September 28, 2007

Beatzcast #50: Crambe Repetita

Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music…

Tracklist
01: Break SL – Flow [buy]
02: Matias Aguayo – Papel [buy]
03: Sascha Funke – The Acrobat [buy]
04: Einmusik – Fleur De Lis [buy]
05: Lawrence – Compulsion [buy]
06: Petre Inspirescu – Galantar [buy]

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September 21, 2007

Ricardo Villalobos – Fabric 36

Fabric 36—announced years ago—has become the venerated mix series’ most anticipated disc. But in the announcement, Ricardo slipped in that he “prefers for it to be treated like a normal mix CD, with no hype.” Sure. Right. But, then again, take a quick listen to it: because despite the inevitable hype and a cover only a goth could love, Fabric 36 sounds almost carefree enough to actually live up to his modest hopes.

There’s been no lack of swipes at Ricardo Villalobos’ self-indulgence (cue this review’s gratuitous mention of Fizheuer Zieheuer), but Villalobos may be trying to save “self-indulgence” from derogatory connotations one release at a time. In his latest, what’s difficult to miss isn’t that he scraps the DJ mix as an outpouring of free publicity (for other artists) but that the mix is the rare modern entity that forces you to listen to an album as a whole. Fabric 36 has highlights but no singles—a series of tracks with only one order. And as imposing as that sounds, it only becomes an obvious fact when you try to listen to parts outside the mix itself.

Thankfully, it’s easy to get lost in the actual mix of the CD. There’s a lightness of touch throughout, leaving sections where Villalobos can transition from the introductory yelps of “Farenzer House” into the taut bass stabs of “Mecker” without batting an eye. In the midst of that section, there’s also a nudging synthpad that fleshes itself out five minutes later in the anthemic pop-rush of “4 Wheel Drive.” With Fabric 36, Villalobos has refined the volatile tangents of “Achso”—tracks are just as rambunctious and twisting, but also ebb with a purpose and destination.

That’s also a pretty apt description for this year’s earlier “album-mix” from False. But 2007, despite its breadth of textures, sounds one-note compared to the variety of rhythm and idiosyncrasies here. If 2007 was busy stumbling and scraping itself on concrete sidewalks, then Fabric 36 is a drunken party-host that introduces herself as “Moist.” And she’s not alone on the album’s centerpiece, “Andruic & Japan.” Accompanied by a personal Japanese drummer who blows his nose through a harmonica, she spouts anecdotes (about marriage, dead chickens, etc.) to either invisible guests or to herself—it depends on how demented you think she is.

Either way, she, like Villalobos, doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously here. Ricardo doesn’t ham it up on Fabric 36, but with tracks like the joyful splinter of “You Won’t Tell Me” and the celebratory finale of “Premier Encuentro Latino-Americano,” he sounds all but ready to throw away his cultivated mystique for something a little more pleasurable. And I’m still ready to indulge him a little more.

Fabric / FABRIC 71
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


September 21, 2007

Beatzcast #49: Crambe Repetita

2007Mixes

Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music…

Tracklist
01: Maxime Dangles – Love Water [buy]
02: Shlomi Aber & Itamar Sagi – Blonda [buy]
03: Schaeben & Voss feat. Schad Privat – Put Up Job [buy]
04: Pan-Pot – Charly [buy]
05: Einmusik – Wave Scanner [buy]
06: REshuffle – Paparatzi [buy]
07: Kevin Saunderson – Till We Meet Again (Carl Craig Remix) [buy]

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September 19, 2007

Smith N Hack – Space Warrior

12"2007Neo-Disco

Space is techno’s key fantasy. From Detroit to Moscow (via lower earth orbit), this is a music whose bedroomed machines have relentlessly beat out rhythms that dream of comet tales and gas giants. Starship Smith-N-Hack hits hyperspace blur right at this point, just as an eight bit melody rings out, and proceeds to do battle with the space invaders in a ship that looks like the Death Star gone disco – Darth’s daft mirror ball turned planetary assault machine.

