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October 17, 2004

A new mix

Just for clicks and giggles, here is a new mix I recorded the other night. Most of the tunes are records I brought home from Berlin, and I'm pretty sure that this is the first time I played the majority of them through in their entirety. But for some reason, this kind of spontaneous, blind mix always seem to have an engaging quality, so I'm sharing this one despite its warts and slight meanderings.

I'll have to reconstruct the tracklisting, as I'm not really sure what all is in here. A few gems, however: the Molobert unauthorized Herbert remix of Moloko, which I heard Luciano spin at Watergate a few weeks back, and Steve Barnes "Cosmic Sandwich," which is the second to last track. Enjoy!

October 15, 2004

The slow unwind of dogeared corners

In the continuing saga of I'm-totally-out-of-my-league news, I'm pleased to note that Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner's Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music is finally available. In it you'll find not only my essay exploring the resonances of classical minimalism in minimal techno, but also bits and bobs by little-known folks like John Cage, Brian Eno, Glenn Gould, William S. Burroughs, Ornette Coleman, Pauline Oliveros, John Zorn, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Umberto Eco, Simon Reynolds, Jacques Attali, Lazslo Maholy-Nagy, and David Toop. I haven't yet seen a copy, but based on the table of contents alone, the tome looks damn near essential.

October 14, 2004



In San Francisco, where summer saunters into October like a flip truant rolls in, reeking of smoke, midway through class (the analogy holds: range fires have turned our skies a hazy pinkish grey), there are no leaves to scatter. My mind, however, is plenty scattered. Brazil, Chile, Berlin; the grating debate; the pile of promos on my desk; plans for Amsterdam and Juarez; meeting up with the tribe in New York, and considering joining the Electribe as well. My notebooks are bending over backward to shed their smudgings and chicken-scratchings. Thus ruffled, let's gab instead.

Thomas Fehlmann has a great new album on the way from Plug Research. Lowflow kicks out the techno and shuffles off the schaffel in favor of shimmery downtempo tracks that come across, at times, like classic Mo'Wax (especially that Urban Tribe record), but brushed with phosphorescence and lit with blacklights. [Update: the Mo'Wax reference isn't really right, so don't take it the wrong way -- though I do stand by the Urban Tribe reference. It's all shimmery, gossamer underwater bliss, with tones rubbing against each other like fishscales. A sense of division: the impossible-to-pin shiverings of the notes themselves, against the relatively defined drums underneath. There will be more to be said about this record.]

Luciano is finishing up a mix/compilation for Mental Groove; unlike Miss Kittin's Radio Caroline, it's less a proper mix than a segued spin through tunes near and dear to his cadenza-cadenced corazon. I'm keeping mum on the tracklisting til I get permission otherwise, but trust me, you'll be surprised – there's a lot less techno, and a lot more of the Autechrean polyrhythms of his live disc for max.Ernst. If it makes it out by December, it'll make my top five mixes of the year. In the meantime, satisfy yourself with Lopazz's Migracion Remixes (Get Physical), by Luciano and Villalobos, Luciano and Serafin's Funk Excursion (Cadenza), and Luciano's ominous, banging "Smokin Jakkit" remix (Exact Audio), which updates an old R. Rash track from Trelik. "It's the most techno thing I've ever done," says Luciano.

Akufen's got a full-length on the way, under his own name, from MUTEK_Rec (though I don't know when). He's also got a spooky new 12", I Plead Guilty, out on Perlon under his Horror Inc. moniker. And if you still can't get enough of chop and swing, there are a slew of releases to satisfy the microsampling urge: Nils Hoffmann's Jabberhugger EP (Horspiel Musik), which comes off at times like an Akufen remix of Metro Area; The Ripoff Artist's "Nasty" (ToraToraTora) – admittedly more Mike Shannonish than Akufenesque; Frankie #4, the Benga! Remixes, with mixes from Jeff Samuel, Linus, and Reynold; and Five Green Circle's Text XXX (Traum 52), which comes off like a sanded-down, shined-up Smith & Hack.

