Swayzak-Snowboarding In Argentina (Swayzak Industries)(UK)
Well I'll be jiggered if this here ain't a darn nice remastered version of Swayzak's debut album from way back in 1998. What's hard to believe is how much Snowboarding sounds like all of the mnml releases coming out right now. From Perlon to Dial the duo of James Taylor and David Brown practically wrote the book on most of it. To me this album sounds like a sketchbook of what Swayzak would cover on later and better albums. But to hear how forward thinking this little anomaly was over a decade ago and how well it has withstood the test of time is quite refreshing. It nearly restores my faith in underground dance music's chances of someday finding mainstream success.
Various-Nice & Nasty 15 (Nice & Nasty)(Ireland)
What better way to celebrate my Irish roots this past St. Patrick's Day than by listening to music made by my ancestral countrymen? It was quite a pleasing day and I was even spared having to eat any corned beef and cabbage-which is not nearly as delightful as it sounds. Hard to believe that Ireland's Nice & Nasty imprint has been around for fifteen years and yet that's what this compilation signifies . That's like five lifetimes in dance music and here they are still putting out quality techno every single month. It's been obvious in everything I've heard of Irish techno that they have deep admiration for Carl Craig and favor his more melodic strain of Detroit influenced techno. In recent releases by Rob Glennon, Terrence Dixon, and Orlando Voorn the label appears to really be focusing on a particular style or sound which to me has always been an issue with labels with diverse tastes. However, while that wide reaching focus on different styles may hinder the singles approach it seems to make for interesting full length material. 15 is all over the map touching on just about every genre of dance music while firing on all eight on cuts like "The Meter" and "Deep Tropical. But it is sheer diversity that makes this a compelling listen not the strength of any individual tracks. Here's to 15 more from these cats.
Pere Ubu-U-Men Live at Interstate Mall (Hearpen)(US)
This live album, most likely from 1978, is culled from the band's Modern Dance period. The band is still in a weird mutation phase somewhere btwn the David Thomas (aka Crocus Behemoth)/Allen Ravenstine art rock axis and the then recently deceased Peter Laughner gut punchier side. What you end up with is a sense of a band that is just like one famous rock critic said in describing the Ubus as a link between the 60s punk bands and the new wave without pretending the 70s didn't exist in between. Let's face it, the opener "Heart of Darkness" is exactly what the Doors would sound like if Ray Manzarek had gotten his way and made Iggy the band's new frontman after the fat old lizard king croaked. But even despite those creaky hippie comparisons the song still sounds great. The sound quality on this album is surprisingly okay for such a vintage live recording and truly captures what I have discovered is the schizophrenic nature of this band that has always puzzled me. By the sheer will of each player in this band (all phenomenal musicians-BTW) they were never quite sure whether they wanted to be the Dead Boys, Captain Beefheart, or just themselves. These neuroses were used to great effect on the band's second album Dub Housing-which I gushed about during last week's review session. But sadly, as all division does, the schizophrenia ate away at the band's primal instincts leading them down one dead end path after another for the remainder of their long (long) career. Good news for us is that in the digital age we can ignore all of those facts and figures and just zoom in on what might have (never) been.
Hell-Teufelswerk 2xCD (International Deejay Gigolo)(US)
Teufelswerk (devil's work) is the anticipated new album from International Deejay Gigolo chief and longtime German techno producer DJ Hell. In line with previous albums Munich Machine and NY Muscle, Teufelswerk combines Hell's ongoing love and fascination with the primitive Detroit/Chicago techno canon as evidenced on the Anthony Rother collaborations "Electronic Germany" and "Bodyfarm2". There is also a lot of familiar ground covered such as "I Prefer Women To Men Anyway" that are part of the sleazy Gigolo sound that he and long time production parters Mijk Van Diik and &Me have combed for over a decade. None of those tracks will change anyone's mind about Teufelswerk nor will the goofy but ultimately idiotic pairing with P. Diddy entitled "The DJ" either. What does make this album satisfying is the same thing that has always made the older-than-dirt Hell palatable even after all of these years-his ability to combine his deep love of vintage 70s underground music (Roxy Music, Hawkwind) with modern electronic dance music. Hell has the ability to take those elements and re-configure them into songs that not only don't suck but are very often remarkable, or at least interesting. Take the teaser single "The Angst Pts. 1 & 2", this composition takes elements of 80s shoegazer pop along with Popul Vuh's drumwork and thusly loads it up with sock drawers full of the most lush and amazing techno sounds I've heard in a long, long time. The track just reeks of the kind of cosmopolitan sophistication that people who wear better clothes than me are always on about. Perhaps this is due to Hell's recent production partnership with Peter Kruder of you-know-who, a duo known for its swaggering sophistimication. The two team up for magic a couple more times on the album. First on the rich and sensual Bryan Ferry contribution "U Can Dance" (ahh, the Roxy connection) as well as the album's closer "Silver Machine". If you've been reading this blog for awhile and haven't figured out that this Hawkwind classic is one of my seminal touchstones then you need to bow out of reading this review and go find some more cool mixes on this site to download instead. Billie Ray Martin's vocals allow her to add her own unique phrasing to the proto-punk cum space rock glitter fantasy giving it new meaning for a young crowd who never grew up with a young Lemmy barking out "Motorhead" while thumping the bass during the 'wind's salad days. That kind of committment to music resurrection alone makes me want to run up and shake Hell's hand but it also serves as a fitting conclusion for one of the year's more daring release.
Okay, this is supposed to be a double disk affair with a live disk rounding out the return of Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber's Tosca for their tenth album. However, all I got was the studio disk because y'all know I am journalist scum. Hassle is a fantastic album, I'd expect nothing less but it's just so hard to believe that Kruder & Dorfmeister have been apart for so long that Dorfmeister and Huber have now dropped ten Tosca albums. What's nice about this duo is that they've never really tried to change their dancefloor friendly downtempo approach. They continue to work within the same template album after album and yet each release always manages to yield fresh results. The twelve tracks on the studio portion of Hassle sound like they could have been outtakes from Suzuki but there is little else to strip the sheen from the sonic goldmind that Tosca continues to conjure album after album. The fact is these guys could make a hundred more albums like this and I doubt I'd ever get tired of listening.