Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Enthusiasm: our tracks of the year (so far)
The Algonquin Round Table vibe continues here at mnml ssgs, as the four of us recently gathered for a (virtual) fireside chat where we mulled over our favourite tracks of the year so far. It’s fair to say that we all love electronic music (and I know you do too, dear reader), but sometimes it’s a little too easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm and hype of the new/now. But what happens when ‘now’ starts to become ‘then’? Does the enthusiasm remain? What tracks have stayed with you, and what have fallen by the wayside?
We thought it was about time to post some ‘enthusiasm’ for tracks that we’ve been loving in the past months, those ones that stick in your head, beg to be replayed, or that you simply admire because they are funkier, deeper, or anyways just better than your average boom-boom. So put on your favourite smoking jacket, light up a pipe and come join us by the fire as we share our enthusiasm with you, member by member.
In no particular order, here are my Five Faves since the start of the year.
Vladislav Delay: ‘Recovery IDea’ (Andy Stott Remix) (Semantica)
Whoever thought of this pairing is a genius. Delay's narcotic ambience effortlessly glides into Stott's dub/tech structures, the two intertwining perfectly. Brilliant.
Shackleton: ‘Death is not Final’ (Skull Disco)
The layers of rhythm at work in this track are absolutely insane. There's just so much going on here, it's incredible. Deep, dark, densely layered ... this is a real treat for your ears. Listen to it on the best headphones you have. Then listen to the killer T++ remix on the flipside.
Bvdub: ‘Remembering To Forget’ (3rd Wave Music)
13 minutes of warm gentle waves washing over you, underscored by an insistent four/four beat ... and then a squiggly acid line comes in, and the next thing you know you're nodding your head in time to the beats. Hazy ambient bliss to get your groove on to.
Kelley Polar: ‘Entropy Reigns (in the Celestial City)’ (Environ)
Pure pop brilliance. A boy/girl duet with overlapping/run-on vocals. 80s keyboards. Overly dramatic strings. A sudden and wonderfully dizzying twist that turns the end of the song into something entirely different. And not a trace of irony involved. You may think it's cheesy, but I love it. Has anyone heard the Ewan Pearson remix?
Hercules & Love Affair: ‘Blind’ (DFA)
Joyously propulsive new disco in which everything works (although you would never expect it to). A bold, triumphant brass section? It works! Vocals by Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons? It works! (And I don't even really like Antony and the Johnsons.) People were worried about the DFA label falling into a slump; worry not, it looks like Hercules is here to save the day.
2008 thus far has been a bumper year for techno & house. And this is coming from someone who was overall slightly disappointed with the 2007 spoils. It's seen the continuing remarriage of techno and house as many previous mnml techno strongholds continue to embrace house with a few notable exceptions. Luckily for those of us who still find the lighter house sounds lacking like myself, the punchier tribal Deep House sound pushed by the likes of Mountain People seems to be the biggest force behind the recent shift towards house and so far the MP replicants have been putting out some fantastic tracks.
Here's 10 tracks that have been doing it for me so far...
Mathias Kaden: ‘Swahili’ (Freude Am Tanzen)
Mathias showed on last year's ‘Myal’ EP that he was able to infuse tribal sounds to his techno sound to good effect but on his ‘Lucidas’ EP he's bringing a deep house sound. All 3 tracks on this EP are fantastic and it's clearly the best EP of the year thus far in my mind, but Swahili is the best track for the floor.
Daze Maxim: ‘Woodbird’ (Limitiert)
Good to see that one of my favourite producers from last year is still in good form. This is some more tribal deep house that's really heavy on the percussion that makes some good use of a killer bassline.
Dario Zenker: ‘Womde!’ (Vakant)
Around this time last year I was all about the dark and deep Argentinean tech sound but it seemed to get a little stale as 200 drew to a close. But some of the producers have been able to progress and continue to do some really interesting stuff... Dario being one of these people. On his Vakant debut he's also fused his sound with tribal sounds and while hints of the trademark techno thrump remains, it's been toned down somewhat and there's some subtle leanings towards Berghain too.
Seuil: ‘Detroit Candles’ (Eklo)
Another fave producer from 07... This track starts off closer to the traditional Argentinean sound until the acid hooks and detroit synths come in. This is a huge bomb of a track with a nasty kick. Seuil's ‘Blood On The Congas’ EP from late last year is also worth a look at.
Agaric: ‘No One Knows (Post Doom Uberfunk Edit)’ (Sunset)
One thing I've always loved about Agaric is his unique use of effects. While some producers can sound like they're running random Ableton FX patches, Agaric is able to avoid this problem. This rather sparse banging track is no exception.
Luke Hess: ‘Believe And Receive (Shedsdeepanddubbydub remix)’ (Kontra-musik)
Despite all I've been saying about tribal deep house, I still think the most exciting music is coming from the Berghain sound. Shed is one of the major producers of this sound and has shown a knack for infusing some interesting Basic Channel-esque metallic ambience to his tracks which can be heard in on this stripped back dub of Luke Hess.
