Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Most Ecstacy Soaked Recent German Records

To probe a potentially interesting topic raised by Tim, I think the most ecstacy soaked recent German record is the mighty Thomas/Mayer remix of "Welcome Back Kotter" by Tonetraeger. There's something magical about it for me, the huge mounting excitement and impermeable optimism, it reminds me of tracks like "The Future Is The Future" by Deep Dish, ones that were always really good while getting ready to go out but also amazing in club context. If ever you wanted to make a case for the quality of really pristine booming tech-house then this track would be the key piece of evidence.



Just that crackling buzzing beat in the intro, then those huge chiming synths, like cathedral bells that just keep on looping, and perhaps best of all the miniscule pause (after an eternity of the same loop) just before the bass drum eventually explodes back into life. An anthem!


"AND YOUR EARLY 90S TECHNO FEELINGS WILL NEVER DIE, ECSTACY WILL NEVER STOP WORKING FOR YOU, NOR DID YOU EVER DO ANYTHING EMBARASSING AT OSTGUT. WITH THIS RECORD YOU REMEMBER FONDLY A CERTAIN FEELINGS THAT WERE RIFE AMONG US ALL BACK IN THOSE WILD TRANSGRESSIVE DAYS. FOR MANY IT WAS NOT UNLIKE THE FINAL EPISODES OF "FRIENDS". TIP!"


Other nominations for most e-soaked recent German (or German style) records are surely welcome in the comments box. Perhaps a few other candidates to get the ball rolling.


M83-Run Into Flowers (Jackson Remix)
Le Dust Sucker-Mandate My Ass
Booka Shade-Mandarine Girl

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Moonbootica and the Rule of Law

The Moonbootica remix of Luomo’s “Tessio” is one I always return to with a sense of wonder: having had such a deep and abiding love for the original for so long, the fact of the remix having slowly but surely superceded it in my affections seems unreal, the product of some conjurer’s trick? How did they do it? And furthermore, how did they divine within Luomo’s gentle, labyrinthine torch song the makings of the paradigmatic electro-house stomper? For, let’s make no mistake about it, “Tessio (Moonbootica Remix)” is precisely that – electro-house’s ultimate distilment: the sexily syncopated house beat going to war with synth riffs as murderous and all-consuming as Black Strobe at their most extreme; a heartbreaking love story struggling to emerge from a groove of stentorian physicality.

Given their success so early in their career, it’s either surprising or fitting that since then Moonbootica have set about systematically failing to be the paradigmatic electro-house act. But what have they become instead?

On the “DJ’s Theme/Bulldog Beats” from early last year, the duo provided one potential answer: they would fly the flag for German house trying to be French house. “Bulldog Beats” in particular was a stunning advertisement for the potential of this identity crisis, marrying sharp synthetic spurs to the amniotic warmth of French house’s EQ dazzle. Along with Superpitcher’s remix of The MFA, it’s probably the most ecstasy-soaked record the German house scene has produced in recent years.

But, as much as I would have liked to hear more tracks in this vein, Moonbootica evidentally felt restless: judging from their subsequent output, I can only assume that they listened to “Bulldog Beats” and thought, “It’s just not… populist enough!” And since then they’ve decided on a number of ever-more lowbrow hats in a bid to distance themselves from German electro-house’s associations with refinement. Their remix of Planet Funk’s “The Switch” is neurotic chart-prog, drifting from widescreen atmospherics and whiny rock vocals to assaultive bleeps and a bizarre actual-prog-rock keyboard solo on what sounds like a harpsichord assembled from duplo. “June” is a breakdown masquerading as a track: syncopated (verging on 2-step) percussion, dirty live bass, echoing background sighs and an endless succession of hype-inducing morse code riffs diving into anthemic four-to-the-floor cruise control. “Mustang 86” switches between ruff’n’ready crunchy bass riffs and, bright, sparkling synth melodies that DJ Sammy would be proud of.

All of this is merely a prelude, though, to the aim-for-the-jugular feel of the duo’s DJ Sounds Good mix. I’ve said before that if Tiefschwarz are the Chemical Bros of electro-house (simultaneously popular and credible; so obsessed with dynamics that their tunes feel like show-off Olympic competitors), with this mix Moonbootica hold themselves out as the scene’s Fatboy Slim (esp. the Fatboy Slim of “Right Here, Right Now”), or even (more dubiously) its The Crystal Method.

DJ Sounds Good's unassuming party vibe has the paradoxical effect of making the record a grower: it's so relentlessly cheerful that it's easy to underestimate it at first, to smile bemusedly at each tacky hook without becoming deeply involved. But, as is frequently the case with such things, the tacky hooks conceal an often devastating capacity for groove science; or, more precisely, the tacky hooks are the groove science embodied, their zany populism itself a poisonous barb. There are few cheap tricks that don't make their way onto this record: not just big electro riffs, but also ostentatious bongo percussion, melodramatic diva wails, tense breakdowns, trance-like trebly keyboards, and lots of layered breakbeats.

If anything, it's precisely because Moonbootica and their producer friends recognise the physical effect of these hooks that they take on the veneer of tackiness: rather than attempt to create a sense of structural unity (let alone the appearance of actual songfulness), the "best bits" are deployed in often jarring succession, leaving the tracks sounding like the equivalent of trailers for Hollywood comedies (and if that sounds like a put-down, it's worth keeping in mind that such trailers are often far better than the films they advertise). But the precedent closer to home is early nineties dance music, italo-house, nu-beat, etc – at times I’m reminded of Black Box's "Ride On Time", Technotronic's "Pump Up The Jam", Sonz of a Loop Da Loop Era's "Far Out" and K-Klass's "Let Me Show You Love"… and yet this remains incontrovertibly an electro-house mix.

Every track seems to want to revive its own mercenary dance floor killer maneuver: Skai’s “Mir Geht’s Gut” marries a tic-toc breakbeat groove with a diva declaring “This is flirty music!” and bongos that sound like they were ripped from a Safri Duo record. Markus Gardeweg’s “25 Years” is ridiculous gay house, all sleazy electro burbles over which a falsetto male vocalist conflates a relationship with a loveless man with a jail sentence, pleading to be allowed to “go home and spend my life working on the land!” Groove Rebels’ “Loose Yourself” subjects its high-pitched female diva to a “Violently Happy” style cut-up, her “lose your life by my side” strobing over tense breakbeats. Best of all is Timo Di Roy’s “Don’t Stop”, whose spiraling synth riffs are EQ’d in and out with kamikaze-bomber destructive grace, and whose vocal hook (“the deeper your love and the higher emotion, DON’T STOP”) constantly haunts me with its meaningless addictiveness.

