.

Perhaps this will the last interesting record of the entire electro era, and who better than its innovator and originator to close it out. You have to excuse my recent prophecies of impending electro denouement, but it has to come to an end at some point or at least take a lesser role as newer (albeit probably retro leaning) music forms take centre stage for a new decade and a new generation. The thing is Hell has been around for so long and has such an encyclopedic grasp of dance music that he may fire the opening shot of that too. In the mean time Teufelswerk is well worth checking out. It drops on April 27th, so keep ears peeled.