January 27, 2006

Live: Dan Bell @ Phoenix Landing, January 2006

It’s Sunday, January 23rd. There’s a ticking in my head. It’s been there for awhile, seemingly acting as a subconscious pulse that’s reliable when life can seem overly dramatic or overly boring. As I travel to and fro, the desire grows to give an external shell to this pulse, to share its energy with those around me. For those times when I am not surrounded by friends or people who care about me, the constant rhythm of house music is this outgrowth of my inner clock. Four on the floor: it’s the eternal optimist.

Where do these thoughts come from? I try not to interpret and deconstruct electronic dance music as if it were a riddle, I much prefer to work off the feelings it provides me and the reactions it provokes as a partial set of blueprints relating to who I am. These are things that I remind myself off as I get ready to see Daniel Bell spin over at the Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I feel when I go out I have this side of me that is very cerebral and knowing, wanting to slowly analyze the music and environment around me, as well as a side that’s very loose and loopy, letting the night just “happen” to me. It can be hard to let go of this brainy side when you are a music geek, easily charmed that an episode of Law & Order revolved around a person with the last name Speicher.

I arrive a bit late, but just in time to see Dan go on. He played a good set here last January that was mostly straight minimal techno, with a couple of vocal wildcards like Sexual Harassment’s “I Need A Freak” & Freaks’ “Turning Orange 2 Please U.” He’s even better tonight, diversifying things with snippets of minimal vocal house that act as brief respites from the more bangin’ techno tracks. It’s worth noting that since Bell avoids any sense of “melody” throughout the set, when the rippling acoustic guitars of Luciano’s Salif Keita remix come in at the very end of the set, it’s not only a refreshing shock, it’s almost out of character.

This brings me to a point I was discussing at the end of the night with local producer Mike Uzzi, who, after gently chiding me on my lack of knowledge about Stewart Walker’s Persona label, remarked how expansive and diverse Dan’s set was. That Mike was able to notice this is testament to how finely tuned his ears are, because during the best moments of Dan’s set, when I found myself really immersed and being carried by the music, my ears tend to tune out all the shifts from sub-genre to sub-genre, and enjoy the set as one large, level plane. I wonder how many people dancing around me were attuned to the subtle shifts in the music and how many were oblivious, and if there was any difference in each group’s level of enjoyment. Perhaps I should hand out written surveys at the end of the show alongside those people who hand out flyers to leaving clubgoers. Perhaps I am thinking about this too much. Hmm, I think so.

As I’m walking out, I have a chance to talk briefly with Dan, who is more laid-back and down-to-earth than you’d expect for someone who just threw down a few hours of obscure techno and funky pinpricks. In contrast, Fred Gianelli (another Boston-based techno producer) is standing next to us launching into an unprompted story about how his lesbian cousin saved his life by pulling him away from a horse that started attacking his head for no reason. While I’m really tired as I arrive home, I’m greeted by a comforting sound as I’m about to fall asleep: a pulsating ticking in my head.

[Michael F. Gill]


January 27, 2006

Jacek Sienkiewicz – Double Secret Life

After last year’s excellent Six Feet Above 12”, this intriguing Polish producer hits the bullseye again with two long tracks that gel the loose fluidity of Latin microhouse with glances of Motor City introspection. Beyond that, Sienkiewicz’s tracks are low-key and unassuming, with a rare capacity for a gentleness that nests inside density and digital craftsmanship. These tracks end abruptly because it would be too self-conscious for them to announce that they are ending. Life can be so nervous: a resolution or cadence to any of our thoughts and actions may or may not ever come. In Sienkiewicz’s shy machines we find his uncertainty; in his tenderness, his humanity.

Recognition / 015
[Michael F. Gill]


January 27, 2006

Lindstrom vs. Riton – Monsteer / Young Girl

The French Battle label used to take the novel approach of having two artists produce a track and then remix one another. Although they’ve seemed to put this format on hold, there is no cause for tears as Lindstrom’s “Monsteer” is very much the sequel to “I Feel Space,” merging mid-tempo Italo-house with his love for trippy Kosmische synths. Although it isn’t as urgent as its predecessor, it would definitely add some levitation to an average electro-house set. On the flipside, Riton falls into his default mode of dirty electro with “Young Girl,” albeit with highly pitched down “stalker” vocals. It’s very similar to remixes that Justice and the Ed Banger label are releasing at the moment, although it lacks most of the momentum.

