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Funny Dancing and Funky Techno

February 22, 2011

I feel it would be remiss of me not to report back on a few of musical highlights of the year so far, as well as a bit of timely reminiscing.

Lets start with last weekends surprise release of Radiohead’s new album, The King of Limbs. Not quite as generous as the pay-what-you-want In Rainbows, £6 for the mp3 download still seemed like a steal to me, so I was among the excited fans and unprepared journos who lapped it up last Friday. It had an immediate impact with me and I found myself repeating the admittedly short album several times throughout the afternoon. Sticking to electronic style that divided opinion with Kid A and reunited it again on the last album, there are lots of jittery drums, soothing synths and incomprehensible Yorke wailings. For me there’s no bad tracks among the eight released, and while I like the subtle changes and funny dancing on first single Lotus Flower, my particular favourites are the two which weave their together the best of the band’s beats, guitars and vocals – The frenetic Morning Mr Magpie and blissful Seperator – the latter being the first song in ages I’ve literally played again and again.

Some album releases that managed to slip by without trending on twitter or prompting live blogging – but deserve just as much fanfare – are the new LPs from Siriusmo, Cut Copy and Mogwai. I already intro-ed them all in the 2011 preview post last month, but just in case you need any more convincing, here are a few more reasons that you need to get your hands on these records:

Siriusmo’s Mosaik is the most entertaining dance music record I’ve heard in ages – the polar opposite of the cool, restrained minimalism of Isolee’s latest – full of fun and energy. Put out through Modeselektor’s Monkeytown label, they’ve got a wee album teaser up on their Soundcloud, while the site is also the place for this tidy little mix he stuck together last year. The album is full of highlights – I’m a big fan of Feed My Meat Machine and High Together – but to whet your whistle it’s got to be the stupendously super Nights Off.

The new Cut Copy album is similarly upbeat and entertaining, but uses a less electronic palette. The whole thing has a lovely, ramshackle jam-session sound to it, probably derived from the big old house they rented for the recording. Things range from the indie-pop of Alisa to proto-disco on Pharoh’s & Pyramids, and of course the 15-minute opus that is last track Sun God.

Everyone’s favourite weegie rockers Mogwai have delivered the goods again with Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. As is my want, I prefer the powerful instrumental numbers like White Noise and Death Rays, but the likes of lead single Mexican Grand Prix are still good value.

If you can’t be arsed clicking all these links then I’ve put all my favourites mentioned above, as well as a whole host of other brand new music, into a new 8tracks mix for your listening pleasure.

From bang up to date to way back when, something else I feel compelled to share is my refound love of a genre that burned brightly  at the start of the last decade. Back when calling something funky didn’t automatically associate it with the kind of dance music aimed at teenage girls, in those halcyon post-millennium years, house and techno went through something of a renaissance, with a great funky/chunky/bassy/techy sound evident in a spate of fine productions.

Chancing upon Umek‘s The Torture Chamber 2 on my hard drive a few weeks ago I was reminded of just how good techno can be when injected with some fun and funk, rather than the dull drudgery that seems to pervade the genre these days. Alongside Umek’s seminal mix stands the how-did-this-not-get-a-follow-up (I did ask him at Snowbombing and he said it didn’t sell enough copies) Imprint#1 by Justin Robertson, which treads the fine line between house and techno with such skill that it almost creates a whole new sound.

Between them there is a musical style that I haven’t really heard since, mores the pity. If you haven’t heard either of them then I implore you to get involved, and if they’re lurking around in your collection then dig them out and bang them on; you won’t regret it. Having said that – as with all techno – it’s all about the setting, so best to avoid listing through crappy speakers on a leisurely Sunday afternoon in favour of blasting it through a good system that hour before you go out on the town or on headphones during a slightly inebriated walk home from a work night out.

2001-03 was a great time for techno generally, I remember being introduced to it properly by a T in the Park Slam tent bill that boasted Josh Wink, Luke Slater, Laurent Garnier and the curators themselves. There were more great mixes to be had from all of the above in the forms of Slam’s Fabric 09, Dave Clarke’s World Service mixes, Garnier’s Excess Luggage and Luke Slater’s Fear and Loathing. But how about some of the tracks that defined the age?

Well obviously there’s several fine cuts from the two comps I’ve just waxed lyrical about. On Imprint there’s a couple of sections which perfectly display what I’m banging on about. They both feature one side of Gaetano Parisio‘s magnificent Chapter One EP mixed in the first instance into Phil Kieran‘s The Bomb, and later on segway-ing into the brilliant Cut’N’Paste by Jamie Anderson (whose similarly funky Vicious Circles features later on, but neither of which are anywhere to be found) and the utterly mental Cosa Caugat by Gary Martin.

the second Torture Chamber starts off with some fine examples of the kind of house/techno cross-overs that defined the time, Junior Sanchez and Christian Smith‘s Slave Beat, soon mixing into H-Foundation‘s mix of DJ Dan‘s Put That Record Back On and Mumps’ Mechanisms M; all funky house records with big techno basslines. There are several examples of the trend later in the mix, but I’ll let you discover them for yourself.

Other great examples of the sub-genre come from the daddy Dave Clarke, whose awesome mix of Midfield General‘s Coatnoise was only outdone by the Chicago inspired Compass.

And it’s worth mentioning Irish techno-don Phil Kieran, who followed up The Bomb with the brilliant Vitalian House/Chunka Funk EP, which couldn’t really be any more representative of the era in title or content.

Anyway, I could go on like this for ages, but I’ll stop now and let you get back to something more productive. I can completely understand those who don’t like techno – funky or otherwise – it can often be far to hard, fast and loud for most people; and from my experience there’s just not enough really good stuff around at the moment. But that’s no reason to be down on a once great genre – get your ears round my techno favourites mix and hope for better days.

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