Moonbootica's own "Roll The Dice" is exemplary, and indeed takes proceedings to a logical conclusion: stealing liberally from The Flirts' "Passion" (all the bits Felix Da Housecat didn't use in "Silver Screen Shower Scene"), the duo splice the percolating italo-disco groove with a stuttering breakbeat and euro-rap chorus that is both repulsive and the awesomest thing ever (“what the fuck! We do rock!” is the least of its sins), before bringing back that oddly trancey synth break from “Passion” (surely one of the most forward-thinking tunes ever???) for a ridiculously overblown climax. At various points I half-expect to suddenly hear a saxaphone solo and whispered “Nineteen nineties…time for the Guru…” Even without it the result is a bit like the Bomfunk MCs crashing a Get Physical party.

Neither of Moonbootica’s other contributions go quite so far as “Roll The Dice”, but it nonetheless forms a sort of pinnacle to which they relate: “We 1, 2, Rock” (note the meaningless, superfluous-seeming pun in the title) is straightforward but melodramatic “mersh” electro-house, its big string riffs, clattering percussion and declaratory chant vocals reminiscent of The Eternals’ “Wrath of Zeus” (that cataclysmic apotheosis of delirious French house) but different in one crucial sense: “Wrath of Zeus” constituted an intensification of French house’s exceptional qualities, such that, despite the global permeation of the French house sound by the end of the last decade, it was impossible to imagine this track coming from anywhere other than France itself. “We 1, 2 Rock” by contrast could easily belong to that privileged jet-setting community of “mersh” electro-house tracks such as Paris Avenue’s “I Want You”, Midnight Star’s “Midas Touch” or Quesh’s “Candy Girl”: tracks which are neither culturally/geographically blank, nor entirely rooted in a particular sound or scene, but float instead, the supreme radio-play realization of formerly underground ideas and impulses (all of them, too, flaunt their hard-edged, brittle grooves as if they were an irresistible pop weapon; which they sort of are).

The challenge of enjoying Moonbootica is learning to appreciate their lack of romantic consistency, their cynical commercialism, their appalling lapses in taste, to see all these things as not merely regrettable-but-forgivable, but rather a core component of the peculiar enjoyment their work can provide. The challenge is to understand their multi-stylistic pluralism, which is decidedly not pluralism-in-theory: the properly groundbreaking and impliedly tasteful confluence of sonic techniques whose corollary in politics is multiculturalism-in-theory. The corollary of Moonbootica is globalization: an ignoble, unpredictable mish-mash of the universal and the particular which follows no particular ethic except that of a basic functional effectiveness.

I cannot claim to have fully reach this desired state of appreciation: my favourite Moonbootica moments tend to be their most (relatively) genteel efforts: the throbbing French sparkle of “Bulldog Beats”, the metallic churn of their 2003 remix of Karotte’s “As It Comes”, most of all the Luomo remix. The question then becomes: what do Moonbootica know that I don’t? Is there a masterplan as such behind their increasing trend towards prole enthusiasm – or is “prole enthusiasm” precisely the masterplan in effect?

Perhaps what forms a barrier to embracing Moonbootica wholeheartedly is the fact that their transgressions are conceived and presented as unproblematic, even unremarkable. For the very reason that nothing is forbidden, there is no “transgression” as such in their music, except a host of minor infractions of electro-house codes of tastefulness. This is a strength and weakness in equal measure: Moonbootica may be the exception to several rules, but they never ultimately acquire an ontological consistency as a rule in and of themselves.

This is a dialectical distinction: the only transgression which we recognize as being such is in the foundation of a new rule, one which overturns the previous existing order. An example of this in dance music is with regard to eclecticism: we only recognize an eclectic approach insofar as it achieves some underlying legislative consistency – the positive injunction “play what you like!” needs to be supported by an implicit “(but not that!)” to have any meaning. The eclecticism of the DFA, of 2 Many DJs and so on, is attractive to us only to that extent that it is not really all-embracing – when we enthuse about an artist playing “simply great music with no stylistic barriers” we also impliedly mean “they have pinpointed what should not be played with greater precision than anyone else!”

(Detour: perhaps, when we express disapproval over another’s taste in music, it is not the positive statements of taste but rather the existence of an unreadable bracketed subtext that threatens us. Far from deploring the uncontrolled anarchy of their listening habits, we are propelled by a fear of what underlies this apparent anarchy: a fear that, were we to live in their world, we would be ceaselessly harassed by an undecipherable, radically external (and thus totalitarian) rule of law, whose stern “not that!” would evade our powers of reason)

The curiousness of Moonbootica is that they resist being assigned any particular legislative quality: their lapses in taste never go quite so far as to become a concrete aesthetic we could rely on, which we could identify as marking them out as “important” – perhaps their problem is that they remain too tasteful, too much the Moonbootica of “Bulldog Beats” rather than “Roll the Dice”. There is as of yet no Rule of Law that is discernible in Moonbootica’s work, beyond that which they have inherited from “pure” electro-house, and which they continue to contravene in a host of minor offences.

When people complain about the ultra-restrictive stylistic dictates of electro-house, they are silent about Moonbootica. The boringly prosaic “real” reason for this is that they probably haven’t heard them (not being electro-house fans), but the deeper “truth” at work is that Moonbootica and their friends, for all their breakbeats and bad rapping and French house affectations, are merely the exception which proves the rule (the petty criminals who give shape to the Law as such), rather than the revolutionary founders of a new Law which said complainants might embrace wholeheartedly. Their exceptional status only gives shape to electro-house’s nominal protocol, and as merely unreliable followers they are officially designated as unexceptional. This makes writing about them an oddly difficult task: excessive hyperbole and words like “innovation” just feel wrong. But unless you’re someone who only flirts with lawmakers, this sense of inbetweenness, this misdemeanour-aesthetic, makes for very addictive listening.

Monday, August 15, 2005

cologne is approaching.



I'm heading to Cologne in less than two weeks for C/O Pop, a German "music conference" (basically a week-long party) that proved to be mighty last summer. As with last year, the Kompakt night (last year it was called the Kompakt 100 Festival; this year it's Kompakt Total 6 Night)--featuring live sets by Reinhard Voigt, Rex the Dog, and Justus Kohncke, plus DJ sets courtesy of Michael Mayer, Koze, Superpitcher, and more--looks like the highlight of the weekend. Last summer Triple R DJed at the Kompakt party, but this year he's running his own competing MBF Night at a different club, which will include, of course, Triple R on the decks plus live sets from Steve Barnes and Break 3000.

But good grief, there´s more. So much more.

As with last year, the real challenge of being a good C/O Pop ahem, "conference attendee" is stamina.

The next night--Saturday--it's all about choices, choices. So many choices. Last year the choice was clear: Saturday night belonged to Ada and the Areal party at Kunstwerk. But this year we not only have an Areal/Freude am Tanzen party (with Basteroid, Metope, Jan-Eric Kaiser, and the Wighnomy Bros.) but we ALSO have what looks to be a great Trapez party (with Dominik Eulberg, Triple R, and Alex Smoke.) Lest you get bored, there's also the Firm party, featuring Schaeben and Voss, Andre Kraml, and a whole lot more.

