July 31, 2007

Italoboyz – Viktor Casanova

There’s nothing like the sight of crisp tuxes and sleep-deprived ravers rubbing elbows. With a taciturn twirl, Shut Up and Dance! Updated dotted the first lines between high-art and minimalism a month ago. Composed as a soundtrack for the esteemed Berlin Staatsballet, the compilation’s seriousness was momentarily punctured by the stumbling detour de force of Luciano’s “Drunken Ballet.” And now that we’ve come across the first response of high-art digested by a minimal-machine (and fueled on clicks and cuts), there are surprisingly few hiccups in Italoboyz’s “Viktor Casanova.”

Instead, we’re introduced by the lull and hum of a soft-focus Ingrid Bergman conjuring “As Time Goes By.” It’s a sample so bleeding obvious and ghostly that it can’t help to be unsettling. Which, according to a choice pull-quote by Ricardo Villalobos, shows the most important thing about a good track is the idea behind it – something I’ll tentatively agree with. Especially since Villalobos’ recent work is a perfect opposite of “Viktor Casanova.”

So I’ll enjoy the sights of fucked up girls trying to imitate the opera singer as much as hearing the minimal percussion which delicately avoids overshadowing or under-lighting the track’s main attraction. But what I enjoy most is that “Viktor Casanova” can be as earnest or glib as you want and still be incredible. On the remix front, Samim’s pleasant retooling come with a nagging sense of being superfluous, while Lee Curtiss’ radical and dark mix flourishes under the weight of the original’s instantly iconic composition.

Mothership / MSHIP 001
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


July 31, 2007

Naughty – World EP

Recently, I feel like I’ve been overpraising records. A niggling brain loop returns to me for the nth time, saying “You should pan something, you’re losing your critical faculty.” But then, what should I pan? Maybe it’s a sign of narrowness, of only listening to what you like – of course you’re gonna give it a positive spin. Or maybe, just maybe, the releases of late have been solid gold. No doubt there’s elements of all of the above floating around in the mix, but I can say for certain (as certain as any provisional judgement can be) that Naughty has come up with one of his best, which (given his standard) makes it a shoe-in for one of the better tracks of the year so far.

The EP’s songtitles are likely a wordplay based on Double’s “Woman of the World”, an old 1983 track that has had a recent caning after inclusion, first on DJ Harvey’s Sarcastic Disco mix, then Ame’s Mixing, the Permanent Vacation compilation, and the extremely popular (and highly accomplished) DJ Kicks mix from Henrik Schwarz. “World of a Man” (nominally the B-side) opens like a very “big” Ananda track, slowly unfurling with rhythmic synth stabs and a blunt kick dug in below. In fact, the Ananda comparison holds throughout – there’s a definite nano-trance undertow pulling the whole kaboodle out into a sea of dance. It’s a nice track, but it’s not why you should buy this EP…that would be the A-side.

“The World of a Woman” proclaims itself from the first bar, looping four bars from the grounding groove of “Woman of the World”, but quickly twisting things in a very Naughty direction, using a soft rounded pad with a three note ascending melody to contrast with the sawtooth bassline. But what a melody! There are shades of old-school Luciano (like the sparkling Capricciosa EP on Bruchstuecke) in the melodics, but with big, trucking rhythms. There’s elements of Italo, Balearic, and early 90s house, but it’s all so beautifully harmonised. I’ve been listening to this several times a day for the past week or so, and remain entranced.

Moodmusic / MOOD 053
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 30, 2007

Burial – Ghost Hardware

12"2007Dubstep

Why the urge – I ask guilty of it myself – to contextualize the songs we hear, to categorize them right away, to do anything beyond talk in terms of the surprises we encounter in songs, the moods they put us in, and the reasons these might be so? The dialogue between rhythm and sound is so simple, yet we consistently overthink it and insist on making things more difficult for ourselves, whether to make stupid word counts (but never words count) or to obscure music’s basic sensuality with histories to be understood, discographies to be devoured. Anybody that tells you this gig is like dancing about architecture is a worthless writer and an absolute fool.

This 12″ is the follow-up to Burial’s self-titled “dubstep” LP from last year. These three songs feature unsteady rhythms that roll like banged-up wheels of hip-hop steel. It’s infuriating to listen to this metallic syncopation at first, because it’s so averse to headnods, and the accents are hard to pinpoint. The beat in “Shutta” is somewhere between 8/8 and 17/8 – I can’t tell – and there’s a series of three soft snare cracks in “Ghost Hardware” that seem to come out of nowhere again and again, just a split-second off from where they seem like they want to be. It’s not violent but it’s uncomfortable.

