7.08.2011

First new post in six months

I wish I had more time to blog about the music I really cared about and create something more expansive, but for the moment that thought is just fantasy. In the meantime, I continue listening to full length albums, all kinds but mostly electronic. One of the things that struck me over the past 6 mos. is how many albums come out and why isn't there more focus put on these long playing platters? Sure there are plenty of shit albums made up only of tech-house, dubstep, trance, etc. and mixes that were better off as freebie podcasts, but so much time is spent on these album releases by artists creating for the sheer joy of expression. There may be more music out there in a digital landscape but it seems like there is less upward mobility for the top underground artists making it harder to distinguish the good stuff from the countless amateurs. In that spirit I took some time to look back on 25 albums from the past six months that really caught my attention.

Robag Wruhme - Thora Vukk (Pampa)


Various - Fania Records 1964 - 1980 - The Original Sound of Latin New York 2xCD (Strut)


Aril Brikha - Deeparture In Time Revisited 2xCD (Art of Vengeance)


Various - Crosstown Rebels pres Rebel Rave 3xCD (Crosstown Rebels)


DJ T. - The Pleasure Principle (Get Physical)


Catz N Dogz - Escape From Zoo (Mothership)


Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Noise (Circus Company)


Jay Haze - Love = Evolution (Tuning Spork/Contexterroir)


Various - Dekalog 1 DVD (de'fchild Productions)


Pere Ubu - The Annotated Modern Dance (Hearpen)


Arthur's Landing - Self-titled (Strut)


Discodeine - Self-Titled (Pschent)


Various - Galaktika 5 Years Compilation 2xCD (Galaktika)


Martin Dawson - Sunday Smoking (Moodmusic)


Marcin Czubala - Back To Back Vol. 5 2xCD (Mobilee)


Julien Parise - Dirty Symphony (Missive)


Arthur Oskan - A Little More Than Everything (Thoughtless Music)


Wolf + Lamb vs. Soul Clap - DJ-KiCKS (!K7)


The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter (Domino)


Barem - After The Storm (M_nus)


The Florian Muller Project - As A Dream (Logos Recordings)


Tony Rohr - Oddlantik Avenue (H-Productions)


Mark Farina - Mushroom Jazz 7 (Mushroom Jazz)


Tangongo - Mate y Cigarrillos (Take 5 Music)
Dr Lopez - Tangongo by overdub_argentina

International Peoples Gang - Up (Hi-Phi Music)
International Peoples Gang - Second (Coyote Remix) by International Feel

1.04.2011

An unrepentant look back at the year that was - 2010


What a year 2010 turned out to be, filled with both adventure and peril, there was so much great music to be gained and lost this year. On the reissue front, I filled my head with glam rock and proto-punk - from Roxy Music and T. Rex to the Runaways and the Ramones - before stopping for a long gaze at the legendary Everly Brothers near the end of the year with a wonderful compilation covering their seminal years at Cadence (1957-1960).

I devoured books about music, blogs about music, and magazines about music - rooting myself in the timeless aesthetics, the same way that the earliest incarnation of the New York Dolls gathered themselves at local NYC dives, devoting themselves and their pocket change to rough and tumble jukebox singles artists such as Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and the Shirelles. I said goodbye to very important influences - Don Van Vliedt and Alex Chilton, while mourning the loss of John Lennon more than ever this year. 2010 was also the year the greatest of the Stooges' albums - Kill City - was cleaned up and reissued with the original cover art forever cementing the greatest of all American bands reputation as the hands-down best of all time, pissing gleefully on that old farty windbag named Springsteen. The Stones in all their glory just couldn't replicate the same thrills with the reissue of their masterpiece - Exile On Main Street - why, because the band has past its prime and any steps forward for them can only include reaching way back to apply the same faux-bling gleam to their back catalogue as the world of pop music those old bag of bones operate in now. It's because pop music completely divorced itself from reality this year, giving me ample time to focus on the music of my trade - electronic music - but still found time to dabble in dub, psychedelia, and kraut(ish)rock along the way. Hell, even John Frusciante and the Black Keys found time to tickle my fancy - pop stars in most people's opinion I suppose.

In 2010 there was the swingin Sixties music of Persia, African disco, a new Fall album, and even a little dubstep - although I wasn't easily swayed by what I see as just another manufactured flavor of the month ala drum & bass circa Timeless. Few dubstep artists are rooted in any solid aesthetic and with no foundation comes no future - just empty promises and weak excuses for the impending disaster that lay in the days ahead.

I became close to the Mexican music community, made friends in New York, Ibiza, and Berlin along the way, hearing great tracks played in the dark alleyways and corridors of Chico, San Francisco, and Seattle. There was simply too much to be thankful for so I thought it was time to look back on the year and found myself oddly nostalgic, a mood that rarely strikes me. So sparing you any further blah-blah-blah I present you the year that was. If one word could describe 2010 it would be unrepentant, because at my age and with the gazillions of records I have amassed in this lifetime, I finally had the notion to say "meh" to just about all of them and felt quite alright with that as I sank firmly into the Shaggs' masterpiece Philosophy Of The World. Let's hope 2011 offers more of the same...

Top 25 albums/compilations
1. Pulshar - Inside (Desolat)
2. Hatikvah - Synchronicity (Soma)
3. Agoria-Balance 016 2xCD (EQ)
4. Damian Lazarus - Fabric54 (Fabric)
5. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker (Modular)
6. Bjoern Torske - Kokning (Smalltown Supersound)
7. Black Keys - Brothers (Nonesuch)
8. Pezzner-The Tracks Are Alive (Freerange)
9. Sascha Dive - Restless Nights (Deep Vibes)
10. Crosstown Rebels pres Rebel Rave (Crosstown Rebels)
11. James Teej-Evening Harvest (Rekids)
12. Juan Maclean-DJ-Kicks (K7)
13. Ripperton-Niwa (Green)
14. Spirit Catcher - Partners In Crime (Systematic)
15. Kenneth James Gibson - Delusion Tales & Non Silence (Culprit)
16. Sebastian Mullaert -Wa Wu We 2x CD (Mule Electronic)
17. Limaçon-Tarry Not (Thoughtless Music)
18. Leo Zero - Disconnect (Strut)
19. Paul Schulleri - Strich & Faden (Subtrak)
20. Martyn-Fabric 50 (Fabric)
21. Guajira - Aguardiente (Ombligo)
22. Apparat - DJ-KiCKS (K7)
23. Various - Audiomatique History Part 1 (Audiomatique)
24. K-X-P - S/T (Smalltown Supersound)
25. Various - Finders Keepers Presents Pomegranates (B-Music)

Top 20 tracks
1. Brien Scott - Ickenham Station (Symbio Remix)(white)
2. Giovanni Verga - Afternight (Danilo Schneider Rmx) (Blaq)
3. Lula Circus - Morning Love (Broquade)
4. Audioelectronic - Two Trains Running (Nude Photo Music)
5. Morgans - Your Sweet Dream (Dialtone)
6. Robert Babicz - Pink Trees (Bedrock)
7. Yungchen Lhamo & Hamza - Wind Horse Rising (Windhorse)
8. Dolly La Parton - Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens (Be My Sheep)
9. Deepak Sharma + Dieter Krause - Wolkenreise (DJ Qu Remix)(Hidden Recordings)
10. Android Cartel - One For Santiago (Sketchbook)
11. Sishi Roesch - Back To 92 (Diego Moreno Warehouse Mix)(Digital Delight)
12. Israel Vich - The Musicians (Pantamuzik)
13. Bloody Mary - Arabesque (Dame-Music)
14. Rodux - Iron Fan (Thoughtless Music)
15. Stefan Tretau - Dzongkha (Night Drive Music)
16. Chris Fortier - Despegue (Symbio's Deep Space Mix)(Fade)
17. Isaac - Pickles (We Are Here)
18. Riff Raff - Psycho Cycles (Riff Raff)
19. Derek Marin - Rakimuse (Thoughtless Music)
20. Slam - Hot Knives (Gary Beck Remix)(Paragraph)

10.27.2010

The Conduit podcast series, now on iTunes


My friend Symbio over at 530Techno.org and I started a new podcast series to focus on some international dj/artists that we dig called the The CONDUIT. Our first episode featured an exclusive mix by Android Cartel. Number two is courtesy of Washington DC powerhouse Jubilee and is out now.

The CONDUIT // podcast

Check it out.

We've gone and changed the name



"No one is united, all things are untied..." X (the band)


Life gets complicated and untidy sometimes even the best laid plans run askew of their original intentions. Eastern philosophies ensure us that the only calming influence in our otherwise meaningless lives is change. This universe, apparently just one of endless variations, seems only to favor the newest and latest - everything else, as P.K. Dick points out so eloquently time and again, is in various stages of decay and entropy. Kinda glum but the only response as a mortal being passing through the invisible clutches of time is reinvention. A fancy way of saying, that as my business ventures continue to grow, I have to segment and contain every last drop of content that spills from my fingers - my words having a genuine value assigned to them, the more I capture, the more I earn. On a larger scale, it's the transformation from individual to corporation, something I think all small business owners struggle with; even more so for me because I've grown up in the music business and my single greatest hero was Johnny Thunders, a walking tornado if there was ever one. By the time he was my age he was dead, murdered by banditos in the night. His born-to-lose approach is a romantic notion that many kids who grew up the Seventies and Eighties fully bought in to and the pile of bodies is, sadly, stacked like cord wood.

