Monday, April 30, 2012

Diary of Musical Thoughts Podcast Episode 9

"The production of coherent mixes was restricted by the large physical size of the components" - 85 minutes

This came about because I wanted to make a mix with a some of the music I bought last month in Berlin and a few more tracks from recent 2012 releases.  To make the mix flow properly (or at least, a little better), I dug through some CDs and mp3's for something to fill in the gaps, and slotted in tracks that for the most part I hadn't listened to in years.  

This mix is in many ways the inverse of DoMT Episode 3 (which I temporarily took down to make room for one).  This mix starts with the quieter stuff and builds toward beat-heavy techno, Episode 3 did the opposite.  And where "The Sun in Eclipse ..." was mostly bright and summer-y (even the quieter stuff was gentle and relaxing), "The Production of Coherent Mixes ..." is angry and dark (and even the beatless stuff ranges from unsettling drone ambience to balls-out noise).

Soundcloud link

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Redshape, DVS1 at Breakfast Club

Nothing against them, but it's about time we had a break from the usual Chicago and Detroit legends making the rounds.  This was billed as "Pure Dark Techno Night" and the music didn't disappoint, unfortunately, I may have been too exhausted to fully appreciate it.

On the way to the club we passed a man drinking a beer on a street corner who was wearing jeans, a plain white shirt, and a Redshape mask pulled up over his head.  I had just blabbed to friends about how nobody knows exactly who Redshape is and how he even wears a mask for his DJ appearances, the comedic timing of the whole thing was completely accidental. Of course the man on the corner wasn't Redshape, the real person had already begun his set.  Breakfast Club is a tiny place and they always put the DJ booth near the entrance, making it nearly physically impossible to squeeze your way in or out.  On the plus side, as soon as you descend the stairs and enter the club, you're immediately in the epicentre of the party.  And sure enough, there he was behind the decks, wearing the creepy, vacant, shiny red mask, with a posse of five dancing around him behind the decks and a couple hundred people on the floor of the club already going mad.  A couple dozen of them, both guys and girls, were wearing the same red masks too.  I assume Redshape brings these masks to all his DJ gigs, although I certainly wasn't aware of it.  It's as if everyone is invited to be him for the night, as if anyone can be Redshape.  It's like techno Spartacus.

His set was a hybrid of trance and minimal techno, basically a two hour long Redshape remix.  That pretty much sums up why I don't think much of Redshape on record, but there's no doubt this stuff really works in front of a live crowd.

DVS1 is much more my style -- bruising, dark, heavy techno from Detroit.  I was already wrecked about an hour into his set because fatigue and aerobic techno workouts don't mix.  Plus you could feel the exhaustion in the room after Redshape's set.  But all in all it was a great night, and I wouldn't mind a re-do.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Matt Elliott, "The Broken Man"; Spiritualized, "Sweet Heart Sweet Light"

Matt Elliott has an incredible talent for making time stand still with the brooding Eastern European folk epics on his solo albums, but never more so than on his newest, "The Broken Man".  He's never been so direct with this style of music either -- it's mostly just guitar and voice, with strings and piano making their occasional appearances.  There are no near silent bits or ambient interludes to fill out these tracks, although it wouldn't be a Matt Elliott album without the requisite ghostly wailing going on in the background.  But the background layering, when it appears, never overwhelms these tracks.  His voice has never been so upfront, or so filled with hopelessness and sadness, and his guitar playing has never been this intricate and alluring.  The fifth track offers the best window into the droning melancholy that made the Third Eye Foundation albums so essential, but even here the ghostly wailing takes a back seat to a solemn piano melody that wouldn't sound out of place soundtracking a biopic about a disturbed classical music genius.    

BTW, that fifth track is titled "If Anyone Tells Me 'It's Better To Have Loved and Lost Than Never to Have Loved at All', I Will Stab Them In the Face".  As if you needed another reason why this album is so great.


I heard most of the songs on the new Spiritualized album when I was overdosing on their music this past January.  They had premiered most of them during live shows and it quickly became clear to me that the new album was going to be something spectacular.  

"Sweet Heart Sweet Light" is released next week, and it doesn't disappoint.  For the time being it can be streamed via NPR (try here).  Like with Matt Elliott, Jason has usually been shy about putting his voice upfront as the star of his music.  He'd feature himself more prominently at the start of a song and then quickly hide himself behind a wall of feedback or a choir or something.  That's been gradually changing over the past few years, with a thread that runs through the amazing Acoustic Mainline shows and "Songs in A&E".  However, "Songs in A&E" stripped away nearly all of SPZ's jammy, improvisational tendencies.  Suddenly, SPZ were just another solo project by an increasingly ordinary-sounding confessional singer-songwriter.  Jason had forgotten how to jam it out, he'd forgotten what it was like to play with a band.  Of course this was no fault of his own -- he'd spent months in a hospital ward recovering from a disease that nearly killed him.  The music was still good but it finally feels like SPZ are back doing the things they're best at doing.  

I listen to the album and it makes perfect sense to hear that it was inspired by rehearsing and playing the "Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space" shows in '10.  This is what the follow up to "Let It Come Down" could have been -- the spaced-out gospel and weepy balladry of "LICD" combined with the VU-inspired drone rock and semi-improvisational feedback squalls of "LAGWAFIS".  

I'd been worried about the long term future of this band over the past couple of years, but "Sweet Heart Sweet Light" is a major return to form for Spiritualized.  

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Techno link roundup

The Guardian published an article about club closures in Berlin.  Is Berlin's run as the club capital of Europe coming to an end?  The clubbing boom in the city was in large part due to the sudden influx of cheap and abandoned properties after the fall of the Wall.  That had to come to an end eventually as the city becomes more and more gentrified.

Also from the Guardian, here is a list (with accompanying photos) of ten of the most "in demand" DJs in America. And to think, I laughed when Sean Combs said in an interview around 2004 that he was inspired by dancing in techno clubs, thought the music was the next big thing, and wanted to make a dance album of his own.  In retrospect, the surprise isn't that this music is breaking through, but that it took as long as it did.  The Neptunes/Timbaland wave of adventurous producers, who were clearly inspired by electronic music genres far removed from the nominal styles of the artists they were producing, broke through and dominated the pop charts over a decade ago.  Perhaps the record companies had to exhaust every other possible option (diva-dominated R&B, corporate indie and emo, etc.) and a generation of music fans had to come along who couldn't remember any of the negative connotations around raves and drug parties.

Dmitri Nasrallah wrote a cool overview/mini-history of Canadian Techno/House/Bass culture, focusing on the sea changes that have occurred over the past few years.  I'm still not sure how the rise of music distribution and publicity over the internet is connected to a supposedly healthier club scene, but maybe that's what happens when you move away from the city and lose touch with the club scene.  I made my exit around the peak of the   Berlin exodus, so the mentality of apathetic club goers and always finishing a distant runner up to other genres (hip hop, house, reggae + variants, etc.) is what's frozen in my mind.  Maybe electronic music doesn't come off as cold and calculating anymore, and you don't have to be embarrassed about buying the music, but how it this convincing people to tear themselves away from iTunes and hit the clubs?  Again, it's mostly due to the coming of age of a generation of people who don't remember anything about "illegal" raves, for whom dancing to techno or bass in a club is just a cool thing to do.