Now it's Sunday and you're totally fucking exhausted from having not slept for 48 hours. What better than to dance the day away under the sun with Ricardo Villalobos and Richie Hawtin in a children's park facing the lovely Rhine river? It lasts all day (and all night), and it's a wonderfully surreal endcap to three solid days of clubbing mayhem. Cologne, I raise my glass to you.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Bonus Beats (Read The Post Below Before You Read This)

I threw in the comments box for the post below after Vahid reminded me, but each of the Strictly Hardcore discs ends with an "ad" for other Strictly Hardcore comps. The one on Illegal Pirate Radio II is for Sonic Experience: Def Til Dawn, featuring (as Vahid discovered) "dictaphone recordings from illegal raves" (crowd noise, MC's hyping, someone talking about a judge pushing bakc a "court injunction") megamixed with various breakbeat hardcore tunes and capped off with a painful, twenty second blast of air horns and rave whistles (if you looped it, it'd be a Merzbow record). It sounds like the DJ Wrongspeed album ten years before the fact.

Strictly Hardcore Info mp3

I realize using the word "crap" repeatedly in the post below leads me into some very dodgy territory I potentially don't intend. This was hammered home by the tiny inscription on Illegal Pirate Radio II that "artwork by Scooter." You know, no one wants to read that something they poured their heart into (even half-assedly or on less than ideal equipment) is "crap" and they probably especially don't want to hear it used as a praise term. I am cursed with some conception of what "good" design entails (you know...Perlon sleeves, emo covers by guys who own a silkscreen machine and think they're Neville Brody, the aforementioned Wookie cover) and am applying really patronising "trash culture" aesthetics to this stuff. It deserves better than that.

But it's hard not to sound patronising when you're praising something for being "raw for the streets." Even though that's what this stuff was. Stray too far and you end up in rap blog territory, middle class white dudes praising crack dealing trap tales detailing the sort of mentality that's destroying lives as "the realest". It's times like this that so much of the music I love deals in the non-verbal. It's a cop-out - or at least an dodge - but one I can deal with. It's also easier to deal with an idealized drug culture from ten years ago which no longer exists, rather than, say, the current plague of crystal meth that's clear cutting right through the gay club scene.

And yet, and yet...the best rule of thumb remains that, when it comes to mixes and compilations of "street" dance scenes, the "cheesier" the cover, the better the record is likely to be. This applies as much to rap mixtapes as to reggaeton comps and dancehall yard recordings featuring dropped bottoms in barely restrained bikini sets. (Like that Bong-Ra mix with Junglist! in huge letters drapped over a giant butt shot baking in the summer sun.) Reggaeton and other latin street musics take this to the extreme, where even the stuff released under the banner of Universal or Sony looks like it was knocked out in someone's bedroom in a few hours on a cracked copy of Photoshop 4.0.

So I guess a better term (maybe?) might not be "real" so much as "honest." Reggaeton artists with access to that Sony and Universal money should be able to knock out "respectable" looking covers, right? So the only possible explanation is that, of course, this what they want their records to look like because this is what they and their audience want to see on a cover: thonged asses, pot leaves and E tablets, Puerto Rican and Dominican flags, skulls with backwards baseball caps, big fat guys in white tees holding pitbulls with Photoshopped glowing red eyeballs and their city skyline aflame.

And these covers are fun! Racism (or at least patronising behavior) rears up when you assume the people making these covers aren't also enjoying the silliness of their imagery, that they're not in on whatever "joke" you're ascribing to it because they also take their culture seriously. Unfortunately "we" (white folks, rock fans, aesthetes, whoeveer) also judge "seriousness" in the most shallow way possible: by the image. It's not necessarily a sign of encroaching debility when artiness creeps into design, but it defnitely signifies a shift in how the artist views themsleves, their audience, and their ambitions. Compare the covers of Daddy Yankee's Barrio Fino, the Wookie album, and Slim Thug's Already Platinum with releases by Baby Rasta y Gringo, Public Demand garage comps, or all those No Limit and Cash Money covers.

I have been thinking about this kind of thing a lot vis a vis moving to Baltimore. I can't say I know much, if anything, about Baltimore breakbeat, outside of the little bits I've heard of it in the last year or two. But having spent a lot of time driving around Baltimore in the last weekm while I still won't pretend to know much of anything about the city, it's starting to make a lot of sense at least on an instinctual level. The media - especially with its most well-known representations being The Wire and Homocide - would probably make a big play about urban blight, drug destruction (crystal meth use up 500% in the greater Bmore area according to Newsweek for whatever that's worth), and general social collapse.

And yeah, there are plenty of boarded up buildings, sketchy street corners, and hard looks from people. But there's also a lot of beauty, a lot of beauty in residual, non-gentrified neighborhoods, a lot of people who are happy to make it their home. Like Philly - which is further along in the gentrification game and thus has more neighborhoods where people breathe a sigh of "oh, a few years ago I was scared to go visit him up there" relief - there's a lot of working people, people hauling trash or driving buses or working fast food or running bodegas or operating their own little take out joints or working for the city. Drugs and crime may fix certain perameters of their lives, but they're not the defining narrative.

At the end of the day, dancing is still about blowing off steam, trying to flush the toxins built up during the work week (or on the grind) through sweating your ass off on the floor. It should hardly be inconcievable that sometimes people want a fast, rough, straightforward music that reflects (but not exacerbates) the conditions of their lives. Not everyone wants Theo Parrish and not everyone wants "Pop That Pussy", but sometimes, in my more delusional utopian moments, I still feel like the dancefloor is one of the few social spaces where boundaries can melt in the mix. That's probably the old taint of raving in my bloodstream; maybe current social and economic conditions do preclude it; maybe I'm just fooling myself that class, race, and status considerations can evaporate under the heat of a beat. But if I stopped believing it I might as well start going to indie rock shows again.

Friday, August 12, 2005

None Of That Commercial Bullshit

In Princeton today to see Maura, so of course I had to go to the Record Exchange. I left $17 poorer, not bad at all (could have been much more painful to my already bleeding wallet), but infinitely richer because of two "omg wtf" finds in the "Budget Electronica" (ha ha) section: Illegal Pirate Radio II & III on Strictly Hardcore/Underground records from picturesque Romford, Essex.

