Friday, July 29, 2005


Got an email from Kid Kameleon today informing/reminding (I really do not recall if I was cognizant of this...probably somewhere on some deep lizard-brain level) me that he is part of something also called Beat Research, spearheaded by DJ C and DJ Flack of Mashit. First off, no infringement should be implied on our parts; all respect to C and Flack. When yr excited to start a project and groping around in the dark for a name, you sometimes go for the first thing that comes to mind. (If hadn't already been taken, this would be a non-issue.)

But! He didn't seem to be too mad. In fact, apparently our baby steps waffle here has inspired them to go all Super Friends and form their own group blog, called, RiddimMethod, comprising:

Dj Flack
Kid Kameleon

IN ANY EVENT: if anyone above wants us to change the URL here, just holler and thy will be done. And again, all respect to mashit, beat research, and the post-toneburst diaspora.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

lifetime achievement award

just now starting to get my head around smagghe's fabric 23. give it a month, people will be going off, "best fabric disc since akufen!", or some equivalent nonsensical construction. you'll hear the following words quite a bit: dark, moody, acidic, gothy, synth, italo. you'll note that goes not so far towards explaining the gap between this unstoppable burner of a mix disc and smagghe's suck my deck! mix.

let's leave aside the juvenalia - how to kill the DJ is a "back to mine" with pretensions, death disco was so firmly fixated on the past it could've (should've?) come out on soul jazz. the difference smacks you in the face as soon as you put the disc in - great sick waves of undulating low-end. suck my deck promised "murder was the bass", but ultimately, it was a tease. aside from chelonis' crowd-pleasing "the rush" (sing it, robots: THE RRRRRUSH!) the bass was mostly missing. we got stiffed with prissy dx7 basslines or sawtooths filtered high up into midrange riffs.

for a sec, it looked like smagghe was out of step. as tim pointed out yesterday, just in time for summer everything's gone all thick and muggy. you've got isolee's squelch-gasmic "cardiology" remix, dub kult's subterannean groanings, booka shade's penchant for wobbly-boom. maybe it's the gradual-bleeding in of the gloppy'n'glutinous micro-crew (your areals and alter egos, especially) and their smeary sensibility. maybe it's a need to consolidate gains - when it's crunch time, when everyone smells a buck in the electro/micro/minimal, even billions-selling trance djs like howells and sasha and digweed, it's time to pull back to what you do.

but YOU KNOW ALL THIS, right? i'm just taking my shot at summing-up the electronic moment, and the electronic moment, as we all well know, is all about riffage. so who wins the lifetime achievement? NO, it's not vitalic. we're talking lifetime here. NO, not daft punk - though you're close! not marc acardiapane, not joey "speicher owes me money" beltram. the lifetime achievement award goes to...

cause i have my finger on the pulse of dance music, and that pulse is FLAT BEAT. cause unless you're a hardcore conneiseur of 16th note hihat you'll start to drift off every few minutes during fabric 23 - until, that is, those thick scuzzy two-note bass pulses come booming back. cause FLAT BEAT is one of the few 90s dance tracks that still blows up the indie disco / electrohouse dancefloor (the others are "around the world", "jump'n'shout" and ... uh ... "firestarter"?). cause the new sound of electrohouse is not clean-like-a-coke-mirror, it's hairy, funky, crunky, fig-shaped (big bottomed), lizard-brain grippin a fat hotdog with its lips business.

in lieu of acceptance speech (bear with me here) a few words on behalf of our nonverbal fuzzy buddy. what sort of oiseaux is he? no idea, though big servings of nasty faecal overstuffed foie gras seem to be crucial to the aesthetic. where did he come from? again, haven't the slightest. daft punk? well, perhaps out of deference to chicago OGs they seem to take their basslines in the form of 4/4 808 thump or sampladelic punchline. that said, the closest precedent may be the punk's "oh yeah", 2.5 minutes of 3rd-quarter OMG WTF that suggests a way out for producers stuck for a lack of rhythmic tricks: when in doubt, 'fro it out. pump that Monophonic Shit until there's nothing left but Smoking Tape. let's all make mistakes.

ps - the other hot "french touch" ticket for the winter is going to be The New French Glitchcore thing. y'know, Jackson, Choc Rock, TTC, France Copland and other shit. warp and planet mu and the rest of the IDM culture vultures are going to try to sell you on these guys like it's the second coming of the prefuse aesthetic. cause that's the sort of lame hegemony-tricks stale IDM labels like to play. like our aphex twin? you'll love our brothomstates and chris clark. be sure to grab some team shadetek and max tundra on the way out, k? but don't be fooled, yeah? you and i know that the goliath that casts it shadow over the overripe, messy, farty borderlands between electro, micro and glitch is three feet tall!!!!!!!!

