April 24, 2006

Fragments

“My heart in time.”

That’s the phrase I’ve been saying over and over in my head recently. It’s sort of a calming mantra as one looks over the engulfing terrain of dance music. Possibly more than any other popular genre, people who love dance music are notoriously picky, finely tuning their desires to a specific sub-genre, where only a certain set of sounds, textures, production values, and emotions will satisfy what they are looking for.

But it is the alternate meaning of the above phrase, the one that reminds me of the journey to find this perfect alignment, which has been comforting me lately. For if you look at it on the surface, keeping up with dance music sounds like a nightmare-ish job no one should force upon themselves. With hundreds of new pieces of vinyl out every week, and three decades of potent disco, house, and techno music hidden inside a deluge of 12 inches behind us, there is rarely a time where you can pause to catch your breath, or for your wallet to recuperate from taking a chance on mail-ordering a Finnish double album of minimal electro. And if you thought file-sharing would provide some relief to sorting things out—think again. Users can share hundreds of pieces of ripped vinyl in the same directory, with no notification as to what genre it is or what year it came out. Not to mention the number of possibly killer singles that I’ve never seen physically or digitally (Reverso 68’s “Piece Together” single comes to mind).

To actually illustrate how ridiculous things get, let’s take a trip to one of Brooklyn’s most notorious vinyl/thrift shops, The Thing. You walk downstairs and are greeted with many, many tall shelves of discarded vinyl that are nearly unapproachable due to the amount of crates and boxes on the floor.

You turn to the left and can barely walk down the aisle, because the crates are stacked so high.

And then you end up turning to the right because the quasi-organization looks initially soothing, even if the sheer volume induces a sigh or two.

So why would one want to become a fan of dance music? Who has the energy and the time to sift through the millions of disco and house records found at places like The Thing, hoping to find those few nuggets that could mean so much to them? To me, although dance music is notorious for changing on a micro level at a maximum pace, the key is patience, letting time pass, and understanding how much more you will be able to hear in the next few years (or even decades!) at a relatively slow, but constant pace.When I was in college one of my music teachers told me, in regards to creating music, that every note is a tiny dripping of emotion, a little fragment of yourself that may or may not be sharply defined. Therefore, the idea behind creation is that you have to constantly pour out a torrent of notes, textures, or sounds in order to find the pieces of inspiration among the litter. It’s not too drastic a shift to make the same comparison to trying to find the music that you love.Now of course wheat-from-chaff sorting occurs in every musical genre, but dance music’s functional nature enforces this notion to a personal and artistic level. Dance music works for you, it works for DJs to create an uninterrupted flow of disparate musical pieces that nevertheless work together as one. That’s why being a good DJ can be so damn hard: you have to think at an individual track level as well as in terms of the overall mix. It’s like crafting a perfect mixtape in real-time.But with greater ambition can come greater rewards, and to me there is so much rewarding artistry in being able to orchestrate a DJ mix, to create a study in composite sonority. There is also something humbling in finding people who produce music that can gives up part of its notoriety in order to become a small, sometimes anonymous part of something bigger (it’s no wonder why DJs often have bigger egos than producers.) What brings things full circle is that despite the hyper-individuality of a DJ mix/set, in the end he or she is nothing without the community of producers. Both groups are riding on the communal exchanges of influences, the diverse emotional smears, and the reactions each provoke out of each other. So when I question myself on why I bother going to intimidating places like The Thing, endlessly listening to one minute web-clips of vinyl, or searching thoroughly for information on record label X, scene Y, style Z, I rationalize myself by saying:“I collect feelings, I travel to find pieces, fragments of desire, pain, love; feelings that ignite me and open me, open myself up to new experiences. I’m trying to build a bibliographic control of my life and identity, and combing through rubbles of vinyl, and sorting though a flood of emotions is one way I can help achieve that.”

[Michael F. Gill]


April 24, 2006

In Flagranti – Genital Blue Room

Maybe I’m just a lover of B-sides, but this three-track EP is another release that only comes near to catching fire on the flipside. “Genital Blue Room,” which gets knocked for the awful title alone, sounds like a castoff Felix b-side from three years ago, and the second number, “Subvariety,” is nothing more than an annoying drums-and-bass loop that recalls the lamest thirty seconds of a genero-house single bunched into three minutes of pure displeasure. “Uncanny Hinting,” on the other hand, has a querulous name and an undeniable groove—chopped-up disco breaks whacked together with military precision, served hot to order. Unfortunately, like its two predecessors, it does almost nothing over the course of six minutes and you spend your time scratching your head, knowing you’ve heard the various songs it samples / rips off, but unable to work up a groove strong enough to remember exactly what they are.