Lawrence fans can and should rejoice: in addition to his moody new Spark 12" for Ghostly, Peter Kersten has his debut full-length as Sten out on Dial, and it's everything you'd want it to be: spacious, pinging, quietly acidic, and brimming with organ and even the occasional Detroitish purple chord.

Finally, tune of the month: Steve Barnes' "Cosmic Sandwich (Extended Version"), on RRR's My Best Friend label – or rather, MBF's limited sublabel, in the vein of Trapez LTD, I suppose. (Does Riley ever stop?). Ricardo played this somewhere mid-afternoon at the Beat Street party in Berlin last Sunday, and it knocked my head six ways from the same. Over a gritty electro-disco rhythm, processed voices flit across the stereo field while a host of synthesized tones, all chiming the same note, march forward like riot cops with raised shields. Midway through, Luciano-like arpeggios rise shrieking, doves in flight before the carnage.

October 12, 2004

Getting closer


Tip! Ewan Pearson has just completed two new mixes of Closer Musik's classic "One, Two, Three No Gravity" for Out of the Loop Recordings. The first mix slows down the tune slightly and adds one of Pearson's signature, chugging house beats underneath, retaining the ethereal feel of the original. "The original idea was just to do a more polished and house-tempo remake rather than a 'remix' - which is really fast and kind of difficult to sequence as a result," confirms Pearson. "Kind of a tribute to a record we loved rather than anything else, continuing my thing of doing 'old-fashioned' remixes that build on the original rather than dumping it entirely."

Then on the B-side, Pearson offers up an acid edit that keeps the vocals but swaps out the underpinning in favor of a queasy acid sequence that burbles and burbles, but never veers into full-on retro territory. Delirious.



Dear reader, I hope you haven't forgotten about me. I certainly haven't forgotten about you. The past few days I've been sending mental "wish you were here" postcards from all kinds of unlikely places without postboxes or wi-fi, but perhaps you received them nonetheless. From the Wighnomy Brothers party on Saturday night, where they guzzled vodka straight from the bottle and twisted the pitch-shift knobs on their digital mixer as though they hoped to leave the planet's orbit one shrieking halftone at a time; from the private loft on Sunday where Zip, Luciano, and Ricardo Villalobos rocked the Beat Street party from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., and very likely for many hours later (I had to take my leave when my head transubstantiated into a second subwoofer, whoomp-whoomp-whoomping all the way down five flights of stairs and out into the freezing night to wait for a taxi); from Luciano's studio the week before, where he played selections from an upcoming mix/compilation CD and previewed a remix for N.E.R.D. which, sadly, will never see the light of day -- all of these moments and more were trickling towards cyberspace in a quiet mental upload.

In case you don't believe me, photos -- and something approximating a written account -- are coming soon.

October 04, 2004

Dawn from a distance


There's something profoundly disorienting about leaving a nightclub and being blasted with sunlight. More baffling still, perhaps, is pushing open the club's heavy door and stumbling out into a morning soupy with fog, with its weird, diffuse light wrapping everything in an almost pointillistic blur – the world as seen through frosted glass. The way your ears ring only contributes to the sensation – for the first time in 8 hours you are outside, yet you feel cocooned in some kind of invisible bubble that separates you from the breathing world. There is only hum and distance.

In the cab back to the hotel, the cabbie – a kindly, unshaven, slightly bedraggled man in his 30s – listened to heavy metal on the radio, quietly. "Good music," I croaked, and he turned it up, getting the hint. It was Sabbath, and its pump and churn sounded not unlike the Sender records I'd played the night before, or the similarly rocking tunes that Ellen Allien was caning as I made my way outside around 8 a.m. (As I made my exit, she was playing Kraftwerk, which I figured was a cue that the party would soon be over, but no – the next night, at Moskou's Bpitch/Tigersushi party, she tells me that she stayed behind the decks until after 10 a.m. Berlin is hardcore!)