“Space Warrior” begins with an ascending/descending eight-bit synth line which breaks into a pixelated rhythm just as the neon pads hit. When I play it loud, it makes the neighbour’s tomcat mewl in a way that suggests (as some have suspected) that cats are aliens after all. Or just horny and confused. Then the bassline grounds everything, colouring everything three shades more Italo for a moment until the lo-fi shenanigans of the “rayguns” start blasting away. There’s a touch of Legowelt at work in the madness, but none of the ironisation apparent in the work that Danny Wolfers relegates to the comments he makes around his music

If you can’t get the local felines going with “Space Warrior”, try them on the “Scratchapella” – without the drums holding all those rayguns carefully in place, the effect is the techno/laser-beam equivalent of an unmanned garden hose set to stun. “Falling Stars” begins very much like Roman Flügel’s remix of Audion’s “Just Fucking”, but quickly traverses any sexual fantasy to find itself among distant heavenly bodies. It glides beautifully, making it right across the galaxy in a little over nine minutes. Not bad for two geeks and their machines, is it? Forget all that new age twaddle, if you want to experience astral travel from the comfort of your own headphones/nightclub, this is just the (space) ticket.

Smith N Hack / Smith N Hack 03
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


September 18, 2007

Basteroid – Upset Ducks

At first it’s hard for me to imagine Upsets Ducks being used for dancing. I mean, I’ve felt that alchemy before, where physically encountering the music at proper volume in a dark and sweaty room consecrated to moving your ass makes even the most unassuming jams take on dimensions you couldn’t imagine in your most feverish headphone dreams, but Sebastian Riedl’s long-playing debut under the Basteroid name is too captivating in its insular, rough-and-smooth way to imagine listening communally, let alone dancing. The opening “16 Steps Away from the Stars” especially soft shoes its could-be-huge raft of interlocking burbles, melodic stabs, and static washes into something that seems to be continually turning away from the listener into somewhere more private and inaccessible; sure enough, having to be the pursuer just makes the attraction of the track fiercer.

Which isn’t to say at all that Basteroid sounds difficult or obtuse or dull; each track here packs all the “cloudbursts, breakdowns, and big hooks” that Peter Chambers summed up as the hallmarks of Areal’s sound in Beatz semi-recently. The artist and record that Riedl’s work here summons unavoidably to mind for those of us who are happy observers but not necessarily devotees of techno is The Field’s From Here We Go Sublime. But as good as that record is, the title is maybe even more appropriate for Upsets Ducks (although I wouldn’t want to lose Riedl’s sense of humor); Axel Willner’s opus opts for the in-your-face sparkle that makes his name so appropriate (think field as ground versus object, not plot of land) whereas the sneakier apogees of Basteroid get to the same heights by rougher, subtler, more sublime means.

Once Riedl hits the late period trifecta of “Pulsador de Alarma”/ “Allright” / “Un Dos Windows” it’s clear that although he’s not so headphone-pointillist as Willner he’s at least his match in crafting snarky movers that don’t so much burst at you as slyly insinuate themselves into your hindbrain. Like a lot of listeners normally so devoted to the Word, or at least the Voice, I can’t say I can actually hum any melodies even after weeks of devoted (obsessive?) listening, but I do find its steady, building pulse threading its way into more and more of my waking life.

Even as the construction of this album apparently disturbed the waterfowl outside his studio (especially the buzzy, grainy “Attention: Upsets Ducks,” I’d imagine), Riedl was crafting a near seamless 70 minutes that deserves to rival Willner’s big debut for the affections of those who normally listen to things with guitars in them.

I lack the technical or genre vocabulary to communicate to the diehards the difference in technique between, I can only talk about emotion: The Field is more like the sensation of sunshine on your face, a train ride to a new city, leaning in to kiss someone; Basteroid evokes instead the feeling of finally leaving work for the day, walking alone through your city late at night, falling asleep to the muted sound of the party next door. That the former is more obviously, maybe even aggressively ‘good’ as a set of signifiers is true, but there’s at least as much space (if not more) in my life for the latter. Riedl is definitely still capable of tearing up a dancefloor but he along with his contemporaries have finally learned the hard lessons of techno’s rich history of trying to make albums: how to craft an experience beyond that of getting up and moving, while still allowing the latter response. The result is rich and compelling enough to warrant repeated listens even from the neophytes.

Areal / AREALCD 6
[Listen]
[Ian Mathers]


September 18, 2007

Supermayer – Save The World

Remember the supergroup? It was a big conceptual thing a few decades back, but it still pops up every now and again. Here’s how it usually worked: a bunch of high pedigree rockers would get together, proclaim that they really “dug each other’s music,” book a bunch of studio time, get stoned out of their gourds, and more often than not, release an album of half-baked ideas and poorly executed jams that proceeded to shift millions of units based solely on the reputation of the players. Sometimes the idea actually worked—see Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young and Derek & The Dominos. Sometimes it wouldn’t—see pretty much everyone else.

