The Spring Five
Ellen Allien-Boogybytes Vol. 4 (BPitch Control)(Germany)
Boogybytes is one of the best goodies that spring has delivered thus far. That's because Berliner Ellen Allien brings a sackful of stellar cuts to rock the disco. The mixing is a bit suspect with weird transitions and lots of quick mixes where long blends were needed but the tracks really shine through on this one. Allien's mix builds from minimal bird chirps courtesy of the Villalobos/Grateful Dead camp to sleazy bump and grind late night techno. So how does this mix differ from all the other major mixes from zee Germans that have been hitting our shores incessantly for the past six months built on the same formula? Allien loves melody and cherishes it even above a good groove. This is why I feel the mixing breaks down in places, and I also think that's why the indie rock kids have anointed her as one of the few electronic artists of any import (like they ever knew anything in the first place, but i digress...). Not surprisingly her own music and her label BPitch Control have followed the course of Cologne's Kompakt imprint -focusing on pop and crossover appeal rather than a specific direction or sound. With more mainstream audiences being courted concessions are made- "Liniendicke" makes for a great off-kilter mix opener while Little Dragon's "Twice" makes you feel like you got cheated out of a song on this all too brief as it is mix. Note to Allien: Poor man's Lamb is worth less than nothing here in America circa 2008. Melody dominates on tracks like "Christmas Fairytale", the hot "My Cube", and the Martin Buttrich remix of Friendly People's "Music Is Improper" but as much as Allien may be trying to assure her new legions of fans that she is getting way from the "thwoop" of the bass drum it's all over the place on Boogybytes. It is the undeniable and unescapable rhythms that drives this mix with an almost sexual tension as Allien the DJ struggles to balance the power of the beat (tension) against the angelic choirs of melody (release). That's what makes this disk a keeper.
Tom Middleton-Renaissance 3D 3xCD (Renaissance)(UK)
It's rare when I do these that I find myself seriously torn as to which disk should get the top pick of the week. At times like these I realize Dick Clark must have had a lonely job. On the opposite end of the scale from Ellen Allien's mix-which was criminally short-comes J*di Knight Tom Middleton's sprawling three disk monster. And even though Middleton's studio portion of this deluxe mix was a serious letdown I still felt myself wanting to give this legendary UK DJ and producer the top pick of the week but in the end relented and gave the nod to Ms. Allien. Why? One reason is that Middleton's last full length Lifetracks was disappointing in ways that Allien's upcoming full length SOOL will not be another is that I feel (whether I like it or not) that Allien represents the future while Middleton represents a well-established tradition. That being said, this is an excellent compilation and I would probably actually break down and spend the money on this one if I didn't get this as a promo. The club CD is an excellent house mix that combines the best of the new with the old and one of the best mixes of good vocal house cuts and darker late night techno that I have heard. Middleton includes a disk of studio material that beyond the remixes of the oft-heard singles he did as the Modwheel and a so-so Ulrich Schnauss remix the rest is just a whole lotta mid 90s "Northern Exposure" progressive UK house. To be honest I like that sound less and less as I get older and in my opinion the tracks on this disk have not aged well. Disk three takes Middleton back to the familiar territory of his 2002 The Sound of The Cosmos mix for Hooj (has it been that long?)-downtempo in all of it's shambling glory. This mix is the best of three with a track selection for the trainspotters. It is here that Middleton stakes his claim to DJ glory.
Oscar G-Innov8 (Nervous)(US)
Only complaint is that the tracks are too short and mixed together. Murk's Oscar G does what he does best on his new artist album for the revived Nervous imprint. We all know this guy can make seminal house music anthems in his sleep and that he can make the two worst tracks in the history of dance music sound good when he plays them. What we didn't know was that Oscar can write an amazingly good and simple pop hook even in the limiting context of house music. The Miami/Cuban influence is also there on tracks like the appropriately titled "Miami" giving Innov8 some much needed latin house fire as an antidote to all the euro-minimal from zee Germans. Too bad all of that good news got buried under a bunch of stuff we already new about the guy. He should have added three more tracks and let em play out so we can hear what's going on inside the mind of this talented hit maker.
Paul Harris & Dirty South feat Rudy-Better CD single(Toolroom)(UK)
Brand new one from Paul Harris (formerly of Dirty Vegas) and up & coming Aussie DJ/producer Dirty South that is definitely geared for the Australia/US market. Heavy on the rock & roll house with some obnoxious vocals courtesy of Rudy. This will have some definite appeal in places like Miami and Las Vegas but out West I couldn't get away with much more than the TV Rock remix. John Dahlback brings the Vegas while Cedric Gervais vibes Miami, both mixes are lifeless. Hard to recommend this one when I can be telling you to rush out and get the new Washmachine EP from Workidz on the same label.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre-My Bloody Underground (a)(UK)
It's been a long time since I have caught up with crazy ol Anton Newcombe and his flying circus known as The Brian Jonestown Massacre. I spent most the 90s helping to develop a band that was completely undevelopable and yet achieved a near mythic cult status amongst serious music listeners by capturing lightning in a bottle. After hearing what I thought were unmastered demos last summer for a new album from The Brian Jonestown Massacre I was curious to hear an actual release from Newcombe. Most of the other members of the circus have gone on to form other more successful groups including the Warlocks and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club so I was at least curious to hear what the dude could muster without the tutelage of Bomp! Records' Greg Shaw as well as his talented cast of side men. Sad to say those "rough" demos are the same album I got sent in the mail. Terrible song titles and aimlessly plodding songs which seem to be a weak-knee'd ghetto attempt at this lush layers of electronics achieved by My Bloody Valentine in the late 80s/early 90s that sound more like generica indie rock ala Pavement or Sonic Youth. No hooks, one of the group's mainstays, are to be found anywhere on this record. A sad, depressing mess that I guess will have to be filed in the section titled 1990s along with Nirvana and Mazzy Star.