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.

(more…)


December 5, 2007

Dave Aju & The Invisible Art Trio – Love Always

12"2007HouseLeftfield

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
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


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]


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 23, 2007

Jahcoozi – Reworks

12"2007HouseLeftfield

Yet even more sweets for 2007’s remix piñata. I’m not too familiar with Jahcoozi’s glitchy dub-pop stylings, but the “name” remixers piqued my interest here, and deliver three eargrabbing pieces of lively and stripped down house music. Leading things off is the nicely titled “Robert Johnson 6AM X-Ray Italo Rework” of “Ali McBillls” by Playhouse boss Ata and Moodmusic’s Sasse. It starts off a bit like an old MRI or Force Tracks record (dubby stabs on 2 and 4), punctuated by a heavily flanged snare at the beginning of each measure. As it progresses, things get slimier, with some disco-dub effects, pulsating eighth-note synths, and posh female vocals (“My Daddy’s rich but I don’t admit it”). There’s a line about Ally McBeal which is a bit cringeworthy, but thankfully it’s not so much a deterrent but a reminder of the fact that there are finger smudges in this chic pudding.

On the b-side, Arto Mwambé’s “Bubbles In The Bathtub Shake” remix of “Shake the Doom” is more straightforwardly housey, with simpler kick patterns and a two-note bassline. Arto maintains the interest level with an ever-shifting arrangement of staccato vocal chunks, colorful cymbal timbres, and a sneaky little chord progression revealed at the end. Cassy, Miss Panoramabar herself, remains in fine form with her own take on “Shake The Doom”. Similar in sound to her recent single with A Guy Called Gerald, this is a cyclic minimal house cut in love with its taut, old skool sounding drum rhythms. Yet it doesn’t feel flat or indulgent to me, as there’s a lot of spring to this remix’s step. Maybe I have a soft spot for drums that sound like they are made of rubber (i.e. they feel very flexible, yet still give a strong attack), but Cassy seems to get endless mileage out of this drum sound with only one vocal and keyboard loop laid on top.

Careless / LESS007
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


June 26, 2007

Turzi – Seven Inch Allah

Three pretty different tracks from this French act, though they all could have ended up on Optimo’s Psyche Out cosmic/dance/kraut mix from two years ago had they existed then: the uneasy trans-european chug of “Amadeus” whose sixteenth-note pulse recalls the pinprick synths on Delia and Gavin’s “Rise” (a Psyche Out track itself); the blast of surfrock punk in “Are You Thinking About Jesus” which could have pinch-hit for any number of Tarantino soundtracks (and any number of directors QT aped in the process); and “Hippy Heart”, a downtempo demo of Turzi’s “Afghanistan”, and something you might confuse for a Beastie Boys instrumental or, if you’re feeling generous, a grittier Serge. I hate the namedrop review as much as you do, but it’s worth noting that all of these descriptors are very good things.

Record Makers / REC 39
[Listen]
[Nick Sylvester]


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]


May 14, 2007

Battles – Atlas

Perhaps the greatest irony of all was indeed that Alanis’ song in its praise was not ironic. An arguably lesser but still significant irony is that math rock, as a genre, a sound, a stance dedicated to remorseless intensity and rhythmic, timbral, and harmonic experimentation, has become, twelve years later, one of the most conservative and unchanging of all musical scenes (which of course they would disavow being on both counts). In a parallel to the drum’n’bass scene, perhaps anything with such a particular sound and intensity is bound to attract two groups of people: those keen for the new, and those mad for the sound. Where the former engorge themselves on the signifiers and grow full and tired before sleeping it off and moving on, the latter seem to have an almost inexhaustible desire for that sound and nothing but that sound…forever.

So I suggested to two (still) math-rocking friends that Battles’ new single marked an exciting new direction for a genre that had gone from being merely stagnant to somehow embodying the very essence of stagnation. But they both hate Battles, ever since they “turned electronic”. Nothing, apparently, will ever equal the heights of Don Caballero. To them, What Burns Never Returns is not a title but the site of worship, of mourning and of an unquenchable repetition-compulsion.

So Atlas is a kind of a betrayal and promise by a group who seem to want to actually enact the originally progressive spirit of Touch-and-Go. What is it? It riffs like a Thorogood beast, howls like The Knife, but schaffels with a vengeance. It’s a fantastic rock epic and a great track. But thank God for the Koze mix on the flip. It’s more than a matter of 1 + 1 = two good sides. Like all good EPs, there’s a quality-multiplying factor lent by the proximities of creative differences-in-common. Koze’s mix presents his typical “touch” based approach to sound, with twee melodies not unlike recent International Pony work but a structure and mood that conjures Aphex Twin. The two tracks seem to wind into each other, not so much remixes as silent halves of the other that mutually intimate, stroke, and ground. The diehard math-rockers will hate it, and it’s too weird for the functionally-obsessed dancefloors of the world, but that’s (also) why it’s one of the more interesting EPs of the year so far.

Warp Records / WAP219
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


May 7, 2007

Pepe Bradock – Rhapsody in Pain

12"2007Leftfield

Deeply deranged. This word pair keeps frothing up as I reach for the adequate descriptors for Pepe Bradock’s musical world—a comparison with (pre-Napoleon complex) Herbert/Wishmountain might get you partway there, but there’s something uniquely subversive about Bradock’s collisions of atmospheric musique concrete and sweet (but not sugary) deep house. The covers of both his classic Burning EP and the later Intrusion set the scene—repetitions of disturbing mannequins, mannered yet monstrous.

But of all of Bradock’s oddball curveballs, this has to be the strangest and curliest. The fact that it’s called “Rhapsody in Pain” should help you realize—we are most definitely not in Kansas anymore. The track (I hesitate to call it a track) is ostensibly a wonky house number that might warm the cockles of a Metaboman or Lump fan’s heart, except…it’s urged along by looped choruses of people screaming. Not the screams of tortured souls, more like camping zombies being bitten by fire ants. You’re not going to have a lukewarm reaction to this composition—I love it, but that might be a reflection of my overdeveloped sense of the ridiculous. I’m so happy people are making fearlessly individual, expressive music like this, experimenting with the idiom of groove to make something perverted, perverting—yet still funky. Deeply deranged, and funky. Or otherwise, you might say (as my partner did) “What is this monged rubbish?”

Atavisme / ATA 007
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


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