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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January 8, 2008

Dominique Leone – Dominique Leone EP

There’s a number of songs worth taking out for a night on the town but few are worth waking up to. “Clairevoyage” fits the bill – even with a subtitle of “A Medley Performed By The 16th Rebels Of Mung” and credits that include a dude who nicknames himself “Strangefruit.” The best part of “Clairevoyage” isn’t the indulgence you’d expect with a group who are ready and willing to invoke the geeky concept of mung. The best moments are the ones that lead up to the song’s chipmunks-on-whippets coughing finale – the calm start of a metronome, the “doo doo doooo’s” that wiggle around the clap of the bass drums.

“Clairevoyage” should be anything but restrained. There’s no doubt in my mind that the talent involved – Lindstrom, Mongolian Jet Set, Dominique Leone, and a healthy list of others – spent many hours/weeks/months filling every second of the song to the brim of detail. And when I say restraint, it stems from the fact that I can’t tell if the track layers itself silly or winds itself into the tightest coil possible. But here’s where it doesn’t matter: both are the best way to soundtrack my morning. It’s perfect for my eight minutes and running for the bus to work. Even the dancefloor euphoria of the end, “sometimes it pays to keep your eyes closed” is just as functional as an extended dancefloor jam as it is a waking lullaby to get on with each day.

Feedelity / feed 012
[Listen]
[Itunes]
[Nate DeYoung]

A brief interview with Dominique Leone follows. (more…)


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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November 15, 2007

M. E. – R+B Junkie

12"2007DiscoHouse

Who can blame themselves for being way too preoccupied with that cyborg-looking nipple that slipped out early 2004, then overlooking Janet Jackson’s “R+B Junkie” and her somewhat underrated (somewhat) Damita Jo in the process. I certainly cannot! The extent to which I chased this edit down, having no idea who was on the hook, hearing those vocals and thriller 80s bass cascade some night at Studio B and never forgetting it, humming it to DJ friends who didn’t know fuck-all what I was talking about, then going to Studio B on Halloween on the off-chance I might hear the thing again and not have the not-balls to go up to the DJ and just ask him what it was–Christ I don’t think I’ve worked this hard in a while. So there I am dressed as Extremely Conspicuous Waldo, “a classic costume but with a twist” I tell people, and suddenly DJs Tim&Tim played it, IT, and I’m too pixellated to remember why I had even shown up in the first place, and I just keep dancing, and I forget to ask what it was.

A miracle: the next week (last week), they posted the mix with tracklist. Some quick Discog-ing and wiki-ing revealed all: Janet was all over this; the original “R+B Junkie” only got promo vinyl’d and fell off rather quickly because lady was pariah; M.E., the UK’s Mark E a/k/a the Jisco Music guy (one of those disco-edit or “songs that sound like disco edit” labels I always wish I kept more of a handle on) had edited the track. Repeat listens also revealed the hook went “I feel like bumping to some old school,” not “I feel like bumping to some law school.”

Anyway I’m in that bliss period with this track right now, just got the white label from some guy in Portland, then had a merely OK digital rip sent to me yesterday. I have this one on repeat–such a rare thing anymore. The sadomasochist in me wants to have more scavenger hunts like this, scribbling down lyrics half-drunk in the “what song is this” section of his Moleskine and then trying to figure out what I wrote the next morning, just like that Seinfeld episode, then googling for help or asking the right people. Same thing happened the first time I heard Theo’s edit of G.Q.’s “Lies”, though now everybody knows that one.

Golf Channel Recordings/ Channel-001
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


June 5, 2007

Oto Gelb / Daniel Wang – Magical Yellow Sound From Germania / Look Ma, No Drum Machine!

12"1990s2007DiscoHouse

It’s likely that over the past year or so, “disco edits” have been clogging up the new releases page on your favorite vinyl retailer’s website. Now that any chimp (let alone human) can freely acquire an editing programming like Audacity within a few mouse clicks, we are all that much closer to being exposed to Rising Disco-Tech Producer #56 extending the introduction to a favorite or obscure disco/new wave track by four minutes, and paying for the privilege to hear it. All together now: “And then I was discouraged by YOU!”

At their best, disco edits reveal hidden potential in otherwise imperfect tracks, and/or turn you on to a new set of tracks to dig for. The Idjuts Boys’ series of re-edit CDs on Noid takes this one step further by adding in new material, overdubbed effects, and wilder arrangements to the original source material. But it’s negligible how many edits actually need to be released on vinyl, especially when the original artists/tracks are rarely credited.

Daniel Wang seem frustrated at this state of edits too, and seemingly in a response to raise the level of re-arranging discourse, has reactivated his Balihu label with two edit-friendly releases of his own. The first is a new release of disco edits under the name Oto Gelb, with a press release that justifies itself by saying “[this is] music you just can’t make on a laptop, and that’s why it’s so good.” I hate to be an equally bitter pill, but there is not much to get excited about here, unless the idea of disco versions of Bach and Debussy tick your novelty sensors. This version of Bach’s “Air On A G-String” does give me a suave and sentimental feeling though, as if I was visiting Dimitri from Paris in an old folks home twenty years from now.

The second release is a reissue of Wang’s debut EP from 1993, Look Ma, No Drum Machine, which is one of his most highly regarded works, thanks to “Like Some Dream (I Can’t Stop Dreaming)” being a long time staple of disco and house DJs. And the track still works a treat, pasting an emotionally tense vocal snippet from Sleeque’s “One For The Money” onto a blank disco drums canvas, effectively flattening the tension into some kind of detached wonder. Actually, the entire EP is made up of sampled disco records, and while it was a common practice at the time for deep house records to work off a disco sample, Wang’s material here has more of a raw and homemade feel to it. On the b-side, “Gotta Get Up” is as fine a disco-house number as you can get without using a bassline, “Warped” falls a little flat if you’ve heard “Time Warp” from Disco Not Disco 2, and “Get Up, Get Up” locks into a more soulish loop a la Theo Parrish’s Ugly Edits.