But here I am, alive, and running a successful independent music operation - a stranger in a strange land - so the idea was to remove my old blog site from the day to day world of underground dance music and make it more like a confessional, like the recent pieces I've been writing, and decided it was time for a rebranding and name change and set off in new directions. Hope you enjoy.

10.04.2010

Seattle, family reunions, and rain all set against the backdrop of Decibel Fest 2010 Pt. 2

Part II - The Departure


The weariness that greets my head after all to brief a rest is epic on Saturday, but the damp and humid gray skies have given way to a rare late September day of warm sun in Seattle on Saturday. Day three is a travel day for me, down the road about 45 minutes to my sister's house in the suburbs. I pack up, say my good byes to my bro and leave downtown Seattle. The trip to Auburn is sublime - little traffic, warm temps, and an epic view of Mt. Rainier the whole way. Sure we have big volcanoes back home in Cali, but even Shasta has lost all of her glacial snow at this late a date in the season, and there is Rainier grinning at my like a giant white fang. Today is going to be a good day, I can feel it.

Shifting gears between the go-go-go mentality of a music conference to the suburban tranquility of my sister's house was even easier than expected. There I caught up with her and my brother-in-law with those kinds of moments that only come when being around family. My adorable nieces, seven and three respectively, are a bittersweet reminder of the parallel life I live at this point in my life, our dreams for a family deferred so many times in pursuit of other gains (and losses) that it's now a not-so-unreal reminder that this may be a dream died for us. This hot tub and home cooked meal time is the calm before the storm, and although it passes in a heartbeat it is still a resetting of priorities and a time to reflect on where I am at in my life, a moment of clarity. As if to extend that moment as long at it can possibly exist I reconnected with an old friend before a night of celebration that will not soon be forgotten. After fifteen years, time both stands still and has advanced so far forward the narrative begins reading like a strange and foreign text. The encounter is extremely brief but a reminder of the great chasms in time one must cross in order to exist, often I wonder if these become bundles of great burden the longer we live and pass near each other in time? Regardless of my own philosophical musings, and I have them frequently, I wish my friend well in her own quest to find happiness in this life, it is elusive.

My actual night begins at the D25 Showcase, not unusual that you'd find me at the gig with Kevin Saunderson and Carl Craig. I get there earlier enough to see Monty Luke playing a great opening set, a real treat. But it is Saunderson who owns the crowd, putting on a clinic with real vinyl. He played many great tracks - both old and new - but "Good Life" is the one everyone came for and he did not disappoint. At this point I am missing my wife as well as my friend Stephen, the two people in Chico I share the clubbing experience with on a semi-regular basis, wishing they were there. I text them to let them know the DJ is on fire, I get an envious text in return as they are stuck back at home getting assaulted by the usual onslaught of 8 bit noises and farting bass primitive-ism that leaves so much to be desired. "Thank God I am at Decibel Fest", I think to myself. I bail on Craig, whom I've seen many times, and walk across the street to catch the end of Tim Green's set at Fwd Thinking Organisms. The deep funky bass he was selecting kept his tech leanings at bay and gave his rather standard electro house tastes some real flare, it something worth taking note of but just I was starting to feel his steez it was time to give way to Tanner Ross - one half of Mothership's Voodeux - his tastes much more archival and zany than Green's. Mainly, Ross looks like he's having a great time behind the decks putting on a show for the intimate crowd. It's a nice moment, but that's about all these festivals are worth, there is never enough time to feel anything too deeply before it's time to rush off or risk missing something important. It is at this point - (after 1AM) a time I call the "witching hour" as it is a time when strange and unusual things can happen and definitely the time to be alert - that I begin to make my way over to the Hotflush Label Showcase, unfortunately I made a mistake as to the location and then spent my time wading through drunken pedestrian and auto traffic courtesy of the nearby University of Washington, talk about a big, ugly reminder of home. It was quite annoying and prevented me from catching any of Scuba or Sepulcure's sets, a huge disappointment considering the UK imprint's showcase was one of the reasons for making the trip - but these are the breaks when attending a conference of this scale.

I cut my losses and make way back to Motor for Late Night Soul Kitchen. If last night's gathering was low-key and mellow, tonight is an opportunity for every semi-young person in Seattle off their face to see and be seen - the place is packed. Couple that with a long wait outside waiting for the venue to get it's act together and it's the perfect length of time to allow the rain to start falling, one of the only constants year-round in Seattle. This, plus ample second-hand cigarette smoke to the face, sets the stage for me to get a bug that's proven hard to shake even a week after the festival. Luckily, the waiting turns out to be a minor setback for a great night of music from Seattle's Pezzner, playing most of his set to an audience still out on the street waiting to get in. His entire set is comprised of tracks from his recent album on Freerange, an excellent album but one so popular here in the office this Spring that I can't bear to listen to much more of it. Not really Pezzner's fault just a case of a guy doing his job too well, note to Pezzner, make less catchy tracks - j/k - don't ever stop doing what you're doing. Bostonians turned Berliners, Soul Clap take mid-tempo late night house to a new level, if you liked what Garth, Jeno, and the Wicked Crew were doing in SF in the early to mid Nineties these guys are your heroes. Since I was a devoted Wicked follower, I could instantly connect the duo's DJ set of trippy, late night mushroom house. As the crowd begins to thin out and the real exhaustion of my years starts to set in, the vibe feels just right, I wanted to leave but was transfixed by Theo Parrish's old school Detroit set. It's a crate diggers' classic filled with funk, soul, house, and techno that is instantly uplifting and memorable. The old dog steals the show from the new dogs and tricks, it's quite a moment, one of many passing in time.

Thus ends the festival portion, as I get on the I-5 South heading from my sister's home, my thoughts shift to the return home. I don't think my sister and brother-in-law were necessarily prepared for my returning home at 5AM, even after adequate warning, a reminder of the interesting career path I've chosen. A quick, but restful sleep and a hearty breakfast and good company prepares me for a travel day. Next year I plan to attend the Sunday portion of the conference and grab the late flight but to placate my wife, already miffed about the driving to and fro Sacramento and Cohasset, I chose the mid-afternoon flight home. The stress of returning rental cars, baggage checks, security checkpoints, and making the gate on time always weigh heavily on me. The quick and uneventful flight home gave me time to reflect on the trip, my career, and my life that made me feel rested despite the extreme fatigue. Flying over Mt. Lassen, Mill and Deer Creek canyons, and eventually even my own house made me feel satisfied about the trip with just a twinge of longing as it is rare for me to see this much live music and family on the regular, but as the plane touched down on the tarmac in Sacramento and I left behind wet lawns and alders for yellow fields of grass and 100 degree temperatures I felt as I never left my home. Can't wait for next year!

10.03.2010

Talking with Mick Chillage of the Chillage Idiots Pt. 2



In the second (and final) part of our interview, Mick and I talk about music and influences. There is a ton of information being conveyed so I'll skip the formal intro and just let Mick start talking....

Mick's a collector, so I wanted to know what his five essential chill out records were:

1. Brian Eno "Apollo/Atmospheres and Soundtracks"
[Editions EG] 1983


I was introduced to Eno's work a little late in 1992 to be precise, I investigated Eno after seeing his name being mentioned on various albums like Warp's Artificial Intelligence. What struck me about the album was its lack of bubbling synth sequences, trickling water samples and other sound bites which was quite the norm for chill out ambient music at this time, instead Eno used a mixture of eerie drones and other rather alien and unidentified sounds mixed with deep basses in a lot of the pieces and a rather emotionally devastating use of angelic choirs on tracks like "An ending" to the strangely effective use of steel slide guitar on many other tracks, it pretty much changed my perception of electronic ambient music and is a great introduction to the man's incredible work..

2. Chapterhouse "Blood Music" Re translated by Global Communication,[Dedicated] 1993

Although some people may argue that Global Communications 76:14 is a better album, I guess it all depends on what you heard first and I heard this reworking of the indie shoe gazer's album in early 1994, what makes this album so special is that while most ambient records create a great atmosphere to lose yourself in for an hour so this record is a real emotional roller coaster full of beautiful and haunting soundscapes, dreamy guitars, and distantly echoed vocals, organic and cinematic sound bites, and sometimes full on industrial techno beats but with some of the most heartfelt melodies and arrangements ever to grace an electronic recording.

3. Pete Namlook "Air" [fax] 1992

Its pretty impossible for me to pick an essential from Namlook or his Fax label but this rather early recording is a stunning collection of ambient which again shows that the ambient genre can adapt to almost any style of music. Air tells the story of two souls searching for one another set against a rather dark and haunting symphony of analogue synthesis that effortlessly blends classical guitar and solo soprano to elements of jazz, world music, pounding tribal techno, and beyond.