I don't even really want to review the music. (Which is easy, because I've barely digested half of it.) The packaging alone was worth the $1.99 for II and the $7.99 for the double-disc III. II has stuff like "In Effect", "Alright Wit Me", the original "London Someting", as well as no names like the amazingly monikered Mole The Dipper (?!) with "Eye of the Dinosour" (btw from here on out most of the mispellings in the titles and names should be pre-sic'd) and Hackney Hardcore (you know the score) with "Rave Scene '94" (which sounds more like rave scene '92 but who's counting?). So you know what's up: looped breaks just starting to be chopped up enough to be junglized, boombastic (more often than not sine wave) bass, retarded scratching, chipmunk voices, 303 acid noises, sound FX straight out of the Warner Bros playbook, and mentasms. III is broken up into one disc of jungle and one disc of "happy hardcore", which sounds mostly like regular old hardcore to me. The jungle half has stuff like Aphrodite's "Beat Booyaa" (TUNE), a fractured Steve Gurley remix of "The Sound of F.X." by (duh) F.X. (who is not, I don't think, Shy FX), and more unknowns like Sub Sequence with the artlessly masterful title of "Long Sex".

So, yeah, woo, more jungle. But the packaging...oh man. II is all black and white with a fuzzy skull and bones (complete with eyepatch) sporting headphones flanked by two turntables. The insert claims "Strictly Hardcore Records accepts no responsibility for speaker damage caused by this CD." Inside there are ads for other Strictly Hardcore comps, including Illegal Rave! The Compilation and Sonic Experience: Def Til Dawn ("The True Rave Scene") with (what I can only assume from the tiny reproduction) a badly painted cover shot of one of those hangar-sized outdoor raves. By III they could afford two colors, red and yellow. A grinning skull with yellow eyes and backwards red baseball cap leers from the front over, while a similar gurning noggin boggles on the back.

Apparently in the 12 month interim S.U. must have come up with some decent cash because the insert is hawking no less than 17 compilations, including two volumes of Jungle Soundclash and two volumes of Hardcore Junglistic Fever (featuring the Thundercats logo), Ravealation Live At Wembley (a keepsake memento of "The Best of this 11 Hour Event"), another two volumes of Illegal Rave, and something billing itself as Intelligent Drum & Bass (despite featuring the same shitty "graffitti" art and lettering as everything else) (everything else that wasn't done on an Apple IIe). I wish I could fully get across the charming crapness of it all without you actually holding the CD's in your hands, how this music which has been retroactively renovated as the Superfresh Art Pop Of The Future is housed in these ugly, mispelled, silly, pandering sleeves. (All that's missing are some pot leaves or tablets.)

They take a whole page to tell us how they were voted number one rave compilation label in the country but they cant even manage to print it straight, cropping a bunch of the words out. They tell us that "any poor sound quality is in the original recording supplied by each record label"...they mastered these things from 12"s! And yet, without wanting to get all misty eyed and indefensibly patronising vis a vis the "realness" of this crapness...it's kind of undeniable that this stuff does feel realer presented like this. Steve Gurley is shaken free from the cold dead hand of auteurism to sit alongside Slipmatt as Just Good Dance Music. Photek (as Studio Pressure) is on even footing with Mad Dog (?) whose "My God" - oozing noir menace with a restrained groove and without a hint of camp - is actually the better tune.

And that's the real lesson amongst the Crap Graphics Democracy of comps like these: canon building can't be avoided entirely. When the Manix and Code071 tunes appear, they are very audibly "better" than 90% of the other tracks, even without acknowledging the Godlike Genius of 4Hero. Ditto the Aphrodite tune on III. Even in a blind taste test you can distinguish cream from milk. But labels like Strictly Hardcore, consciously or not, don't allow producers who've developed a rep (especially here in the "future") to use that to mask a lack of flavor. The joy of these comps, the reason you keep one eye fixed on the used bins wherever you go, is the moment when a Mad Dog or a Hackney Hardcore stands tall (if not towers) next to yr 4Heros and Photeks.

The other dance record I snagged is from the exact opposite of the spectrum, the Wookie album from 2000. (Hey, it was $1.99.) These graphics are of course far more slick, with lots of sumptuous black and white (out of a sense of aesthetics rather than a money saver) photographs of the artiste (sporting a conspiciously visible diamond ring) and text that doesn't run off the page by accident. Wookie, like Photek, has taken a bit of a critical beating from the strictly hardcore contingent, and, like Mr. Parkes, his interview quotes, album graphics, and occasionally even the music itself has done a lot to foster that feeling of resentment. But it seems kind of unfair to me because this is at least 3/4ths of a good album. (Think of the Hidden Camera EP and less Modus Operandi.)

Maybe it's the fact that five years later I am much more comfortable with things like broken beat and downtempo. (Christ, say one or two nice things about Sa-Ra on your blog and suddenly you start getting every jazz remix comp released sent to you directly. "Time Sensetive Materials" my ass, Universal...your Telefon Tel Aviv remix of Oliver Nelson goes to the bottom of the pile.) (On the plus side I did get sent a copy of the new Spacek LP.) Maybe it's my mother's influence and all those Anita Baker and Luther records surfacing after years of screeching punk and crashing rap. But even the much derided "Battle" sounds okay to me. (From the vomitous reaction this provoked in some people I expected some ghastly, over-orchestrated soul boner, but instead I got a fairly restrained neo-soul song with some swinging, garagey snares.)

And of course "Scrappy" is probably in my top 10 garage tunes, like, ever. It is an object lesson in what good dance music is supposed to be, the drums and the bass in conversation with each other. It is positively teetering with little fills and catchy drum riffs. Like, say, "Renegade Snares," "Scrappy" is one of those records where you want to begin beatboxing the drums as the hook, rather than the barely there organ licks or the "cuh-cuh-cuh-come on" vocal. This sort of texture-rhythm-hook interchangability (texturhythm, to steal a word from Kodwo Eshun, himself a Wookie fan) is a sign of (musical) maturity, no doubt. It involves wanting to construct grooves, rather than simply provide propulsion (as on Illegal Pirate Radio II) or show off in a wildstyle uh style (as with many of the tracks on III, noticably the Aphrodite). "Scrappy" is minimal because it has extreme faith in its ability to do what it sets out to do. A lot of early hardcore is maximal because it's terrified of boring its audience. Both are pretty valid approaches. You just run a bigger risk of failing with the former, and get fewer skulls in backwards baseball caps to boot.

guten tag.

I thought it might be nice to introduce myself. My name is Geeta, and I'm the latest recruit for the mighty House is a Feeling. I have a blog called The Original Soundtrack. I used to live in New York City, but I've moved to Berlin for a while. Things I love about Berlin: Minimal techno and house music galore, beautiful clubs with good sound, cheap food, great public transportation, awesome art scene, raging nightlife. Thing I hate about Berlin: You can't find decent peanut butter anywhere in this city. There's this strange stuff called 'Erdnussmus American Style,' but it really doesn't compete with anything you could find in an average American supermarket.

Sascha Funke, Ewan Pearson, and Jacques Lu Cont are all spinning in this fine city tonight. Sadly, none of them have peanut butter. I think.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A mix, by me, for you

Just 33 minutes

Hope you all enjoy this. It's fairly poppy electrohouse with the odd dark bit. Be sure and comment if the link isn't working right. Here's a tracklist. I actually did this one by hand but don't think there are many mistakes, except one notably poor 10 seconds or so between Tiefschwarz and the Psychonauts!