I have a friend who came to Berlin and of the city all she could say, in charming Argentine slang, was "Berlin es un flash," and I suppose she's right. Not flashy as in glitzy, glamorous – although the gentrification and upscale joints dotting Mitte surprised me – but rather as in overwhelming, mind-blowing, impossible to process. (Other words she used: halucinante, flipante – as in "flipping" – both of which also apply.) But it's quietly so. It's not turning out to be the warren of artists' ateliers and squats-turned-cafes that I expected (though I may still find them). Rather it's the concentration of people, especially people that I already know, or at least are familiar names. It must be easier to name the musicians who don't live in Berlin than those that do.

Today, suffering from the melancholy bred of too many bedtimes in the 6-to-8 a.m. region, an insufficiently nutritious diet, and generally grey, lazy Saturdayness (it felt much more like a Sunday, but then I've been out for the past three nights in a row), I set off in search of the legendary Hardwax shop, certain that a good bout of bin-flipping and a $200 dose of retail therapy would sort me out.

(My melancholy also owes to the fact that I've been on the road for over a month now, and at a certain point towards the end of any trip, the mind tends toward home, towards a cozy bed and take-out Thai food and a succession of Hollywood films on DVD. Yesterday this was compounded by a minor run-in on the street – I had just left my hostel and was walking down the sidewalk when a pigeon flew bang into my face, its filthy wing actually grazing my eye. Beyond unpleasant, I wondered for a good half an hour if it was actually an omen.)

The trip to Hardwax worked wonders upon my haggard soul. Hazily navigating the U-bahn – and being confronted, the moment I sat down upon the train, by a ticket inspector who only rolled his eyes when I turned out to be too dumb to have figured out how to stamp my ticket – I found my way to the proper stop and located the store's obscure entrance without too much difficulty. Whom do I see upon entering the shop but Perlon's Zip, standing behind the turntables. It felt like home. Record stores always feel like a refuge, of course, but this was different. "Ah, I need you to give me your email address," said Zip, in reference to the directions to some secret, sub-sub-underground party he had mentioned a few nights before. (Don't pretend you don't envy me.) A few minutes later I heard a familiar voice and looked up to see Luciano standing where Zip had been a moment before. We embraced, spoke Spanish, talked parties and records. It's strange, this life – here was someone I'd interviewed before, met up with in Chile and Spain and Montreal (I'm not sure about the latter, actually, but it seems likely), and saw just the other night at the Volksbühne Theater – and now here we were again, shopping for records. In fact, I had one of his, Cadenza #4, in my hands.

It's hard, actually, not to be a little star-struck sometimes. The night before I had been invited to a pre-gig dinner by Daniel Meteo, the promoter of the party where I was playing. When I arrived, there were only two people at the table – Monika Enterprise's Gudrun Gut, whom I had met briefly in Barcelona (a striking, nay stunning woman, looking a bit like a less weathered Kim Gordon), and a bald man in a black suit: Thomas Felhmann. Thomas Felhmann! Not long thereafter others trickled in – Meteo; the Cologne musician and singer Niobe, who fronts most of the best tracks on Mouse on Mars' new album; la Chica Paula, sister of Martin Schopf aka Dandy Jack; Max Loderbauer of Sun Electric. More guests arrived – I was introduced to someone, failed to catch his name on the first try, and it turned out to be Ekkehard Ehlers of März ("Ekki," he says, beaming), a long-ago interviewee and email acquaintance. "We saw what you wrote about März on your website," he said. I winced, hoping that my not-quite-a-review wasn't too, well, gushing. "No, it was perfect," he replied, patting his collaborator Albrecht Kunze's knee. Albrecht, apparently, had been pleased with the personal, even sentimental, approach. The Cologne guitarist Josef Suchy was with them; there were others whose identities I never determine. I tried, and fail, not to gush to Niobe about her work on the Mouse on Mars album (and immediately felt chagrined that I don't know her solo work). Fehlmann, excited that one of their songs is playing on daytime Radio 1, sang a few bars of it to her to confirm its title ("Send Me Shivers"). Send me shivers indeed. Being a music journo is always a strange position – in close proximity to so many people you admire, and occasionally even becoming friends with them – but this dinner was even more confusing, given that I was here not as a journalist (in fact another writer, from De:Bug, spent most of the meal interviewing März), but as an "artist" or sorts, having been included on the bill to DJ the night's Oceanclub party. From fanboy to critic to peer in a short succession of complicated steps. Another glass of red wine, please.

