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Autumnal Audio

October 29, 2011

It seems like a long time since I’ve written anything music related on here which means a backlog of albums, singles, mixes and interesting things has built up over the last few months. Thankfully bits of work for Resident Advisor and Data transmission have got me back into the swing of things. I was lucky enough to review the triumphant return of Modeselektor (Aziza’s pictures here) and interview the legend that is Dave Clarke.

Modeselektor in full day-glo flow

Aside from these opportunities I’ve also been consuming a fair bit of music recently and thought it was about time I share some of the things I’ve liked and disliked.

Let’s start with Dave Clarke‘s rightful entry into the Fabric complication catalogue. As the Paris The Black Fu chants on the Kenny Larking remix of the Marc Romboy song of the same name, this mix is dark n lovely. Dave ploughs his pummeling techno furrow with the quick-mixing panache he brings to his live sets, continually upping the ante every few tracks with an ever more devastating riff or bassline, before descending into some sinister industrial electro to finish. A similarly long-overdue Fabric mix was that of Kieran Hebden AKA Four Tet. I was really looking forward to this one given the standout year he had in 2010, but for me the mix was far to ethereal and never really got going like I hoped it would. The field recording of what is presumably club corridor noises provides a nice intro, but to have them break up the mix more than once just takes all the momentum out of things; I’m also getting pretty tired of his penchant for shitty two-step garage as well.

Another disappointment, although this time sadly less surprising, came in the form of the new DJ Shadow album; ‘The Less You Know The Better’. Actually, to be fair, it is a vast improvement on his last effort, which bemused critics and fans alike with its misadventures into hyphy-style hip hop. But, as one suspects may forever be the case, the his latest effort gets nowhere near the timeless classics ‘Entroducing’ and ‘The Private Press’. The new album has a more organic and guitar-driven sound, and on some tracks this works really well – ‘Border Crossing‘ has a great vitriolic riff running through it, ‘Stay the Course’  with Talib Kweli & Posdnuos recalls like the best of his Soulsides days and ‘I Gotta Rock‘ sounds like it would do exactly that live – but alas the rest of the record just sounds a poor impersonation of the good old days. Having said that, from the video below it looks like he’s still got it live and I quite fancy catching him when he comes back to London later in the year.

Probably the biggest pretender to his crown, RJD2, also has a new record out; although this one’s in collaboration with singer-songwriter Aaron Livingston under the Icebird alias. Again, the new album has a less sample-based sound, although rather than plundering the world of rock there are a myriad of bluesy, funky, psychedelic influences evident. Much like previous RJD2 albums, ‘The Abandoned Lullaby’ is nice to stick on of an afternoon pottering round the house; not too intrusive and full of his soulful grooves enhanced with Livingston’s warm vocals.

It seems to have been a pretty anaemic year for good guitar music this year, and to be honest new LPs from Noel Gallagher and long-time Oasis wannabes Kasabian haven’t really improved things. I didn’t even bother seeking out brother Liam’s solo efforts, but I’ve always had a lot more admiration for his elder (even with recent comments), so I gave his ‘High Flying Birds’ a few listens. The opening track is a lovely, sprawling slab of psychedelia, but from there it follows a steady downwards trajectory into the 60s rock nostalgia of late Oasis; aside from maybe the driving, chart-bound ‘What A Life’. After the initial promise of their debut album, Kasabian have always flattered to deceive, with subsequent releases only ever packing in a couple of ever more mainstream hits. ‘Velociraptor!’ doesn’t even really have a satisfactory lead single as far as I’m concerned; ‘Days Are Forgotten’ just doesn’t cut it for me. ‘Switchblade Smiles‘ is a filthy beast of a song, but I’d far prefer to listen to the instrumental version Match of the Day 2 have for their saturday round-up section, and the rest of the record just sounds like they’ve run out of ideas.