Ben Klock: ‘Steady Plus’ (Klockworks) / ‘Similarity’ (Bpitch)
In my opinion, Klock is the best producer in techno right now hands down. So it's no surprise that two of the best tracks of the year so far are from him. ‘Steady Plus’ has the trademark Klock shuffling bass but with a stronger acid influence. ‘Similarity’ is Klock on top of his game. It's rather straightforward dubby acid techno but I doubt there will be a more beautifully produced track all year.
Vera & Federico Molinari: ‘It Ain't Music’ (Oslo)
I know I'm not the first person to say this but Oslo is an absolutely brilliant label. It's got a distinctive sound, exceptional quality control and it's pushing a new sound which is relevant and fresh. This is from their sublabel but no less awesome as their other releases. On the surface Oslo seems to be a just a more minimal deep house but I think it owes much more to techno than is first apparent. It's a clichéd thing to say but it really does sound like house music…. for techno people – Much like Perlon. And Perlon is the only label which I'd place ahead of Oslo purely because it's been running for so much longer. As for this track, it's some bouncy tech house with tribal influences... pretty simple and repetitive but brilliantly executed and oddly addictive. Much like Melchior.
Mara Trax: Me Funk (Oslo)
I could have chosen anything from Mara Trax's excellent ‘It Got Me Funk’ EP but the bassline on this track combined with the fact it reminds me of Rosa era Thomas Brinkmann means i can't go past it.
STL: Paku Paku (Perlon)
The a-side of the latest Perlon is quite good but this track really isfantastic with its squelches and rubbery bassline. It took me a while to ‘get’ STL to be honest as many of his tracks are quite raw... especially those on his Something label. But he's a truly gifted producer.
I’ve listed some of the tracks I’ve been digging throughout the year so far. There is a partial overlap, but I wanted to join the others in the united SSG front. So this is certainly not my definitive top five for 2008 to date, but it is pretty close to it:
Mathew Jonson: 'Symphony for the Apocalypse' (Wagon Repair)
There was a time I thought Mathew Jonson could do no wrong. Then he started doing wrong. Well, actually he might have only done one wrong, but it was very, very wrong (that bikers track). And while the Cobblestone Jazz stuff was good, I soured on him – perhaps unfairly. I eventually got over my mental block to accept that ‘Stop’ was a great record. And this EP is definitely Jonson at his best. While many have been tipping the A, my preference is for the B. Screaming, emotive and wild – I love it. Very reminiscent of Aphex Twin for sure, but it most definitely has that slightly raw Jonson feel to it.
Tampopo: Helicopters Got Cameras (Tobias remix) (Metisse)
I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t repeat myself. Much. With the excellent Zander VT remix on the flip, this is one of the best value for money EPs you will find this year. Tobias really comes through with the goods. What I love about this track is its tempo – it has great energy. And it really does sound like a helicopter! The musical structure replicates the spinning blades as a helicopter lifts off, with the piano riff spiraling round and round. Definitely fun for the floor.
Prosumer and Murat Tepeli featuring Elef Bicer: Turn Around (Cassy’s Smooth mix) (Ostgut)
I’ve heard a couple of concerns that Cassy’s productions are starting to get a bit formulaic. There may be a bit of truth to that, but I haven’t gotten sick of the formula, especially when it works so well, which is the case on this record. Here, her vocals perfectly complement those from the original and the result is a hot house number that just smoulders. I think what I like about this is the vocals are so emotive and these, in turn, are really supported by the beats underneath. I’ve been digging Cassy’s productions to date, so I am going to be interested to see how she develops her sound further and if she can keep coming out with stuff as good as this.
Alex Cortex: Nox (Platzhirsch)
Ok, I’ll be honest. I don’t know who Alex Cordex is. No point sneaking over to discogs and trying to hide it. I found this record on the weekly Hardwax email with that magic word: ‘TIP!’ As soon as I see that next to the description I check it immediately. And as expected, Hardwax were right on with this one. Both sides are bang on, but ‘Nox’ is the real peak time cut. Anyway, rather than trying to explain it, I’ll just give you the Hardwax description: ‘Perfect & eternal oldschool-not-oldschool - TIP!’
Vladislay Delay: Recovery IDea (Andy Stott remix) (Semantica)
I’ve mentioned this one before, and now Cam has too. Simply put, this is remixing at its best. What Stott does is take the original in a direction that Vlad could, or would, never go and comes up with something fantastic. The result is a track that is stamped with the trademark gravity of Stott. Actually, I think partly what makes this work is you’ve got the combination of two really special and unique sound signatures, which produces something neither would quite by capable of by themselves. Respect.
