When I look at this photo, I'm straight away reminded of the bit in Tejada's 'Sweat on the Walls' where the vocalist Q'Zen (spelling?) quips: 'Ungrateful bitches.' Okay, there's the tenuous link, here's the column...
Last month, I said that “2008 will be a year of very well made but rather unadventurous records, with people turning out fine examples of proven formulas,” to which another commentator responded, “erm, won't 2008 actually be a year when records that aren't even out yet can't be pre-emptively summed up by pithy non-plussed one liners?” Point taken, but I’m sticking to my pithy-plussed guns: at least as far as tracks are concerned, 2008 is partly about new applications to old institutions and the many happy returns of old genres dressed in fresh frou-frou. One among these is the boomptilicious deep house of the Swiss scene. I hear the parties are good in Zurich… buckets of snow…schuss… Anyway, the other day I was listening to Serafin and Luciano’s ‘Funk Excursion’ again. What an amazing record – what can you say? But excellence aside, I think that ‘Funk Excursion’ also has renewed relevance, because in many ways it’s the track that perfectly foreshadowed so much of what this Swiss sound has become. For me, the best intro into this is through the Mountain People (Serafin & Rozzo), but actually it’s Rozzo, more than Serafin, who’s been doing it for me of late. His track ‘I wish I was a cat’ has been steaming up the charts (as I’m sure many of you know), but if you really want to catch the guy at his best, check out some of his DJ sets. We at MNML SSGs have got some for you to download, but by far the best is his afterhours at ‘Slutfunk’ set. I can’t speak for the sluts, but I will vouch for the funk.
A question I’ve also been asking myself a lot recently is ‘what ever happened to Marc Leclair (Akufen)?’ Well, he’s working on a new album, apparently, but in the interim, check out Guillaume and the Coutu Dumonts, who appear on the Musique Risquée label that Leclair runs with fellow Canadians Scott Montieth (Deadbeat) and Steven Beaupre. Probably quite a few of you have heard Guillaume’s remix of Shackleton’s ‘Next to Nothing’, which has been getting a lot of play recently, but for me his album Face A L’est is the bucket I’ve been dunking my head right into. Very cool, spacious and groovy, with lots of well-chosen, slightly ‘ethnic’ samples… which also strengthens the link to Shackleton, in an indirect way. Guillaume has also released an EP on Oslo, which is the other label that gets name-dropped in the same breath as Mara Trax and Mountain People. The style is essentially a minimalist’s reduction of house, retaining its swinging basslines and exploring a penchant for Africanised killer percussion loops. For a lot of people, I get the impression that it’s the funky ‘+’ that cancels out 2007’s boring ‘–’.
*edit* chris here, apologies for interrupting pete's flow. for those who want to hear what these guys sound like, here are two new live sets:
- Musique Risquee night featuring Guillaum & the Coutu Dumonts live, Vincent Lemieux dj, resident dj Ana @ Harry Klein 23.3.08
- Guillaum & the Coutu Dumonts live @ Lessizmore 8.3.08
Hercules and Love Affair’s album has been getting rave reviews recently (and justly so). The other week when Optimo’s JG Wilkes dropped the club version of ‘Blind’ at their Third Class gig, I got moosebumps (and nearly grew antlers). Seriously, is this the track of the year? It is so far. Get your ears around it, if you haven’t already. But as good as ‘Blind’ (and H & LA’s album) is, there are also a few other recent long-playing releases that are equally worth of attention, ones I feel might have slipped under the radar. The first of these is Luke Solomon’s The Difference Engine, which forms an interesting (if unlikely) free-revving counterpart to Cristian Vogel’s excellent The Never Engine from late last year (which slipped into the black hole where most Chrissy-New Year releases end up these days). The likeness is not just in the name: both albums are turbocharged loop collages, ones that are really zooming off in their own direction. But where Vogel’s album was an excursion deep into the belly of the bleep (with heaps of great loops for all you dyed-in-the-plip-plop mnml headz out there), Solomon’s is all about using weird vocal samples, Jeff Buckley (yes, really), cellos, and maybe even the cat, the fiddle, the dish, the spoon and the kitchen sink to achieve something which is different, inventive and also totally listenable from start to finish. It’s just so darned engaging, it pulls you through its weirdo assemblage of sounds and keeps surprising and entertaining as it does.
Another album worth checking out is Kelley Polar’s newie, I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling. Where his last used Morgan Geist’s patterns and formulas as the structural stage for Polar’s songs and viola, the newie is much more Polar’s own build, and it’s more hymnal, more ethereal – just layer upon layer of incredibly colourful harmonies. The whole thing’s one expansive, floating work of kooky lyrics and hooky melodies, which makes it so incredibly catchy that it definitely has crossover potential – should the radio stations deign to get behind it. But, knowing the despot (Richard Kingsmill) and his distain for electronic music that doesn’t suck, it ain’t likely to happen outside of RRR and PBS. Polar has come a long way from being the string player on Metro Area records – this album is a showcase for an artist who has created a unique, fully-realised soundworld all his own.
Another creator who’s no stranger to praise from this column is Omar-S, but man, his recent work has been really exceptional. If you haven’t heard ‘Psychotic Photosynthesis’ yet, please remedy this. This guy is just ridiculous, seriously, and his protégé Luke Hess is only slightly less impressive (and getting better with every release). One of the reasons why Omar’s music is so outstanding is the freaky, freaky frequencies he uses, something either neglected in or absent from the tracks of the majority of ‘producers’ who work firmly and squarely within the ‘pure production’ aesthetic/stance. I’m beginning to feel that it’s the dominance of this idea of ‘pure production’ that has become more responsible than anything else for the incessant stream of incredibly polished, deadly boring records that we all suffer from. I worry that I’vre become dismissive of new labels or even anything that ‘looks boring’, but really, there’s so much to be dismissive of, so much to be bored by. Who’s got the time? So much of the problem these days that trying to keep up with music, even one sliver of the spectrum, is like trying to sip from a fire hose. Well, for those of you who’ve endangered their jawbone trying, don’t worry, we’re here to help.