4. Biosphere "Substrata" [Origio sound] 1997

Norway based ambient composer Geir Jensen's third album under the Biosphere moniker sees him leaving the atmospheric techno/breakbeat strains of his earlier albums behind into a more environmental yet deeply emotional ambient album. No other ambient release gives you a greater sense of place like Substrata does, from the view of looking over the snow filled valleys of the Swiss Alps on "Poa Alpina" to the vast frozen wilderness of Siberia and a great sense of loss on "Kobresia" this is an essential and perfect introduction to the works of Biosphere. Look out for Substrata 2 for a bonus disc of previously unavailable tracks.

5. Peter Benisch "Soundtrack Saga" [Turbo] 2001

Swedish electronica producer Peter Benisch's third album continues with his lush production techniques displayed on his earlier releases but this time he displays his incredible talent for epic compositional skills, which as the title suggest its like a score to the greatest movie ever made with techno and IDM style sensibilities. Think Vangelis meets Plaid and your halfway there.


Tell me a little about the art and craft of making ambient music and how it's similar to that of techno and how it differs.


I basically approach techno and ambient in the same way at the beginning as I never really conscientiously set out to create any particular type of music.. Most of my music happens by just messing around with my synths, I might hear a particular sound on a record or in my head a set out to edit the synths to see if I can create a similar sound, this experimentation may lead me to playing some chords or a melody etc and before I know it I have the basis for a new track.

Or sometimes I may start off with the opposite approach by programming some beats or experimenting with breakbeats or other percussive loops and playing some pads or bass over the grooves until something clicks into place I may end up creating a techno or electro track but I may realize that the track sounds better without the beats and then I set about on creating a beatless ambient track instead, so I guess its down to what ever inspires me at that moment.

The beauty of creating ambient music is that the arrangement and production process have no rules, as you don't have to consider the DJ or the dance floor or the chorus, verse structure's of pop songs.

So a droning intro of five minutes on a track which slowly evolves and mutates over thirty minutes is pretty much an acceptable norm for the average open minded ambient listener.

Also another factor is the choice of sound which can be used in ambient music which gives you great freedom, with techno and house music etc a kick drum and bassline are always an essential, plus keeping the track within a standard BPM range is also another restriction not associated with ambient..

So I feel ambient music can pretty much lend itself to almost any instrument or genre that you can think of, with acts like Sunn O etc experimenting with doom metal and low bass frequencies to the modern classical strains of Max Richter and beyond, so it can be a producers creative paradise which can convey a multitude of feelings and emotions which transcends time and cultural boundaries.

Link to a classic mix recently recreated to share with all of you:
http://www.xfmdublin.com/blog/best-served-chilled-side-two-early-mix-tape-by-mick-chillage-side-12/

10.01.2010

Seattle, family reunions, and rain all set against the backdrop of Decibel Fest 2010 Pt. 1

PT. 1 - The Arrival

In my younger days I could handle multi-day music conferences such as Decibel Fest in Seattle no problem. I'd feel myself grow physically from these challenging endurance marathons of no sleep, food, or friends. But those days are long gone and usually what I end up with is a bug (check), exhaustion so severe that work becomes nearly impossible (check), and a lasting sense of dread spread over the entire event that some how I'm missing something (check). It's hard, I always end up some where in the world all by myself at a festival and the only companions I have are conscience and the demons in my head, of which I have plenty - gained over two decades of schlepping around the globe in the hopes of finding something original and good (hit & miss in that pursuit - BTW). What I've learned is that you have to pick your moments of significance and keep it tunnel vision the rest of the time or you will be overwhelmed by the sensory overload.

For me the moments came fast and furious this September 23rd-26th, not just because this was an opportunity to escape the deep forest hermit retreat that my wife and I call home and head off to the big city and all of the great music that comes with a trip like that, this was a given when I first made plans to cover the Decibel Fest for Ibiza Voice and Big Shot as a journalist. This was also an opportunity to reconnect with family, friends, and the city of Seattle - a place where I had spent a lot of my time in the mid Nineties talent scouting in a fertile rock city. I've shared a beer and smoke with some of the city's finest musicians in my day and it was great but that might as well be a million years in comparison to today's rock music scene. Fact of the matter is that I don't like rock music anymore, I've been suspicious of it ever since Johnny Thunders died. These days rhythmic techno music - the latest (and my opinion, best) evolution in the great Afro-American musical diaspora - is what I live for. I was very curious to see how an electronic music festival would fair in Sub Pop Rock City, and to be honest they didn't seem to be eager bedfellows with rock posters and graffiti lining every festival venue as if to let every clubber know that when they left for the night the place would be sanitized for the benefit of Chris Cornell and his big rock ego. But that seems to be the case all over the city, a moribund scene in need of some fresh blood and new venues. My brother, who I haven't seen in 25 yrs., has played music in Seattle most of his adult life and now manages the J&M Saloon in Pioneer Square, He put it best, everyone is a musician nowadays and as such venue owners treat them all like meat in search of whatever works. It's no different anywhere I've been in North America in search of music, really, a sad sign of the time.

That lacking is exactly what made the Decibel Fest so special, the festival offered more than one person could actually see (an existential conundrum, if there ever was one), a nice kind of glut. So even after enduring a relatively short flight and travel time on Thursday the 23rd, I could feel all of that stress weighting my old ass legs down. I made my choice, I was only seeing one showcase that night "Simply Shameless" and who can argue with a line up that includes Dan Bell and Deepchild? Unlike many of the the other journalists covering the festival, I didn't come to be challenged by the cutting edge (pretty much any genre with dub or glitch attached to it, IMHO), I wanted to see the state of dance music and clubbing on the West Coast. Seattle has a much smaller, more sedate scene than those of San Francisco or Los Angeles but that tight knit clique of faces kept popping up at every venue for the next few days giving the whole festival an air of community - whether real of imagined. That was fine for a guy hundreds of miles from home on his own. Berliner Deepchild put on an excellent live performance that suggested the former Aussie has some rock & roll in his blood, he's certainly old enough for me to make that statement with some surety. Like Dan Bell, his music was fun, energetic, and danceable. However, neither were evocative or pushing their boundaries any further than they already have in their careers. It was perfect music for a Thursday night but not for a Saturday night after party. Rumors of an after party featuring Dan Bell and Drumcell (a conference panelist earlier that day) circulated but having learned my lesson from ADE, I knew that a night of late night shenanigans negates an important day of networking at the business conference. Music was missed but knowledge was gained, thankfully.

Friday morning comes instantly as my brother and I traverse a long night and sunrise drinking wine and catching up on two and a half decades lost - sad and joyous at the same time. I spend the day in a semi-drunken haze, perfect for comprehension and networking skills, right? This is of course, the second day of a conference the time when I switch to back-up reserves fueled mostly by adrenaline. This makes me impervious to sleep, booze, substances, probably even death but I'm not going to test that theory any time soon. I am in tip-top shape for what turns out to be the best part of the Decibel Fest, the panels. The ideas and knowledge being given away for free from promotional and label help to production seminars, this is as good as it gets in the US. Sadly, it's still lacking in comparison to ADE with it's A&R and artist networking sessions. I would have loved to seen more panels, more attendees, and just more opportunities to connect people together, the potential is there and I hope that the festival will continue to grow into its conference. It is at this time, I find that I am having laptop and camera troubles - clients: the reason why I was MIA while at the conference and my camera was having issues. It is always something, but sadly no photos of any highlights, majestic Mt. Rainier, nor my adorable little nieces.

That night, I found the Planet Mu showcase to be irritating, as much as try to have an open mind. FaltyDL did little for me, plus (as is the case with the kiddie shows) there were sound problems, caused by a blown speaker - gee imagine that, I've never been to a dub/glitch show that hasn't had a blown speaker. The kids may love it but I'm still not seeing it in sound or professionalism. Local promoters TRUST's showcase at Sole Repair was pure handbag house, my assumptions about Trus'me proving to be correct after all. Sadly, Modeselektor across the street at Neumos was putting on the same kind of lackluster performance they did two years ago. The visuals were amazing but I am so over these guys it's not even funny. I'm bummed that I missed Headhunter, but that is the nature of these conferences - timing and logistics. With Friday's highlight at this point seeming like it would be my bro introducing me to the rhythm section of Bad Company down at the J&M, I headed for the after party at Motor. An interesting locale south of downtown that had elements of a SoCal after party - kids all spun monkey on pharmaceuticals, weirdos in search of an all-nighter (like the trolly Eastern Washington looking couple who had never heard house music and could only use AC/DC as a musical reference), and die hard clubbers. The severe alcohol restrictions for all involved (although I hear there were some booze problems) gave the "Mi Casa Es Su Casa" showcase a very sedate and safe-as-milk feel that I've never found at an SF, LA, or even Chico late night parties. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing??? At least I didn't feel like I could be stabbed at a moment's notice by some drunken lunatic. Lawnchair Generals opened things with a commanding set that made me want to reinvestigate their music after dismissing them as pennyweight house and Catz N Dogs did a fine job of injecting the basic template laid down by the Generals with bass. Nothing any better or worse than the Generals, just solid cuts played well. The real star of the night, and perhaps of the festival, was Chilean DJ Dinky. She played tracks the way only a woman can play house music - with grace, sophistication, and just a hint of romantic swagger. It was probably one of the most thoughtful set I've heard in years and despite running on no sleep it moved me both physically and mentally. I'd probably have even more fond memories of it if I had photos of it and my brother and I not stayed up again til the sunrise hours AGAIN discussing the legitimacy of aesthetics and the importance of Lester Bangs. It must be stressed that my brother is perhaps the only other person in the world who took the time to engage me in such a debate, and you can't say no to family. Things get a little loopy and foggy from here as I move out of downtown Seattle and off to the suburbs in Auburn to stay with my sister, who has masterminded most of this trip (gotta say I have an awesome family, who knew?). More to come in part two....

