Various-Buzzin Fly: 5 Golden Years In The Wilderness 3xCD (Buzzin Fly)(UK)
This excellent triple disk collection is a welcome shift away from the seemingly endless supply of proggy minimal that has been inundating my office and eardrums. Label head Ben Watt's post Everything But The Girl solo career has been an interesting one in that he has been very chameleon like-generally hopping on whatever flavor-of-the-month trend is currently sweeping the UK and yet he always tends to be involved with most enduring songs and artists of whatever genre he is passing through. The dude's actually been doing the dance music thing for quite sometime now, perhaps a decade with the label growing five years ago out of the successful Lazy Dog club nights with Jay Hannan and the companion Astralwerks (remember when they put out good music??) compilations. Like a fine wine, over time the label has developed into something sophisticated and special because of Watt's knack for having an ear for a good hook and some luscious pop sensibilities. That is what really distinguishes Buzzin Fly from say Defected while also helping to bring the squares back to dance music after they abandoned us earlier this decade in favor of generic retro-retread bands with awful names like the Strokes or was that Jet? F*ck, I can't remember. And sure there are some of those types of cheesy Defected influenced clunkers on disk one-subtitled "Up" but who's gonna argue with the Ame remix of "Insomnia" or the Radio Slave reworking of Mlle Caro & Franck Garcia's "Dead Souls" not to mention all of the work done by Justin Martin in behalf of the label? As I said earlier these tracks got folks talkin' about dance music again and it's because these tracks intersect a line somewhere between techno, house, progressive, and yes even radio-friendly pop. In some ways it reminds me of the trails being blazed by folks like Joris Voorn and Ellen Allien and that's nothing but a good thing.
Keep in mind this isn't just a pile of tracks thrown onto three disks in one of those typically awful label showcases which highlights the imprint's output to date for better or worse. Watt really takes the time to effort to add some care to the sequence of the tracks. Disk two entitled "Down" is a perfect example of this attention to detail which must certainly come from the years spent in the recording booth as a pop music producer. The second disk slows things down just a bit and stretches things out adding some space. This disk and a pair of headphones saved my life in Houston earlier this month and that's really what it was made for-home enjoyment. Dub house and an updated 80s new romantic vibe collide- and in the case of Barbo sounds like the album Johnny Marr should make with Spiritualized circa right now. You'll also hear it on the John Tejada remix of a Jimpster cut and on the the return of King Britt's techno project the Nova Dream Experience. Be sure also to give credit to Mlle Caro & Franck Garcia, who are really riding the crest of this melancholic song based techno-pop, as they not only are all over all three disks but have had a heavy hand in the signings of Ben Watt A&R man for the label. The third disk is called "Forward" and shows the future of the label not surprisingly fully invested in this new sound with new material from Barbo, a Kemistry remix of "Insomnia", and a new one from Gavin Herlihy-part of the fertile Irish techno scene I keep yapping about. I am sure this comp will be in the top five of my year end best list this is what 21st century dance music is all about.
Here's an exclusive free download too, cuz I'm feeling generous:
'Bottoms Up' (Unreleased Demo 2005)
u - friend
p - bluebottle
Argy-Focus On (Poker Flat)(Germany)
Remember my earlier statements about label showcases? Well normally that would hold true for an artist spotlight such as this one as well. How many times have we loved a single or two by an artist only to be horribly disappointed by their full length albums? I've actually lost count at this point. In Argy's defense he's riding high on the success of "Love Dose" and its memorable zipgun-peppered acid lines and this series also happens to be on Steve Bug's Poker Flat imprint-one of the most consistent labels on the planet over the past five years. It's nice to hear "Love Dose" again and it works better in the context of this mix than it did on Sven Vath's latest Cocoon Ibiza mix and also his remix of Ryo Murakami's "Down The Sky"- which showed up on Steve Bug's recent Fabric mix-is a welcome addition. However, most of this compilation is focused squarely on brand new as-yet unreleased music from Argy & friends with the majority of the tracks being exclusives to this disk. Accompanied by Jerome Sydenham, Argy shows off his Dennis Ferrer house touches-that is if Dennis was white and from Berlin while with Solomun he shows of his Basic Channel flourishes. There is really something for every kind of techno and minimal lover as Argy shows himself to be quite versatile all the while building a good compelling and listenable mix instead of just an outlet for his productions. That's what makes Focus On so good while all of the rest fail, Argy knows exactly what it takes to make people listen and dance and that's what it takes to be a great DJ and producer.
