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March 31, 2009



Greg Sandow has a great article in today's WSJ. It begins as a short profile of Gabriel Prokofiev—Sergei's grandson—and his Nonclassical events, one of which was recently hosted at Le Poisson Rouge, a new New York space dedicatd to crossovers between classical, experimental, electronic and indie music. I'm particularly interested in Sandow's conclusion, challenging New York's establishment institutions (Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, etc.) to design similarly spirited programming, as a means of reaching a new, younger audience.

It makes a lot of sense—and in many ways it's precisely the strategy being pursued by places like the Guggenheim and P.S.1, as they've rolled out a series of DJ and live-music events (or, all right, dance parties) as a means of enticing new audiences (and potential donors).

It also reminds me of Deutsche Grammofon's outreach strategy via its Recomposed series, with Jimi Tenor and more recently Carl Craig and Moritz von Oswald (with Ricardo Villalobos on the remix). It's a smart move, extending the Deutsche Grammofon brand (as well as its mission) to a new public by paying acute attention to the tastes of niche audiences very likely to be sympathetic, and using those audiences' existing structures as a means of getting their music across. As I note in the comments on Sandow's blog, I'm not arguing that every classical label needs to go out and commission remixes for every release—you can already see where that would lead. (Justice remixes Wagner, I can't wait!) But I do think there are plenty of opportunities to mix it up a bit more—something Le Poisson Rouge is doing very well.

March 30, 2009

The Mercy Dubz


A few months ago, Brendon Moeller contacted me out of the blue to ask if I'd be interested in remixing a track of his—"The Mercy Beat," featuring Spaceape, to be released under Brendon's Echologist alias. (If the title sounds familiar, it's because it is: it's also the title of an old song by The The, which served as the inspiration for Moeller and Spaceape's track.) Apparently, I had commented favorably on an early version of the tune that Brendon had put up on his Soundcloud page, but to be honest, I had no recollection of either the track nor my message about it. Needless to say, I kept my confusion to myself and readily agreed.

Not without some trepidation, however: I'd never worked with vocals, for one thing. More importantly, I had found myself in something of a creative rut; it had been a few weeks, or a month, since I'd made any music I was satisfied with at all. Every time I sat down to make music, I found myself slipping into familiar patterns—dig around for some samples to build upon, chop and loop them, draw some drum patterns in MIDI clips, tweak the percussion kits, play with effects—that refused to yield anything other than the familiar false starts and dead ends. The only thing that was exciting me at the moment was something I'd drummed up over the weekend as a deliberate attempt to force myself out of a holding pattern. It clocked a comparatively rapid 134 BPM—normally I write between 120 and 128—and most importantly, it wasn't four-to-the-floor. It wasn't dubstep, exactly, but it was swung, skippy, and definitely inspired by my love of dark 2-step and UK garage. But its loops uncoiled into a cul-de-sac. The bass was all wrong, the rhythms too clunky, and I set it aside for another day, another burst of inspiration.

Serendipity must have been on my side, because when Brendon sent the files, they turned out to be lurchingly syncopated, not four-to-the-floor, and 134 BPM. I went back to my work-in-progress, muted some of the most problematic channels, and started dropping in elements of Brendon's original. Damned if they didn't fit, and uncannily well at that. It was as though the two parts, combined, suggested the outline of a third; my task was simply to reveal what was already there, waiting to emerge. There was plenty of "writing" to be done, of course—designing sounds, programming rhythms, composing melodies. But the process seemed as much subtractive as additive, of stripping away and laying bare. Ultimately, I let Spaceape's multi-track narrative be my guide; his dead-of-night dread musings set both the tone and the pace of the track, right down to the total standstill that accompanies the deathly flatline at the center of his paranoid, schizophrenic delivery.