9.30.2010

Talking with Mick Chillage of the Chillage Idiots Pt. 1



Irish artist Mick Chillage, one half of the Chillage Idiots, may not be a name rolling off of everyone's tongues but for me I find his music to be inspirational in terms of not only what I'm doing now but also in terms of the grand arc of aesthetics - the glue that keeps underground music together despite the dross, egos, and bad attitudes that plague all facets of it - from indie rock to gabber techno. His 2009 debut album, Tales From The Igloo, on Keith Downey's equally great PsychoNavigation imprint is the kind of album I've been searching for for some time now. It's chillout music without any of the Thievery Corp. pseudolounge trappings, no glitchiness or clickings, and most of all no shitty John Tesh influenced New Age music passing it self off as chill music ala the Ultra Lounge comps. What we have is a guy who's spent his life studying techno and other forms of electronic music and let's all of those influences spill out in a cohesive way that is neither chillout nor techno but an interesting melange of the two that makes the downtempo genre exciting again. The guy should get an honorary medal just for that, but he's also a chatty, supportive, and friendly dude so I've decided to let him do the talking over a series of posts and really introduce him to y'all, so without further ado - I give you Mick Chillage....


Tell me about the Chillage Idiots
During the 80's Myself and Paul (Chillage) both went to the same school and during these years we occasionally hung out together, eventually we left school and kinda lost communication, but it wasn't until a few years later in 1990 we met again in one of Dublin's first underground dance music clubs Called Sides D.C it was there that we discovered that we both had a passion for electronic music and liked acts such as 808 state, LFO, Orbital, Depeche Mode etc, and the friendship was reborn.

During this period we both started to work in the trendy DV8 shoe store in Dublin. The Management liked our music selections and let us control the music of both stores. around the same time I started to record ambient/electronica mix tapes using a cheap DJ mixer and two portable CD players, due to the diversity of some of the mixes I wrote "Mixed by the Chillage Idiot" on the tapes.

By 1995 Paul was in college studying media he produced an electronica radio program called "Future Music" I ended up giving Paul a hand on some studio duties and music selections during the programming, shortly after this we attempted to create some electronic music in a friends local recording studio, through these sessions we met a DJ called Hugh O'Brien who had a spot on Dublin's infamous indie/alternative pirate station XFM, he secured us a test slot in Jan 96, at the time the station manager was concerned that we were just regular dance music DJ's but they liked our selections and the Chillage idiots were born..

As far as we know it The Chillage Idiots are the longest running electronic music show on Irish radio, also making Irish broadcasting history by being the first radio show to broadcast live on the web in the late 90's. Initially our shows went out every Sunday night live on air, but with the onset of ever increasing raids, advances in technology and the way audiences listen to and consume music we decided to just do a regular monthly podcast.

We play a wide mix of genres under the electronic banner - techno, house, idm, electronica, ambient, braindance, electro or just weird shit - suffice to say; if we think it's good and it's electronic then we play it.

Over the years we have had quite a diverse range of guests, both live in the studio and by live phone interviews, Our past guests have included Jimi Tenor, Pete Namlook, Cim, Tim Koch, Clair Defocus, Miles Tillmann, Lackluster, Skkatter, Mad Vvm Dog, Front End Synthetics and Rod Morris.

How do you hook up with Keith Downey and PsychoNavigation?
From what I can remember Keith use to listen to the Chillage Idiots from time to time and occasionally rang into to chat with us about the music we played etc. In 2000, Keith had started the Psychonavigation label and also got a spot on one of the other radio stations here in Ireland and played my "Various Projects" CD-R which I released myself on his show, so I guess I was on his radar from that time onwards.

As Psychonavigation went from strength to strength Keith would sometimes send us promos which he felt suited our show. One night back in 2008, I attended a rather small gig in Dublin for Manchester acid techno and drum and bass legend A Guy Called Gerald, I bumped into Keith and he suggested that I send him some demos for a possible album, which I did and of course Keith's selections became my debut album Tales From The Igloo in 2009.

The Igloo is what I named my studio by the way.

Joey Ramone, marked for death



Prior to my immersion into the world of electronic dance music, I was a behind-the-scenes cat in the world of alternative rock. Now before you start thinking about the Nineties alternative scene, let me preface the words "alternative rock", as being truly that. If you think that tired retread bands-as-brands groups like Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bush, or Tool are alternative you may as well stop reading here.

The alternative musical universe I am talking about is comprised the bands that came busting out of the Seventies and carried well into the mid-Eighties carving out a true alternative to the corporate rock demigods who controlled radio, television, and just about every sports arena from here to Wembley. The fact that bands such as Pere Ubu, Television, and the Meat Puppets could not only form but successfully tour and build an entire, credible sub-culture around their tunes speaks volumes about the power of American ingenuity. Sure other countries were doing it to, most notably the UK, but not the the scale nor with the quality of the regional scenes forming around the US at the time. Every town or region had a band, a record shop, label, and zine while kids as young as 10 and 11 got pulled in to this broad cross-section, drawn together despite the diversity of age, musical tastes, skin color, and sexual orientation. This loosely-drawn movement was everything that America wasn't in the post-Vietnam and Reagan eras.

Many artists can arguably lay claim to the musical throne over which they surveyed the kingdom but few have more of a legitimate claim than the Forest Hill, Queens answer to the Beatles - the Ramones. Without the band's proto-fascist minimalism, there would be little defiance against the Yes, Styx, and Boston axis of rock created specifically to neuter the form forever. Had the Ramones known that they kicked the door in allowing garage, power pop, new wave, electro, hip-hop, punk, and techno to develop within that embryo I'm not sure they would have done it, they were not generous. Joey Ramone's real life brother, Mickey Leigh, does a fantastic job of capturing this slice of life rather than just penning another vacuum sealed portrait of a "special" rock band doing their jobs and ascending to the promised land after strife and adversity just like in any VH1 special. As a working band, from personal experience, the Ramones were poor human beings at best and would never be anyone's feel good story but as catalysts for an alternative youth culture that would span generations, there could have been no other but the Ramones because they weren't gonna be learned and they certainly would not be tamed - hell they even sang a song about it using those exact words. Leigh paints a sympathetic portrait in his biography of a basket case brother leading a hapless bus full of wounded individuals in the form of friends, lovers, bandmates, and fans into an uncertain future. That the Ramones never left their mark on pop culture until the creative engines (Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey) all expired is more a telling look at America's continuing transformation into a mindless nation of consumer sheep unable to think clearly rather than just poor luck and timing on the band's part. They failed simply because they had to, if they had gotten to big they would have been corrupted and never would have stood the test of time.It's a sad, sad fact, especially if you were a Ramone.

Joey's death is covered in explicit detail as the final act of Leigh's book, paced so perfectly that the tears welled from eyes uncontrollably just as I read the last page. But spare the waterworks for a moment, because even though the band failed commercially they still presented this blueprint for an alternative vision of pop music that has now transformed them in to the single most influential musical artists of all time right behind the Beatles - their spectre felt in so many different genres nowadays with just one common thread - things have got to change. That rage became action in the Ramones blitzkreig of bop and so it became the nexus point for the great diaspora of music that defined the real Eighties - whether your bag was Cabaret Voltaire, New Order, Black Flag, the Melvins, or Public Enemy these four ugly kids from New York were paying your dues and dying for your sins even you were totally unaware and way before you could be or would want to be. Mostly because the Ramones changed the way pop music business was done and brought it back to the street level again like in the days of Muddy Waters and Son House and put that stomping power back in to the hands of the artists and their fans. It was never conscious, but often times trailblazing is a different animal entirely than cartography, and I could honestly sense in knowing them personally as well reading Mickey Leigh's telling portrait of them that they could not have done anything else. Above all, now that I am far removed from the insanity of being part of the Ramones universe for a brief time, I miss them as human beings, flawed as they were, and mostly their willingness to continue holding Lester Bangs' torch of aesthetic long after every one else had given up, for me it was my clarion call as a musical tastemaker that has carried me through a wicked industry for the past 22 yrs. Sadly, no one has stepped to the plate since their passing and you can almost see the decline of pop music's quality and saleability once the Ramones left the building, leaving with the sense that they would be the last time pop music would strive for something more than just an endless conveyor of product.

Summer, we hardly knew ya...



