Our first top 5
In a better effort to serve you, my loyal readers and salivating publicists, I will begin reviewing ten CDs per week in two five review installments to keep things short and sweet. I am starting off with what I consider the five best new CDs I heard this summer. Love to hear your feedback...
Modeselektor-Happy Birthday (Bpitch Control)(Germany)
Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, the two wacky Germans in charge of Modeselektor, use terms like "eurocrunk", "continental grime", and "tech rap" to describe their music- which coincidently fits in perfectly with my own "crunk punk" tag describing this current surge of electronic booty noise. Anyways, not much too much to say with regards to a genre bearing a self-evident name like "crunk punk". It does, however, seem noteworthy that the Germans have taken away the soul from the American producers in the hip hop game replacing it with some sorta alien synthesized electro glitch soul. The dancefloors have responded with a frenzy and clever pirates of the frequencies like Timbaland are more than happy to repackage this neu-noise with some lackluster rap stars to create friendly American radio pabulum. But don't be fooled by any of those imitators, what makes Modeselektor scads better than your average hoard of 21st century nu-booty sleaze merchants is the duo's cheeky sense of humor and their willingness to cross genres. From techno to hip hop as well as a smidge of minimal, dubstep, and even pop (courtesy of guest spots from Radiohead's Thom Yorke and indie dance stars Maximo Park) Modeselektor do what ever is necessary to keep the party groovin all night long. The focus of Modeselektor's second album is the dance floor, kept fresh by hyper-inventive production styles allowing even the whitest of white dudes to feel safe gettin' his inner gangsta on.
Here's a cool interview with Modeselektor on the always great Tape blogsite:
Swayzak-Some Other Country (!K7)(US)
A new Swayzak release is definitely one of the musical highlights of summer 2007 and I know a lotta of people are getting excited about this one, their first since 2004's classic Loops From The Bergerie. Loops was an icy dark affair with elements of classic Bowie and Eno with more than a nod to Mancunians Joy Division. Many of the same fomulas from the UK duo's past successes have been duplicated on Some Other Country-Vocalist Richard Davis returns on the album's gem "No Said Goodbyes" and there is still a heavy debt being paid to the romantic gloom of groups like My Bloody Valentine and the aforementioned JD. However it's the little things that make all the difference on Swayzak's latest elpee including vocalist DJ Casey- who steals the show with the nordic Nico-induced narcosis on the achingly beautiful opener "Quiet Life" and the goofy but barbed edge saccharine of "Silent Luv" with it's venomous look at the unhappiness of young love. The rest of the album meanders in and out of stark minimalism and minor chorded pop bliss for a rich listener experience that will appeal to the headphone traveller and educated club junkie. The three year wait for this long player was well worth it proving that Loops was no fluke, Swayzak is for real.
Ewan Pearson-Fabric 35 (Fabric)(UK)
While Fabric is at the top of the heap in terms of DJ mix compilations, it's rare that even the mixes on Fabric are of as rare a quality as the newest from techno producer, remixer, writer, and DJ extraordinare Ewan Pearson. Once just an average techno producer working in variety of guises on imprints like Bosting and Soma, over the past five years Ewan Pearson has transformed himself into a real f*cking renaissance man in the world of dance music. On Fabric 35 he really wears his eclectic influences on the sleeve with visions of minimal, shoegazer, italo, and good old chunky tech house splattered on the side of a wildly careening lorry in some grimy Eastern European city. Pearson flirts with a romantic danger rarely found in the cuddle bunny world of dance music and in my opinion that's a good thing. It's all the loved out e-tards that ruined our techno in the first place and it's up to hard working cats like Ewan Pearson to ignite a new generation with some fresh templates and formulas and sexy danger seems like a pretty good direction. With cuts like Jahcoozi's "Ali McBills", "Bellhead" by Liquid Liquid (probably the best remix you will hear all year), and Samuel L Sessions and Paris The Black Fu teaming up for a Green Velvet soundalike entitled "Can You Relate" (with it's powerful lament -"Whatever happened to the techno?") at least you know this guy is sincere.
Von Sudenfed-Tromatic Reflexxions (Domino)(US)
In Domino's continuing domination plan of mashing-up indie rock with dance music culture may I present Von Sudenfed, who come on stronger than a packful of Franz Ferdinands and are the poster children of what I have affectionately termed "crunk punk". What makes Tromatic Reflexxions great isn't its modern dubstep approach to the Captain Beefheart style of deconstruction, which is totally fresh, it's the fact that VS is comprised of German post rockers Mouse On Mars and Mark E. Smith, lead shouter of the other seminal band from Manchester-The Fall. Smith sounds like vintage Trout Mask era Van Vliet while M.O.M. weave big blankets of sick bass and post clubber beats around the Captain, er, I mean while Mark spits stream-of-consciousness tales about flooding the club while superstar DJ Sven Vath pulls cheap rock star moves in the booth. Words can't describe what the CD does to your brain upon repeated listenings but lemme tell you it's a bit like those "this is your brain on drugs" adverts of the 1980s. Here's a video of "Fledermaus Can't Get Enough" for you to enjoy.
Chris Fortier-As Long As The Moment Exists (EQ)(Australia)
I would have loved to see the new Fortier come out on his own imprint of Fade instead of as a costly Aussie import but Chris does head back to the label (EQ) that brought him some serious love back in the '05 with his installment in the Balance mix series. While I enjoyed Balance 007 , I can't say I loved the first disk and I sure would love to hear Chris play an underground set of electro like on disk three the next time he comes through San Francisco (not bloody likely) but the Claro Intelecto remix of Vector Lovers' "Future In Plastic" on disk two showed a moody, musical side to Fortier beyond even what I've found on his own singles for Fade-something truly inspired. I always knew there was something deeper than his and Neil Kolo's superb reshaping of Delerium's horrible hit "Silence" under the Fade moniker and I have been waiting for Fortier's foray into the artist album for a long time. And how does As Long As The Moment Exists stand up? Well for starters, unlike many of the other big name jocks who have released artist albums recently this one doesn't suck. Why? Because he puts together a real album, not just radio friendly pop dance or a collection of singles being dressed up as an artist album. This album flows through a lot styles, sounds, and melodies showing a tremendous amount of Fortier's production style and versatility plus it rocks like a mofo. Best of all it fully embraces the futurism of minimal's collision with proggy house with a heavy nod to blips and bleeps and less on the steady kickdrum and bassline of years past. Unlike his contemporaries, Chris says good bye trance and hello techno showcasing that same sort of musical moodiness I found initially on "Future In Plastic" on nearly every track of his own album.