One more album getting lots of attention but not quite living up to the hype is the return Anthony Gonzales’ M83 project. Audaciously split over two CDs it’s supposed to pick up where 80s teen-tinged ‘Saturdays=Youth’ left off and be, in his own words, “mainly about dreams, how every one is different, how you dream differently when you’re a kid, a teenager, or an adult.” This broad scope is its downfall though, as a lot of songs try to do too many things at once rather than make the most of the extended format and get the best out of each idea. There are some notable exceptions like the suitably epic ‘Intro’ with Zola Jesus and the powerful ‘Midnight City’.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, because one of my favourite producers Gui Boratto has brought a bit of Brazilian sunshine to counter the long cold winter with his sensibly named third album; ‘III’. While it doesn’t quite have the standout singles of its predecessors – although the leaked EP of ‘The Drill‘ and ‘Stems From Hell‘ provide two of its best cuts – it is still full of his trademark deep basslines and precise synth melodies.  Another electronic album that has cheered me up as the nights draw in is Modeselektor‘s third ‘Monkeytown’. Having now seen it performed live I can attest to Gernot and Sebastian’s showmanship and sonic power, but it works equally well through speakers that aren’t taller than a fully grown man. Definitely their most accomplished work to date, the knack for seamless and complementary collaborations is never better, with Thom Yorke utilised on more than one occasion, alongside Antipop Consortium‘s acerbic rapping on ‘Humanized’ and Busdriver’s hilarious social commentary on ‘Pretentious Friends‘. Funnily enough though my favourite track is still the Flying Lotus-esque instrumental synth-hop opener ‘Blue Clouds’.

There are of course many other electronic music albums doing the rounds that are worthy of a mention, but as is the case whenever I start writing about music, this post is getting dangerously long; so I’ll keep these reviews to a sentence or two each. First up is the brand spanking new one from electro-hop weirdos Spank Rock AKA Naeem Juwan (MC Spank Rock) and producer Alex Epton (XXXChange). The somewhat negatively titled ‘Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar’ is characteristically boisterous and much of it strays a bit too Miami-bass/Major Lazer for my liking, but it’s redeemed with tracks like the pleasantly restrained ‘Car Song’ with Santigold, the acid-stab booty-bounce of ‘Cool Shit‘ and surprisingly indie-sounding Boys Noize produced ‘Energy’.

Also very fresh is ‘Ghost People’ from Dutch dubstep don Martyn. Actually, to label him a dub step producer is akin to calling Stephen Fry an actor – both statements are true, but they’ve both branched out significantly over the years – and I just liked the alliteration. Anyway, his follow-up to 2009’s ‘Great Lengths’ is a glorious affair, from the glittering futurism of second track ‘Viper‘ all the way to unashamedly old-skool euphoria of last track ‘We Are You In The Future’. Don’t take my word for it though, Mixmag have very nicely got a stream of the whole shebang up on their Soundcloud.

After a seven-year wait Death in Vegas have finally come in from the cold to make fifth album ‘Trans-Love Energies’. Apparently it’s been gestating for quite a few years now, with Richard Fearless saying in a 2008 interview that it came from some re-scored surf films that were shown at The Barbican a few years ago, but needed to be properly mixed. It sounded pretty good to me on first inspection, I particularly liked the I Feel Love-esque vocal by Katie Stelmanis on ‘Your Loft My Acid‘.

It would appear that the good ship Ed Banger has been treading water for some time now, and a couple of recent leaks may well sink the once imperious label from view. First the talented DJ and producer DJ Mehdi tragically tested a plexiglass mezzanine to breaking point and left the label without its best proponent of forward thinking music, then the pivotal release of Justice‘s follow-up album confirmed that the label hasn’t really moved on from the sound that propelled them to the peak of hipster hype back in 2007. The death of Mehdi is of course a great loss to the dance music fraternity, I only saw him once, at the tail end of a Bugged Out! 15th birthday event, but his exuberant style kept me dancing long after my limbs were cooperating. Here’s a mix completed only a few weeks before his death displaying exactly that genre-hopping, party-rocking skill he had, and here’s a tribute mix that Ed Banger go-to-guy Feadz put together. As for ‘Audio, Video, Disco’ by the straggly looking ex-graphic designers Justice, it’s a pretty turgid affair really, as they’ve essentially just grafted some power-rock riffs onto the old formula. The best demonstration of the new sound is ‘Brianvision‘, but the rest of it really exposes a distinct lack of imagination. If you want to hear it for yourself, The NME are streaming it; kind of says it all really.

One record label that’s weathered such storms by making itself synonymous with quality rather than any passing genre fad is the mighty Soma. To celebrate 20 years in the game they’ve released a triple CD set with mixes from Slam and Silicone Soul, as well as a bonus classics comp. They’ve also been putting out remix packages of some of their biggest hits throughout the year, the Pan-Pot mix of Slam’s ‘Lifetime’s below is a particular favourite of mine. Talking of anniversaries, James Priestley and Giles Smith’s London-based after party staple secretsundaze turned 10 this year and they’ve also celebrated with a nice compilation charting their most memorable musical moments.