That track became my "Resurrection Dub"; still buzzing off the thrill of working with unfamiliar sounds, tempos and rhythms, I immediately turned around and remixed that in a slightly sprightlier form, ultimately resulting in my "Triple Bypass Dub." And now, both are available as part of Echologist and the Spaceape's The Mercy Dubz (Resopal Red 029). There are seven tracks in all. Four on wax/digital:

* The Mercy Beat (Brendon Moeller's Disco Dub)
* The Mercy Beat (Brendon Moeller's Mercy Dub)
* The Mercy Beat (MRI vs. U.E.S. Remix)
* The Mercy Beat (Philip Sherburne's Triple Bypass Dub)

…and three more digital exclusives:

* The Mercy Beat (Philip Sherburne's Resurrection Dub)
* The Mercy Beat (Brendon Moeller's Cosmic Dub)
* The Mercy Beat (Brendon Moeller's No Mercy Dub)

That may seem like a lot of remixes for one song, but they're surprisingly varied; Brendon's four mixes alone—which would seem to beg the question of whether there even exists an "original," in a world of versions upon versions—range from pumping dub techno to 2-step-inspired swing to ambient pads and anti-gravity beats. MRI vs. U.E.S.'s "Non Dub" gives the nod to high-tension minimal house with a wonderfully reduced, percussive rework. (I'm sure I can't be the only one who's excited about the return of MRI—his Rhythmogenesis and All That Glitters were particular favorites of mine back in the glory days of Force Tracks.)

The Mercy Dubz is available today at all the usual digital outlets; the vinyl, which was held up at the plant—I guess there were more pressing matters (sorry!)—will follow on April 4. (And I do recommend the vinyl for the four cuts available in both formats; it really does fatten up the sound.) You can listen to my two tracks in their entirety on the Fairtilizer playlist below; for excerpts of the rest, click on any of these digital retailers.

Boomkat | What People Play | Beatport | Juno Download | Zero"

March 24, 2009

Five Records: Current and Upcoming


Rebolledo feat. Matias Aguayo, "Pitaya Frenesí" (Cómeme)

FACT recently featured the video for this song, shot on a tropical beach with a stumbling Aguayo rapping into an ice-cream cone which proceeds to melt in the course of the 9-minute shot, but there's plenty more where that came from. Based in Buenos Aires and with operatives stretching throughought the Americas and Europe, Cómeme is a new label from Matias Aguayo and Gary Pimiento; the first release, out shortly, features vocal and instrumental versions of both "Pitaya Frenesí" ("cactus-fruit frenzy") and Aguayo's "Bo Jack." Cómeme 002 finds the label continuing to experiment with deep house, techno, electro, cumbia, kwaito and more, across weird, jubilant tracks from Rebolledo, Diegors, Petro, and Aguayo featuring Lerato. (Don't waste too much time searching for those brightly covered 7"s featured on the label's website; they're only decoys.) 2009 just got a lot more interesting.

DJ Sprinkles, "Brenda's $20 Dilemma"/"Ballr (Madonna-Free Zone)" (Mule Musiq)
There's so much to say about the DJ Sprinkles album, so much to say about each track here, but let me just single out the way he uses high-frequency digital clipping in place of hi-hats—it's not just a holdover from the Clicks + Cuts days; it's an uncomfortable sound, almost physically painful, which I think cuts to the heart of the album's entire theoretical (and experiential) framework: house hurts, even when it's all flutes and limpid pools of piano. I don't mean to overstate the discomfort caused by those clips – it's subtle, almost unnoticeable, but that's also part of its power. It's a subliminal pain, masked by the lushness all around. "Ballr" is even more disorienting, shot through with outbursts of a shouted collective moan that sound not just unearthly, but even a little terrifying. (Don't miss DJ Sprinkles' podcast, posted last month at Little White Earbuds.)

Andy Stott, "Brief Encounter"/"Drippin" (Modern Love)
Molasses-drenched house and dubstep, rubbed with rosy synths and turned inside out, these tracks are among Andy Stott's very best—and a fruitful continuation of the subtle stylistic shift taken with the launch of the Daphne label. If they don't sound that distinctive at first, keep listening (and loud). Essential.