Codek / 010
[Mallory O’Donnell]


April 24, 2006

Oxia – Speicher 34

I may very well be the only electronic music fan or DJ in the world that doesn’t think the Kompakt label wakes up every morning, fixes some coffee, and then shits solid gold, but so be it. Not to say this latest release from Michael Mayer’s uber-hip imprint is bad, and certainly not to imply that they haven’t put out their share of straight-up bombs, but I’ve heard this tired shuffle-house groove way too much and I’ll doubtless repeat that experience countless times before I’ve gone the way of trip-hop and Goldie. If I was dancing and either one of these personality-less tracks came on, it’d be a perfect time to go pee or get a beer. If I was sitting in my living room I’d just tap on that handy right arrow key. Oh, look, some disco claps come in near the three-and-a-half minute mark. Yawn. It’s called quality control, folks. Look it up.

Kompakt Extra / 034
[Mallory O’Donnell]


April 24, 2006

SCSI-9 – Puzzle EP

Ah, those Russians… If I’ve learned one thing from the constant stream of new techno I’ve been privileged to hear via this column, it’s that I listened to SCSI-9’s debut album in entirely the wrong circumstances (while at work) and relegated it to second-tier status far too quickly. Each release I hear from these cats adds a new layer of energy and accessibility, and this three-track single is no exception. Slick, trimmed-down beauty is the order of the day, juggling aesthetic validity with an untrammeled purity of motion. Minimal electronic music is not something that normally motivates me to do much besides nod along, but the way SCSI-9 lay it down, moving my body and my head aren’t mutually exclusive.

Phlegmatek / 001
[Mallory O’Donnell]


April 24, 2006

Headman / Tomboy – Rong Hands Dub / 3 EP

A fresh German 12″ in an American store arriving months after its initial release? $9.49. Two new Gomma joints on the same Tuesday? Priceless. First up, Headman brings us the “Rong Hands (Dub),” previously aired on the Gomma Gang 3 compilation, a fine old belt of the acid-house your daddy kept hidden in the cabinet above the stove. But if legendary rock producer Bruce Dickinson heard the flipside, “Upstart,” he might have to acknowledge the presence of not more but most cowbell. Add that to what sounds suspiciously like a Corey Hart sample and you’ve got bonehead roller-disco heaven. Tomboy brought some sick-ass bootyfunk dubplates to bear on the aforementioned Gomma Gang 3, and his / her / its new 12″ is naught but more grist for the naughty mill. Opening with “I/U,” which revolves clappity-clap drums around a ridiculous blurty bassline, it only gets better on “Finale,” a more overtly “micro” number that answers that age-old question, “What would the Tom Tom Club do if they were locked in an Argentine jail with nothing but two fingers, an aging Casio, and an echobox?” On the flipside, things get even (is it possible?) hotter with “Itchi Feet” and its ‘extra beats’ corollary “Itchi Beat” – the bastard child of someone’s sick mating of 2005’s Tiefschwarz remixes with 1985’s Chicago House. Thank you sir, may I have another?

Gomma / 062 / 063
[Mallory O’Donnell]


April 24, 2006

DJ Koze – Kosi Comes Around Remixes Part 1

How do you revisit a critically acclaimed album noted for its eclecticism, homemade quality, danceability and humour? If you’re Stefan Kozalla, aka DJ Koze, you enlist the remixing services of talented cohorts Jan Jelinek and Matthew Dear. Up first, laptop crafstman Jelinek steals the show, looping “My Grandmotha” into a gurgling brew of pneumatic stutters, clipped cymbals, and exhaled vocals that chug atop the deep fried fumes of an infectiously dubby bass beat. But while the track’s gorgeous groove is sure to prod hips toward this summer’s dance floors, it thankfully retains the original’s Saturday morning cartoon innocence. Herr Kozalla wraps up side A with loungey bonus track “Bobby,” employing a warm, revolving melody and a rhythmic, granular sway as if he’s panning for gold under the gentle radiance of a midsummer sunset. Gears shift and unfortunately grind on side B’s “Raw,” as Matthew Dear—working under his revved-up Audion moniker—scatters and then reassembles the original’s jigsaw pattern for what proves to be a sometimes jarring, sometimes stagnant seven minutes. To me, it seems that the Michigan boy-o’s poppier, Leave Luck to Heaven sensibilities would have been better suited for this otherwise excellent release.

Kompakt / 136
[James Jung]


April 24, 2006

Stacy Kidd – I Wanted You

12"2001HouseReanimation

First heard on the Idjut Boys killer “Saturday Night Live, Vol. 2,” and about half of the reason I bought the unmixed vinyl, this has since become one of my favorite house tracks of all time. Let’s just say when I become a world-famous jetsetter DJ and Azuli asks me to make a Choice compilation, this will be on it alongside Eddie Kendricks’ “Girl, You Need a Change of Mind” and Prince’s “Erotic City.” Matthew Yates’ vocals consist of nothing besides “I wanted you, and you wanted me” and a thrilling, tingling bit of vocalese, but over a beat this sweet, that’s all you need. The combination of melancholy, longing, sensuality, and 4 AM hedonism is impossible to resist—a jazz-based, deeply progressive track reveling in tribal drums, near-acapella vox and some sweet George Benson-style guitar. As good as house music gets: all magic and no cliche.

