July 28, 2006

Escort – Starlight

12"2006Disco

Forget Metro Area’s arty recontextualization of digital disco, ‘80s R&B, and techno, the nine members of Brooklyn’s Escort unashamedly calls themselves “a modern disco and boogie ensemble,” and deliver one of the most convincing and satisfying throwbacks to the heydays of Prelude & West End Records that I’ve heard in awhile. “Starlight” is great nearly to the point of suspicion, melding together the tight disco-funk of Chic with the exquisite production of an Environ record (Darshan Jesrani of Metro Area is on hand for a dub on the flipside, naturally,) and doing it so well that you not only wonder why it hasn’t been done before, but how you lived without it. Augmented by violins, airy female vocals, and a bubbly synth hook, you’d be forgiven for choosing this to be the summer jam for both 1983 and 2006. Recommended, and then some.

Escort / ESCRT001
[Listen]

[Michael F. Gill]


July 28, 2006

Steadycam – Dull in Minor

Ronan Fitzgerald: Steadycam releases another massive sounding record on K2, after the excellent “Knock Kneed.” His bizarre style, faintly retro, but not pillaging from the same eras as everyone else, continues to bear dark techno fruit. “Kidney Issues” is probably his most accessible track to date, brutally simple glam-house. The title cut is more similar to the minimal techno of his previous releases, with the trademark dry and heavy sounding Steadycam snare riding over some lush 303 and keyboards that would probably sound more at home on Kompakt proper rather than K2.

Cameron Macdonald: Please don’t mistake the title track for Italo-disco. Consider it the soundtrack to an after-school TV special for when the troubled teen protagonist cannot decide between suicide, dope, calling his ex- and then hanging up, or hiding in a fort built out of couch cushions. On the flip, “Kidney Issues” fits well with Kompakt’s reputation for minimal techno hypnosis, Steadycam autopilots a ceiling fan-chug of a rhythm on his electro-synth and trots on a steady, up-tempo stomp. Its droning, locked-groove could have veered off-road and into a cornfield just to keep the music interesting, but it’s better than hiding beneath a pile of cushions.

K2 / K2/14
[Listen]


July 28, 2006

Hot Chip – Boy from School

Mallory O’Donnell: “Boy from School” walks Hot Chip’s typical tightrope: eminently danceable, with a rather eyebrow-raising detour thrown in halfway that sort of ruins the blissful singularity of it all. This, my friends, is why God invented the remix. Up first is Steve Barnes’ “Cosmic Sandwich Remix” (I can’t think of it without laughing,) a deep-house rework that sucks most of the soul out of the original vocal. Things get a bit more interesting around the four-minute mark, but it’s too late for most of us to bliss out by now. Thankfully, Erol Alkan is as reliable as ever, injecting extra handclaps and retaining the moments of beauty in the original, while still keeping your sweatshirt sleeves rolled up and your ass swaying.

Nick Sylvester: No knock, “Boy from School” sounds more mash-up than song. Vocal and musical energy levels couldn’t differ more, as Alexis Taylor’s breathy carole breezes over a beat four times faster, clickier, more bubbly, double handclap turnarounds, and all. It’s the band’s trick throughout The Warning, which is one reason the LP strikes me so samey. That said, “Boy” is aces, maybe even better than its louder cousin “Over and Over.” I hear young loneliness, identity crises, the obvious fear-fare in the chorus (“We try, but we don’t belong”), but then again I have no idea if that’s what Alexis Taylor’s really singing anyway. The impulse for every sound here—harp strums to synth solos to the intermittent glitch—is to explode, but every sound remains understated, artfully subdued. Maybe I’m selling Taylor’s lyrics short. Both remixers apparently like the understatement too. Cosmic Sandwich merely kills the vocals and abstracts the instrumental into slowburn French filter, somewhere between Maurizio and Robert Babicz. With twice the playtime, Alkan’s take is less a burn, more a patient inquiry into the original’s smaller sounds: the cymbal swells, the percussion shakers, the tinkering bells.

Astralwerks / ASW 59943
[Listen]


July 28, 2006

Einzelkind – Introduction EP

Mallory O’Donnell: The first release from both Einzelkind and Get Physical’s new sublabel Kindisch is, appropriately enough, called “Introduction.” The three cuts spread across this EP stake a claim in deep electro territory, perfect midsummer treats for those who veg out in the haze to some serious low-end. “Marsha” sets the tone, stirring a clipped vocal, rave laserbeams, and a teasingly dropped-in and hastily-withdrawn breakbeat around in the pot to get thing simmering. “Freefall” is simultaneously more banging and weirder—the sound of your hard drive fornicating with your server, while a rugged bassline gurgles away obliviously and spooky synths peer through the blinds. But the best cut here is the last—”Grundstuck,” which Google translates as “basic stucco,” is some serious moody arms-waving action, bringing in muted disco strings, a booty-tormenting bass and some delicious bell tones over the intro and outro.

Ronan Fitzgerald: It’s difficult to see what the point of this sub-label is so far, or how it differs from Get Physical, but I’m going to assume this is a dumping ground/treasure trove for the demos of worthy producers who are nice to chat to, but are not in the inner GPM circle. Anyhow, this is a nice, but rather low key debut for both the label and Einzelkind. Skip straight to “Marsha,” a nice string laden Chicago house track, in the style of DJ T. but with a slightly darker twist.