Summer never really raised its ugly head this year in California, what few hot days that have come along happened late in the season and, in the case of this week, outside of the season. As such, camping, swimming, and other outdoor activities (like drinking to excess) dominated most of my activities for the height of the season. I caught a few things wholeheartedly here and there like Hatikvah, Jimmy Edgar, Tame Impala, the Black Keys, the Pomegranates compilation, and Sascha Dive. The rest came and went in blur as they generally do in the world of underground music so I did my best to capture a snapshot of the seasonal playlist we enjoyed on our many, many trips, vacations, and sojourns.

SUMMER 2010 TOP 25 ALBUMS
1. Hatikvah - Synchronicity (Soma)
2. Various - Audiomatique History Part 1 (Audiomatique)
3. Jimmy Edgar - XXX (!K7)
4. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker (Modular)
5. DJ Hell - Body Language Vol. 9 (Get Physical)
6. Various - Thoughtless Times v. 5 (Thoughtless Music)
7. Sebastian Mullaert -Wa Wu We 2x CD (Mule Electronic)
8. Sascha Dive - Restless Nights (Deep Vibes)
9. Mathew Jonson - Agents Of Time (Wagon Repair)
10. Seph - Alquimia (Dumb-Unit)
11. Various - Finders Keepers Presents Pomegranates (B-Music)
12. Various - Fifteen For Fifteen (Ovum)
13. The Souljazz Orchestra - Rising Sun (Strut)
14. Shlomi Aber - Chicago Days, Detroit Nights (Ovum)
15. John Digweed - Structures 3xCD (Bedrock)
16. Brackles - Songs For Endless Cities (!K7)
17. Various - Horse Meat Disco II (Strut)
18. Various - 10 Years CLR (CLR)
19. ARP - The Soft Voice (Smalltown Supersound)
20. Tony Lionni - As One (Freerange)
21. Spoek Mathambo - Mshini Wam (BBE)
22. dOP-Greatest Hits (Circus Company)
23. El-P-Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 (Gold Dust)
24. Drivan - Disko (Smalltown Supersound)
25. Black Keys - Brothers (Nonesuch)

7.06.2010

The Spring seemed to last forever this year and here are the 25 albums that accompanied her

Things often change and this year represented a wild change seasonally with freak snow storms in May and late season rains that lasted well into June. Summer is now finally here but the long, cool days and green fields and hills alive with wildflowers served as a refreshing reprieve from the usual dry, crushing heat and brown death...

James Holden really proved himself on the latest installment of DJ-Kicks and the Black Dog also returned in fine form with an ambient album for the ages. Dubstep artist Nate Mars finally got his album out as did J. Rogers - both on San Francisco's Blipswitch Digital. NEU!'s boxset has been on constantly play and new Irish duo Twinkranes nearly match the legendary German duo note-for-note. The wife and I got our dance on to all of the recent Fabric compilations, the Duke Dumont's mix being the deepest and dopest of the three. Arandel, K-X-P and Paul Schulleri blew our minds by getting way out and wiggy crazy with new styles and forms. Booka Shade did what they do best on More! as did Wally Lopez and Diskjokke, no surprises there. Kode9 underwhelmed and Six Degrees' Undersea Poem tickled my fancy. Rounding things out was a mystery disk given to me by a young DJ from SF named Mozo at a party back in April at the Compound featuring Limaçon and Noah Pred which turned out to be the one I keep listening to the most. It's always a strange journey....

1. James Holden-DJ-Kicks (K7)
2. The Duke Dumont-Fabriclive 51 (Fabric)
3. The Black Dog-Music For Real Airports (Soma)
4. Arandel-In D (InFine)
5. Optimo (Espacio)-Fabric 52 (Fabric)
6. Nate Mars-Concentric Circle (Blipswitch Digital)
7. Matthias Schaffhaeuser - Re:3/Selected Remixes Vol. 3 (Ware)
8. NEU!-NEU! '86 (Groenland)
9. Twinkranes-Spektrumtheatresnakes (Twisted Nerve)
10. Booka Shade-More! (Get Physical)
11. Paul Schulleri - Strich & Faden (Subtrak)
12. James Teej-Evening Harvest (Rekids)
13. K-X-P - S/T? (Smalltown Supersound)
14. One Of Them - Audio Tour 3 (Fade)
15. Surgeon-Fabric 53 (Fabric)
16. J. Rogers-Access (Blipswitch Digital)
17. Wally Lopez- GU DJ 03 2xCD (Global Underground)
18. Mozo - One Night Stand (DJ mix)
19. Undersea Poem - S/T (Six Degrees)
20. Various - Afro-Rock Vol. 1 (Strut)
21. Diskjokke-En Fid Tid (Smalltown Supersound)
22. NEU! -NEU! '72 (Groenland)
23. Rafter-Animal Feelings (Asthmatic Kitty)
24. Brad Senne -Aerial Views (?)
25. Kode9-DJ Kicks (K7)

Unedited NEU! piece for Big Shot Magazine


NEU! –TURNING BACK THE CLOCK TO THE FUTURE
by Sean-Michael Yoder

It seems fitting that UK based label Grönland Records is re-releasing krautrock legend NEU!'s entire catalog as an expansive vinyl box set. The label has become synonymous with rescuing crucial, but forgotten, chunks of German pop music history and few musical groups outside of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges sold as few records as the mysterious German duo of Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother yet still managed to exert such heavy duty influence on future generations of musicians from David Bowie to Thom Yorke. Although it is techno music where NEU!'s influence can be felt most in the 21st Century, NEU! Still remains the perfect candidate for a comprehensive box set retrospective.

While the rest of Europe would get its restless postwar, economic meltdown howl and generational angst out late in the Seventies during the new wave zeitgeist, in Germany artists got the ball rolling much earlier in the decade. Pioneering proto-krautrock groups such as Kraftwerk and Ash Ra Temple took cues from US outsider groups like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges by using primitive rhythms and brute minimalism to convey an aesthetic of danger, mood, and style. Two early Kraftwerk cast-offs, Dinger and Rother, would go on to form an unlikely alliance with legendary producer Connie Plank at the dawn of the Seventies. Plank, who passed away unexpectedly in 1987, was a visionary producer - one of the first to envision a world of music enhanced by electronic soundscapes and a huge influence on the krautrock bands as well as superstar producers like Brian Eno and Steve Lillywhite. Drummer Klaus Dinger would play his single minimalist 4/4 thump over those spatial soundscapes, a rhythm he called his "Apache beat" and is now more commonly known as Motorik, best exemplified on NEU!’s biggest hit “Hallogallo”.



This beat became the foundation for all krautrock music despite the diversity of the groups in the scene - ranging from NEU! contemporaries Can to Kluster. On top of that beat, guitarist Michael Rother would "complement Dinger's rhythm by eschewing chord changes, and instead opting for a harmonic drone – a single chord, layering numerous electric guitar overdubs." Couple that revolutionary stance with the enigmatic cover art of NEU!, a simple stencil proclaiming "new" in German that the group would spread out over three albums during the early Seventies (NEU!, NEU! 2, and NEU! '75), and in retrospect it is no mystery that later new music groups such as Joy Division, PiL, and Wire would find a seminal influence in the mysterious band. Other artists such Brian Eno and David Bowie would work directly with NEU!'s members, most notably Plank's production of Bowie's "Heroes" - a clever biting of the Motorik style. The group would dissolve at the end of the Seventies and reform only once more in 1986 to cut NEU! 4, cleverly repackaged and given a new track listing and title (NEU! ’86) for the new box set, the final album merged the band’s old Motorik style with a penchant for bad synth pop (think Simple Minds or Peter Gabriel) and would became a source of strain amongst the two headstrong principles for the next two decades until Dinger’s untimely death in 2008 from heart failure. But the seeds were already sown, devoted fans of techno will instantly recognize Dinger’s simple, relentless beat and Rother’s ability to weave between emotional tension and release while eschewing chord changes and other traditional formalities in favor of bathing the band’s sound in washes of pure musical color.



In the nearly forty years since NEU!’s first offering, it has become evident that the group was really talking about the future, becoming a tangible touchstone for today’s electronic musician in terms of influence. Grönland’s box set goes a long way in raising the profile of this forgotten band. "I’m investing a lot of time and effort into the NEU! vinyl box set, which we hope to release this year," Rother explained in a 2009 interview. "It will contain all of NEU!’s recordings, also the ones that were illegally released by my partner, the late Klaus Dinger, in the Nineties. Plans also are to include a thick booklet filled with rare photos and new text as well as rare live recordings.” It’s about time.

Audioelectronic - Two Trains Running review

Audioelectronic – Two Trains Running on Nude Photo Music

By Brien Ferguson


Still not quite recovered from a wonderfully exhausting weekend festival gig in the local foothills, I get an unexpected and slightly desperate email from a friend. Can I, my friend pleads, bang out a couple of reviews on the quick? I gotta admit that as much as I respect and love this guy, I felt immediate trepidation; I was still tired from the party and I just got out from under another heavy deadline and I've been smoking fistfuls some crazy, hazy pot (White Rhino, for you in the know) so my head and my body aren't feeling quite connected... you know. But there's “$$$” involved, he none too subtly points out. Of course, all trepidation then flies straight out the freaking window and I quickly accept. It's not like I'm obviously stupid or something.