Yellorange / 1019
[Mallory O’Donnell]


April 24, 2006

In The Mix: DJ Camille (Mallory O’Donnell)

“I Hired Ninjas to Redecorate My Living Room”

1. Out Hud – It’s For You (Rub ‘N Tug’s Panarva Mix)
2. Matmos – Steam & Sequins for Larry Levan
3. Black Strobe – Nazi Trance Fuck Off (James Holden Remix)
4. Jimmy Edgar – I Wanna Be Your STD
5. Jichael Mackson – Charmin’

Download


April 24, 2006

Charts: April 24 2006

Michael F. Gill
Byron Bogues – 2 B In Love (Gabriel Ananda Remix)
J. Dahlback – What Is The Time, Mr. Templar?
Aphrohead – Morning in Mexico
The Sunburst Band – Garden of Love
X-Ray – Lock It Down
Soave – Crying Over You (Dub)
Claudja Barry – Down & Counting (Emulator Dub)
TLC – Hat 2 Da Back (Extended Remix)
Queen – Body Language
Meta Roos – Feel Like Making Love

Nate De Young
Luciano – Yamore
Nhar – Hexoflip
GummiHz – Select & Bounce
Duoteque – Daki
Tekel & Tim Paris – Marketel & Marketim
Burial – South London Buroughs EP
Bruno Pronsato – Wade in the Water, Children
G-Man – The Way You Move

Mallory O’Donnell
Soylent Green – Camera Obscura
Sparks – Tryouts for the Human Race (DJ Kafka Edit)
Fred Falke – Wait for Love
Linus Loves – VH1
Tomboy – Itchi Feet
Lindstrom – I Feel Space (M.A.N.D.Y. Remix)
Julius Kammerl – Dromedar
Electronic – Free Will (Extended)


April 10, 2006

If you didn’t come to party…

Dance Music per se came comparatively late in my life. Dancing to music occurred to me a good deal sooner—apparently as soon as I could stand, I was holding the stereo with both hands and shaking that baby ass. The first music I reacted to was hip-hop, followed by synth-pop and clubby goth like Siouxsie and the Sisters. Going out, junior high school dances aside, I was never one to hug the wall, preferring to contort myself like “an angry lesbian,” as a friend once put it. While this description hopefully no longer applies, I still feel absolutely no shame or self-confidence issues when I go to out to dance.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that other people, shocking as it is, don’t feel the same way at all. Dancing comes naturally to me, something that I do because it feels absolutely amazing. Whether it’s, say, The Pixies or the latest micro-whatever single that’s playing is beside the point. Hey, it doesn’t even have to be that good—just loud (but not too loud) and have some decent bass. BUT NOT TOO LOUD! People, seriously, turn the bass the fuck down. It sounds better when it trickles down your back like a tongue than when it vibrates the floor like a passing dumptruck. Most songs mixed with a dancefloor in mind already have a clean, full bass sound anyway, so your knob-twiddling is unnecessary.

But, back to the point—most people don’t seem to have this willingness to shake it that to me is second nature. It’s hard work getting many to dance—understandable at a wedding but a little less comprehensible at a night of DANCE MUSIC spun by a DJ. So, what are you here for then?

Do you not like to dance?
Have you checked your pulse lately?

Are you afraid of what you look like when you dance?
Look at us. We look like morons. Ain’t no stopping us, now.

Did you come only to get fucked up?
Dancing increases your blood-flow. You will get more fucked up if you dance.

Did you come only to try and get laid?
Standing at the bar is far less sexy than losing your inhibitions. This I can guarantee.

I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to be on the floor if they’re at a club. We all need to take it easy once in a while, and sometimes it’s best just to sit and chill for a spell. That’s more room for me to engage in my half-baked jazz moves. But please, if you’re going to be answering your cellphone in the middle of a crowded dancefloor, take that shit elsewhere.

Ultimately, more so than concerns about appropriate behavior on the floor, it’s the fear of dancing that boggles my mind. Put it another way—if the superficial concerns of what you look like are keeping you from dancing, then it must be hard even to put on clothes and face the world. Do you think most people in a club environment are judging you on your dancing ability?

It’s much more likely, if they are stupid enough to go that route, they are disparaging how you look in general. In fact, they’re probably one of the onlookers like yourself. When one is dancing, you’re not paying much attention to the appearance and skills of others. Feeling the beat and moving in accordance are far more important.

In my time dancing and DJing in this country I have noticed a disturbing lack of response to a solid beat. If you’re only looking for what you know, then the creative void of radio should suit you just fine. If you can only dance when you are inebriated, then do us all a favor and get royally messed up. If you don’t dig on dancing at all, then please free up the space for the living, breathing, dancing, dreaming human beings out there. There are those of us who love to feel our bodies (and the bodies of others, natch) get pure, scandalous thrills off of drums, synths and heavy (but not too loud) bass.

Like Pharoahe Monche said, “if you holdin’ up the wall then you missin’ the point.”

[Mallory O’Donnell]


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