Kindisch / KD 001
[Listen]


July 28, 2006

Common Factor – Through

12"2006Techno

Three mixes of laid back tech-house from Nick Calingaert, half of Soma act Retroflex and Planet E alum. Calingaert definitely bears some traces of his former mentor’s work here, as layers of percussion, a pseudo-jazzy keyboard riff, and textural synth pads play musical chairs over a throbbing two-note bassline and a few key breakdowns. The stomping Phonique remix strips things down to start, then adds the layers back piece by piece for an altogether more interesting and dynamic track. Holmar Filipsson plays it a bit retro, with a big swinging hi-hat and an accent on the riffs rather than the rhythms. A little something for everyone, then, although nothing that will really stick to your ribs the next day.

Moodmusic / MOOD 042
[Listen]

[Todd Hutlock]


July 28, 2006

René Breitbarth / Bodycode – Spectral Sound Presents No. 1

12"2006Techno

With this split 12-inch, Spectral Sound launches its new parallel series of singles that aims to release new tracks from artists outside their roster whose work they admire. Groovy as fuck with a mellow house piano riff and a funk-driven rhythm, “Tales from the Light Side,” the a-side from Cologne native and Treibstoff majordomo René Breitbarth, builds some nice momentum before shifting the pitch and finally stripping it all down to the drum track for the final minute. A fun little ride to be sure. “Steam Machine” slows the tempo but increases the bounce factor with a bubbling bass groove and a series of subtle breakbeats that recalls an updated version of Mr. Fingers’ classic “Washing Machine” before cutting loose with some acidic synth pads for a late-night winner. On the flip, the Mole (of Kompakt/Wagon Repair fame) remixes Bodycode’s “Hands Free Computer Interface” into a twisting, stuttering journey that is every bit as good as the original, if a bit more schizophrenic sounding, setting a cut-up/dub-out sort of feel against a backdrop of the original’s house-y organ vibes to great effect. So far in 2006, Spectral can do no wrong to these ears.

Spectral Sound / SSP-001
[Listen]

[Todd Hutlock]


July 28, 2006

Steve Bug – Bugnology 2

Poker Flat boss Steve Bug continues his series of Bugnology mixes with this second volume, picking up where the first left off. Each track have been edited and reconstructed on computers and, as such, the mix is spotless and the tracks fold together a lot cleaner than they otherwise might. This tactic leaves some listeners cold, but Bug’s construction and pace is so damn good and chooses such great tracks, that it seems like an empty complaint. Highlights include tracks from Pan-Pot, John Tejada, Gui Boratto, and Carl Craig’s already-classic remix of Theo Parrish’s “Falling Up.” Fans of the flawless, minimal mixes by the likes of Richie Hawtin need look no further for their next fix.

Poker Flat / PFR CD 16
[Listen]

[Todd Hutlock]


July 28, 2006

Chris Tietjen – Eins

Here’s a funny little stat for you: over the course of its five year history, Sven Väth’s Cocoon label has released 14 mix CDs and five label comps, but only 22 singles (at least at the time the liners here were written; they have since added five more). Odd ratio, that. In any case, Chris Tietjen gets the mixing honors this time out and draws exclusively upon Cocoon’s 12-inch catalog from 2001 to 2005. Given the relatively small size of his palate (only 19 singles at that point!), Tietjen makes it work, albeit only using 11 tracks to do so, light years away from the 20-plus track numbers that many are used to. What he lacks in volume of material, however, Tietjen makes up for with quality selections, as classics here from Roman Flügel, Dinky (in a killer Tobi Neumann remix), Anthony Rother, Pig and Dan (covering Yello’s classic “Oh Yeah”), and Legowelt get the job done. The sounds vary here from tech-house, to minimalism, to throbbing Euro-lectro, but he seems to have picked the cream of the crop from each. Perhaps it’s not as seamless as one might expect in these days of computer-aided mixing (this mix was done old-school style on two decks), but every track here is a winner and the mix actually flows pretty well, given the diversity of the material. That diversity can be a strength or a weakness, however, depending on what you look for in a mix album.

Cocoon / COR MIX 014
[Listen]

[Todd Hutlock]


July 28, 2006

Christian Dittmann – Bajo El Volcan

Chilean DJ/producer Dittmann makes his vinyl debut (his previous single was an MP3-only release) with two ten-minute-plus minimal workouts in the organic style of his countryman Ricardo Villalobos. That means: about fifty different types of popping, skittering percussion, the odd vocal sample and atmospheric keyboard wash, some echoes and dropouts, and lots and lots of space without a kick drum in sight, nor a melody, nor a comprehensive musical theme. It just sort of… you know, meanders. If you’re a sucker for this sound (as I am), then you won’t mind that you’ve likely got a whole stack of records just like this in your collection (like I do) that really start nowhere and end nowhere else. If you don’t have as much of a tolerance, or if you want to dance, best try something with a bit more oomph. (To be fair, the B-side, “Lluvia de Varano” does add a kick drum.)

RRYGULAR / RRY06
[Listen]

[Todd Hutlock]


July 28, 2006

Booka Shade – In White Rooms Part 2

One of the standout cuts from Booka Shade’s recent Movements LP, “In White Rooms” is already becoming one of the electro-house anthems of 2006. The “Mexico Mix” is an absolute stormer—moonlit beach parties and high-grade hash, the arms of an unknown lover, the moment before the exhaustion sets in. Things get stripped-back and dressed-down for Shinedoe’s remix, and it’s an awkwardly blase feeling that results. Its classy, head-nodding filter-esque groove is a fine backdrop for sipping overpriced martinis, but not a patch on the A-side, which obligingly reminds us: this ain’t no down-tempo, this ain’t no foolin’ around!

Get Physical Music / GPM 045-6
[Listen]

[Mallory O’Donnell]


Next Page »