Unknown Instructors-His Master's Voice (Smog Veil)(US)
First off my apologies to both the label and my to my good friend Ilka for taking just over a year to finally review this. It's hard to find time to do rock n roll reviews for a dance music blog and this isn't just any old Tom Petty influenced jam band, UI is basically the house band for SST Records circa 1986 released by a distinguished descendent (Smog Veil) which may very well be the last great indie rock n roll label ala Bomp, Dischord, SST, etc. While there may have been some initial reservations about what Joe Baiza (Saccharine Trust), George Hurley (Minutemen), and Mike Watt (Minutemen, Stooges) are up to these days I was immediately drawn in by the addition of Pere Ubu' s David Thomas on three tracks along with Raymond Pettibone and Joe Carducci- it seemed like the lightning of the '80s DIY spirit was captured in a bottle without sounding cold and tired on His Master's Voice. That's one of the reasons this review has been so long coming, this is a release that has to be carefully examined much like a Pharoah Sanders or Charles Mingus record. Thomas' three contributions are uneven mostly because his vocals were recorded via the telephone due to his living in England these days. The tracks recall not only natural comparisons like Captain Beefheart Bat Chain Puller era but also the oddball boho Tom Waits like landscape that Thomas has carved out as the Ubu's lasting legacy and contribution to pop music. That is why I am glad that Smog Veil is putting out a Peter Laughner compilation as a bookend companion to remind folks that Pere Ubu once had some serious balls and were no doubt one of America's greatest bands ever. But I digress. The beauty of this disk is in the playing, Baiza I've seen play live hundreds of times and even shared an beer and a smoke or two with the guy only to end up like a gushing fan boy. Joe is a machine and plays guitar like a robot transcribing Ornette Coleman's horn skronk for guitar and then playing it. I never get tired of that mechanical spidery sound, easily one of the most distinctive guitar players of our time along with Nels Cline and Rowland S. Howard. Speaking of the Birthday Party, secret weapon vocalist Dan McGuire channels the literate side of Nick Cave circa Prayers On Fire along with the as-to-be-expected Ubu influences plus there is a huge Henry Rollins and Mark E. Smith edge to his venom which when it locks in with Watt and Hurley down in the engine room sounds less like a spoken word jazzbo album and more like a seething rock record. A lot of that has to do with Joe Carducci at the controls-the guy who made bands like Husker Du and the Misfits sound great-his return to the console is welcome here as he recalls the live and gritty sound legendary SST house producer Spot would wring out of each of his subjects way back when. At times, especially when Raymond Pettibone takes the mic on "Twing-Twang", it sounds just like Black Flag during their My War period with a heavy slice of Double Nickels On The Dime which is not surprising considering the players. Sorry it took so long for the review but certainly worth the wait, a rock record so good I'll review it on a dance music blog.
John Digweed-Transitions Vol. 4 (Renaissance)(UK)
Like clockwork very six mos. John Digweed releases a Transitions mix, as a sort of companion to his weekly radio show. The diversity on this series has been rather lackluster and nowhere near as good as his Fabric mix from 2005. However if you are expecting John Digweed and his late 90s Global Underground sound you will find little of that in the Transitions series. The focus nowadays is on the middle ground between progressive and techno. On the fourth volume Digweed decided to create a unique studio mix that could not be replicated live in a club. Here he digital weaves tracks together ala Richie Hawtin to create a unique mix sometimes carrying loops and elements from as many as four tracks. The tidy digital editing gives the mix a nice smooth flow and does allow Digweed to hammer even the weakest of tracks (and there are a lot of them) to maximum effect but it does allow him to fall into the late 90s trance trap and T4 unfortunately is pretty government issue in the way it builds, breaks, and concludes. That, unfortunately, is the least of T4's problems, mostly it's the tracks themselves and that isn't all necessarily Digweed's fault as many of his peers have also been stumbling in this dept. as of late. And like his peers' mixes this one mostly falls flat because tracks like "Mumbling Yeah" just aren't that great to begin with. Mediocrity leads to boredom and annoyance and that's where I am at with T4, about the only bright spot was that Digweed was able to include 21 tracks on to one ten track CD thus saving fans a boatload of cash. Let's hope this is a new trend that catches on.
Sasha-The emFire Collection: Mixed, Unmixed & Remixed 2xCD (Ultra)(US)
After wrapping up a recent American tour the overall fan feedback is that Sasha & Digweed are well out of their comfort zone and aren't really setting trends so much as following them. That is evident on this collection of remixes from Sasha's new emFire imprint which curiously opens with a disk filled with remixes rather than original material. The cadre of remixers are also not part of Sasha's "usual suspects" either but rather a ragtag collection of four of dance music's of-the-moment techno crowd-Slam, Audion, The Field, and Radio Slave. Each contributes an ambient mix and a dancefloor mix. The ambient mixes are aimless and irritating while the dancefloor mixes are just plain aimless. Matthew Dear's Audion remixes try hard to pump some life into "Park It In The Shade" but Radio Slave just falls flat on "Who Killed Sparky?". Slam's mixes of "Coma" are mediocre tech house while The Field turns in the only winner with a "disco" mix of "Mongoose" that closes disk one. Disk two contains exclusive Sasha emFire remixes of the same tracks, none very interesting and all very trancy. The worst is "Who KIlled Sparky?" which is just a blatant rip off of "The Sky Was Pink". The only real moment on this two disk collection is the 40 minute surf movie soundtrack Sasha composed that I am sure he included as filler material to pad disk two entitled "New Emissions Of Light & Sound". Like the best and floatiest parts of his previous Airdrawndagger release Sasha shows off his skills as a sound sculptor. However at the end of the day I am left puzzled as to whether Sasha wants to be a soundtrack composer or dancefloor DJ. He really doesn't succeed at either on this disappointing collection.
Here's a review of the S+D show recently in San Francisco that I thought was worth sharing. Thanks Owen!
"So yeah, the show was a lot like sasha's new tracks, well produced, sounded good, but nothing new really. Impressed as usual, but in no way blown away. Sasha has gotten really into this ear piercing wash of high pitch crash sounding thing that is very effective at building the energy, but he kept doing that same type thing, and it is an ableton trick so when the beat finally drops so does the energy. All in all, progtastic is the word we are looking for here. bomp be domp be domp be domp be be domp bomp.........It was cool to see both of them on stage but they obviously have almost no synergy, probably a product of them not getting along well personally? I think I have heard that somewhere, but it did not seem like they were really working together much, and were only on the stage together for the last twenty minutes. Before that they just traded off every twenty minutes or so."
Another of my readers, Erland, says:
"The sets are tight on this tour. Check out stories from the road, pictures, and videos at http://www.30daysontheroad.com."