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…


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
[Nate DeYoung]

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

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 7, 2007

Bruno Pronsato – At Home I’m a Tourist

It started as a curiosity – something you might or might not hear if you squinted your ears just right at the speakers. Steven Ford (aka Bruno Pronsato) once played drums for a punk-rock/speed-metal band. Against the steady rate of singles for minimal labels like Orac, Philpot and Telegraph, that fact might have stayed a footnote in the producer’s biography. But Bruno’s latest work for Hello?Repeat has seen the musician ebb back wholeheartedly into the groove. His debut for Hello?Repeat, “Wade in the Water, Children,” was a track blown apart and left to see how sparse minimal techno could go, held together by the barest drawl of a bassline. And there’s little hyperbole to that description – try dancing to it.

With “At Home I’m a Tourist,” the first single from Bruno Pronsato’s upcoming album Why Can’t We Be Like Us, he takes the opposite approach: the drums are front & center, percussion is cascading from every corner, and there’s a drone not too far from the one you hear out of movie-theater speakers over-cranked during a horror film. There are handclaps too, but they’re all gauzed and disoriented, and as far away from the DFA snap as you could get.

It’d be tempting to describe the track as funky or loose – and neither adjective would be technically wrong – but they’d still be entirely wrong in spirit. Instead, “At Home I’m a Tourist” is full of blemishes – little creases, tics and wear in a genre that is all too willing to erase traces of humanity. It might be littered with the abject sigh of reversed strings but what’s actually eerie is how easy it nuzzles into your head without a proper melody in sight.

Hello? Repeat / HELLO 009LTD
[Nate DeYoung]

A brief interview with Steven Ford about “At Home I’m a Tourist” follows. (more…)

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 26, 2007

Shit Robot – Chasm


For all the cock-rock expanse of the “Wrong Galaxy / Triumph” single, you could at least count on one thing – Shit Robot (aka Marcus Lambkin) wasn’t willing to paint in dollops of rock star excess. “Triumph” shared the blunted cosmic vibe that sunk Map of Africa’s album, but SR never sounded weighed down by the size of their tom-ticks and choirs – in fact, they sounded unusually limber.

The brood that opens “Chasm” doesn’t make it any easier to pin Lambkin down. Leaving the swarm of bees in the distance and shying away from the menacing shortcuts found in Vakant’s VST-patch-a-ya-ya, Shit Robot’s menace and melody sound absolutely ornate and anthemic, as the track vamps on a tin-drum, acid gurgles, and an arpeggiator set to the “Heater” shimmy. The B-side “Lonely Planet” sets its sights lower and recaptures the wide-eyed motorik expanse without resorting into bland homage. While neither side of Chasm will get the same tongue-wagging that has accompanied recent DFA signees Still Going and Holy Ghost, Lambkin might be even more deserving – his follow-up is a rung higher than his debut.

DFA / 2183
[Nate DeYoung]

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]

November 9, 2007

dOP – Between the Blues

For a group that seemingly keeps both hands on the plow, dOP’s shamble-house is pretty sure-footed on “Allo Boom Boom.” Not wasting a second for atmosphere, the group gives one perfunctory chime and horn-swell before burrowing into their twisted drum-circle of a bassline. It’s tempting to call the rest of the track whimsical, as its quirks and builds disappear before your ears like a cosmic sandwich with less drugs. This is pretty much the type of humor and sound I expected Cobblestone Jazz to have before I, you know, actually heard them.

And with dOP’s background in hiphop, it’s easy to pair Between the Blues with another hip-hop-turned-house irreverent, DJ Koze. But let me offer a key difference – while Koze was figuring the most ergonomically sound way to stuff a tongue in his cheek, dOP were cracking up over jokes that begin with “like a mouse on a nipple…strolling.” And let me say, the trio have grown up to become fine gents because of it. Point in fact: I’d already worn out “Allo Boom Boom” and the sea-sick wallop of the Noze-assisted “Dopamen” well before the time I actually got around to listening to the predictable come-down of the title track.

Circus Company / CCS 022
[Nate DeYoung]

November 1, 2007

Coyote – Too Hard


Wherein I talk about the Aeroplane remix of this song that I heard on the October 9 edition of Beats In Space, guest-mixed by New York’s Runaway dudes. Pillowtalk: The Sequel is my initial thought, as the track begins with a patient thump, some amorphous misty synths, and a tambourine mixed to shame that Jet song that sounds like Iggy Pop (the only good thing Jet has ever done was that tambourine part). Except this “Sequel” is so much wetter, especially when the piano chords drop.

I hear this and rush to tell my post-Stylus BBTP buds how genuinely psyched I am that somebody picked up on the Quiet Village soft-focus Balearic vibe, ever since QV dropped off significantly post-“Pillow.” Seconds after writing, the song moved into this – I don’t know how to put it exactly – softporn soundtracking, not even Showtime post-midnight but something you might expect to get tracked behind a steamy scene from Models Inc — what the fuck? I’m not one to feel betrayed by a song but this comes close.

Is It Balearic? / ISIT 002
[Nick Sylvester]

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