The gig itself went off hitchlessly. It's a bit odd to review an event with which you are affiliated, but I'll try to keep my comments pertinent. Karaoke Kalk's Strobocop kicked off the main room with a mellow set of gently pulsing 4/4 music accompanied by video projections of undersea vistas and otters splashing amidst the waves, in keeping with Oceanclub's marine theme. At first, the mass of clubbers kept themselves just out of range of the speakers, standing in a near perfect line at the periphery of the dance floor – a rather tidal formation, really, given the oceanic imagery. And then, within 10 minutes, the floor filled. It was a strange crowd – ravier than you'd expect for an hour slotted with Strobocop and März's acoustic pop, no doubt due to Miss Kittin's placement on the bill just a few acts later. The ravers were restless – one walked up in front of the stage and made "pick up the pace" motions before scowling and making the universal naptime gesture of closed palms beneath an angled chin; Strobocop ignored him. März, kicking off with "Forever Never," sounded luscious and lovely – Ehlers on laptop, Kunze on laptop and mandolin and vibes and harmonica, Suchy adding filigreed guitar lines in the background – but the main floor's overdriven bass and muddy midrange did no favors to their sound. Fehlmann, after them, sounded more appropriate for the room with a pumping set of shifting syncopations, but I heard less than I wanted to, moving to the back room to catch Chica and the Folder and wait out my own set.

In back, Gudrun Gut kicked things off with a set of Monika-style quirk; after her, Niobe proceeded through a dozen or so torch songs while her DJ played her instrumentals on decks and CD units. Her Vegas-style headdress faltered, but her voice was strong – almost too strong, in a strange way; one longed to hear more processing, more live tweakery – in short, perhaps, more Jamie Lidell. Chica and the Folder – la Chica Paula, Max Loderbauer, and Argenis Brito – ran through a set of oddball melodies and queasy keyboard counterpoint. Computer crashes hurt their flow, and a drunken audience member storming the stage in mid-performance (later screaming "Das ist scheisse!" from the crowd) didn't help things, but their Eno cover was impeccable.

And then I went on. It was a chance to build the floor from scratch, taking the room from listening to dancing; and I'm pleased to note that it went off well. I began with a handful of Musik Krause records and WB bootlegs, moving swiftly into stormy Sender territory. I remember very of the actual sequencing, though I know that current staples like Minimal Man's "Chicken Store" were in there. (How can so much effort turn into such a total blur?) Alter Ego's "Rocker" elicited whoops, though it wasn't as big a tune as it might still be in some quarters (still, I was afraid it would be totally passé here, so all was not lost). The Kelis/St. Plomb bootleg worked wonders; a grinding, hard-techno version of "Take Me Out" fell curiously flat. I finished up with Luciano's remix of Tim Wright – as always, brilliant and effective – and ended with Isolée's remix of Recloose's "Cardiology," slowing things down and sending dancers into a gritty, hypersexed groove. Track of the year.

Missed Miss Kittin; Ellen Allien was playing by the time I stumbled out front, playing total stompers at maximum volume, egging her crowd on with her selections and her own body language. Someone threw a red bandanna, which she tucked in her back pocket. I can think of few other DJs at the moment that know how to create Allien's particular brand of empathy – she may be on stage, but she's right there in the general communion. I didn't recognize a single track she played, at least until the Kraftwerk – the cue for my leavetaking, my private finale, the lightswitch.

October 01, 2004

Can't come down


Narod Niki are not Hollywood Squares, appearances to the contrary.