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.


Blogger vahid said...

hmm. tim are you being coy about doing your background research?

smarter-than-the-average bears know reverso 68 is one of the production projects of phil mison, resident dj at CAFE DEL MAR!

a brief look at this guy's production credits: appearences on ambient ibiza vol. 3, cafe del mar sunset, undiscovered ibiza 2, cafe del mar vol 5, ibiza chillout vol. 1, real ibiza vol. 4, Es Vive Ibiza! 2004, ibiza sun lounge, DJ magazine pres. Ibiza Traditions..., ibiza VII - set adrift and an inclusion on OG jose padilla's best of cafe del mar. whew!

5:42 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

"tasteless tastefulness" = ambient ibiza, cafe del mar, the Soundcolours mixes etc.

I should have used scare quotes as above actually, because "tasteless tastefulness" is a concept with only a tenuous link to reality.

11:04 PM  
Blogger vahid said...

ah crud! once again my close reading skills fail me! i guess i missed this crucial bit: the guys behind this project have formerly been deeply involved in Café Del Mar. still "deeply involved" doesn't quite get across the scope of this guy's, er, contributions to the dialectic.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Ha ha precisely the words I would have used... or is that the point?

1:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this description, because it's not just for dj's or people with a lot of knowledge of the sound.
The key words are "humidity", "ambient" and "tasteless tastefulness".

If you've heard someone like DJ Harvey play INXS's "need you tonight" in the moist middle of some of the underground euro beat tracks it actually grew out of, at a slow tempo, with sweaty smiling girls going crazy around you on a beach or in a basement, you will understand balearic.

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