Two things have really stood out to me so far: the first is the growing popularity of conservative, ‘traditional’ tracks that are little more than (admittedly enjoyable) recapitulations of old ideas, and the second is a predilection for dissipation, which is something I personally really like. I was listening to ‘Third Uncle’ by Eno last night, and it struck me afresh what a cop-out the fadeout always was in the pop context. But dissipation, on the other hand – now that’s something I can dig. Another thing I’ve found is that, because I’m doing research almost everyday, I listen to heaps of live sets and thus the big tracks get played out really quickly. You tend to churn through a lot, and burn out a lot. Much that was recently fresh is quickly stale. Large appetites require fresh meats for fine SSG making. But enough gabbing, here they are, selected very quickly (before I could begin to over-analyse my choices) and with regard to the fact that they are ‘tracks’. This does not mean that function is master, but it does mean that any of these would have a well-deserved place in my box.
Lee Jones: ‘As You Like It (Recloose remix)’ (Aus)
The recent My My record on O-Ton was a well made but slightly bland, functionalist piece of bandwagoneering, if you ask me. The wagon in question heading, of course, for the Swiss sound of the Mountain People, stopping off for a bite of Drumpoet’s Frankfurt on the way. But Lee Jones’ recent EPs for Aus have been amazing, mostly by retaining the incredible attention to detail and musicality of Jones’ drum programming that was in full effect on Songs for the Gentle. This music appears extremely lean and streamlined, but the details are all ‘under the bonnet’, which you can really hear if you take Jones for a random walk with the headphones on. In a way, it’s a shame to waste music this subtle on most sound systems, where all you’d hear is the main theme. That must be why Tiger Stripes added so many otherwise superfluous bells and whistles to his mix of ‘Aria’, already mentioned on this blog earlier this year. I was tempted to include ‘Aria’, but Recloose’s space-funk rework of ‘As You Like It’ is so loaded a pocket rocket that it managed to pip ‘Aria’ at the post. Be careful or you’ll cop a black eye – this one swings like Ron Jeremy.
Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts: ‘Les Gans (Audio Werner remix)’ Musique Risquee
G & the CDs have also been featured on SSGs a fair bit in recent months, but this EP really shines. Kalabrese fans should take heed – the bumbling sax lead is very much in the lazy (but tight) minimalistic funk mode that K does so well. I also really like the way this record is recorded – it’s fruity and easy on your ears. Audio Werner’s tactic is just to multiply and smear loops of the sax line over each other, dragging them along to achieve the audible equivalent of a car’s headlight across the open shutter of a night-held camera. Then things get all abstract… well, even more so. Not much good for filling the floor, but a really enjoyable listening experience. And the A is great, too. P Sherburne is just about to drop his mix of this one, too, if I’m not mistaken – here’s looking forward.
Appleblim & Peverelist: Circling (Skull Disco)
I’ve already reviewed this EP here, so just quickly – what a fucking amazing record. Most dubstep records are just d&b records pitched down and played at 33, but these guys are really, really mining some gold here, and ‘Circling’ is… well, I’ve already said my bit. I should add that there’s a spiritual affinity (at the very least) with Moritz’ equally sublime remix of ‘Watamu Beach’, which I’ve also been loving, and which deserves a sneaky in/exclusion on this list.
Matthew Styles: ‘Home Loan’ (Diamonds and Pearls)
I’d discounted Styles for the quasi-irrational reason that he’s had dealings with Damian Lazarus, who appears to be a no-talent cool hunter, which gives me the heebie-geebies. Anyway, bitch bitch bitch, who cares – the point is that Styles has a career and a life of his own (ie he’s not a Lazarite growth from Uranus), one who can also add to his thoroughly autonomous CV a growing list of really excellent tracks. His first EP on Dinky’s Horizontal was pretty good, but this one on D&P is off the chain. All thee tracks are exceptional, and each one is useful in its own moment. ‘Home Loan’ reminds me a bit of Matt John grinding against John Tejada – lucky for good manners the humping is most definitely dry. Just a rising synth bassline and some nice edits, very spare, very effective minimal tech house with whispers of boompty. The EPs title track is a real scorcher, and manages to update and deepen a very 2000 sounding loop-techno design for today’s ‘hectic dancefloors’ – must be why Dettmann’s been caning it. Then the EP closes with a nice, introspective electro-house composition. A valuable addition to any box, as well as to Diamonds and Pearls small (but shining) catalogue.
Rozzo: ‘I wish I was a Cat’ (Trackdown)
Of all the neo/tribal/deep-house tracks out there, this one really shines for me. A lot of this music will sound flat and stale in twelve months, but I can guarantee that this one will still be getting circulated in five years. It might as well just be a locked groove for all the progression, but it never feels like it’s flatlining. It’s just got that irresistible groove, and the percussion has been written with oodles of push, thwap and clunk, which makes dropping it a treat for you and the floor. Damn if this isn’t the funkiest groove I’ve heard all year. If you can’t dance to this, you’re odd (or perhaps dead).
So many others (Andy Stott, Shed, Omar-S, Jackmate), but as I’m not Dave (and we’d agreed to do five) I’ll leave it there and offer the remainders for discussion in the comments section. Onward!