Amen, My Brother

One of the big (unspoken) differences between "traditional" house and electrohouse/microhous is the presence of the Big Guy, our lord and savior (or someones), Jesus Christ. There is no analogue for Jesus in the Euro-house continuum. (Can you name even one major European house tune that features J-boogie?) Even the more "mystical" or "spiritual" house from the UK and the continent (your broken beats, your Jazzanovas) is content to opt for a kind of middling, deity-free spiritualism, a self-actualization poster set to music.

This is obviously because European Christianity lacks that (let's not be coy) Black evangelical edge-of-hysteria delivery that stretches back to Sylvester and disco and soul right down to Mahalia and Sister Rosetta and the Staples themselves. It's hard for me to imagine an Anglican hymn being set to that prostate thumping beat and it being the same. Just like there's no subsitute for going into the revival tent, there's no substitute for an ecstatic religious house record on the floor. Even when it's nothing special, there's something about that canned uplift that's just undeniable. Which is how you get records like Glen Lewis feat. Mojo and Bongani's (oh, those names!) "Life Everlasting (Dennis Ferrer Vocal Mix)".

This record isn't even that good. It starts with the kind of lush pads and synth sweeps that instantly win me over, the kind of thing this music can give you and nothing else can. It's got bongos, people. Bongos! (You keep wincing for a flute that never comes.) There's a very traditional (black) male vocal hymning the joys of love from above and a multitracked chorus extolling the everlasting life. You can not imagine James Murphy covering it. Nor can you imagine Black Strobe remixing it. It is completely unfashionable in almost every way. And that's even before the fake preacher monologue at the end. (And I'm not talking fire-and-brimstone preachin like Green Velvet's "The Preacher," either. I'm talkin we-are-gpnna-make-it-to-the-promised-land-if-we-just-believe.)

I am a lapsed Catholic-turned-agnositc. The only thing that keeps me from being an athiest is humility. There was never any tug between agony and ecstacy when I was growing up. It was just the agony. Church was not about singing and clapping and call-and-response unity. It was about hardwood pews with no cushions on the kneelers. It was about tuneless moaning in a montone that would make Lou Reed blush. It was about sin and rapped knuckles and "it'll fall off if you keep thinking those thoughts." So even though I am going to hell because I haven't been saved. And even though I am neither black nor hispanic nor gay and instead am white and male and middle-class and therefore afflicted with the kind of problems a lot of people would love to have. I still feel the pull. When I think about all those years devoted to religion, all I can think is that I got gyped. I still want that experience. And this stuff is still the closest I've ever gotten.
Everybody Must Get Stoned

My new favorite house record is Benny Blanko's 8 Ft. In The Air, released on Playhouse in 2004 to what I can only surmise was no press. There's only two mentions of it on ILM, one of which is a huge DJ Martian posting of that week's new releases at Forced Exposure. The other is Vahid's offhand recommendation that it's the best album Playhouse had released in the last 18 months. I didn't search for the number of Villalobos threads.

Even though I don't necessarily agree with him, I can understand Vahid's distrust/distate for the "Villalobos axis". It's abstracted "stoner house" into a kind of undancable autism. I grew to love (or at least respect) the last Villalobos record with him, find something to grasp in a track like "Miami" with its gnomic drum scrapings and powerfully physically bass that nonetheless lacks any kind of forward momentum. It's "listening house." I hestitate to call it IDM, but it's more like "electronic music drawing its pallette from house" than club music.

Villalobos is clearly a big draw on the club circuit (you know, when he can bother to shake himself out of his drug stupor and actually show up), and the sets I've heard have been very physical, very "big". (In one he drops M83's "Run Into Flowers" over a stomping house beat, not the Jackson clicking and popping remix, to transform it into the E anthem it always wanted to be.) But we're talking albums. And sometimes, even at home, I want a little something to bite into rather than just staring into space and goggling at those schools of scattering fish he seems to coax from his sampler.