There are some more superb mixes out there on the interwebz that I feel I must share with you as well. How about a delightfully eclectic set from cosmic disco king Todd Terje (apparently his name’s a pun on cheesy U.S. house maestro Todd Terry; it’s all in the pronunciation according to my Norwegian source) or maybe a slightly back-dated but nonetheless sublime URB podcast mix from rising star Midland? If those don’t float your boat then why not try Hot Chip’s man with the midas touch Joe Goddard and his fine radiomix for DFA? and if you liked that then you should love his reworking of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs’ ‘Garden’. Another recent discovery that I’d like to share is Daniel Avery AKA Stopmakingme. He makes and plays the kind of dark and dirty house that has put him on bills beside his influences Any Weatherall, Ivan Smagghe and Erol Alkan; this set of sets on his Soundcloud should keep you going for a good few hours. Talking of Erol, he’s back with his BBC6 Music show and is posting the recordings up on his website so you don’t have to tune it at the right time to catch up on his excellent taste and gradually improving DJ patter. One more handy resource I came across recently, courtesy of a Radiohead session for their superb new remix album, is Boiler Room. It calls itself London’s seminal live AV music show, and having a look at some of their recent guests I’m not going to argue.

A few things to look forward to before I leave you. In an interview with the Clubbers Guide to New York James Holden dropped some good news; “Nathan Fake has just finished his album and its mind-blowing, like next level shit! Everyone’s got to go listen to it; do their homework! It’s quite humbling stuff really.” Another golden nugget is from the purveyors of one of last year’s finest records, The Black Keys. Their new album, El Camino, is out on the sixth of December and they’ve got a wonderful video for first single ‘Lonely Boy’ out on the youtubez for your viewing pleasure; as one commenter says “eat your heart out Thom Yorke“. Ninja Tune mixmaster DJ Food has his a new LP ‘The Search Engine’ coming on the 23rd of January; check out his latest contribution to the consistently excellent Solid Steel Radio Show to get a better idea of his greatness. I also just found out that shoegazing, ambient hero Ulrich Schnauss’ new solo album ‘A Long Way To Fall’ is expected next spring, while a joint album with Mark Peters called ‘Underrated Silence’ is coming out on Bureau in February. He’s also just joined Twitter and posted a few mix links. This one is from his appearance at Bestival’s Ambient Forest area and it starts out nice enough, but I’m not so sure how the trance’n’bass mayhem that then ensues would have gone down in a chill out tent. If you thought Trentemoller had got all the remixes and rarities out of his system with his Chronicles album in 2007 then think again because next month he’s releasing  ‘Reworked/Remixed‘; two CDs worth of what it say on the tin. The Roots have got a new concept album out on December 6th; it’s called ‘Undun’ and is “existential re-telling of the short life of Redford Stephens (1974-1999)”. They haven’t given a great deal of information on the deceased, but apparently the album will in reverse chronological order recount the story of this ‘boy on tha corner’ as his life becomes undun. For more details click here and listen to first single ‘Make My’ featuring Big K.I.R.T. here. Finally, the irrepressible Gold Panda (turns out his full name is actually Derwin Panda) has been commissioned to mix the next DJ-Kicks installment; out this weekend. Again, Mixmag have snapped up the chance to stream it in full, while he’s posted an exclusive cut from the mix, ‘An Iceberg Hurled Nothward Through Clouds’ on his on Soundcloud page.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Fordy permalink
    November 7, 2011 10:51 am

    links a plenty, excellent!,,got the Todd Terrje mix on the go just now…
    Agreed in the self indulgent M83 album, that was quite a disappointment.

  2. hugh permalink
    January 6, 2012 7:45 am

    dude, hope you get paid to write that stuff cos it would have taken freakin yonks to put it all together. now is mos def the time to be doing beats articles (know you’ve been doin em for a while) as the ‘explosion of EDM’ happens in the US. I might have missed it in there and hell, i dont even know if it was def 2011 but ‘The XX- Chrystalised [Edu Imbernon Remix]’ was a stonker for me last year. excellent remix of a classic.
    keep up the good work dude. hugh

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  1. silicone soul dj set @ soma sonar party, la terrrazza 2011 « My Mixed Reviews

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