Surprisingly to me, everything was going smoothly – the first EP resonated with me and was a pleasure to dissect, the descriptors seemed to come easily (I had switched-up, too, to smoking a fairly sleepy strain evidently called “ICE!” or something) and I was very much looking forward to cracking open the second release, the forthcoming tech single from my latest super-favourite BFF of up-and-coming labels, Nude Photo Music out of Portland, Oregon. And to make the whole honey-pot even sweeter, it turns out that the single is “Two Trains Running”, the first solo release by label boss Gustavo Lanzas aka Audioelectronic, along with remixes by the impressive triad of San Francisco's DJ Caltrop, Chris Firenze of Akashik records and David “Brun” Brown of Swayzak! At this point, even memories of former trepidation turn into straight-up glee and I set to the record.


It's great. Plain and simple. All of the mixes demonstrate what I love about Nude Photo: masterful production values, layers and layers of lush textures, relaxed grooves and spacious atmospheres. The tracks moved me and engaged me but at some pre-conscious level that I couldn't find the specific words for. And not finding the words doesn't quite cut it for music reviews.


I started sweating it. Time was growing short and I hadn't put down a single letter. I really wanted to do a great job for my friend. I wanted to do right by the music. I wanted to smoke more of whatever was in that joint. Hours were passing fruitlessly. I'd hit a wall and frankly, began to panic.


And just when I felt like throwing in the towel, IT comes to me... this is a great track exactly because it does affect something more primal than stupid ol' language. Certainly, the technically adept creation of space and motion in the collection is noteworthy but this feeling of standing still as the world rushes and soars by, this mutable subtext, this deliciously gauzy platform – these are more difficult yet more vital to convey.


As far as specifics go, I can tell you this – the original mix sets us up with a simple, mournful bass that somehow becomes slightly sexy (in fact, all of the tracks have a little bit of Barry White power in 'em) and spacious percussive and vocal accents. Brun' s Duhb doesn't stray far from the original script but presents the material on a less familiar, more psychedelic landscape (It goes amazingly well with this Blue Dream, a particularly potent strain of Sativa.) Caltrop's effort is sunshine – pure, freaking bubble wands and skinny-dipping and afternoon shit-faced drunk kinda sunshine. Chris Firenze's mix is A MIGHTY DANCEFLOOR KILLER. Expect a lot of play from this one over the summer’s big sound systems – with its pounding kick and complex web of organic and machine counter-rhythms, it's the template for a perfect techno banger.


So, there you go. I love “Two Trains Running” and I love Nude Photo and this is why.

5.07.2010

What's your music really worth plus Spring Top 25 albums

Last time I posted something on my blog I was trying to make a point about where the music business is at circa 2010. Of course, it got long and rambly, veering far from the point as is my wont. I promised a return to discuss the true value of music in a digital environment so let's discuss the following ideas, ones which either value or devalue an artist's music.

Many independent artists are under a deluded mindset that sitting on their ass while gigging all the time and building up the intangible cool factor are enough to sell music. In the old label days it may have been enough to create that illusion of a brand while A&R and the 937 other folks who worked for an artist's label did all of the real work. Well those days are long gone and the idea of serious ass sitting and focusing only on the music is dangerous. Today every indie artist must be their own artist manager, book agent A&R, and label rep which is considerably more work than any artist from 15 years ago would be used to but 15 years ago most indie artists struggled to even get any of their music heard - most quality tunes were blocked by a cabal of questionable aesthetics, economic concerns, and label politics. If I had a dollar for every time an artist told me they were being screwed by their label (or some other bottom feeder in the food chain) back in the olden days I'd have enough money to pay off the US national debt. The fact is that artists now have the power and yet so many are afraid to exercise their true value in an open marketplace - most claiming that it's too easy to download music illegal, no one cares, shoddy distribution, etc. Just as when Curt Flood challenged baseball's reserve clause back in 1968 opening the door to free agency and ever escalating pro sports salaries, the same thing is happening in music. Artists are now free agents giving them unprecedented flexibility. A few are taking advantage of this opportunity and really making it big. Why? Because they never doubted the value of their music and are constantly exchanging it for something of equal value - whether it is an email in exchange for a free download or selling of parts of a track as a sample pack. The idea is that unrestricted artists are free to talk and work with whomever without fear of legal reprisal and as such can create infinite amounts of income streams as a hedge against any particular facet of the market experiencing a slowdown or downturn. Next time we meet, we will discuss specifics about building these income streams.

Anyway, the wheels started turning in my critic's mind about what makes music endure and I came up with these thoughts.
1. Release a full length, this is still one of the best avenues out there to indie musicians in terms of building brand legitimacy. Good case in point is techno producer Limaçon, a great DJ and producer who took his act to the next level after releasing his debut full length Tarry Not earlier this year on Thoughtless Music.

2. Work hard not only to promote but to make good tunes that you've exposed to ridicule and criticism to those closest to you before releasing. This extra layer of quality control can make all the difference between a mediocre album that no one will talk about and a decent one that can create some buzz if you get off your ass to promote it.

In that spirit, here are 25 albums I checked out this Spring that fit the bill:
TOP ALBUMS SPRING 2010
1.Christian Prommer-Drumlesson Zwei (K7)
2.Juan Maclean-DJ-Kicks (K7)
3.Pezzner-The Tracks Are Alive (Freerange)
4.Ripperton-Niwa (Green)
5.Agoria-Balance 016 2xCD (EQ)
6.Psychonauts-Songs For Creatures (Gigolo)
7.Applescal-A Mishmash Of Changing Moods (Traum)
8.Scuba-Triangulation (Hotflush Recordings)
9.King Britt - The Intricate Beauty (Nervous)
10.Jahcoozi-Barefoot Wanderer (Bpitch Control)
11.Loscil-Endless Falls (kranky)
12.D-Bridge & Instra:mental pres Autonomic-Fabriclive 50 (Fabric)
13.Cobblestone Jazz-The Modern Deep Left Quartet (K7)
14.Signal Deluxe-A Morning With A Billion Suns (unsigned)
15.Clara Moto-Polyamour (InFine Music)
16.Technasia-Central (Technorient Music)
17.2000 and One-Voltt Mix (Planet Gong)
18.Dan Curtin-Lifeblood (Mobilee)
19.DJ T.-Fabric 51 (Fabric)
20.Louie Vega-@ dragon-i Collections (King Street Sounds)
21.Ian Pooley-Pooled 25 (Pooled Music)
22.Robert Babicz-Immortal Changes (Systematic)
23.Deadbeat-Radio Rothko (The Agriculture)
24.BT-These Hopeful Machines (Nettwerk)
25.Keb Darge & Paul Weller Present-Lost & Found: Real R&B and Soul (BBE)

2.25.2010

What I listened to while the snow fell...

The passing of time, nothing can stop it, you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. Music marks that passage of time so well and over the years mountains of your own data connected to the experience of listening to music piles up and informs you of time and place. That piling has a two-fold effect: First, the more you listen, critically, the more knowledge you can amass about the music you like, thus helping yourself decide what's worth your hard-earned money and what isn't. Second, that your brain can also be fooled and lulled into false conclusions about the music you like the more you listen. Essentially, the more you engage in the process, the less chance for new revelations and insight, until it all begins to sound the same. My advanced age, in what is a young dog's game, has placed me in the same box as my contemporaries - there is nothing new in pop music and what does pass for new are simply re-workings of old formulas and forms. Is my brain being tricked or do I have the age and experience to know what is really going on in today's marketplace? Sometimes, I feel like it is a Manichean struggle between these two forces and only on brief occasion does my brain offer a moment of clarity so that as I move through time I base my philosophical convictions on whatever clarity (or illusion) that my inner-self convinces me to move towards.

In hindsight, this is all part of my own ongoing evolution with music. And as I searched my feelings about the death of the media industry and the larger, overall economic decline internationally this past winter I came to the conclusion that it all has less to do with the greed and malfeasance we keep hearing about and everything to do with new generations intent on tearing the old forms of culure to the ground and starting over. My own empirical data tells me that the ways music has been sold since the music union strikes of the Forties, when live music did it's best to kill the fledgling recording industry, has been suitable for the one-size-fits-all culture of the industrial revolution. Everything from education to energy has been managed in such a fashion, but now a new era is being ushered in, one of massive decentralization and what I see as the inevitable exhalting of the individual experience. This makes the current industry model not only obsolete but also irrelevant, so why bother holding on? Well, many young musicians want the same chance to build a fan base, back catalog, and bank account that their predecesors had and that ain't a guarantee (as if it ever was) in this new industry. I feel for them, but also realize that the millions of bits of data comprising the huge reserves of music found on most youngster's iPods doesn't equal the actual manhours spent developing and discovering those moments in time when they actually happened. This leads to stasis, which is where we are at right now. My old boss, Greg Shaw, wrote a brilliant essay shortly before his death in 2004 that didn't really see any way out under the current system of sales and distribution. I see hope and promise and spent my entire winter exploring many ideas and concepts. Most of that time was passed listening to music, a wide swath of it actually, and this is what I came up with in terms of a Top 25 list - if you are looking for any sort of underground music guidebooks.
I'll be back next month with a new list and more thoughts about the true value of music in an information rich society.