You don’t get a vocal hook anywhere either, or at least a complete one, so there’s not much of an anchor in this mess of rhythm. Instead Burial cuts up vocal tracks into short snippets (an Aguilera-like “Love you” and a Whitney-like “Yeah”) and orphans them in a fog filled with crackles, sizzles, and interminable echo. If you can imagine yourself cooking bacon in a forest somewhere at night, and every so often just shouting a bit from “Genie in a Bottle” because you thought you heard a motorcycle engine in the distance, you’re halfway there: alone but not yet lonely, fearful but not entirely hopeless.

The “love you” snippet stuff seems like such a self-imposed challenge for Burial too, i.e. How can I not make this sound too saccharine or cloying. I don’t know why it doesn’t bother me more, but I’m guessing Burial’s mixing has a lot to do with it: his kicks are never too pronounced, and the occasional turbo-skids of bass are always faint, hinting at something greater but never winding up front and center. Some sounds refuse to bring attention to themselves, others don’t have the energy to do so anymore, but try in vain regardless. Bleak stuff. Is it possible to mourn a sound?

Hyperdub / HDB 004
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


July 29, 2007

The Week In Review: 2007, Week 30

Jahcoozi – Reworks (Careless)
Genre: House, Leftfield

Tiger Stripes / Solomun – Hooked / Jungle River Cruise (Liebe Detail)
Genre: House, Minimal/Deep

Nate DeYoung: It didn’t take too long until I realized that yes, once again, the sky must still be quite pink.

Social Being – Free Your Mind (Tuning Spork)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: The guitar part is like a memory, like the raw acoustic riffs struggling against the walls of digital feedback in Fennesz’ Endless Summer.

Turbo Crystal – French Girl (Tiny Sticks)
Genre: Leftfield, Neo-Disco

Luciano – Fourges et Sabres (Perlon)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Peter Chambers: Luciano, unlike Guns n Roses (there’s a first time for every comparison), has achieved that rare thing, a track which almost totally suspends the sensation of time passing, which thrusts you into a soundworld which is propulsive and immersive.

Socks and Sandals – Rishi Saturn (Microcosm)
Genre: Minimal/Tech

Beatzcast #43: Crambe Repetita

Kevin J. Elliott reviews Chromeo’s Fancy Footwork


July 27, 2007

Beatzcast #43: Crambe Repetita

2007Mixes

Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music featuring new music from Philip Sherburne and Duoteque, as well as remixes from Trentemoller and Josh Wink…

Tracklist
01: Toni Rios – Psycho Circus [buy]
02: Duoteque – Logo [buy]
03: Philip Sherburne – Lumberjacking [buy]
04: Swoop – Black Market (Butch Remix) [buy]
05: Robert Owens – I Go Back (Wink Hypnotic Interpretation) [buy]
06: Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus (Trentemolle Remix) [buy]

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July 27, 2007

Socks and Sandals – Rishi Saturn

The fugged-out duo of Socks and Sandals are certainly prone to an unfashionable disappearance. The latest came after their samplethon of Herbert-ian proportions with the Shatter EP over a year ago. The follow-up, Rishi Saturn, sounds like it made up for lost time – taking less of a stride than a full-on leap from critical beats to minimal wobble.

Like the hints of ghostly whistles and xylophones on “Space Stuff,” Socks and Sandals sound far more willing to splice and regurgitate everything, a la Jan Svankmajer’s Dimensions of Dialogue. “Pura Vida” gives tech-house a good name by immediately locking into gear and toying with an indecipherable array of clicks, pops, and crackles. The same goes for the damp-Latin-droplets of their own remix of “Lucidril”. But there’s something I miss about how straight-faced these songs are – they’re so demur when I expect them to be completely off-kilter.

Microcosm / MCOSM1020
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


July 26, 2007

Luciano – Fourges et Sabres

Just after the fifteen minute mark, a strange thing happens while listening to Luciano’s new epic “Fourges et Sabres”. It fades out. That in itself is hardly strange, I suppose. What is odd is the sense of disappointment – because the track feels cut short. Truncated. Abridged. FM radio stations (understandably) do this to Guns n Roses’ “November Rain”, but even then, the full version is less than nine minutes long. And you hardly feel “cheated” when it finishes. Luciano, unlike Guns n Roses (there’s a first time for every comparison), has achieved that rare thing, a track which almost totally suspends the sensation of time passing, which thrusts you into a soundworld which is propulsive and immersive.