The Blanko album is "micro-house" I guess, but it harkens back to the late 90's definition, all those early Motorbass records and Theo Parrish splitting the difference between tech- and deep-house. Pointilist jazz house. Big fat globs of Rhodes that have been rolled around in dirt and gravel. Dusty breaks. A raw, broken, bleary sound, that nonetheless oozes a fat, warm low-end. Moodymann rip-off business. Soul vocals instead of camp German spoken word. Gentle enough that you can play it as you go to bed as it is quietly physical enough that you can crank it up to drown out the air conditioner noise and dance around your living room, at least until your neighbors bang on the walls but fuck 'em, you're sick of their reggaeton and you're moving anyway.

Bearded Scandinavian Disco Revolutions!

Sometime ago on ILM on an LCD Soundsystem thread I remember growling "how much further can we take this macho-isation of disco? perhaps we can make disco into hard techno if we really try". The fact I am now writing a blog post about a disco record with men dressed up as boxers does not necessarily prove I was right to wonder, but I still think it's an interesting area.

Certainly post LCD Soundsystem and post-Murphy, as we now are by several years, there's a rapidly growing stoic respect for disco, in most electronic music circles. In a way it's offputting, when I jeered "perhaps we can make disco into hard techno if we really try" I was simply pointing out the dangers of removing the pop from dance music, the awful rockism that ensues, and the inevitably dull scenes and tunes.

At ground level as it were, there are more young guys I know than ever before asking about italo-disco, and hell even playing it. Robotnick is as big a draw in Dublin as anybody these days. I think for the electrohouse set today, knowing your italo is kind of considered a must, and I don't think it'll be long before EBM goes the same way. I do wonder to what extent this trend for studied retrospection was and is mirrored by those deep house fans who all like old soul and disco of the more organic variety, (I like to think of that as "loveboat disco" as opposed to say, "spaceship disco"!). I would speculate that revivalism is bigger now, in dance, than ever before, hardly a radically new idea, in fact it seems a general consensus has descended which says that "dance music" the genre really is beginning to set its ideologies and legends in stone, unashamedly.

It's fitting then (and fucking typical!), at this point in time, that a rock band like LCD Soundsystem should emerge as being prissy and precious about disco! I mean come on guys, you WEREN'T there in 1986 on that beach in Ibiza were you? If you were you sure kept your mouth shut for all these years. There's just something unsettling about the direction this reverence could take us in, for me. I mean do we really want house or disco conceptually, to one day become like "soul", in that crushing overbearing yuppy way? This is why the more vulgarity, childishness, disgusting sex drums and lack of Murphyist approaches to production in dancefloor music we have the better. I say more prolific artists and less auteurs. And I say all this having seen LCD deliver a scintillating liveset at Glastonbury, complete with a live band version of "Throw" by Paperclip People, a cover version which was inspiring on the day but really isn't in the context of this argument.

So the likes of Prins Thomas (above) and his cohort Hans Peter Lindstrom fit into this argument as the the actual desirable revival, they have a kooky wacky anonymity about them and they're not going to become rock's great new ego overnight, thank god. Also they may never release an album, nor will you have to read about whether they sound like the Fall or Talking Heads, no matter how popular they get. Aside from all this, their music is fantastic, they make wonky wacky disco, sometimes sounding like cosmic italo, and sometimes sounding like music you'd play to a classroom of kids for them to march to. And they're absolutely retro, but it's not an ostentatious jacket of retrospection with a million fucking badges on it, just a revival of a sound they like on some 1000 selling 12s with scrawny beardey dudes pretending to have boxing matches on the cover.

Isn't that real disco tradition?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Deep Forest

Two wondrous, gorgeous slices of angelic alien-disco that have been occupying my thoughts all through this half-year just gone: one is I:Cube’s “Vacuum Jackers” which you can find on Chicken Lips’ Clicks, Acid & Disco mix, which I don’t propose to talk about here except to acknowledge its greatness in passing. The other is Manhead’s “Doop (Reverso 68 Mix)”, which was the flip of a track a DJ at a record store played me in an attempt to lure me into a purchase (12 inch in question being Manhead’s The Italians E.P.). Said DJ was surprised when I showed more interest in this one: “Oh, that slow track, yeah that’s okay” he admitted somewhat dismissively, with an almost petulant edge to his voice.