Battle / 008
[Michael F. Gill]


January 27, 2006

The Shock – Manhattan

The Shock teams up Ben Camp & George Bissen, an American and German ex-pat known mostly know for progressive house, for a guitar-heavy helping of electro-house that seems tailor-made for Ewan Pearson to play out during peak time. If you’ve heard Pearson’s Sci-Fi Hi-Fi mix cd, you have an idea what I’m talking about. If not, just note that I have a setting in my brain that triggers the word “Ewan Pearson” when I hear anthemic electro-house with big snares on 2 and 4. “Manhattan” is a bit of a shoddy rehash of Pearson’s own remix of “The Poisoner’s Diary” by Silicone Soul, but is redeemed by a great Einmusik remix on the b-side, which frames some guitar moans around a rhythm that easily moves back and forth from four-on-the-floor to schaffel.

Boxer / 035
[Michael F. Gill]


January 27, 2006

Omar-S – In Side My Head

12"2005Detroit

Alex “Omar-S” Smith was extremely prolific in 2005, whether it was with his numerous releases on his own Fxhe label, or the two albums released by Oasis, his collaboration with Shadow Ray. “In Side My Head” is a one-sided release of dirty Detroit house that teases you with a distantly funky bassline and Rhodes-esque keyboards. While similar to the dusty sampling style of Theo Parrish or Moodymann, Smith is more of a punk in his juxtaposition, letting the beats over-dominate the track, never letting you get the full warmth of the melodies. Recommended for those who don’t get annoyed easily.

Fxhe / 010
[Michael F. Gill]


January 27, 2006

Jonas Bering – Luna

Even though it’s a pain to find on cd and often maligned as derivative, I thought Jonas Bering’s first album Beinfait was an interesting mid-section of Basic Channel vapor and Kompakt’s early dubby house. Considering he dropped most of the BC influence afterwards for a warmer, shinier, and often dancier style of dub-house, Luna is a bit of a switch up, offering up a rush of elegant Detroit Techno with a frantic oom-pah-oom-pah beat during the middle. Also on this free internet release are remixes by Bern and Ari Bau, the former testing the limits of my boredom with nine minutes of monophonic tech-house, the latter retaining the Detroit vibe but adding in some excellent free-jazz styles polyrhythm.

Less Iz More / 002
[Michael F. Gill]


January 27, 2006

Claro Intelecto – Warehouse Sessions Volume 1

Perhaps all the gushing blurbs he received at Boomkat.com were enough to convince Mark Stewart to bring his Claro Intelecto project over to Boomkat’s Modern Love label, as he releases his third 12” for the label this month. While failing to reach any of his previous highpoints, both sides are intended to showcase a more minimal, club ready, four-on-the-floor approach than Stewart is known for. Despite this objective, the atmosphere remains purely murky and gloomy throughout, and even a bit sluggish on “New Dawn,” which suggests that Stewart might need to get out a bit more. So it’s decent as a placeholder during a warm up set, but let’s hope Volume 2 has a bit more “oomph” to it.

Modern Love / 020
[Michael F. Gill]


January 27, 2006

Digitalism – Zdarlight (Remixes)

12"2006Neo-Disco

Kitsuné’s biggest hit of 2005 is repackaged and reissued here, with new versions remixed by Digitalism themselves. Where the original relied on anthemic clunk-funk (clunkiness that’s funky!) for charm, both of the mixes are impeccably smooth: the “Moonlight” version blurs the edges a bit too tasfeully, while the “Discodrome” version cruises down the highway as if new wave and French house were spawned from Moroder. Certainly it’s the latter version that commands all the attention here.

Kitsuné / 029
[Michael F. Gill]


January 27, 2006

Dub Kult – Twelve

12"2006HouseMinimal/Deep

Traum opens the year with a bang with this diverse and surprisingly funky release from London’s Neilon Pitamber, aka Dub Kult. Perhaps the release of Nôze’s “Kitchen” has opened a Herbert-sized door in the world of Triple R, as the middle cut “Chick” weaves in saxophone and jazz scatting as it flows from chilled to funky tech-house. It’s certainly the most ear-catching track here, but it’s supported by two other solid numbers: “Twelve,” a crunchy minimal banger with alienating vocals snippets, and “Slipping Away,” a welcome mix of ambient acoustics and a sensitive, yet intricate layer of downtempo drum programming.

Traum / 068
[Michael F. Gill]


January 27, 2006

Funk D’Void & Phil Kieran – White Lice

The original version of “White Lice” is the type of brittle, tech-heavy minimal house that sends all the girls running away, stimulating only the most nerdy techno fans who have a circuit board dependency. Yes, I am being a bit facetious, but tracks like “White Lice” are a dime-a-dozen at the moment, even if the duo has an amusing compulsion for muted laser shots that nearly bring the track to a halt halfway through. Frenchman Lee Van Dowski (Mental Groove, Cadenza) weighs in with a better straight techno remix that wets the circuits just enough for you to get a sensation when you take a bite out of it.

Soma / 188
[Michael F. Gill]


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