Diehard fans of the musicians in question usually lapped this stuff up, but somewhere in the back of their minds, they still felt somewhat let down more often than not. The problem was squarely on them—their expectations were simply, inevitably too high. No matter how great one of these supergroups sounded on paper, they couldn’t possibly live up to that sort of hype on record. Blaming the musicians, on the other hand, was a futile exercise. After all, they just wanted to hang out with some friends, play some music, and enjoy themselves. Can you really blame them for that?

Which brings us to the case of Supermayer, a supergroup-style collaboration between two of Kompakt’s biggest names: Michael Mayer and Superpitcher. And while the collaboration has more in common with the above than not—this is nothing if not a “fun” record—this is most certainly not a bad thing. If anything, Save the World is just the kind of project that Kompakt needed, given the (somewhat inexplicable) backlash the label has been taking of late. Too many have complained that Kompakt has taken to making records by numbers; Save the World is anything but your (stereo)typical Kompakt fare.

Just as the grooves of those ’70s albums are laden with artists just trying to have a good time and vibe with each other, so does Save the World exude a palatable sense of smiling, laughing musicians just having some fun and getting down, and most importantly, encouraging the listener to do so as well. Look no further than the first proper track on the album (after the spoken intro “Hey!”), “The Art of Letting Go”—the lyric tells the story of the album in a simple idea: over a grooving bass, chunky guitar chords, and some decidedly un-Kompakt sounds (are those horns? Melodica perhaps?), the gauntlet is thrown, “Let’s get to it / Relax / Let me go.” This is a first-class party record, assembled by two of techno’s foremost minds, and if the instruction is followed, you’ll have just as good a time listening as they obviously did making it.

With their mission statement firmly established, Supermayer proceed to circle the universe, capes flying, in search of the magic note, and while they never quite find it, the thrill of discovery is clearly the intent for our heroes (there’s even a comic book insert). There’s atmospheric dancefloor techno, there’s some light techno pop, some swinging indie bouncers, there’s vocals, there’s ambient interludes, there’s horns, there’s even a fucking gong. “The Lonesome King” is Martin Denny in Ralf and Florian’s studio; “Please Sunrise” recalls 808 State and YMO; “Two of Us” is a classic floor-filler laden with peaks and valleys; closer “Cocktails for Two” is a late-night comedown complete with shag carpeting and a disco diva perched on the love seat waiting for an afterhours tumble. It’s a gloriously unorganized mess, but all of it is so lovingly and skillfully done that it sounds far closer to some sort of mad genius.

Save the World is not a work of high art like The Magic Flute and it’s certainly not a pretentious epic like Kid A. It lives in its own skin and its comfortable there. The key to saving the world according to Supermayer is simple: lose the pressure and enjoy things for what they are, not what you expect them to be. There is an art to letting go, and they seem to have mastered it here, at least as much as such a thing can be mastered. They might not have saved the world, but Supermayer might just have saved your next house party.

Kompakt / KOMPAKTCD 61
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


September 17, 2007

Modeselektor – Happy Birthday!

Actually Modeselektor are excited to become cartoons. The group’s last couple of album covers are giddily aware of it. Inside the cover for Happy Birthday! and on its portly made-for-CD running-time, Modeselektor pound away with ACME anvils and beep beep through open ranges—covering the distance between bangers and ballads. Or, to be fair, it’s just bangers and ballads. That’s it.

Let’s not take away from Modeselektor’s strengths though, the pair is also good at bastardizing genres and music scenes. Their debut album wasn’t named Hello Mum! for no reason. Happy Birthday! just begs to be described in a pragmatic word like “chock-full,” but here’s an overlooked factoid—it’s the first album to be graced by one Thom Yorke which isn’t worried about being tasteful with a capital T.

Being tasteless suits the band just fine. With “2000007,” it also lets them out-prefuse Prefuse 73. Not stuck explaining their exquisite band name or racial politics must be fun, because it definitely sounds a helluva lot more brash and exciting than what Scott Herren is doing these days. The track might be in the genre-netherworld between glitch-hop and euro-crunk, but it’s definitely an unabashed sequel to group’s last album opener with the French rap group TTC.