1. Juan Maclean-Tito's Way (Reverso 68 Mix) (DFA)
2. The Glass-Hear The Music (Mylo Remix) (Plant)
3. Silver City-Another Dimension (Spirit Catcher Mix) (20/20 Vision)
4. Freeform Five-Electromagnetic (Tiefschwarz Dub) (Fine)
5. The Psychonauts-The World Keeps Turning (Highfish and Zander Remix) (Gigolo)
6. Michael Mayer-Heiden (Kompakt)
7. International Pony-Our House (Colombia)

Monday, August 08, 2005

AUGUST CATCH-UP TIPS PT. 1

DUMB UNIT/JEREMY P. CAULFIELD/WRECKROOM
DONT ALLOW THE AGREEABLE RIPPLES TO FOOL YOU. CANADIAN GUY CAULFIELD PLAYS FATAL MATCH OF VIDEO TABLE TENNIS AND WINS AGAIN. FINISH HIM! BREAK OUT THE COLEMAN AND TAKE OFF!

FLORA UND FAUNA/HUNDARNA FRAN SODER/NEMO
SENSORY JACKALS HUNDARNA MASSAGE FRAYED CRANIAL NERVES WITH THIS. NOT A DIRECT LIFT FROM DETTINGERS SMASHERFOLG BLOND 12" BUT RATHER CLOSE. GOOD WARMING UP.

GET PHYSICAL/CHELONIS R. JONES/VULTURES
CHELONIS WITH HARUM SCARUM ROCKWELL AND SEXUELLES HARASSMENT STYLE PARANOID MINIMALISM. QUIET BUT A LITTLE DISTURBING AS WELL. DONT FORGET TO WEAR YOUR HELMET.

SPECTRAL SOUND/HIEROGLYPHIC BEING/JE SUIS MUSIQUE
OSUNLADE INTERFACES WITH A TECHNO ANIMAL AND COMES OUT SOUNDING JUST LIKE JAMAL MOSS! THE NOSE CONE OF THIS AFRICAN WARHEAD WILL BEHEAD JOE CLAUSSELL.

3RD FLOOR/TRENTEMOELLER/KINK
MATHEW JONSON PERIL BOOGIE AND KIND OF CRO-ROBAG AFTER STARTING OFF WITH STEALTH HOVERING SLINGSHOT DRIVE. SOMETHING LIKE THIS GUYS 13TH STRAIGHT MONSTER TRACK.

KOMPAKT/SCARF/WOLFGANG VOIGT
YES ITS OUR MOST STYLISH TECHNO TCHOTCHKE AVAILABLE ONLY IN RED FOR NOW. CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE WOLFGANG ALIAS AND HE WILL SIGN IT FOR YOU FREE OF CHARGE. GLAD TIDINGS TO THE RUSTLING LEAVES OF AUTUMN.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

P.S.

How exciting is it (if you're me) to read in XLR8R this month (by cub reporter and phantom HIAF correspondant Phil Sherburne) that current tech-trance (be honest) poster-boy Mathew Jonson wants to "get back to his junglist roots," specifically the V/Metalheadz/Full Cycle axis. Take that Michael Mayer, you big snooty-puss.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The HIAF Rough Guide To: Micro-D&B

01. Eight Miles High – “Flow Chart” (Klang; 1996)
02. Tundra – “Sprouts (Omni Trio Remix)” (Offshore; 2005)
03. Ezekiel Honig – “Love Session (Graphic DnB Remix)” (Microcosm; 2004)
04. Sileni – “Twitchy Droid Leg” (Offshore; 2004)
05. Squarepusher – “Venus No. 17” (Warp; 2004)
06. Hidden Agenda – “Fish Eggs” (Reinforced; 1998)
07. Something Else – “Ploosh (Morgan Packard Remix)” (Microcosm; 2004)
08. Actual Proof – “Maybe We’ll Stay (Sileni Remix)” (Offshore; 2004)

Number one is, yes, that Eight Miles High, and the tune that kicked all this off for me. Number two has flickers of keyboard streaking by like cars from a hilltop, a fitting end to the Omni Trio name (if nothing like the stuff everyone reveres him for). Number three is Pantytec remxing “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” with added tape speed issues. Number four everyone knows by now (right?), alternate title: “Spastic Crunk Leg.” Number five is surprisingly focused, suprisingly rolling. Number six I have no idea where you’d play this, then or now (still weirdest d&b tune I have ever heard). Number seven spooks-out on an analogue tip. Number eight sounds squishy, reversed, alive (and vaguely like the Tunda Klap riddim), proof that there’s still life in the old two-step pattern with a textural palette expansion. If anyone knows of anything else in this vein, plz add to comments box as it will be greatly appreciated.

Friday, August 05, 2005

ritual damage

i heard some noises in the distance as i was leaving tower records tonight. stopped midway to my car in the parking lot. was that explosions? a moment later, it came to me: nightly fireworks at 9:45 pm, for the tourists at sea world. this sort of thing ... well, it's sort of fucked, cause sea world is just across the bay from the marine corps training depot, right? there's a war on, right? does anybody even think about this sort of thing? it reminded me of something an old man had said to me, earlier in the year, when i'd asked him if he enjoyed the 4th of july fireworks. "not really," he'd said, "these days they'll set 'em off over any old thing. when i was young it was ... special"

so as i was getting on the freeway i said to myself, fuck it, i'll do it tonight. i'll write about the urban tribe album. i'm in a state, won't be getting to sleep til 2 or 3 anyway. i'll blow off some steam, get sort of stupid. i was thinking of carl craig and juan atkins, taking solitary detroit freeway night drives soundtracked by e2e4 and radio activity. were those drives comforting? was the car like a glass and steel womb? the purr of the motor and the pulse of bass, was it maternal? were they insulated, but still connected, electricifying mojo tuning them into the city-wide network of nocturnal travelers?

this was not comforting. we have these huge freeway on-ramps where i live, big circular rollercoaster ramps that spin you around 270 degrees at a steep grade, like you're tilted on some fairground machine and the world is spinning around you at 80 mph. these expensive european cars i'll never be able to afford, they surround you on the freeway with these new school headlights that throw pixilated glare like digital projectors on the cars next to you. they have LED brake lights - if you have trouble with trails at night you'll see ghostly clusters of dots, strobing across your vision. i'd just had my car washed after letting it build a three-month coat of dirt (we had record rainfall up until may) and that just added to the whole videogame hyperreality of the thing. this was not comforting at all. i didn't want to be driving, traveling - i wanted to be home.

where does techno go, when it needs to turn inward?