Like Prins Thomas’ glorious twenty minute remix of “Hatchback”, this is partially achieved through unhurriedness. These tracks don’t feel like epics, they sound like songs unfolding at their own pace with a stride that’s (naturally) long and loping. Able to leap minutes in a single bound. Users of Reaktor might be familiar with some of the “autopoietic” synthesizers you can download – you just fire them up, and they randomise, differentiate, and “make music” for as long as you let them. There’s a strong element of that here, although it’s mixed with an all-too-human command of the rhythm structures that bespeaks a knowledge of floors and dancing. Under all the ovoid chimes and fluff and hum there’s a big, warm bassline, and a fat kick.

“Back to Front”, the B, is not quite as successful (or effortless) in achieving a similar effect. The more conventional of the pair, it relies on a sax sample that stabs itself into the mix, urging the whole kaboose down the line along with some vocoded mutterings. This is a fantastically light, listenable EP that’s bound to layer and mix well (like most of Luciano’s recordings), but at the moment I’m still sort of dumbstruck by the qualities of the title track. If only life could be so effortless and endless…

Perlon / PERL 62
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 26, 2007

Turbo Crystal – French Girl

Jean-Francois Mouliet is Turbo Crystal, a Frenchman armed with only a stiff drum machine, a slap-bass, some really goofy spoken-raps, and a sing-song falsetto reminscent of Chromeo or Mocky. His two short tracks here, self-described as “ghetto rock”, will be hard for any dance fan to take seriously, but to their credit, they’re perverse and sparse enough to at least keep your attention while they are playing.

The real interest here is in the remixes by Escort and Bear Funk’s Fabrizio Mammarella. Considering they have so little to work with, it’s no wonder Escort have “pulled an Aphex Twin” and completely reworked “French Girl” as a tidy piece of keyboard-free Eurodisco. They’ve added in female backing vocals, horns, and a live rhythm section to back up the main vocal. It charms, but they are a bit too generous. Mammarella gives the original the respect it deserves: he phones it in. He simply drops the vocals over a run-of-the-mill disco-tech rhythm, adding just enough reverb shots and synth drones so it could pass for being spaced-out. Being blase never felt so right. I guess.

Tiny Sticks / STICK 12
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


July 26, 2007

Social Being – Free Your Mind

A few weeks ago I reviewed a DJ Harvey remix of Michoacan with a very swampy, swirling, early-Funkadelic feel to it. This time, these “Social Beings” (aka Ricardo Villalobos and Jay Haze) have gone the whole hog and plonked Eddie Hazel’s amazing solo from “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts” right onto their EP.

I tried doing this myself, years ago. If you haven’t heard the song, you should – I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music, well, ever. Full stop (or “period” as Americans say). So I got the solo and I chopped it in an editing program, and then I fiddled with it in Audiomulch for a few hours. No matter which way I mangled it, it was almost totally destroyed by the fiddling. It really wanted to be left alone. It didn’t want to be part of my silly loop orchestra. Nor did I.

I get the feeling that Jay & Ricardo realised this themselves, somewhere along the way. Villalobos has been sampling a lot lately, from his Floyd-cribbing number “Frank and Hennes” on that Bruchstuecke compilation a few years back to Fizheuer, the original version being found by some nerd and quickly blogged. With Fizheuer, Villalobos put the sample front and centre, making those horns rise out of the system like a revelation to machine-tired ears. But here, Hazel’s licks (and even the huge stream of feedback) are kept in the background, mostly unedited, in a gesture which seems to realise that the integrity of the original is best left alone. As it is, the guitar part is like a memory, like the raw acoustic riffs struggling against the walls of digital feedback in Fennesz’ Endless Summer.

Rhythmically, this is the straightest thing that both artists have released in a while; Haze’s influence recalls Villalobos to “808 the Bassqueen”-era patterns, and that ain’t no bad vibe. I’m tempted to think, in six months hence, Haze will brag in an interview that he wrote the whole thing (just like he did to Samim after the Fuckpony album). But hey, maybe he did for all I know. Anyhow, this EP is not quite the success it could be, given the confluence of talent and source material it marshals. All the same, it’s a very worthy, useful, and blissful track for the wrong side of the morning.

Tuning Spork / TSXTRA 001EP
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 26, 2007

Caught Up

Hey there! If you’ve been wondering, the Beatz staff just took a little mid-week siesta. But we’re back with three more reviews coming up in the next few minutes, so stick around…


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