Seth Troxler, "Aphrika" (Wolf + Lamb)
Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman" set to one of Troxler's dry-hump grooves. There's no way it should ever work, but with Angelou's voice pitched down and digitally transgendered, the whole thing enters a grey area where camp, identity politics, essentialism and hedonism swirl together into a sly, sensual, body-moving mindbender. (Also highly recommended: Wolf + Lamb's "If U Had (Shaun Reeves Edit)," from Wolf + Lamb's Brooklynn EP, is a killer graft of disembodied soul and slow, detuned house music.)

Moodymann, "Desire" (KDJ)
A track so special, so intimate, that my first impulse is to keep it a secret. Whatever happened to house heartbreakers like this?

March 23, 2009

Department of Bad Timing


From a press release today:

"Now that we're kicking into some warmer weather, I thought I'd share this really fun new project I'm working with - Operation Aloha. Here's the story: 14 musicians (including members of Maroon 5, Gomez, Phantom Planet, and more) took a month away from their full schedules and flew to a Maui, Hawaii to live in a tree house compound. Their time was spent composing a record that totally captures the tranquility and free spirit of beautiful Hawaii -- it will make you wish you were laying on a hammock in sunny Maui too. The songs bring out a new side of these talented musicians - cleverly tying together blues rock with the classic sound of Hawaiian folk music. The self-titled debut will hit stores on May 12th."

Because nothing feels better in a recession than listening to a bunch of self-satisfied LA multi-taskers performing the musical equivalent of Lost fan fiction -- from a tree-house. (Will there be a Julia Butterfly Hill guest verse?)

March 18, 2009

Streamlined, Vol. 1


I found this set lying on my hard drive, titled "Summer 2008 Promo Mix," but to the best of my knowledge I never used it to promote anything. It's not perfect; there are some selections I'd probably change, if I were to do it over. But there are passages I quite like, and the whole mix leans towards an ideal I've been working towards for a while -- something lean, linear, and streamlined, and essentially techno in spirit. So I've retitled the mix "Streamlines, Vol. 1," in the hopes that it might inspire me to follow up with a more focused approach to the same idea.

In any case, you can listen to it at Soundcloud, and download it from there as well. (The tracklist is partial, just artists and labels for each track; see it after the jump.)

In the interests of archiving, I've also added two 2008 sessions, "An Unseasonably Warm Mix" and "Light in August" (where do I get those titles?). Enjoy, and stay tuned for more!

Artist/label list (no titles, sorry):

The Sun God (Jack FM)
Nsi. (Non Standard Productions)
Ø (Sähkö)
Dettman/Klock (Ostgut Ton)
Jens Zimmerman (International Freakshow)
Phonogenic (Aesoteric)
unknown (RAL1002)
Melchior Productions (Perlon)
Vincenzo (Poker Flat)
Ø (Sähkö)
Dimi Angelis & Jeroen Search (Figure)
Murat (Method)
Claro Intelecto (Modern Love)
Ben Klock (Klockworks)
CH-Signal Laboratories (Sandwell District)
Heiko Laux (Kanzleramt)

March 13, 2009

Galactic Friday


Dorian Concept, When Planets Explode (Kindred Spirits)
Henrik Schwarz/Âme/Dixon, The Grandfather Paradox (BBE)

Every Friday needs records like these—preferably heard early and, better yet, often. Dorian Concept's "Mesh Beam Splitter" is a journey through space—excuse the cliché, but there's just no other way to describe its neon-dust contrails and supernova churn—carried out in three minutes and thirty-three seconds, door to door. Its length is the only thing remotely "pop" about it, though. Musically, it's something like a tribute to Tod Dockstader through the lens of R&S/Apollo's early '90s ambient techno. Psychedelic in the broadest sense, it nestles nicely with Lucky Dragons, Four Tet and Sun Electric. Abuzz with muted, triple-time rhythms and tufted with fiberglass-like digital tendrils, "Mesh Beam Splitter" manages to sound sprawling and compact all at once.