when i was in college i was a bit more excited about dance music. i was a bit more excitable, in general, you know? bad little kids, doing bad little things. people, things, responsibilites tended to float in and out of my life, willy-nilly. around 96-99 my grip was getting positively slippery. with growth and rapid change, things were getting diffuse at the core. so i was glomming pretty firmly onto dance music. it was getting pretty diffuse out there, too, but you could see things happening. it was spreading, like an oil slick, like a cancer, metastasizing, throwing off new styles and scenes on a monthly basis. directions sketched out on remixes and split EPs and one-off tracks were quickly mapped out onto artist albums and label compilations. there was no shortage of things dance could be, no end of places dance could go. if you were paying close enough attention, you could see it happening.

i was keeping tabs on a lot of things from 96-99: reinforced / metalheadz, basic channel / chain reaction, japan's sublime records, emissions audio output, clear, tresor, warp / schematic. but more than anything, i was keeping tabs on mo'wax. say what you want - from 95 on to when the whole thing collapsed, lavelle was a positively visionary A&R. lavelle gets slammed, often, the perception being that he's more concerned with his role as tastemaker and networker than with the music. well, newsflash: pretty much everywhere except the producer-obsessed world of dance, that's how it works. and lavelle's leftfield techno dream-team of 96-99 (carl craig, kirk degiorgio, andrea parker, urban tribe, dj assault, mark broom, baby ford) is an object lesson on letting your fingers do the walking. i have no idea how it went down, but it may have been like this: nightmares on wax hooks lavelle up w/ warp records, who hooks him up w/ richie hawtin via hawtin's FUSE project. hawtin teams up with craig for la funk mob's breaking down boundaries, messing up heads EP. craig releases his innerzone orchestra EP on lavelle's label, introduces lavelle to buddy sherard ingram, ingram gets aboard lavelle's monolithic headz 2 comp w/ his fittingly-titled track "covert action".

hopefully, you'll forgive me for making such a fuss over sherard ingram, when i admit i didn't even notice him the first time i heard one of his tracks. there's quite a bit to take in over 4 cds. you've got UNKLE and luke vibert showing the shambolic, lo-fi way forward for the apres-garde andy votel / broadcast axis, ILS inventing nu-skool breaks on "the force", tortoise rendering themselves obsolete w/ "the source of uncertainty", photek's 13-minute dark tribal house "trilogy" forecasting digweed's 00s renaissance, peshay and degiorgio sketching the next 10 years of west london sound w/ "the real thing (90 bpm mix)" and "the counterpoint". and quite a bit of ye olde boom-bap-scratch-crackle-creak-hiss for the trip hop faithful. a few minutes of glitchy 909 breaks, plucked bass and muted, heat-hazy synths, coming late in the anticlimactic first disc, didn't make too heavy an impression on my already-soft brains. fast forward from spring of 96 to early winter 98. two and a half years on, down to my last $20-, just dumped by my girlfriend, about to flunk out of school, my pavlovian training is still in full enough effect that i grab this just because it's filed in the mo'wax section ...



the album cover resembles nothing so much as a warning sign. dangerous radiations within. quite appropriate, if you ask me. this album is a time capsule, a time machine, a time trap. just holding it in my hands, i feel myself drifting off in thought ... i'm flashing on other times and places ...

september 2004. after a thoroughly frustrating morning attending a graduate seminar - haven't got the proper vocabulary to follow the lecture, though i know the concepts front and back - i've lost my keys, so i decide to walk home along the beach. it's only about ten miles, right? the first half-hour, i'm cursing under my breath the whole way. by the first hour, as i gradually see fewer and fewer joggers, i'm decompressing. 90 minutes in, i'm between public beaches, on a long stretch of inaccessible beach beneath high sandstone cliffs, places i've never seen before, a little spooked by the desertion and the prehistoric plants. i round a corner, and there's this ... thing, something the ocean spit it up and left on the beach to dry. i can't tell if it's plant or animal. i can't tell if it was this color when it was alive or not. did it live on the surface, or deep beneath? for a minute, my problems, my thoughts, my self is forgotten as i wonder on a new, utterly vexing problem: ... if i try to tell somebody about this, will they know what i'm talking about?

sometime earlier. i'm rummaging through an old box of toys in the garage. towards the bottom i spy something that looks familiar. it's a tiny toy gun, an accessory to an action figure. i take it out of the box and hold it up to the light, overcome by sudden waves of emotion. it doesn't fit any of the figures. it's too big for star wars, too big for transformers. too big for any of my toys, too detailed. whose is this toy? where did it come from? perhaps it's an orphan, left behind when i threw away a toy i had outgrown. was it mine to begin with? did i steal it from a friend, out of jealousy? was it left behind by a playmate whose name and face i no longer remember? what is that lost thing that meant so much to me - and why can't i remember where i saw it before?



the back cover may be the most striking i've ever seen. you really have to hold the thing in your hands to appreciate its beauty. the text, laid down in gently oscillating font sizes, slowly approaches and recedes, carrying your eye in gentle loops around the glowing center, where a tiny, lovingly-screened white-on-yellow "mo wax" glows and shimmers with furtive life. is it a glowing sun, or the center of the atom? the resemblance to orreries and nuclear models is highly suggestive, at first, of a journey down one of techno's favorite freeways, towards the unpopulated spaces of its nth generation sci-fi imagination.

"nebula", the second track on the album (and the first to really grab you by the brain and twist), seems to bear this out. just as soft, pointillist synth tones begin to merge into something like a washed-out rhodes drone, huge bass pulses start quaking the speakers. is it this the b-flat hum of the black hole at the center of the perseus galaxy? more synth figures slowly enter: foggy oscillators bounces back and forth, a modulated sonar ping pounds out an icy vamp, bubbles of ARP gently burst over the whole thing. unhuman doesn't begin to do it justice - one reviewer (in the wire) compared its fragile beauty to a crystalline environment grown in a glass bubble. this is the beauty of a benevolent sublime, the beauty of an snowed-over landscape untrammeled by footprints, of looking out your window in the morning and seeing the neighborhood erased by fog, the eerie quiet after the ice storm and before the dawn. a few simple elements, effortlessly interweaving into breathtaking the depth - it all suggests something grown rather than composed.

are we verging on cliche? fine. you should all be grateful, you know, that i didn't drag fractals into this. you start talking about fractals, and before long, you're wandering into a truly inhuman landscape, the dessicated music-is-maths of current autechre and de9-era plastikman: the sound of sound-as-data, interacting with itself. this is not to say that's not interesting - often it's not, but hey - but that's emphatically NOT what's going on here. the first hint ought to be the roster on the back, crowded to the gills with names: anthony shakir, carl craig, kenny dixon jnr and the mysterious "m. king" (anybody?). even where sherard ingram gets sole production and writing credit (as on "nebula") craig and ingram show their hand with mixing credit, addl keyb, edits, etc (and on an album as stuffed with production minutiae as this one, that's not an insignificant credit).



