Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page
Photo by Austin Grisham
If you’re in Chicago this weekend you’re in luck. There’s a proverbial buffet of great acts to see all around the city. Here are a few which are especially worth mentioning:
Ulrich Schnauss @ the Empty Bottle
Samuel L Session, Sasha @ Vision
Thomas Fehlmann @ Kinetic Playground
Afrika Bambaataa @ Zentra
Ulrich Schnauss @ Beat Kitchen (all ages)
Dan Bell @ Tini Martini (!!!)
Telefon Tel Aviv @ Sonotheque
Deerhunter & No Age @ Empty Bottle
Five years is an awful long time in dance music culture. Trends come and go within a few months; labels and artists do, too. But thanks to Booka Shade’s generous work ethic (i.e. writing songs for the labels’ figureheads) and pop tech-house aesthetic, as well as M.A.N.D.Y.’s relentless A&R scouting (the artists played a role, too, but let’s be honest here), Get Physical Music has reached near major status in the electronic scene and shows no signs of closing shop anytime soon. 5 Years Get Physical is a forward-looking compilation which offers new takes on old favorites and previews the label’s forthcoming direction. But the results are not quite as inspiring as the journey to get to this point.
Because Get Physical has a knack for constantly anthologizing itself, the first disc recruits producers both big (Herbert, Henrik Schwarz, Moby[!]) and relatively obscure (Earl Zinger, Dexter) for remixes rather than simply recycling hits. Schwarz delivers the best of the bunch, attacking Booka Shade’s “Vertigo” with deep, growling dub stabs and a limber bassline without piercing the track’s mysteriously swirling synths. Herbert imbues subtle pop bubbles into his stuttering edit of Chelonis R. Jones’ “I Don’t Know,” while Lopazz takes the same tune in a somber and organic direction, replete with acoustic guitar leads and strums and hand percussion. Hot Chip and Fujiya & Miyagi don’t remix so much as cover M.A.N.D.Y.’s “No Stoppin’” and Lopazz’s “Migracion” (respectively) as by-the-book rock tunes – not exactly stirring. Legendary string arranger Larry Gold of The Salsoul Orchestra recasts Booka Shade’s “Nightfall” as the opening sequence of a drama flick. Along with Senor Coconut’s cheeseball cover of “Body Language,” these are so out of context they appear as mere novelties. Sideshow, Dexter and Fakesch all do regrettable things to their tracks; but Moby’s remix of “Les Djinns” is sure to draw the most ire simply for a) being Moby and b) messing with the overrated tune. (To be honest, it sounds OK if hugely histrionic.) But by the end I was asking myself, “Why take this lot instead of more producers?”
If disc one was to reinterpret the past, disc two shines a light on Get Physical’s future. The forecast isn’t as promising as one might hope. Certifiably the most hyped tune on the compilation is M.A.N.D.Y. and Booka Shade’s cover of Laurie Anderson’s “Oh Superman” – a simple romp that’s heavy on her vocals and catchy as all get-out. BS’s new track, “Unhealthy Pleasures,” focuses the duo’s pop chops on a jagged melody slicing through dark atmospherics. DJ T. (Prosumer, actually) also delivers a standout, “Once In a Life,” a boiled down tech-house track which gets a lot of mileage from a bopping motif. Lopazz and Chelonis both go the narrative route with their tracks, the former of which is a snappy Prince-ian tune. Jona, Audiofly X and Williams all fall victim to the minimal bug to uneventful ends while Riton & Heidi’s ghetto-house “To the Gum” is simply insulting to the senses. As with its choice of remixers, Get Physical is continuing to branch out from its popular strain of tech-house, and these uncharted waters haven’t made for the smoothest of sailing. 5 Years of Get Physical isn’t as bad as some critics will have you believe, but it does publicly exhibit the growing pains this established label is growing through. Here’s hoping they have the longevity in them to power through this somewhat awkward period toward 10 Years.
Photo by Michael Turner
My apologies for the lack of posts as of late. Team LWE has been hard at work on a new site design and lining up some engrossing new content for the near future, which hasn’t left much time for day to day stuff. So here are a couple of thoughts about some recent releases in the meantime.
