June 2006 Archives
808 State: Prebuild (Rephlex) - CD
Really no need to go through 808 State's contribution to dance music (plenty of resources out there). 'Prebuild' is a collection of old and unreleased tracks from their very early years. A strange mix of demo tapes, live sessions and radio shows.
I guess the first thing that hits you is the immediate lo-fi feel to the album. From the scratchy cassette recordings of Gerald Simpson's acid aggression (the hardest tracks here) to the harsh hi-end repetition of tracks like 'Sex Mechanic'. It's a relentless, piercing palette to consume that no amount of iTunes EQ'ing will fix.
I'd be lying if I said everything on here has stood the test of time. Sometimes the introduction of the acid bassline merely covers up the compositional cracks elsewhere in the track. It only seems to work on the more poppier acid house moments like 'Automatic'.
A smart, intriguing sonic document of Manchester's electronic underground.
Lasse Marhaug: The shape of rock to come (Smalltown Supersound) - CD
Having bled to death the sonic barrage that is 'Metal Music Machine'. I thought it to be good form to staple some words to Lasse Marhaug's earlier solitary excursion. Whereas the Jazkamer album had its roots entrenched in dark metal, this employs electronics and as a by product, explores more abstract compositional avenues.
'Sleeper' is the one for me: a twenty minute narrative documenting the motion of some outerworld malevolent force: the birth of a wormhole. 'Magmadiver' (how ace is that for a title) takes a macro look at insect-level noise; swarm pattern data run through realtime algorithms. This is a beautiful record.
Kevin Saunderson: Faces & Phases (Planet E) - 2 x CD
Utterly sublime collection of music from one of the originators of Detroit Techno. It was very easy to get over-analytical about this particular strand of dance music. Loaded with so many meanings that were visible; social, racial, political, geographical. As well those that were invisible. It was a fascinating genre to take apart at the time. Especially for someone like me, an Asian teenager living in the Midlands surrounded by people who were into baggy.
Unashamedly a nostalgic trip, most of what is here still stands up today. A restrictive sonic palette (analogue synthesisers, drum machines) meant that it had to be compositionally creative. And from Neil's Rushton's gushing sleeve notes, it explains how Kevin jumped from style to style with apparent ease. From rave-burning creepers ('Uptempo') to abstract drum workouts ('Funky, funk, funk') to New Order style pop ('Triangle of Love').
Stewart Walker: Grounded in Existence (Persona) - CD
Makes a change from the usual tedious abstract graphics I guess. Techno veteran Stewart Walker's latest has him looking like some tanned surfer dude on the cover. Musically boiling down to is eleven excursions into ambient, string-led, languid house. Neither containing the edgy melodic strokes of the Kompakt brigade or the deep bleep minimalism of Sleeparchive / M_nus.
It's accomplished stuff nonetheless and at least it moves away rhythmically from rigid 4/4. Incorporating elements of hip-hop and therefore has a real live instrumentation feel to it. No standout tracks, but seems to work as one complete narrative. Subtle, understated, impressive.
Mu-ziq. Click here to view flickr.
Saturday 10th March 2006
Electrowerkz, Torrens Street, Angel, London
Tonight's entertainment was interrupted by various inflatable objects being launched skywards. Most disturbingly I was repeatedly headbutted by a blue dolphin. But then again it may have been the overwhelming stench of Vicks in the air that was having an affect.
It was Ceephax's birthday. He celebrated by setting up a workshop consisting of a Commodore Amiga, SH-101, 303 and 808. Donning an 'Acid Quiff' T-shirt and throwing strange shapes.
Mike 'mu-ziq' Paradinas flattened out his laptop and teased out a near greatest hits, even taking requests at one point. Never was a fan of his gabba jackhammer stuff, and thankfully he kept it to a minimum. Highlight was the synth-pad jazz mutation of 'Brace Yourself Jason'.
Rave casualty Billy Bunter summed the whole night up when he demanded we "rave liked it's 1994." Not realising that half the audience were probably 8 years old in '94.
Bang Face: Rave cliches personified. Just watch out for the blue dolphin.
Soundhack. Click here to view flickr.