ironic then, that for a team effort, so much of the album revolves around depopulated spaces of social relations. conventional wisdom runs that the "techno" in "techno" refers to the nonhuman or antihuman aspects of its twitchy machine rhythms (snicker!). "detroit techno", while it gets a sort of a free pass here as the accepted "soulful" variant of real techno, is still regarded as concerned with the posthuman possibilities of space travel and technology. urban tribe's collapse of modern culture is the gleaming tip of an iceberg, a third way for techno, the high point of intelligent techno practice based on an (ostensible) exporation of inward-looking and backward-looking social practice.

the feathery drums, vangelis-esque synth and elegaic repose of tracks like "at peace with concrete" and "decades of silicon" hark back to derrick may's "relics" and the black dog's obsession with classical artifacts ("kings of sparta", "the crete that crete made", and, oh, a million other tracks). the reggae-flavored caribbean lope of "low berth" ducks and weaves like a ship on stormy seas, grounding craig and ingram's composition (compare to late-period drexciya's sometimes unconvincing flights of fancy) much as classical asian tunings underpin ken ishii's avant-garde practice. what tracks like "sophistry","lap top", "transaction" and "cultural nimrod" lack in dynamic drum programming, they make up for in rapturous textures that invite contemplation and meditation, recalling the b12's "scriptures" and "silicone gardens", as one's "reflections" and "shambhala", steve pickton's optimistic dreams for stasis and inspiration.

this is not the techno of juan atkins and drexciya. we are not waging lonely imaginary war on the military industrial. we're not looking to hitch a ride out of this damaged cluster. we are already space travelers, the alien astronaut of kc flightt's planet e, landed on earth and looking back at ourselves through a distanced lens.

urban tribe differs sharply from this company, though, in the pervasive sense of unease that shoots through much of the album. the dreamy humanism of most UK techno and much detroit techno is as dated as the early blue note fusion albums, late silver age sci-fi (first hints of new wave creeping in, without the creepiness) and modernist architecture (saarinen & niemeyer & etc) that inform the aesthetic. while UK heads seemed to be thrilling over the possibilities of connection, of global chronological harmonisations of the likemind-ed, sherard ingram was finding roads that traveled, apparently, to nowhere.

"d2000" - the track most resembling a collabo track, with it's strong uptempo KDJ moodymann vibes - blends sampled party chatter into a thick layer of glutinous muck, while laidback house snares and hats clatter above. the euphoric, yeah, except towards the end the beat twists itself into an awkward corner, while the first figure of the sort-of-call-and-response string refrain goes unanswered, ending the track on a moody, unresolved note. the trick is reprised for the glossy surface of "daytime TV", a track formed from overlapping voices, echoing dub-spatially into unintelligibility (ed note: it is 2:45 AM - am i there yet?). in these cases, human relations are represented by an shifting and uncertain sonic surface.

my favourite tracks are the astounding "human genome project", "micro machines" and "social theorist". in the first, wildly phased breakbeats run like droplets of mercury, swarming together and merging into a buzzy pulse which threatens the poignant synth lines (so wispy and tenuous it's like it's evaporating off the speakers) the titular nanomachines of "micro machines" are represented by a busy whir and hum of tiny 909 hi-hat, which build in urgency and intensity, eventually overrunning the stoned tone poem ingram is plucking out on bass and keys. "social theorist" revolves around the dubbed-out clack of billiard balls, wandering around the soundstage over a muted murmuring. are we theorizing implacable cause-and-effect of newton's cradle, or hume's existential dread?



so, where are we? oh yeah, detroit techno's like, not just about things, it's about people, you know? and if collapse of modern culture was a person, he'd be a tall dark and handsome a mysterious, moody, difficult sort of dude. cause he's all about culture, and tribes, and the collapse thereof and so on. none of which would be all that impressive if he weren't a) so damn handsome and b) so damn right about everything that was going on. i'm not talking merely about the collapse of culture at large - which is what everybody is talking about all the time, sort of, in one way or another - but the collapse of detroit/intelligent techno, as a musical culture.

collapse of modern culture is pretty much the last great intelligent techno release. as such, it basically marks the end of the detroit tradition. at around this time, the major detroit players start to fade into the background. meanwhile the UK players move en masse into the west london broken beat sound, the continental europeans embrace stale drexciya-isms and fractured carl craig atmospherics. in each case, the impulse is to treat detroit techno as a sort of ready-made to be plundered. stalwart crews like UR are reduced to flogging the same rhythmic tricks to death ("vintage future", indeed!) or attempting to recapitulate old hits ("inspiration", "jaguar"). for awhile, the (not really) new school sound of theo parrish and kenny dixon captures everyone's attention. their sound is exciting enough, and well-crafted enough, to ignore the tough facts: KDJ and parrish have displaced one anxiety of influence with another. sensing an exhaustion of detroit's possibilities, they dip back into the well of soul and r&b, shoehorning these readymades into the awkwardly rigid (yet functional!) beat structures of detroit techno - to still-thrilling effect, i might add.

detroit techno, in 1998, had found itself in the same position jungle had a few years earlier. having worked on ferociously hard at perfected its conception of itself for years, it found it could go in anywhere it wanted to, except forward.

so where does techno go, when it needs to turn inward?



ritual damage - the practice of deliberately bending, smashing or otherwise damaging an object before it was offered to the gods was a widespread phenomenon in antiquity. it occurred in the classical world, where pots were broken in shrines, as for example at the sanctuary of hera at samos ... the idea seems to have been that by damaging an object ... the worshipper was consecrating it and rendering it appropriate as an offering to the powers of the supernatural

the interesting thing about this idea, and i've noted not too many texts make any mention of it (though i guess maybe it's obvious, or taken for granted in context) is the idea that the supernatural is not separate, but rather immanent in the world. so this is what you do. faced with the thought of making offerings before perfection, you stress your creation, smear it into haziness. the most successful artists working in the detroit idiom, post-detroit, have taken this to heart. the ann aimee label is a particularly good example. alex cortex didn't bother with naming the 24 tracks on his album, CiM's album, while nominally more approachable by the inclusion of track titles, traffics in the same sketchbook vibe, offering a wealth of 2-to-3 minute tracks that somehow transmute loose composition and unfinished edges into hazy, soft-focus perfection.

anyway.

this is like the term paper that refuses to die. i've ritually damaged my brain trying to pour out everything that is good about this album. tomorrow, i'll step back, add a postscript, and throw some mp3s at you, as a prize for reading.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

For Starters #01: Blaze


(Just Blaze, black and free -- with bonus white guys)