Modeselektor continue to gleefully plunder their own past as well as others for inspiration throughout the 18 tracks. One notable choice is Scooter and their Teutonic happy-hardcore schlockfest, “Hyper Hyper.” The original isn’t waiting to be rediscovered anytime soon, which makes Modeselektor’s locked-jaw and straight-faced cover even more perfect. Enlisting Otto Von Schirach for the vocal role of Wizard-gone-Return to Oz, with a couple flying monkeys in tow, “Hyper Hyper” is bound to make another generation of kids yell for hardcore all over again.

When the tempo slows, the duo is wise to make their music just as sonically juicy and epic. On their collaboration with Apparat, “Let Your Love Grow,” the group let a field of bulbous synths and trip-hop drum patterns sprout around Paul St. Hilaire, ending up with a dead ringer for Massive Attack. The track is a highlight but one that’s sure to be trumped in notoriety by “The White Flash.” The group’s best contribution to “White Flash” is to let Thom Yorke do what he does best (i.e. play lost angel in our dystopia and moaning into the abyss), and Yorke is perfectly laconic in return—he even twists the euphoric “you have all the time in the world” into something preciously fleeting.

Happy Birthday! constantly reminds me of something Vitalic said in an interview—”I like people screaming in the sound with explosions.” When Modeselektor don’t try to fit every scream and explosion into its folds, the album sags. Tacks like “BMI” and “The Wedding Toccata Theme” sound dull when set against the cartoon-ish extremes of a song like “The First Rebirth,” which comes alive by being chopped and crunked before your ears. Luckily, most of Happy Birthday! finds Modeselektor being so busy being loony tunes that there’s little time to sit still and be bored.

Bpitch Control / BPC 159CD
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


September 14, 2007

Beatzcast #48: Crambe Repetita

2007Mixes

Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music…

Tracklist
01: Ulysse – Sometimes [buy]
02: Reshuffle – Hedonism [buy]
03: Stimming – Getting Out of Something [buy]
04: Anthony Rother – So Good [buy]
05: Chymera – Valarian [buy]

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September 12, 2007

Lopazz – Fuck Me!

A contemporary quandary: if a piece of music isn’t on Discogs, does it exist? I’m beginning to wonder the same thing about myself: without the mirror of myself on Facebook or Myspace (I refuse, I refuse), it’s easy to forget that you “are”. But here is Gigolo #211, a three track EP not noted by Discogs (likely because it’s an internet-only release,) but written by Lopazz in collaboration with Deafny Moon and Savas Pascadilis.

In moving to Gigolo, Lopazz has done the expected and grown in sawteeth and electroid muscles, producing three different tracks that attack the need to groove from three distinct angles: one spooky, one rumble-buzzing, and one poppy. “Fuck Me!” represents the first of the three takes for a dark Ivan Smagghe-ish electro-pop number where the lyric “hold your hand” could easily be mistaken for “gland” in the back room of some seedy nightspot. “What Should I Do” meanwhile rolls over itself like a clumsy polarbear tripping over Metope’s Nord Micromodular, while “Watermelon Man” takes Savas Pascadilis’ voice for a ride into the foolish world of slap-bass minimal disco, creating something not unlike pre-neotrance Schaben and Voss. This is all good stuff, but there’s some intangible factor missing for me to really recommend it. And judging by the high standard set by Lopazz’ recent material, this single is likely to be of middling interest. If indeed it does exist.


International Deejay Gigolos
/ Gigolo 211
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


September 11, 2007

Tussle – Alphabet Series R

Tussle have indie cred: Kit Clayton mastered their album, Rong music released their early EPs, and now Tomlab (home of Deerhoof & the Books) have offered a spot in their “Alphabet Series” of seven-inch EPs to the creative kraut/rock/frotting quartet. On the A, things start in a vein familiar to Trans-Am’s cosmically-inclined moments (like the opening to “Futureworld”), with a motorik jamathon that gathers steam and gradually gets ahead of itself.

It’s nice, but not as cute/irritating as the Yacht remix of “Second Guessing” on the flip, which takes a dosed-up kids choir and subjects them to a raucous attack of cut, paste, and loop. This being a 7″, both sides are pretty short, but Tussle have followed the injunction of Robert Plant and made it “every inch of their love”. To the metric among us, that’s 35.6cm of musical pleasure at stake here.

Tomlab / tom 89R
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


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