WINTER 2009/2010 Top 25 Albums
1. Fela Kuti-Fela: The Best Of the Black President 2xCD/DVD (Knitting Factory)
2. Mavis-S/T (!K7)
3. The Seven Fields Of Aphelion-Periphery (Graveface)
4. Cio D'or-Die Faser (Profile)
5. Bomb The Bass-Back To Light (!K7)
6. Martyn-Fabric 50 (Fabric)
7. Limaçon-Tarry Not (Thoughtless Music)
8. These New Puritans-Hidden (Domino)
9. Slacker-Start A New Life (Godlike & Electric)
10. Nickodemus-Sun People Remixed (ESL)
11. And.Id-Back To Back Vol. 4 2xCD (Mobilee)
12. Josh Wink-Banana Remixed & Peeled (Ovum)
13. John Digweed-Bedrock 11 3xCD (Bedrock)
14. Buraka Som Sistema-Fabriclive 49 (Fabric)
15. Tom Stephan-Nervous Nitelife (Nervous)
16. Pablo-Turntable Technology Pts. 1 & 2 (Soma)
17. Enola-Alone (Initial Cuts)
18. Indigo Compilation (Blaq)
19. Various-In The Christmas Groove (Strut)
20. Double Dub-Tales From The Dub (989Records)
21. The Penelope[s]-Pricelss Concrete Echoes (Citizen)
22. Dynas-The Apartment (BBE)
23. Okapi-Love Him (Illegal Art)
24.You Say Party! We Say Die!-XXXX (Paper Bag)
25. Dan Black -((un)) (A&M)

2.09.2010

Interview with Hidden Recording's Deepak Sharma

It's been awhile since I've updated the blog...
Hell, I am still working on a top albums of winter piece but can't seem to find enough good albums to fill the bill and am reluctant to post a list of albums I didn't like because there are plenty of those out there. However, I did get exciting about a recent interview I conducted with NYC based DJ Deepak Sharma of Hidden Records. Shameless self-promotion aside (Hidden is one of my PR clients), what I was struck by was Sharma's integrity, hard work, and insight. I'd venture to say we are cut from the same cloth but I hate to make those kinds of comparisons and will instead let this interview do the talking.

Your label has succeeded while everyone else around here has gone digital and moved to Europe. In this vacuum it seems as though Hidden has become your effort to play a role in the reshaping of the North American techno scene - but in this crazy anachronistic fashion. The label still presses vinyl, you use (gasp!) guitars in your productions, you are based in the States, and your recording partner lives in a small town in northwestern Germany. What does it take to reach this level of success, especially in such troubling times, and yet still maintain a certain level of independence and integrity.

You can really only control one thing and that's your effort. If you are truly in love with the music you want to share with the world, you will find a way to express yourself, regardless of economy and music trends. I think there is something very organic and natural about the rise of Hidden Recordings. Both Dieter and I don't belong to a larger record label, or have the benefit of being pushed by a larger DJ. We don't really have a 'look' that you see with some DJs. We have been slow, steady and deliberate knowing that to have a career in music you need to understand it's similar to running a marathon, not a sprint. We are very aware of what's going on in techno, but we don't feel pressure to veer our style to certain trends. Furthermore, a good gig here and there doesn't mean anything in the long-term, you need to continually push and become consistent - which is what people recognize about us now. What draws people to us is that our music has a very human touch to it, and like the name of the label, hidden intricacies in the tracks that not everyone hears, but the ones who do really connect with us. Besides the guitar sounds, we are known for our drums, and for them to be very powerful and good for the dance floor. But to some inexperienced ears, they don't pick up on this. Regarding vinyl, it's important because your label stands out from the crowd and garners more respect, whether that is fair or not. I also think its easier to play than CDs because you don't have to use a flashlight and thumb through a CD case.

You are about to release a full length at a time when naysayers are saying the minimal thing has gone stale. It's the age old question asked of artists-but what things do you hope to bring to the table and push the genre forward with in 2010?

The artist album is a reflection of the style within the catalog of music Hidden Recordings has released over the past years. You'll notice that it's been called everything from deep house, to electronica to techno to tech house. My point is I don't think Hidden Recordings has ever been pigeon-holed into only the minimal bucket and my hope is people will respect the fact that we aren't following any particular trends, but simply producing music we are feeling, regardless of the style. We love making music for all different times of the day and situations, whether it be club music or for the home. The artist album will have everything from softer sounding tracks with guitars to tracks we feel would move dance floors. What's extra special to us is we are now at at level where I can comfortably reach out to artists I've admired for years to complete a remix and add their touch to our music. I hope this album connect people with our sound and also learn about what we represent as a label. Iur contribution to the genre is too keep music fresh and innovative but still have that familiar underground sound, punch and vibe that we have all grown accustomed too.

There's a lot of people hating on the industry from top to bottom these days but the traditional formula has worked for you. Could it be clarity of vision and hard work is the revolution of the new decade? Tell me about your vision for the label and describe some of the long hrs and juggling involved in running a successful indie operation.

It's funny, I've been called the hardest working man in dance music by a few of my peers and to me, its not really 'hard' work, it's just tasks I have to complete to continue to tell the story of Hidden Recordings and myself, so its a necessity really. I simply believe that much is what are doing, and as important, how we are doing it is also as important, and worthy of sharing. For us it's been about the body of work, not who is hyping who and what the next biggest thing is. we have been fortunate as a label who has received a lot of press, but it's due to how we seem to be a throw-back to how business used to be done, or is done in other industries. It seems we are unique in our humble ways and how we've simply taken chances and people can connect with that story. We focus on our relationships in the industry and value what fans say. We don't hold grudges and have thick skins as not everyone is always so professional. our perspective is if we are going to get there, we will do it the right way. For us, we try to create a family atmosphere at the label where everyone knows their role and is excited about completing their tasks for the greater good of the label. There is a strict 'no asshole' policy. Additionally, i listen to others who work for the label and try to gain their input. Every week I at least speak to my team and Dieter and I chat regularly. It's a juggling act that is daunting between producing music, working on remixes, handling interviews, completing mixes for podcasts, finding new artists, and ensuring we are taking advantage of all of what social networking has to offer and keeping it updated. We have to be fully accessible and easy to understand. The big push in the future is trying to find artists who share this same vision and want to join our movement. My vision for the label has always been consistent: To be a platform for Dieter and I and like-minded artists to share their style, story, and sound with the world.

In what ways has the detail oriented nature of your old life as a promoter transferred into your life running a label?

It's taught me just that, not to overlook any details. I remember when i was a club promoter, I would swing by the bar to ensure there were enough lime cut up for the drinks. You have to be aware of everything and even the smallest tasks need taken seriously. In addition, I've always been a humble guy, and it reminded me thatI'd rather be humble and work hard than to try to cut corners and rise to stardom at the expense of others and my own integrity. The smallest accomplishment feels much better when you are satisfied with how you completed it. Similarly, the drink taste better with the lime, so take the extra time to cut it.

12.19.2009

Top 20 singles of 2009

If my choices for the top full lengths were informed by the professional need to cover as much ground as possible musically while strapped into a pair of headphones, then my singles choices this year represent a total about face. Everything here on this list is laser-focused into a gentle, late night deep house stew that is heavy on the melody. In comparisons to jocks in bigger cities my choices pale in comparison, but this isn't a comparison game (thankfully) and I can only like what I like (and use as a DJ). What I did like were tracks that combined musical traditions, retro tinges like Tony Lionni's Italo pianos, and a hint of old school trance melodies (think Hardkiss Bros circa 1995, not anything else that's passed itself off as trance since) best exemplified by the Hardway Brothers' collaboration with Tal M. Klein. There was some minimal that caught my attention this year such as Symbio's "Berlin Dub" of his excellent release for San Francisco's Blipswitch Digital but most of that was supplanted by a new mutation of the genre that fused the best of South America's top rhythms around the Berlin/Bern/Paris mid-Continental juggernaut. All in all, I'd say 2009 was a great year for music. I got to drop some great tracks at some great parties and explored so many top shelf white labels that some times I felt overwhelmed by the pressure to keep up with them all but felt all the better for it by year's end.