Thursday 23rd March 2006
Plastic People, Shoreditch, London
Discombabulate, Dreck Records' sorely rare London excursions, have enticed over the near reclusive Soundhack over to London's bestest sound system for a night of spastic dance and hard edits. Can't actually remember much about the night. Secondo was wicked as ever and Soundhack rapidly flicked through the different flavours of disco. Eventually settling on the dark and dirty variety.
Plaid: Greedy Baby (Warp) - CD / DVD
Plaid are tricky fuckers. Their flirtation with extremism as part of the Black Dog left a myriad of musical puzzles which are still being deciphered today. But since the shift and their re-definition as Plaid, their musical codes have became easier to break. This is a criticism. They've become generic as the IDM genre itself.
But this, their first release in 3 years, is a welcome move to rescramble the signals. This time, they have visuals. Bob Jaroc's superbly executed and intricate films shift through various moods and styles. All doused in analogue decay and imperfections.
'War Dialler's surveillance paranoia represented in the style of a sixties public information film animation is tense. 'I citizen the loathsome' explores inner city twilight with accurate clarity against a sonic dense crescendo. But the Tokyo drift of 'Zen Zero' contains imagery that seems to be too commonly replayed in electronic music.
'E.M.R.' is stunning: refraction, light and liquid against one of Plaid's more abstract compositions. 'Super Position' is organic rave; pulsating microbes that explore the fields of saturated colour and focus levels.
The extra's are worthy too. The CNN-headfuck that is 'Crumax_Rins' is in turns amusing, mesmerising and upsetting. 'Assault on Precinct Zero' staples one of Plaid's more poppier tracks with grainy footage of their U.S. tour. Whilst 'New Family' is self-help messages and memories to euphoric techno pop.
One of the most complete and satisfying marriages of narrative audio and video I've ever seen. Should place Plaid back at the top of the Warp league tables.
Yellow Swans: Psychic Secession (Load) - CD
Seemed totally appropriate, but someone behind the counter of Camden's Music & Video Exchange had their previous 'Bring home the neon war' album on the stereo. Presumably to try to flush out the weekend dullards that were occupying the shop. Enquiry, download, purchase followed (I still prefer music as physical artefact). Since then I've backtracked through their discography and pretended to know who they were all along.
This is on Load Records, so its bound to be decent. Opener 'True Union' interrupts land mass, it's nominal yield of noise can be measured in megatonnes. The title track starts off with structure and voices before plunging head first into sustained white noise. And 'I woke up' flirts with ideas of rhythm and melody before disintegrating disgracefully.
Nothing here is wasted so everything can be left to waste.
Various Artists Grime 2 (Rephlex) - CD
Whilst at the time, all the music chasers were arguing over genre names, Rephlex were bold enough to kickstart documenting some of the key players away from the fickle world of 12"'s. The three artists showcased have since gone onto launch successful labels in their own right. But having said all that, most of it seems quite musically tame. Only the under-swept dub of Digital Mystikz stands up ('Awake' being the standout cut). Some of the tracks lapse over into breaks territory but on the whole its still a valuable document of a sound in development.
Burial: Burial (Hyperdub) - CD
I've seen some ridiculous analysis of this album on the wires. I'm not going go down the same route (words have never been my strong point). Needless to say that most people are right; this is one of the most startling debuts in recent memory and early contender for album of the year. Think of it as an updated South London version of the Blade Runner soundtrack. Favourite piece: the searing dread pulse of 'Distant Lights'.
Jonathan Burnip (Soul Jazz Records). Click here to view flickr.
Saturday 25th February 2006
Departure, Crutched Friars, Aldgate, London
Tonight's emphasis is on dark, dirty disco with Clone Records. Soul Jazz's Jonathan Burnip set the tone nicely, ending with that AFX meets Bronski Beat track off Analord ('PWSteal.Ldpinch.D').
Clone boss Serge's mammoth 3-hour set might have tested even the most ardent italo-disco fan. Even so, he remained uptempo and insistent, despite some dodgy patches. Dexter edged the music away from gay melodies and into more piercing rhythmic territory.
DJ Joe Nice. Click here to view flickr.
DMZ First Birthday
Saturday 4th March 2006
3rd Base / Mass, St. Matthews Church, Brixton, London
DMZ celebrate a year of pushing extreme bass to refined new levels with this multi-venue bash in the heart of Brixton. The dimly lit stage of 3rd Base had served them well enough. Baltimore's Joe Nice seemed to revel in alternating between vocal-friendly stop/start rhythms to dark, searing voyages of sub. Flipping mood switches with gleeful abandon.
