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.


February 27, 2008

Bits & Pieces: Jan/Feb 2008

Michael F. Gill runs through 20 choice tracks from the past couple months, with soundclips…


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.


December 16, 2007

Armando – Don’t Do It


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
[Peter Chambers]

December 5, 2007

Dave Aju & The Invisible Art Trio – Love Always


Being part of the Circus Company is necessarily a bumpy, zany affair, but few wear the clown’s nose and elephant’s makeup with quite as much aplomb as Dave Aju. Most of my Circus Company EPs date from around ’02-’03, when I started collecting the label after my first “WTF?!” collision with Ark’s fiendishly cutup hatchet-house and other loose-hinged jackfests. More recently, the label has definitely come off my “buy on sight” setting, exhausted and exhausting by its own exuberance. But Dave Aju’s The Unorthodoctor was a notable exception that has proven its superlongevity, being both an extremely inventive, quirky and (decisively) useful EP that always finds itself as the DSP’d glue in the crack between my channels.

Love Always likewise conducts these strengths of invention, peculiarity, and utility to come up with what is for me a latecomer shortlist shoo-in for one of the top EPs of the year. In a year (this is still 2007, right?) redolent with bland beats bleatened to death during prolonged bouts of Abletonitis (not to mention the all-too-common outbreaks of “lame hooks disease” and digitally diffuse wackness), ANYTHING with personality stands out a mile.

But Love Always isn’t just inspired by contrast ­– it also finds poetry through homage to jazz greats (James Brown, Alice Coltrane, and others) channelled through filters in circuits (and vice versa). And all this with an irresistible house-groove with one foot in ’90s US deep and the other in the 21C microworld. Dig the preach-a-pella praising the sun on “Be Like the Sun”, groove to the mantralike “Timing is Everything” (Aju here seems to be following Cassy’s moves chantwise), vibe to the beautifully snatched and smeared flute on “Love Always”. The result is something between the aggressively retro sublimations of Hieroglyphic Being and the silicone-flattened sound-design of contemporary microhouse. And this is a fine thing.

Circus Company / CCS 021
[Peter Chambers]

November 15, 2007

M. E. – R+B Junkie


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
[Nick Sylvester]

August 29, 2007

Osborne – Outta Sight

12"2007AcidHouseSpectral Sound

For a guy who has done slice-n-dice jungle under the name Soundmurderer, Todd Osborn doesn’t seem to be possessed by much rage on “Outta Sight.” In fact, this single shows he’s more likely to be throwing down some loved-up house vibes than fragmented epics. I’m all for it though – if we’re heading into the last days of summer, then by all means let it be soundtracked by shimmering piano-house.

The individual ingredients on “Outta Sight” aren’t the most innovative – you could dine on the flirting piano melodies, Latin rhythms, over-enthusiastic bassline, and sampled vocal quiver for your next assembly-line meal. But Osborne teases each out, making such potentially hackneyed elements sound current for 2007. Along with Sly Mongoose’s “Snakes and Ladders” and the forthcoming single from Still Going, “Outta Sight” makes a great case that there’s a piano-house revival afoot. On the flip, “L8” (produced with Tadd Mullinix) provides the necessary jacking foil – 303s, cowbells, and 909s need not apply, as there’s more than enough to go around.

Spectral / SPC-45
[Nate DeYoung]

August 28, 2007

Future Loop Foundation – The Sea and the Sky


The introduction of the operatic to the electronic is invariably a mixed moment. For Mark Barrott (aka Future Loop Foundation), this moment may tremble full of horns, strings, and soaring spirits, but it also shivers in the fear of past monsters, which the same arrangements of instruments and intentions often produce. Heaven and hell: think Moby. Think BT – late career BT. Are you inspired, or afraid?

Speaking of inspiration, the writer Paulo Coelho also seems to be a latent influence here, as there is something in Barrott’s music that strives to “overcome adversity”, “discover its true self”, and “become one with the infinite spirit,” all in the space of nine or so overblown minutes of symphonic dance. I remember a co-worker (who happened to be a BT fan) lending me a copy of Coelho’s The Alchemist. He kept badgering me: “What did you think? Didn’t you think it was wonderful?” I found myself at a loss. I thought it was one of the worst novels I’d ever read, but I also understood this as being in no small measure due to my hard kernel of cynicism and atheism, and I could also see just how much the book meant to him. “It was…good,” I said, “I think it taught me something new.”

Likewise with The Sea and the Sky: somebody’s going to get…something from all these swooshing strings and bombastic drum breaks. The original twists and builds to a rousing climax, like a sunburst (in extremely poor taste) that makes you think, “It’s coming, it’s coming!” Ashley Beedle’s remix re-structures matters within an epic house frame, offering patterns and repetitions that would make it the perfect incidental music for one of those highlight montages sports programs show during the Olympics. The Padded Cell remix dries things out a bit with a spare electro-disco re-slap, which, once the choir and the horns comes in, is the manic bearded other to Tolga Fidan’s depressive, clean-shaven horrorcore minimal. It’s actually not bad. Finally, TG’s “Angry Trucker Mix” offers up a very prog/minimal mix, replete with metallic tear-outs and a mids-heavy bass riff.

So, what can I say? Do you like BT? Do you like Paulo Coelho? Do you like your house painted in Wagnerian strings? Well then, maybe this one’s for you.

Louisiana Recordings / TAT 004V
[Peter Chambers]

August 9, 2007

Henrik B feat. Terri B – Soul Heaven

You know, I could carefully describe “Soul Heaven” to you. And tell you how it’s a cover of a seven-year-old house track by The Goodfellas, one that was comped on bigtime labels like Ministry of Sound, Hed Kandi, and Azuli, not to mention the UK label named after it. I’d also want you to know how well Henrik B., formerly a producer of schranz-style techno, has moved into loved-up funky house (check out the difference between “Airwalk” and “The Wound”).

But there’s a reason why these big Ibiza and funky house cuts don’t get written up critically: they can be a bit brainless. So often they are all about the euphoria of the moment, and their broad and obvious strokes fall apart under any closer inspection. It seems futile, even silly to say things like “hmm, the original mix could almost be a Ame/Sydenham production, if they were trying to be Joey Negro,” or to rave about the Fonzeralli remix being “the crossover anthem Rex The Dog will never have.” All I know is that I feel pretty giddy after listening to it, which is a hollow sentiment that doesn’t serve you well, fair reader. So let’s act like this review never happened. But considered yourself informed.

Boss / BOS 067AB / 067CD
[Michael F. Gill]

July 24, 2007

Tiger Stripes / Solomun – Hooked / Jungle River Cruise

It started with just a gnaw – something a little too coy to bring on déjà vu. The synth pads smack dab in the middle of Solomun’s “Jungle River Cruise” were too obvious to ignore and too diffuse to pinpoint. Like their hint of friction and immediate release, it didn’t take too long until I realized that yes, once again, the sky must still be quite pink. Solomun wears the hat well though, tipping it and moving on, while others are too busy staring at themselves in the mirror (I’m waving my finger at you, Stephan Bodzin).

What it comes down to is that “Jungle River Cruise” is comfortable in its skin despite the minimal clichés – the prog-house builds, the “as far as we’ve never been” rhythm, the drugged, wafting vocals. They’re the clichés that only become more ingrained with Tiger Stripes’ “Hooked.” I guess the phrase “if you can’t beat ’em fuck ’em” isn’t flippant anymore – deep house and minimal are becoming a more deep-seated and synergizing affair each and every day.

Liebe Detail / LD 017
[Nate DeYoung]

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