Gui Boratto, “Chromophobia (Remixe Part 2)” [Kompakt] (buy)
“Beautiful Life” was, by far, the poppiest tune on Chromophobia thanks to its sugary, guitar-led riff and the optimistic vocals, and this release gives Sascha Funke and Boratto himself another crack at it. And while the former stumbles and smashes the dynamic tune flat and mostly lifeless, the latter repositions it for strict dancefloor purposes, with more varied percussion and a longer wait for the anthemic vocal line. Worth it for big fans only.
Stimming, “Funkworm EP” [Diynamic Music] (buy)
Beardo-crossover? The wriggling bass guitar line is addictive and drenched in the warm minimalism exhibited by Villalobos and Luciano; the marimbas are cool nu-deep house if a bit trendy. Stimming is great at soaking songs in tension, as he does here with the sustained foghorn blasts and synth meltdowns, and then wringing it out. Not only that, he gets away with halting the song for a rumbling brass ensemble aside. I listened to bits of the other tracks on this EP and they sound promising as well. Another record in my basket with a Diynamic sleeve.
Kevin Saunderson, “History Elevate 1” [Planet E] (buy) (buy)
Planet E digs up two Saunderson classics and has Carl Craig and Loco Dice (Martin Buttrich, more accurately) throwing on a coat of new century polish. C2 strips down Inner City’s “Till We Meet Again” to jubilant, echoing vocals and a sensationally simple and grinding techno melody. About as peak time as one would expect of Craig, this one will have you protecting your decks when the kick drum finally shows up around 2:30. Buttrich understands “Bassline” was named that way for a reason and leaves the mammoth low end to roll around in peace. I actually enjoy the twittering, warbling effects and twiggy hi-hats more than the milky pads gently placed atop the roiling bass.
A sign of influence
As much as I love Beatport, I rarely find myself trusting the playlists they hype or the people who binge on them. But sometimes you’re really bored at work and Beatport slips you an email of staff recommendations; you just have to look. Among other things, label manager Dave suggested “Ombala Mbembo” by Arto Mwambé. According to his Myspace, Mwambé is from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and his latest release, “Mudhutma!” (on Munich-centered Brontosaurus Records) is perfect for someone coming off a Moodymann bender. He starts right in with tension-laden string melodies, plucky whistles and a relentless female vocal loop. Highly recommended for those who pine for soul to overtake minimalism in modern deep house.
On the flipside is “Noh Ngamebo,” which expands Mwambé’s palate and gets my rating. Wrapping a cowbell jangle around a dark and meaty bassline and simple piano chords, the tune starts off rather low to the Earth. But it soon finds its feet at the arrival of zealous pads which attack and then mellow out. In other words, it’s a potential monster on the dancefloor. If you enjoy these tunes, make sure to get yourself a copy and check out Mwambé’s other tunes, which can be purchased here and here. Keep on eye on Brontosaurus (who were kind enough to lend me the track exclusively for one week only) as well, they’ve got a unique ear for talent.
I swear, we will not have pillows to greet you, Jesse.
Excuse the outsider’s perspective from which this preview reports. It was written for a local paper, but they arbitrarily decided to recruit someone else for the task at the last moment.
Rising talent Jesse Rose is not exactly easy to categorize, a fact which seems to working for him rather well. Dabbling in the clean lines and jazzy motifs of modern house, the distortion-friendly confines of electro-house, dark and grating minimal techno and life-affirming deep house has captured the attention of dance floors, critics and labels alike. When the Berlin-based, British producer isn’t releasing on Dave “Switch” Taylor’s Dubsided or Get Physical (for whom he mixed the third volume of their popular “Body Language” series), he’s running (and releasing on) the Made To Play and Front Room Recordings imprints. Rose’s most impressive release, the 2006 album “Presents More Than One,” found him collaborating with a host of equally talented artists including Henrik Schwarz and Solid Groove on a set of crisp and catchy house tunes made as much for listeners’ heads as it is for their behinds. His gig at Smart Bar (tonight @ 10 PM) is his second Chicago appearance in 2007, and if Rose’s diverse discography means anything, it’s likely to please a variety of fans.
