Friday, November 28, 2003

Mixmag's latest idea for a photo shoot: 'Bongs & Thongs!'. While I'm getting all huffed up about this latest nadir (that's right; scantily clad... well, naked girls clutching enormous toking apparatus) I couldn't help but marvel at its moronic genius. Horribly mysoginistic, as well, of course...

Their covermount CD - 50 tracks from this year mixed up by the Freelance Hellraiser - is actually pretty damn cool and a really good way to remind you of all the music that's come out this year, moving thru Seelenluft, Goldfrapp, Photek, Mu, Tomcraft, Dave Clarke, Colder, Agoria, Andrea Doria, The Rapture, Gus Gus, ladytron and FC Kahuna with casual, tempo shifting verve (mixed in with loads of the other commercial crap with actually sounds a lot better here). Shame about the rest of the mag - loads of he usual pictures of sweaty near-naked people on pills which look like museum pieces from Gatecrasher in '98. I might start buying it more often again. ///

Further to somedisco's query as to whether Tufluv is a Birmingham City fan - God forbid. I am a Newcastle United fan and I've put a little link in to guide any faltering football followers onto the path of the True Faith. And before you start, I was born in the North East from a long lineage of black 'n' white - although as my accent suggests I am a naturalised suvverner. Supporting Newcastle is, of course, an altogether much more rough and ready relationship tinged with tragedy, farce and occasional euphoria than the smug, self-satisfied, soulless experience of following, say, Man United or Arsenal. And we won in Europe last night so today I'm fairly happy. Ha'way the Lads. (Apologies to any perplexed non soccer-literate Americans). ///

Thursday, November 27, 2003


UNKLE ‘IN A STATE’ (REMIXES) (ISLAND) Typically, UNKLE seem to have a lot of money to throw at their music, working as a kind of dance music Met Bar where the stars and trendy people pop in to shoot the breeze and get fucked up and maybe do vocal or a remix. This is perhaps the best tune from the somewhat bland and unremarkable ‘Never,Never,Land’ (I actually rate the much-maligned ‘Psyence Fiction’ a lot higher than most) and there are three separate twelves, hosting mixes from Sasha, Meat Katie, Head Gear and the DFA – one half of who, Tim Goldsworthy, used to be one third or a quarter of UNKLE. Their mix begins with a sweet – almost church-like but in a subtle way – organ line and crashing wave noises (really), before a wash of sweet girl-vocal harmonies breaks over it, giving way to a minimal bassline and percussive shuffle (with cowbells, of course), building up steadily, introducing fragments of Rich File’s vocal, weaving it amidst those girl harmonies creating a mist of dense, swirly, choral melody, adding jazz-funk synth squelches into a mix that threatens to become a little overegged – sounded like some stoned cosmic jam session following no particular direction – jazz fusion for the Shoreditch crowd, perhaps? Sasha’s mix keeps many of the original elements, including the ‘Tubular Bells’-style piano and acoustic guitar breakdown, and goes for a characteristically brooding, cloud-strewn progscape that sees a return to old-fashioned ideas of a remix; i.e., just doing enough. ///

Taking one of the more mediocre vocal tracks from the disappointing Ghost Cauldron album (they’re like a German version of UNKLE – a couple of great tracks and a lot of overblown fodder), Superpitcher first craft an ‘Ambient Skit’ mix, which manipulates the vocal texture into layers of spine-tingling chords, with a harmonic tenderness that bristles with emotion. Their ‘Smallville Mix’ then takes the vocal in its full original form and works an uptempo acousto-synth twilight groove, with the original’s keening Ry Cooder-style guitar working nicely with a trance-like, key-changing bassline. ///

KIKI & SILVERSURFER ‘WIREDUB’ (CROSSTOWN REBELS) What was a kooky minor trend has, it seems, become a ludicrous genre of itself. What I’m talking about here is the “shuffle” beat lately pimped by everyone from Cologne’s Kompakt label to T.Raumschmiere, Luke Slater and Goldfrapp who, by simply shifting the kickdrum onto the off-beat, have managed to come off with a techno version of Gary Glitter – not something to be overly encouraged and rarely as cheeky or catchy as when the KLF took it to number one all those years back. But this ain’t such a bad tune all said: a fat, swinging bassline vying with a dubwise saloon bar piano, sounding something like a kind of Rastafarian techno Western in platform shoes. There’s shades of Suzi Quatro’s ‘Can the Can’ and DHS’s ‘The House of God’ in there, too. ///

Classic-sounding fare despite not being on the Classic label that boasted the Schwarz brothers’ most striking releases to date – ‘Ghosttrack’ is not the echo-drenched, skeletal dub-house track you might expect but a playful, electro-y number full of tink-tonky synth sounds and blocs of synth colour arranged around supple, sinuous beats, with bizarre vocal snatches and a whole host of riffs and noises recalling everyone from the Yellow Magic Orchestra to Yello. Heads up for the Blackstrobe remix on the other side, which leads straight in with ravey analogue bass stabs, a robust beat and a C64 bleep-riff borrowed from Warp’s patented 1991 bleep generator. In the middle it all goes riffy and ravey mental. Good shit. ///

