April 30, 2008

Heat Index: January-April 2008

With a third of the year down, Michael F. Gill lists and rates his favorite and not-so-favorite releases of 2008.

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December 18, 2007

2007: Year In Review, Part One

Welcome to part one of Beatz By The Pound’s year-end roundup for 2007, containing the staff’s favorite dance singles, albums, mixes, producers, and labels of the year.

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December 16, 2007

Armando – Don’t Do It

12"1980s2007ChicagoHouse

Phonica are sometimes prone to softcore boosterism – well, I guess they are trying to sell you the record, so “duh” – but in their description of Armando’s recently rescued and re-released “Don’t Take It” they actually nail it: “This is up there as one of the hottest (and best) records of 2007 even though this track was produced almost 20 years ago. Now that’s just insane. Did you expect anything less from Chicago legend Armando?” To be honest, I did expect something less, given the trendency of the past few years for re-releasing “undiscovered gems” from the vaults to cashed-up, retro-hungry record collectors, their needles and ears famished for the so-called glory days.

Along with Trax Records, Chicago label Let’s Pet Puppies have been on the better end of this rescue mission, first with two Marcus Mixx’ tracks, and now with a lost Armando classic, apparently recorded in one take after an all-nighter, with vocals recorded from the toilet. Like the Marcus Mixx tracks, “Don’t Take it” has been “Resurrected by Thomos and Re-animated by the amazing Johnny Fiasco”. If you were enamoured with the minimalist acid tracks out in 2004 like John Tejada’s “Sweat on the Walls”, you’re going to lose your shit when you hear this. With little more than a gulping, descending acid bassline, some spare Roland percussion and Sharvette’s “sisters are doin’ it for themselves” monologue, this track slowly, relentlessly becomes more and more deranged, unhinging itself around the unchanging bassline. Damned if this doesn’t send the whole dancefloor down the rabbit hole.

Fiasco’s edit streamlines and boomptifies proceedings, shedding Sharvette and altering the bass melody so that it wiggles in and out, rather than down. This one’s got a whole lot less personality than the vocal cut, but holds its own as a neat and useful transition track with some nice percussive tricks which would make it fun to play with on a big system. Hear this single and remember what it’s all about. But let’s hope that it doesn’t turn you into a cashed-up, retro-hungry record collector. Nothing is more suspicious than “the good old days”.

Let’s Pet Puppies / LPP 003
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[Peter Chambers]


June 22, 2007

INFLUX #004: CHELONIS R. JONES

2007ChicagoHouseInfluxLeftfield

On this fourth edition of Influx, we profile Chelonis R. Jones. Stylus editor Todd Burns talked to Jones about his upcoming album Chatterton, the cover art to Dislocated Genius, and what’s it like to be the “Franz Kafka of electro-pop”…

Tracks
01: Chelonis R. Jones – I Don’t Know
02: Marc Romboy vs. Chelonis R. Jones – Helen Cornell
03: Chelonis R. Jones – Sky Is Sea

[INFLUX #001: Orac Records]
[
INFLUX #002: Hand on the Plow]
[
INFLUX #003: Foundsound]


June 19, 2007

Dopplereffekt / Los Angeles TF / Mike Dunn – Gesamtkunstwerk / Magical Body / So Let It Be House

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Three more italo, electro, and house nuggets from Clone’s reliable Classic Cuts imprint, and the hits just keep on coming. First up is Dopplereffekt, the well-known Detroit electro collective featuring Gerald Donald of Drexciya. Gesamtkunstwerk is a reissue of a compilation that Gigolo put out in 1999, made up of all the vinyl sides from the group’s own Dataphysix Engineering label. It’s got all the hallmarks you’d expect to find on an electro record (sci-fi/technology themes, bleakly monophonic synths, precise/robotic beats) but with a consistency and a pop sensibility that the genre often lacks. The sleazy female vocals deadpanning on tracks like “Pornovision” and “Pornoactress” also predict what Adult’s Nicola Kuperus (and in turn, many electroclashers) would be doing years down the road. Great stuff.

Second up is a reissue of Los Angeles TF’s electro-italo smash “Magical Body” from 1983, sounding amazingly pristine here in a new remaster by Alden Tyrell. I wasn’t originally sold on the vocal version, where singer Taffy (of “I Love My Radio” fame) seems to over-emphasize the end of each phrase (“Magical! Magical! Is your bod-EE!”), but the tracky instrumental on the B provides immediate gratification, and shows why so many nu-italo producers were inspired to do what they do.

For the third helping, we get another EP of vintage acid house from Mike Dunn. Clone boss Serge was so scared to damage his vinyl copy of Dunn’s “So Let It Be House” he’s gone out and secured this reissue of it, along with two superior b-sides. While the press releases gushes about the title cut’s rareness, and frames 1980s Chicago as this exotic, magical place, to these ears it’s an overly sparse acid track with another “Birth of House Music” speech. It may be the weakest of this trio of releases, but I sort of get the cross-continental appeal. I’m never going to be a intimidating black man from the streets either.

Clone Classic Cuts / C#CC 004/005/006
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


April 11, 2007

Redshape – Dog Day

12"2007ChicagoHouse

A rising star of the Euro-Detroit movement, Redshape’s latest single is actually his most overt nod to house yet. Specifically, the aura here is towards the lesser-mined sounds of ’90s Chicago house, when artists like the Foremost Poets would detune, stretch, and staccato-ize a synth burst, and then repeat it until it became a viable, body-moving loop that sounded fresh over a kick. “Dog Day” wouldn’t be too far from some of the early stuff on Relief Records, if not for a somewhat suspect breakbeat loop, likely lifted from one of the thousand dance records in the early ’90s that featured it. This is one of those pesky, one-sided releases that will likely be hard to find, but is worthy of seeking out.

Millions of Moments / MOM 05
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[Michael F. Gill]