Quite possibly my favorite JR recording, it makes no distinction between Rose’s weirder impulses and more straight ahead tendencies and is instantly accessible for it. Roughly hewn synth stabs chase after the coolly intoned vocals like a game of cat-and-mouse carefully regimented through wet pads and dry hi-hat hits. I’m not sure what to expect from Rose’s set tonight (though I’m guessing he drops his cover of Steve “Silk” Hurley’s “Jack Your Body,” already out on Gigolo), but this is the tune I’ll be waiting for all evening.
Not my grandma, but a cute picture, no?
The other day I drove my grandma from my parents’ house to her assisted living center. I figured a little music would make the 45 minute drive go by a little quicker and she told me she didn’t mind. Nearly blind, Grandma still stared eagerly out the window while Âme’s self-titled debut filled the car with their brand of deep house vibrations. She turned to me several times during the ride to tell me she really liked the tune at the moment and chat a bit. She told me she and my grandpa and everyone they knew used to go dancing all the time. She was glad to see our generation still valued the merriment and release of simply shaking our bodies in time. I asked if I could make her a mix. Since then I’ve been going through my collection and asking others to add in finding tunes my little old grandma would enjoy. Here are a couple which make the cut.
I:Cube, “Picnic Attack” [Versatile] (buy)
Start your walkers! I:Cube serves up a sizzling slice of house that’s all raw energy. Its descending synth riff cuts through the knotty funk bass line like a lightning bolt. Not for use before bedtime.
Innerzone Orchestra, “At Les” [Talkin’ Loud] (buy) (buy)
Perhaps the “classiest” selection of the bunch, the piano work in “At Les” is simply stunning. The tune thrums in anticipation conjured up by those blurry chords. I’d like my grandma to namedrop Carl Craig every now and again.
Moodymann, “Mislead” [Planet E]
When you’ve been alive long enough to have seen a massive Depression, world wars of all sorts and the birth of pop music — all that fun stuff, you probably want to cut to the chase: So where did this stuff come from? Moodymann imbues midnight blue vibes with this scene-setting track, awash in dreamy drones, and answers politely.
Pan-Pot, “Charly” [Mobilee] (buy)
As the year wanes on, I’ve briskly approached my limit for tracks with pitched-down, sinister sounding vocals. “Where We At”: Epic, poignant and hugely enjoyable all at once. “R U OK?” Musically not my bag, but I guess the scene needed something to put a little pause in the debauchery. “The Grass is Always Greener”: A bit kitschy, bordering on piss-take, and acceptable only because someone needed to put Bob Ross on wax. “Lady Judy” just makes me want to listen to “Baby Judy” and forget Jay Haze tried to rip it off.
So it was with a bit of grimace that I listened to “Charly,” the first single from Pan-O-Rama, Pan-Pot’s debut album. It’s instrumentally intriguing, especially the interplay between the deep gulps emerging every two bars and the ascending riff crawling up your spine. And there it is again — the slurred baritone delivering a monologue about drugs. So instead of concentrating on the anxiety-stirring crescendo, I’m still rolling my eyes at the trite choice of vocal. Thankfully, the rest of the track is schlock-free, just jittery patterns to guide me through the last few minutes. I feel an artist can allude to drugs through their instrumental movements rather than narcotic nonsense. Perhaps Pan-Pot wasn’t just hopping aboard the affected train, but I’ve had my fill for the moment. (Feel free to jump me if I go back on my word, though; and check out Anja Schneider’s remix on the flip!)
Also, thanks to J.RA for the shout outs. Resident Advisor is nominated for best music magazine at the BT Dital Music Awards — up against NME! It would be a hoot if we won somehow, so please, do as we say in Chicago: vote early, and vote often.