Another new/old-sounding record from Munich’s Gomma label courtesy of Headman, aka Rob Insinna from Zurich. Rocking that late-70s NY vibe for some time now (check the minor classic ‘It Rough’) he’s seen fit to plough on in the same vein despite the trendy frenzy for all things sparsely punk-funky. ‘So Then’ is a rock-dance crossover track with a supple, heavily-effected live bassline, arcane ping-pongy bleeps and clashing guitars, although the drums are muddy and pedestrian, the whole then being too much ‘then’ and not enough ‘now’ and yearns for drug thug vocal a la Shaun Ryder to fill the hole in its middle. ‘So Now’ changes little apart from adding some lacklustre congas and some handclaps – I got bored and took it of two thirds in. ///

Frenchman Fixmer has made it his life’s work to rehash the sounds of his beloved New Beat/EBM, a sound that seems to be perpetually enjoying a renaissance –although I know few people whose knowledge of it is any more than peripheral, and mine certainly isn’t. Its one of those ones where you’re like ‘Oh, Nitzer Ebb and Clock DVA and DAF and Einsturzende Neubaten are really influential’, but to actually call too mind a tune is impossible, because you don’t own any of their records and if you do you never listened to it more than once. It’s like Kraftwerk – nobody really sits at home listening to loads of Kraftwerk albums, do they? Well, maybe I have from time to time but only because I thought I should (I’m being honest!). ‘Cerveaux Sans Ames’ (it means ‘Brains Without Hearts’ – I just translated it on the internet – but maybe it should be ‘Bodies Without Hearts’?) is a grating, stomping tech thing with string stabs that sound decayed, a bass drum thump without mercy and growling, gnawing riffs that are like oily waves of static. These ominous, Teuton voices pop in and out – as if barking orders to the drones over a power station PA system, then an ugly, industro-metal-type guitar comes in, sounding likes its made of wrought iron with a bad case of metal fatigue. Its hard to find any funk even deep down within its fist-clenched monotony. ‘Peplum’ follows a similar route, with a kind of cyborg-Moroder chase theme runnin throughout, plus more of those disembodied vocals and the sounds of hydraulics and steam valves and factory klaxons in the background. ///

If you’ve been listening, the last couple of years have seen 4/4 dance music become fun again, Frenchman Agoria being one of a razored vanguard of gunslingers pumping their tunes full of nitro-neon seratonin-blazing powerlust. In essence, this strain of mutant electro-house/techno (not techno) has the in-yer-face melodic drama of trance only with a more acute sense of funk and subtlety. Agoria’s mix of ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ is full-on yet sinuous, surging with electricity yet never blowing its fuse; moulding blood-sizzling layers of arpeggiated synth lines into a slick dancefloor torpedo. It ebbs away to an almost ambient wash in the mid-section, dropping the original’s blues-saturated vocal (a touch of Moby, it’s true, but genuinely affecting) before rollicking back in. OK, not revolutionary – it resorts to age-old house formula of build and breakdown – but, for a few minutes, thrilling, rushing, zapping dance action. ///

As an entry level to broken beat, Seiji is a good place to start; he always keeps the emphasis on the ‘floor, bringing a drum & bass sensibility to the, well, drums and bass, and doesn’t wank off too much into noodleland. The drums on his remix sounds live – and may well be – rippling and rolling and stomping out sexy, syncopated rhythms that invoke snaky, hips-led dancing. The sub bass ducks and dives and weaves around the beats and does unpredictable things, as joyful African voices chant out the title over a constant quiver of handclaps and congas. ///

No, I don’t know who Kujay and Dada are either, but their ‘Bass Shaker Mix’ refashions the ‘Babes latest into a Big Room House Choon that has load of cavernous echo, panning jet plane fx and a stomach fluttering bassline that recalls Armand Van Helden’s remixes of old. Does the job, then. The original’s in that new Hugh Grant film with Tiffany off of EastEnders, you know. ///

Wasn’t I just talking about Nitzer Ebb? Techno guys love ‘em, and they seemed to be making techno (in the hard, riveted-down sense it became as opposed to the original Detroit sense) before it was called techno. They were from Colchester, not Belgium, and their tracks featured a lot of hard beats and shouting – maybe like a synth-pop derivative of ‘Oi!’, only with S&M connotations. Belfast’s Phil Kieran very much works it for the contemporary dancefloor, adding a big, wobbly, acidic bassline and heavy drums and keeping the shouting and noises that sound like sticks rattling along metal railings. The revitalised Mark ‘LFO’ Bell then has a crack, using a monolithic digeridoo-sounding bassline, icy, Kraftwerk-style bleep-squiggles and even more frosty chords, bringing a sense of foreboding whilst keeping it accessible and never wantonly abstract. It’s pretty badass, all told. ///

(UWE) Ellen Allien’s remix of the French duo combines whip-cracking, synapse-zapping electro beats with weird, slippery spin-back sounds and fat ‘80s syn-drum crashes – although the unwieldy guitars are a bit suspect. Console (aka Mario Thaler) turns in a cool, understated 4/4 mix that pares down to subtle bleeps, bass and a throaty vocal that goes “we are nothing”, before ending on a wave of melodic feedback. Nonchalant European tech-chic, without the frills. ///

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