01. Blaze - "How Deep Is Your Love" (Life Line, 2001)
02. Blaze - "Lovelee Dae" (Playhouse, 1998)
03. Blaze Presents Sheila Slappy - "Love Comes Around" (Simplex, 1996)
04. Blaze Presents A Moment in Time - "So Thankful" (Shelter, 2002)
05. Blaze Presents The Ghost of Norman Harris - "Love Is the Message" (Love Line, 1993)
06. Blaze Presents Shelter Skelter - "Tell Me Something Good" (Wansel Wand, 1993)
07. Cassio Ware - "Baby Love" (Easy Street, 1992)
08. Blaze Presents Blaze - "Sweet Thing (Danny Krivit Re-Edit)" (Roc Meets Rambis, 1991)
09. Blaze Presents Cassioware f/ Sajaeda - "Fantasy" (Shelter, 1994)
10. Blaze - "If You Should Need a Friend" (Quark, 1987)

Actually, this is more like a guide to Blaze minus hand-percussion overloads. 01: A lot closer to Level 42 than the Bee Gees. 02: Only remotely like Bill Withers; brings great mists of purification as much as Pepe Bradock's "Deep Burnt." 03: Closer to Herb Alpert than Donald Byrd & 125th Street NYC. 04: Cynic kryptonite. 05: Exactly like MFSB. 06: More Upchurch/Tennyson than Rufus/Chaka. 07: Closer to Bernard Wright featuring Robert Owens than Diana Ross & the Supremes. 08: More Rufus/Chaka than Mary/Puffy. 09: More Loose Ends than Earth, Wind & Fire. 10: Jamie Principle after stalker rehab.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

From Me 2 U, or Eastern Europeans Really Luv Drumfunk

A ton of nu-d&b mixes most out in leftfield (Paradox features heavily, as he usually does). I can't vouch for most of them, having only been able to download a couple (cue tiny prehistoric bird running on wheel inside my computer: "eh, it's a living") but the tracklistings make me all covetous.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Headz Up

Though my heart will always belong to Reinforced, I am often tempted to say the greatest drum & bass label is Metalheadz. You cannot fuck with the first 27 or so Metalheadz releases. If you try to argue this with me, I will just give you The Eye and ask you to get off my premises. If you are not as married to the idea of drum & bass as simply a poorly EQ'd "Amen" and a "Sleng Teng" bassline, if you don't wholly disdain maturation into "drum & bass" (I go back and forth), then Hidden Agenda's "Get Carter" and "Dispatches EP", Doc Scott's "Unofficial Ghost" and "Drumz 95" and "Far Away", Adam F's "Metropolis", Optical's "To Shape The Future", Dillinja's "The Angels Fell" and "Jah Know Ya Big" and "Armored D", even "Pulp Fiction" - these are your anthems. (There is something to be said for growing up. I don't miss those zits at all.)

You all make fun of Goldie. I have seen your snickering faces and heard your hurtful words. Ingrates. Okay, fine. He does act a bit of the buffoon at times with his shitty movie roles, journalistic punch-ups, and prog ambitions. (He has never, to my knowledge, worn a cape.) But despite all those moments where his reach exceeds his grasp, he has never abandoned the scene. Metalheadz has been a strong - if intermittent - club presence in London since they formed. I like how Goldie is still responsible for what gets signed, not leaving it to his underlings. And despite both his and the label's name cache, they are still a resolutely underground operation. Hell, even Dischord advertises. Instead Metalheadz releases retain that hushed, word-of-mouth aura they had even at the beginning, allowing word to filter through the usual channels of specialist mag reviews and shop tipsheets, etc.

True, like most d&b labels these days it's a bit hit & miss. (I can probably name four perfectly curated labels at the moment, all of which have less than twenty releases under their belt. After 25 seems to be when it all goes a bit willy-nilly.) The best you can say about recent singles by Commix and Beta 2 is that they're decent DJ tools, which sounds like more of a diss than it really is. But the last 18 months have seen good-to-great singles by Amit, Bad Company, Outrage, Klute, and even Goldie himself. (Amazingly using the same "Terminator"-era sounds and timbres after more than a decade. The man likes his mentasms.) THe mid-tempo rumblist, throat-hugging frequencies of Amit's "Motherland" and the neon-streaked Shinjuku night train deepness of BC's "Bellini" (named after the Kids In The Hall character??) almost convince me. And then they go and release a record like Hive's "Krush," something as good as anything they've ever released, only in 2005 not 1995.

From those opening oooh, skycraping synths with orgasmic (in the "touched by a variety of religious experience" sense not the sexual one) male "ohhhh"s to the squealing trumpet spiraling upwards to the Organized Konfusion sample to the grinding mentasm breakdown and deftly (but not overly) chopped roll-out, this is worthy of anything in the Source Direct/Hidden Agenda era, but beefed up on the post-Bad Company workout plan. The drums really slam, but they also shake, rattle, and stop on a dime. And admit it, when those same nape-licking synths come in at the bridge, you love it, none--more-expected-none-more-effective. It's, for whatever it's worth, my fave d&b single of the year so far. I seriously don't think anyone can fuck with the Violence crew right now.

Speaking of which: other signs of life in the weird hinterlands between leftfield and mainstream. The definition of mainstream in d&b keeps getting pushed back on both sides, one towards really rote "liquid" (aka "disco-house @ 180bpm") and towards "dancefloor smashers" like the most recent Wickaman single, approaching such crazy, nuclear holocaust levles of droppage that they're gabba in all but name. It's probably a mark of both that and my own dropped defenses towards stuff that doesn't explicitly define itself as leftfield that I've been able to explore the catalogs of people like DJ Fresh and Pendulum. Both of whom have a ton to recommend of themselves. (If I ever get my Irish up, I'll finish my stalled love letter to Fresh.) Like weird breakdowns and tight percussion editing and strange bass frequencies, but delivered with a big, fat, cheesy rave hook aimed at the faithful boyracers on the floor. (Fresh is something like the Marc Acardipane of nu-d&b.) (This stuff is also so sparklingly produced it feels unnatural.)

The problem is that DJ's still mix this stuff as if the pitch control on their turntables were busted, soomthing out all the breakdowns, turning it into an xtreme sports soundtrack or maybe an Iowa meth lab. So, weirdly, individual tracks and albums (of all things) are the way to go. The recent label comp from Dylan and Technical Itch's Tech Freaks is storming neo-techstep, taking off from early Dom & Roland, No U Turn, and stuff like "The Unoffical Ghost". Though they chop up breaks, instead of Inperspective's endless edits, they punctuate a three or four bar loop with a flash of grainy snares or nasty kicks. (The difference is immediately apparent when the Paradox begins breaking beats across the bar line.) Even better is the new comp from the Violence crew, Keaton, Hive, and Gridlok (plus guests), Welcome To Violence. I'm gonna talk about this one more in this month's Pitchfork column, but it's farking great. Even the neurofunky tracks.

u r a doofus

I can never tell if Nick is making this shit up, but:

"I really hate when people call it dance music," says Safer. "It sounds like some dilettante shit, like 'He's kind of an arty guy.' My mind's searching for the synonym...footworthy? It's still footworthy."

i have a real post for later tonight.