While both of these records feels more “angsty” than necessary, Look Ma is still worthy of your time, and should put Daniel back in the public eye with both DJs and MP3 bloggers, just in time for his upcoming full-length album.

Balihu / BAL 016
[Listen]
Balihu / BAL 001
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


May 22, 2007

Trusme – Brown’s

12"2007DiscoHouse

Please don’t tell me I’m the only motherfucker on the internet who saw Maynard Ferguson’s play “The Fly” at North Penn High School ten plus years ago. The a-side moves exactly like KDJ’s “I Can’t Kick This Feelin’ When It Hits”: from the long opening tease to the impatient female crooner to the massive release when the funk finally kicks in, it’s wound tight enough to keep it away from the “funky house” bins and smooth jazz radio. The keyboard sustains are great but the horns midway… if there’s one regret for me it’s that I’ve heard them before. It’s possibly better than “I Can’t Kick This Feelin’,” which is saying something.

The title track is a fine enough beardo downtempo cut made from unrecognizable guitar jazz-funk, but “Good God” brings the tempo back up. Trusme uses the same formula as the a-side but this time with Harold Melvin and the Blue Note’s “Bad Luck” as the source material. Yep, that’s Teddy Pendergrass you’re hearing, and so the lines between jazz and funk and disco and house continue to be blurred into one gloriously incriminating mess.

Still Love Music / Stilove4music07
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


May 16, 2007

Escort – All Through The Night

12"2007Disco

The appeal of this Brooklyn disco band, beyond the fact that all four of its twelves are completely kickass, is its unspoken role as aggregator: they take their genre’s best flourishes and leave the dreck behind. Think about how much terrible disco you’ve heard, like the really awful shit that basically just sounds like a boring r&b song with a faster beat and bombastic pro forma string arrangements, then listen to “All Through The Night”. All the signposts are here, the vocal/instrumental call-and-response games, the rhythm guitar produced uncannily to sound like Chic’s, the goofy synth splashes, the vocab (“If you want to sex me / give it up”), the duration (“All through the night”), the lush swells of strings, but it’s all streamlined and deployed really thoughtfully, without the excess. If you want a functional comparison, think about what Metro Area did with italo on their 2002 S/T. You just don’t get an album like that, or a track like “All Through The Night,” without the benefit of hindsight and time itself, the ultimate arbiter of classics and duds.

Escort / ESCRT 004
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


April 9, 2007

Kathy Diamond – Over

12"2007DiscoFunk

Genius is one of those words that gets flung about and ends up bruised for the flinging. There’s always the value gap between labels of praise and the objects they’re stuck on—it’s something that’s too easy to say, and too difficult to be. Or (to mix metaphors), peel the label and you’re left with a sticky residue that gathers dirt. So, having framed and disclaimed Maurice Fulton by implication, let’s just say—it’s really good that such a multi-talented producer has found in Kathy Diamond a vocalist whose chords sympathize with his key qualities. Both the first fantastic All Woman EP and, now, “Over” intimate a collaboration that could see one of the year’s most accomplished syntheses of house, funk, disco and ‘80s-inflected pop.

“Over” harks far further back to its ‘70s roots than the former single, which swung off a slapping bassline and a big funk clap. Here it’s all organs and hall-size reverb, which lend a soaked stage for Fulton to let rip. Diamond’s vocals seem to get a little lost in the “big room”—another sound/effect in the overall instrumental. In fact, whether with or without the vocal, neither mix reaches the heights of the funky lowdown on “All Woman.” Yet between these two singles there exists a range of sounds and directions that begs for exploration and suggests the imminent arrival of something truly great. That’s all I’m going to say.

Permanent Vacation / PERMVAC 008-1
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


March 13, 2007

Visions of Tomorrow – Galaxy

12"2007DiscoHouse

Not the War tune, but a lost gem of disco-boogie unearthed by the aptly-named Past Due label, wherein silly-spooky spaceman vocals and a ripe analog wiggle grace bar-band funk with nicely understated horns. The re-edits, courtesy of Charles Webster and Francois A. (cue joke about the K. being already taken) do the do, both elongating and tarting up the original for consumption by modern dancefloors. The Webster Edit is the most sympathetic to the original, slightly wack vibe, in that he seems mainly concerned with lengthening, strengthening, and exposing a bit more separation in the constituent parts to give it a more minimal/less retro feel. Francois A. is more interested in revisionism, and takes “Galaxy” into the uptempo house dimension in a big ole hurry. Strangely, it actually kinda works—I don’t know what he’s done apart from speed it up and ditch the vocals, but it reminds me of the halcyon days of filter-house, and that’s enough to ask. For now.

Past Due / PASTDUE001
[Listen]
[Mallory O’Donnell]


March 13, 2007

Pony Express aka Idjut Boys – Smoke Me / Barrel Roll

12"2007BalearicDisco

Both these tracks were on the Boys’ Press Play beardo mix, you’ll recall. The topside is a re-edit of “Lowrider,” an uphill battle from the start considering how much high school pep band muck that song’s been dragged through, but it ends up pretty nice here: fuzzed out percussion, horn riffs discombobulated by reverb and modest EQ FX, everything totally goofy-sounding in the way the song was probably intended. “Barrel Roll” is an edit of Haircut 100’s “Evil Smokestacking Baby,” a schmaltzy midtempo “roll the credits”-type power-jangle—I guess—here further overblown.

White Label / COW 3
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


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