But midway through the night, almost as a signifying moment. The night had to be moved into a bigger space when the numbers were getting too much. So a quick shuffle upstairs and we found ourselves at Mass. The leftover detritus from the previous nights' trance were quickly swept under the carpet as Youngsta warmed up the system with some appropriate cuts. Skream dropped melodic riffs as addictive as the low-end and Mala & Loefah kept it heavy.
Immer: Null (Kompakt) - 12"
How do they get the records to sound like that? That distinctive Kompakt brand is all over this sun-tinged 12". Mayer's effort sounded pretty low-key, but had the opposite effect when I heard it at Fabric. But it's the infectious guitar loop of M:I:5's 'Mabstab I:5' that wins over all.
Horror Inc.: I Plead Guilty (Perlon) - 12"
Two years old, but still amazing. Both cuts moved as far as possible from the click-house phenomenon that Akufen first pioneered on his (overrated) album for Force Inc. The twilight flickr on 'In My Garden' actually concerns itself with melodic structure than with beats, but 'The Vanishing' does bear traces of his trademark skip/hop/jump rhythms.
Geoff White: Ince (Spectral) - 12"
Jeff Samuel: Awt (Spectral) - 12"
The Vanisher: Tic Tac Tactic (Spectral) - 12"
Audion: The Pong EP (Spectral) - 12"
In retrospect this seems quite a perfunctory set of tracks from Geoff White. Even rhythmic ideas that motifed his earlier 'Etsche' EP re-appear here. Having said that, it still makes an indelible mark. Just lacks the bite of his earlier work (or the moodiness of his Aeroc output). 'Peach Preserves' being the one with the most kick.
Jeff Samuel once again delivers a 12" of two halves. Four tracks: two are filla, the other two are killa. Answers on a postcard please.
I swear tracks change their identity over time. I heard The Vanisher's effort quite a while before it got released and thought it sounded the shit. But on replay, I cannot find what it was that originally hooked me in. Might have been the Osborne mix but that just seems rubbish. I guess the title track takes the art of clanking techno to refined new levels.
Matthew Dear's raucous Audion project either really pushes the envelope in terms of dancefloor dynamics or is the most irritating house you'll ever hear. I'm of the opinion that it's a bit of both. For DJ's only: this works like a treat at the right moment, but drop it elsewhere and you will look like an utter twat.
Elemental: Deep Under / Sparkle (Hotflush) - 12"
Lower your eyes, furrow the brow and prep yr shoulders. North London's Hotflush impress with 'Deep Under'; chapters rat-a-tat b-lines with molten, growling fx and the occasional stratospheric dub hook. 'Sparkle' isn't as dark, but still has the power to affect.
Boards of Canada: Trans Canada Highway EP (Warp) - CD
No. Move on people. I have. Video's not bad tho.
Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: Revep (Raster Noton) - CD
A by-product of their recent 'Insen' tour, this see's Sakamoto's gentle, meandering piano taken thru Alva Noto's laptop purifier. The melodies stay intact, but resonance and sustain are mutated into algorithms. Ends with an update of his classic 'Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence'.
Various Artists: min2MAX (Minus) - CD
Difficult for me to write about this, 'cos I find it impossible to get beyond the first track. The high end melodic hook of Hearthrob's 'Baby Kate' has wedged itself into my brain ever since I heard it at a Lost event couple of weeks back. Everything else pretty much cowers in its shadow.
But the lo-slung dub undertones of Gaiser make my speaker cones oscillate in a weird fashion and even the usually average Magda delivers with a sprightly bounce kick of a track. Josh Wink makes his mark with the astonishing 'Have to Get back': granular reductionism stapled to cyclic 4/4. A manifesto for the label if there ever was one.
Hecker: PV Trecks (Mego) - CD
A chance visit to North London's excellent Sound 323 shop yielded this result from the master of monged computer noise. Came out ages ago in 2002, but at the time I couldn't find a copy for love nor money (I'm having similar problems with his latest release, funnily enough).
My learned colleague Anil has already written accurate words about this release. All I'll say is that whilst it doesn't scale the terrifying heights of 'Sun Pandamonium' (and face it, not much does), it's still a vicious statement in its own right.