Paul Ritch, “Back To the Time” [Fumakilla] (buy)
I was first introduced to the music of Paul Ritch during Luciano’s consciousness-expanding set at DEMF. But because his track was woven so tightly into Lucien’s performance, I had only a rough picture of what Ritch was all aurally all about. Luckily he’s provided many chances to clear things up with seven releases so far in 2007. Approaching tech-house with a minimal lens, he’s dappled his rhythmically-focused tracks with hints of melodic color — or at least just enough to for Get Physical to put out his records. While many of Ritch’s tracks tend to be stripped back and well suited for a DJ’s toolkit (a noteworthy distinction, methinks), his “Back To the Time” on Fumakilla is more a tune in it’s own right. Its warm, funky bass line invites listeners into an organ-laden place of worship (any dance floor will do) where chunky, old-school chords say mass as they clang against each other. The sudden dropout nearly kills the momentum until Ritch comes back full force and pounds out an ending. And hey, it’s flipside, “Vatican’s Bells,” is no slouch either, especially if you dig on reverberating plucked strings.
What was your first techno/house record? What made you buy it?
That was Leftism by Leftfield. I was a typical grunge-kid at the time: Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Helmet, NIN, Pearl Jam; I had also long hair in a ponytail and was wearing yellow Doc Martens. Somehow Underworld made it in our friends’ group as acceptable electronical music, in contrast with the happy-hardcore shit everybody around us liked on the countryside here. Leftfield was the next step to getting more into that.
When and how did you start producing? How did it feel to get deals with labels like Connaisseur and Innervisions?
It started out as a little hobby about 8 years ago. I inherited some money from my grandmother and it was burning in my pocket. I was 22 at the time, had just come into contact with partying to good house music and was very blown away by stuff some new-made friends showed me, like Theo Parrish and Carl Craig. That same group of friends advised me to invest in some musical equipment (instead of blowing it all on snowboarding holidays), which would hold its value for a few years and be a smart way of having a small adventure. So I went for it and bought an Atari, Akai sampler and a Yamaha synth. I was such a noob! I had a hard time understanding that MIDI messages weren’t actual audio. But it was the first thing I did in my life that grabbed me and didn’t let go. I was playing for nights in a row ‘till 6 in the morning trying to grasp the process. I don’t think I ever encountered a creative process so rewarding as dancing to your own home-cooked ideas.
The whole step from hobbyism to going public has been a great adventure so far. I released my first EP with Mezzotinto last year April and it has been a raging storm ever since. The step to bigger labels came very naturally, which also surprised me, but of course felt very satisfying and ensuring. Myspace has helped me make contacts easily. I dropped a friendly mail to Frank from Innervisions, which led to the re-release of “Warm” and Alex from Connaisseur messaged me to say he was digging my stuff. I am very anti-social at normal networking possibilities like parties or whatever, but Myspace bridged that gap for me. I feel compelled to tell all the young producers out there that the “mountain” of releasing a track on a label seems so much bigger then it really is. If you make stuff you really believe in, all it takes is getting it out there and keep believing in it, even with some critics you might get. I know out of experience that there is so much beautiful music sitting on hard drives in little bedrooms, waiting for the creator to have the guts and take the plunge. Do it!
Ron Hardy didn’t have the high profile of Larry Levan or Frankie Knuckles, but his contribution to dance music is immeasurable. Hardy first tried to produce live continuous mixes as early at 1974 on a reel-to-reel player (imagine what he would have thought of Ableton), influenced many of the most important players of Chicago house and helmed what would become the premier club of the early house days, the Muzic Box, after a stint at the Powerhouse.
He didn’t spend too much time in the studio, but the few tracks he recorded retain all the excitement of a genre on the brink of breaking open into something huge. “Baby, Baby, Baby, Aw Shucks,” Hardy’s complete reworking of First Choice’s “Let No Man Put Asunder,” was just released for the first time by itself on Partehardy Records. (In the comments Ilya informs the track was released under a different name in 1988; anyone care to corroborate?) At times its raucous drum track sounds cribbed from Liquid Liquid’s “Bellhead” and is matched in intensity by the chopped and looped scat vocals flying around the track. Just as fun is the “it’s not over” portion of the tune, flush with funky guitar licks, flirtatious swells, and a pack of vocalists petitioning Hardy not to end the tune. A must have for house historians and fans alike.