Reverso 68 productions (and never mind Manhead; the remixers are the star here) do have a sort of lethargic, sluggish feel to them, not too far away from Metro Area or other neo-disco exponents in their anti-perspirant kick/handclap lassitude. But whereas this particular approach tends to signify a kind of anti-rave, pro-club elite refinement (and I say that with the recognition that this approach can often be a very productive one), Reverso 68 seem to be in tune with another sort of vibe: BALEARIC. Oh yeah, I know there’s not much difference between the two if we take “Balearic” to mean spinning Woodentops tracks for Paul Oakenfeld and his friends on a beach in Ibiza in 1986. But what I always got out of the idea of Balearic was that its eclecticism was sort of false or precarious: surely the point of it was that if the E was good enough it all sounded like house music anyway??

For me Balearic is shorthand for a special brand of dance music eclecticism, where the self-conscious diversity and obscurantism is somehow dissolved into a “don’t fight it, feel it” love of house as some sort of universal panacea, the beat that your heart makes. Think 808 State’s “fourth world” fusionism, or the multi-layered percussive prog of the better Hardkiss stuff. Actually “Doop (Reverso 68 Mix)” is quite close to both of those, if you imagine their lofty ambitions and simple techniques filtered through the last ten years of sound design. The layers of wobbly synth patterns and quavering cumulus clouds of simply indescribable squiggly sounds parade a production flair as nuanced as Isolee (whose remix of Recloose’s “Cardiology” is in a similar realm of deep forest beauty), while simultaneously creating a sense of humidity, a warm torpid heaviness that makes everything feel a little bit too bright, too intense. But Reverso 68 know how to keep it simple when they need to: halfway through the tune breaks down to just a simple kick/clap rhythm over an insistent bass pulse, like you’ve penetrated to the heart of the rainforest to find a sacred grove. Then a bustling hi-hat pattern drifts in, then some tense, clipped Chic guitar strumming and a stompy bongo, and then you’re off again into the deepest recesses of the jungle.

I had been wondering why the Doop remix was so familiar sounding to me, at least, beyond simply being the music I must have dreamt of in utero. Turns out it was included on Cassius’s nu french house Muzik magazine mix almost two years ago, a cd that became one of many casualties when I moved out of a share house at the time. This ruins all my plans to name this the house track of the year, but luckily Reverso 68 just remixed The Juan Maclean’s “Tito’s Way” into similarly smeary starlit fabulousness – capturing that exact same "walking along the beach with a pina colada… on Mars!! (ON ACID!!!)" kind of vibe, i.e. that same effortless ability to inspire breathless clichéd declarations from yours truly.

Now that they’ve gotten on a DFA 12 inch, there’s a small chance that Reverso 67 will get attention from people into that DFA sound, which is kinda what they’ve secretly been fuckin’ with all along – indeed this could easily have slotted onto that DFA Compilation #2 release alongside stuff like Black Leotard Front (and still would have been a peak track). Such exposure would be both nice and somewhat ironic, as it turns out the guys behind this project have formerly been deeply involved in Café Del Mar and other such bastions of tasteless tastefulness – and maybe it’s the amorphous values of languorous islander ambiance such projects espouse which gives their sound its uniqueness.

It would be easy to reject this stuff on that very basis, but I find that the opposite is the case: part of the enjoyment with this track is that Reverso 68 do tread so close to edge of transglobal bad taste – sashaying on the border between deep forest and Deep Forest – and so close to undermining the reflected glory of all the more palatable historical reference points you might care to draw – Arthur Russell? Liquid Liquid? Talking Heads circa Remain In Light? Partly as well because it’s an enjoyably counter-intuitive experience to witness this particular vibe emerging from within that large interzone we may as well call electro-house – the sound of a scene producing its conceptual opposite (to hear a more conventional mediation of electro-house and Café Del Mar, check their remix of Bent’s “Comin’ Back”, which sounds like Rex the Dog at an afternoon beach party). Mostly though it’s because this stuff makes me suspect that dance music has some unfinished business in the hippy-dippy department; that after almost half a decade of cocaine and haircuts, we might be ready for another dose of tanned skin and PLUR.

Monday, July 25, 2005

office politics

Plum Drank: heres what it should be called
Plum Drank: i like 100 bpm and up
Plum Drank: but not 'house is a feeling'
Plum Drank: HEY JESS
This is a group blog about dance music. The boundaries about what constitutes "dance music" are pretty fluid (hence our cheesy name), and though we are all amenable to the "anything you can dance to is dance music" line of reasoning, you will probably not be reading much about AC/DC or Vybz Kartel or Faith Evans. (I am resisting using a phrase like "post-acid house" because someone will eventually contradict it, but, at least in terms of the time frame, it's post-1985 all the way.) There may be mp3's from time to time, but let's not be greedy. We hope you enjoy it.