1. Francisco Allendes & Felipe Venegas-Espiritu (Alexi Delano Rmx)
From the EP Espiritu on Kling Klong

2. Exercise One feat Argentis Brito-No News Today (Deadbeat Rmx)
From the single No News Today on Mobilee

3. Abe Duque-Tonight Is Your Answer (Vocal Version)
From the single Tonight Is Your Answer on Process

4. Stretch Silvester feat PJ Higgins-Faith (Shield Back To Love Dub)
From the single Faith on Rebirth

5. Candy Dealers-Street Delight (Johnny Fiasco's 18 Street Mix)
From the single Street Delight on Eight-Tracks

6. Kelli Hand-Are You Dreaming
From the EP Silent Answer on Acacia

7. Joel Mull & Sean Palm-Spice Market (Acid Circus Remix)
From the single Spice Market-Black Jack Remix Series on Railyard Recordings

8. Max Cavalerra-In Memory Of Violette
From the EP The Bigger, The Better on Broque

9. Djuma Soundsystem-Bipolar (dOP Morning Mix)
From the single Bipolar on Rebirth

10. Intrusion feat. Paul St. Hilaire - Little Angel
From the single Little Angel/A Night To Remember on Echospace

11. Tal M. Klein & the Hardway Brothers-Pegasus In The Dark
From the EP Magical Horses on Aniligital

12. Symbio-The Gasps & Fissures Parade (Berlin Dub)
From the single The Gasps & Fissures Parade on Blipswitch

13. Hell feat. Diddy-The DJ (Sis Remix)
From the single The DJ on Gigolo

14. Rift-Bottom Breathing (Ruoho Ruotsi Reshape)
From the single Bottom Breathing on Thoughtless Music

15. Oliver Ton-Hasta El Fin (Tony Lionni Rmx)
From the single Hasta El Fin on Gigolo

16. Bang Bang-Bikini Days (Original)
From the single Bikini Days on Eighth Dimension

17. Tony Lionni-Treat Me Right (Original)
From the single Treat Me Right on Freerange

18. Carl Taylor-Walk On By
From the compilation EP In The North on Dust Science Recordings

19. James Teej-Spending Life (Danny Fiddo & Affkt Remix)
From the single Spending Life on Rebirth

20. Richard Dinsdale-Boom Boom (Original club mix)
From the single Boom Boom on Leaders of the New School

12.14.2009

The second half of that top 40

Here's what I've been listening to more recently during my insanely hectic late fall/winter 2009:

Underworld vs The Misterons-Athens (!K7)
The concept behind this DJ mix is crate-digging and in the band's own words "to highlight records we thought had great live playing on them." Seminal joys from the early Seventies including Alice Coltrane, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Roxy Music appear alongside more modern classics. What's amazing is that the contemporary selections from Moodyman, Osunlade, and Laurent Garnier stand tall in comparison to those inscrutable old classics. The mix is not complete until Miroslav Vitous' "New York City" and the new Underworld/Brian Eno pairing "Beebop Hurry" make appearances-at that point Athens becomes one for the ages.

Pere Ubu-Long Live Pere Ubu! (Hearpen/Smog Veil)
The long-awaited return of my most favortists Seventies punk absurdists was a true gift this year as David Thomas and (new) co. unleash one of the most brilliant, mean spirited albums of the decade. I cannot stop listening to the piece of high art! Insanely great and totally visionary.

Various-Kitsune Maison Compilation 8 (Kitsune)
The Kitsune imprint seems to me to be rather polemic in outward appeances-either folks are lovers or haters of the tres chic French label. I find myself in the middle, being only so-so on the Eighties/indie inspired trash but gaga over Kitsune's unique take on techno-one that sounds fresh and unforced. This one definitely surpassed the role of guilty pleasure with some inspired tuneage.

Hawke-+++ (Eighth Dimension)
Three cheers for the return of San Francisco's Gavin Hardkiss on this loopy, fun & sun exploration into the heart of the groove. This guy says he only makes music to please himself, from the sound of things on +++, he must be the happiest guy on Earth.

Granlab-Industrial Romance (Broque)
Okay, so this is only an eight track maxi-EP (or mini-LP, depending on how you slice it) but damn if this release from Heiko Schwanz isn't one of minimal's finest moments this year. Simply put, Granlab offers a full course of musical offerings that including beautiful swatches of pastoral melody and deep, meaningful ambient techno.

Etienne Jaumet-Night Music (Versatile)

Jaumet is an old school indie rocker with a yearning desire to fight limitations and to continue ongoing musical conversation. First came Zombie Zombie and now a daring solo release (produced by Carl Craig, no less) that channels Albert Ayler's menancing sax drone into a laser focused No Wave techno experiment. There are few tracks (six in total) and all unfold like a Sun-Ra Arkestra experiment gone horribly wrong. Kudos to Versatile for having the balls to release something so uniquely original.

Helado Negro-Awe One (Asthmatic Kitty)
Roberto Carlos Lange aka Helado Negro's bio speaks of comparisons to Arto Lindsay and Mayo Thompson with hints of Savath & Savalas and Christian Marclay when describing his new album Awe One. Where I come from, you have to have some serious guts to make those kinds of comparisons and, to no amazement, Lange backs-up his fightin' words. Awe One is the kind of album that embraces the lo-fi aesthetic while still stretching out into the great beyond with a big basketful of memorable tunes. It's hard not to be moved by the lazy summertime party grooves that propel this charming piece of work.

Various-Nigeria 70 2xCD (Strut)
This seminal comp makes a re-mastered appearance at the end of the decade
to remind everyone just how raw and fiery "Funky Lagos" was in the early Seventies. The grooves, the tunes, the energy-everything about this re-issue is perfect.

Samuel L. Session-The Man With The Case (Be As One)
The Man With The Case makes a strong argument that many of Session’s competitors in the techno genre have forgotten the secret formula. Here, he lays down a credible collection of hard techno that isn't pedantic or anachronistic. Instead he introduces elements of new-fangled production advances and recent changes in taste without losing his distinctive style, a sacrifice many others in his field seem willing to make for more commercial gains. He also adds some diversity to what is a simple collection of dancefloor cuts, adding deeper and more expansive ones to balance against the typical crateful of dark, menacing kinds found on these types of albums. The results are best described as thoughtful and energetic with Session remaining true to his techno roots whereas so many others have not.

Will Saul-Balance 015 3xCD (EQ)
The newest installment of the Balance series from the grand wizard-like record slinger Will Saul is a bit of a comedown after Joris Voorn's legendary offering. Over three disks, Saul offers a lot of cool sounds and ideas but he seems better suited to a live environment as this one never really gets cooking or finds the right groove for the appropriate duration.

Modeselektor-Body Language Vol. 8 (Get Physical)

German bass duo Modeselektor return, although at this point the duo has worn out its welcome with me proving themselves to be more flash than substance. However, on the latest installment of the essential Body Language series these guys go off on some bazillion track mix that sounds like M.I.A. ransacking Berlin's Hard Wax record shop in search of the perfect beat.

Various-Thoughtless Music Vol. 4 (Thoughtless Music)
This fourth collection of tracks from the always consistent Thoughtless Music imprint outta Toronto is solid. The comp is filled with essential late nighters from Jamie Kidd, Signal Deluxe, Limaçon, and a host of other North American techno standouts.


Jega-Variance Pts. 1 + 2 (Planet Mu)
Bass and IDM terrorist Jega returns for his first new album in nine years. Once again he proves why he is one of the best electronic producers in the game with one side of killer chill tunes and the other a tasteful collection of his drill & bass filtered through current electro-acoustic trends on Variance Pts. 1 + 2. The results are deviously gorgeous.

Diarmaid O'Meara-Structured Noise (Gobsmacked)
Irish three deck techno standout O'Meara releases his debut full length of streetsweeper strength nastiness. Too hard to be Detroit techno and too deep to be hardstyle, O'Meara treads new ground with something hard & fast that doesn't suck.

Lindstrøm & Christabelle-Real Life Is No Cool(Feedelity/Smalltown Supersound
)
I really wanted to like this partnership more, some of Lindstrøm's ideas are solid and vocalist Christabelle has a nice set of pipes. But despite the tasrt Vangelis cover, this one quickly devolves into sub-Hall & Oates boogie rock with the requisite amount of Lindstrøm' deedle making this one nearly unbearable at times.

The Gaslamp Killer-All Killer (B-Music)
Three cheers for SoCal artist The Gaslamp Killer for wading into the B-Music crates and pulling out a very modern sounding rare groove mix from tons of obscure German novelty records. The results can get a party movin' but it's really recommended for hardcore vinyl junkies-who will get the greatest satisfaction with this one.

Wax Tailor-In The Mood For Life (Le Plan)
France's Wax Tailor returns with another album of cinematic boom-bap that sounds completely out of step with the times as if he stepped all the way back to 1995 to make this album. There is still good soulful ideas and a nostalgic twinge that propel this album beyond its innate desire to be mediocre, making it better than it probably should be all things considered.

Annie-Don't Stop (Totally/Smalltown Supersound)
I found the first album from Norway's Annie Lilia Berge Strand to be a completely charming collection of thrown together electroclash/indie sounds that sounded fun yet chaotic. The fun vibe is still here on her latest but too much of the chaos has been replaced by slick productions that call to min at best Stacey Q and at worst the whole stable of faceless teen pop acts on PWL back in the day. What seemed cool and edgy five years ago has been killed by the curse of professionalism. "Mo' money, mo' problems" indeed.

Various-The Vampires Of Dartmoor (B-Music)
B-Music strikes again with this awesome Halloween themed comp. While not as good as some of the label's other offerings, this one is still a hell of a lot of fun.

Tom Stephan-Nervous Nitelife (Nervous)
I just got this disk in the mail so it got added to the list as I am typing this so it probably deserves a higher position that #20 on this list. Old Superchumbo hisself delivers a truckload of sweaty, chest thumping peak hour bangers that sound more hit than miss. An excellent track selection and a decent old school vibe make this mix notable.