At the risk of tripping up on the Narcotic Fallacy (as did Simon's ill-conceived and poorly received recent Guardian thinkpiece), "Mesh Beam Splitter" makes me think of the reported effects of DMT, from its opening metallic huff to its blastoff, as if from a launch-pad woven of daisies, and all the way through its suggestive geometries and infinite sparkle. Like the drug, it's over in a flash, but it hints at time on an epochal scale. (Coincidentally, Flying Lotus recently posted an illuminating blog entry on the subject.)

(Zero" | Boomkat | eMusic)

The rest of the album, released on Amsterdam's Kindred Spirits label, is pretty great as well, with scads of sawtooth synth leads lighting up like a liquid skyline. The beats are swung enough to invite comparisons to Flying Lotus, Dabrye, Rustie and Joker, but they're also refreshingly unfussy; you don't have to crane your neck to figure them out.

But "Mesh Beam Splitter"—man, that's just something else entirely. I was about to say that its only flaw is that it's not much, much longer—but I think that stretching it even a second longer would kill its charm. Half of the song's allure is its rush. Fortunately, for the long haul there's Henrik Schwarz, Âme and Dixon's masterful The Grandfather Paradox a new CD-length mix touching very similar pleasure centers, but stretched out over the span of 68 minutes.


Âme already made their cosmic proclivities evident in "Fiori," their shapeshifting, horizontally-inclined contribution to the Berlin Staatsballett/Berghain collaboration Shut Up And Dance! Updated, and for anyone that might have accused them of wearing their influences a bit too prominently on their sleeves, here they simply sweep the curtain aside. The names here are no great surprises—Steve Reich and Pat Metheny, Conrad Schnitzler, Liquid Liquid and John Carpenter are all natural precursors to Âme's sense for tribally polyrhythms, webbed textures and fat electronic timbres. But I can't think of anyone else, save Optimo, who could work the threads together like this. A single idea holds the whole thing together, and even if you can't put a name to it, it communicates itself in ropy grooves and omnipresent bells, felt equally in Ø's "Atomit" and Robert Hood's "Minus" (to say nothing of Cymande or Raymond Scott). A bonus disc includes full-length versions of roughly half the mix's tracks, including selections from Arthur Russell, Can and Young Marble Giants, but don't let that distract you from the mix. The mix is the point—not just the tracklisting or the sequencing but the actual experience of the thing.

I can only imagine that the mix was put together in Ableton or Logic, but that's no strike against it. The point here isn't to demonstrate what crafty hands the DJs have; it's to sculpt a phantom sound into being by whatever means—beat-warping, edits, etc.—necessary. You can certainly make some comparison to Carl Craig and Moritz von Oswald's recent album ReComposed, a sort of extended megamix of works by Maurice Ravel and Modest Mussorgsky, but the difference is that here the mixers have actually had to do less to their material to meet the imagined ideal. To find a dub-techno beat running through Bolero, you need to do some creative misinterpreting. But Schwartz, Âme and Dixon's selections lend themselves more readily to a final shape that feels less collaged than braided in three dimensions. Perhaps as a result, it feels more genuinely surprising than ReComposed--more joyful, too. For all its muted textures and minor keys, there's a real sense of delight underlying the mix's many unlikely joins; if the artists' presence is felt at all, it's not sweating over the console but grinning ear-to-ear that, I'll be damned, that actually worked. And wonderfully, at that.

(BBE webshop Boomkat)

March 09, 2009

Don't Worry About Bass, and Bass Won't Worry About You


"Don’t worry about bass music. For every boring parasitic tune there is something in another rapidly mutating sub-genre that brings new ideas."

Nice interview with Hessle/Hemlock artist Untold over on Sonic Router. (Thanks to RA for the link.) His Hemlock releases are killing me right now, and the mix linked in the same blog post (STL, Scuba, Ramadanman...) looks tasty as well.