Maurizio: Maurizio (Maurizio) - CD
As sad as it may seem, I've actually met people who've never heard of Basic Channel. Anyway, whilst this came out in 1997, i haven't been able to open the metal tin it was housed in until last week. And judging by this, either Maurizio was way ahead of his time, or everyone else making stripped down dub techno is utter shite.
Taylor Deupree: Northern (12k) - CD
Visually supplemented by a set of postcards depicting a stark, snow covered forest. But these landscapes aren't bleak; more like familiar, comforting places seen in a different light.
The looped melody of the title track is quite beautiful in its execution, never played straight as each variation is violated by digital interrupts. Continues narratively with subtle shears of noise and drone on 'A dead yellow carpet'. The break in the weather represented by cloud-breaking guitar on 'Shell Shell Bye' is a wondrous moment. Endlessly listenable, considerately played. This is more than you can ask for from any artist.
Barcelona in June scares the shit out of me. Where's why.....
Wednesday 14th June
Fellini hosts a stock5 showcase, of which you should concern yourself with Popnebo and Jichael Mackson. Both of whom are playing live. Get the former's 'Monsters, Boy & Girls' 12" on Traum and the latter's 'The Blow Job' EP on Pastamusik ('Blender' being one of the finest examples of schaffel ever).
Thursday 15th June
Le Terrazza is hosting a Soma special, most of which is shite, but they've managed to get the awesome Lee Van Dowski & Quenum (get their releases on Cadenza to be with it) to push their minimal manifesto. For those seeking harder thrills, Teatro Principal De Barcelona lays on some techno with Chris Leibing and Speedy J. Raum shows off with a Mobilee showcase; everyone is a winner, but we'll be cheering the likes of Argy and Pan-pot.
Zentraus hosts Stewart Walker who'll be playing live. The Loft plays to the sounds of James Holden (his recent 'At the controls' mix is belter). Lo*li*ta turns off the lights with Sleeparchive and Donnacha Costello (both live) with excellent support from DJ MouseDown. Rex Room will have to make do with the consistently consistent Felix Da Housecat.
Nitsa goes all Swedish with Jesper and John Dahlback. Moog goes all German with a Tresor showcase: Steve Rachmad is the man in charge.
Friday 16th June
Fellini throbs to the sounds of Robert Babicz (that track 'Mister Head' on his first release for K2 is disco genius). Playa De La Mar Bella drags BPitch Control kicking and screaming to Barcelona with boss lady Ellen Allien and Sascha Funke at the controls. Chiringuito La Nueva Ola has Konrad Black, Argy and Pan-pot.
Rex The Dog makes a rare appearance at the Rex Room. The Lab has Fabric's excellent resident DJ Craig Richards playing some vinyl on some turntables. Following him in a similar fashion is Franklin De Costa (his three releases for Trapez are pretty twisted takes on 4/4). Nitsa makes everyone jealous with the yearly Kompakt showcase. Michael Mayer, Superpitcher, Matias Aguayo (his debut album was one of the finest releases the label has issued) and Gui Boratto are all present and correct.
La 2 de Nitsa doesn't lag far behind with a Freude Am Tanzen bash. The amazing Wighnomy Brothers should be all you need, but excellent support from Mark Hemmann (live), Mathias Kaden and Krause Duo should be enough to entice you away from the Kompakt brand. Teatro Principal De Barcelona brings on the heavyweights with Luciano, Loco Dice and Aril Brikha (new album anytime soon, Aril?)
Saturday 17th June
Ok, I'm getting tired of listing it this way. So. Moog Club: Matias Aguayo. Mochima Bar: Eriko Tanabe (his Morris Audio 12"s are skill). Lo*li*ta: Jimmy Edgar and Four Tet. Nitsa do BPitch Control: Ellen Allien & Apparat (live). City Hall: Luciano
Sunday 18th June
We're nearly done. City Hall. M_nus showcase. Be there. For Marc Houle and Troy Pierce. Beach action at Playa de la Mar Bella with Kompakt: Koze and Michael Mayer. Raum has a Wagon Repair vs Cynosure stand off with Matthew Jonson (live), Bucci (live), Audio Werner (live), Mike Shannon (live), Konrad Black (live), Loose Change, and Popnebo (live)
There's probably more going on (some festival called Sonar or something), but you get the idea. (If you really want more info go here)