I thought since my first entry reached so many folks that I would try to cobble out a feeble mission statement to help better explain why this column exists, as well as using it as an opportunity to distract readers from their busy workday.
Bottom line- I love electronic music from trippy new age to the current minimal house crazy-Steve Reich to Derrick May. I enjoy other styles of music but in ways that are mostly adjutant to electronic music (read: music I can pilfer source material from). This new music chart covers what I consider the twenty-five best CDs from the ridiculous pile of full lengths I get each month, not too mention DJ singles and MP3s. Unlike many lists dictated by the demands of publicists or magazine marketing departments these are new releases reflecting what I actually listen to, obsessively spend time seeking out, or that I get from my favorite DJs and producers. I want my journal entries to (hopefully) harkens back to the same emotions and qualities that real fanzines once did-real writers writing passionately about the music they really loved-novel concept, eh? I will always be a diehard fan at my root level and it was a generation of rock crits from Bangs, Kent, and Meltzer that once inspired me to discover the artists that would send me reeling. This column is the tariff I have levied upon myself to aid in repaying all of the talented people I have been influenced by, most of whom I’ve unabashedly stolen from at wholesale. So if anything here seems familiar to you it’s because I probably stole it from some other writer you actually liked. As for rules or parameters for submissions-PLEASE SEND GOOD, ORIGINAL MUSIC! If your music sucks it will be disposed of in the proper ecological manner. Not interested in verse-chorus-verse music unless your name is Syd Barrett and no guitar music unless your band is Gun Club or Flaming Lips. And above all no ELECTROCLASH like the shitty indie rock guitar bands they review in Rolling Stone and try to pass of as the future of (electronica. YAWN! Also, I am still not including downloadable materials unless they come to me on a shiny metal disk; if I can’t listen to a full length on a long haul then I haven’t heard the release truly reveal itself. Most times these critical revelations spell doom for the CDs I listen to but on very rare occasion I allow myself to be pleasantly surprised. I still review mixes from unsigned DJs because as a fellow DJ I accept my obligation to spotlight others fighting the good fight whenever possible, so send me your mixes.
25. Amethystium-Emblem (Selected Works) (Neurodisc) (US) (Compilation)
When it comes to LOTR inspired music fans of the genre I like to call D&D rock generally make the relatively short journey from the lands of Eriador to the fjords of Scandinavia. Emblem is a collection of the best works of the Tolkien-esque (Dragonfly TrilogyÃ¢â‚¬? from popular Norwegian artist Amethystium. I expected some truly awful D&D rock or worse yet Tiesto trance and was rewarded with some beautiful Vangelis inspired new age music riddled with some serious Ring lust. This CD is great for the after-after-after party best known as sleeping one off on Sunday evening.
24. Beau Tand-S/T (Pinstripe) (US) (Artist Album)
Wha’ tha f*ck is this? Is Beau Tand a person, a band, is he/it even French? Who knows??? A weird scattering called a song collection that tacks together a disjointed hodge podge of Balearic, Prince, and Arthur Lee. I especially like the stuff that sounds like Love, not so much the other stuff. Problem is that stuff often happens in the middle of an otherwise forgettable tune. A quirky release that will catch you off guard in a not so bad way.
23. Various-The Ultra Lounge 2xCD (Water Music) (US) (Compilation)
It’s 2006 and lounge comps are almost as stale as a new DJ Dan single. So why am I reviewing this release? Part of it is guilty pleasure- but this as an excellent selection of material from the last six years of neo lounge and bossa. Most tracks are easy to find on other compilations but gems like Andrea Ravel’s (White NoiseÃ¢â‚¬? are worth discovering.
22. DJ Overdrive-Remixes (530techno.org) (Mix disk)
Overdrive is becoming something of a local DJ hero having played some incredible morning house sets this summer filled with pumpin’ Chicago house and twisted progressive bombs. This CD is a mix of mash-ups that fill dance floors-some great (Santana) others not so great (Billy Idol). Overdrive really shines is when he stretches out into an Erick Morillo groove that highlights dark, tribal movers and hands-in-air anthems that don’t suck. There’s something goin’ on here.
21. DJ Kristyle-The ’06 Remix (530techno.org) (Mix disk)
There aren’t many DJs around that are as smooth and as versatile as Kristyle, especially not here in Chico. This an entire mix of mash-ups that runs the gamut from soulful SF house to dirty Playa (as in Burning Man) breaks. Every track seems carefully selected in order to tell a story. I loved the remixes of Gnarls Barkley ((CrazyÃ¢â‚¬?) and the mash-up of Outkast and Kaskade that opens the disk. Didn’t care for the Metallica or the more (rockÃ¢â‚¬? oriented moments of the mix but that’s me. A dance mix for music lovers of all ages and interests.
20. Prowl-Renovatio(djprowl.com) (Mix disk)
Prowl is another local DJ who has emerged from his post rave slumber to unleash a new style of Hi NRG music. This is not a genre that I particularly love but Prowl really sells the bangin’ hard house and trance with a great understanding of how to mix this music in an engaging, non-bombastic manner. Lots of pretty melodies and (surprisingly) subtle moments make this better than your average Judge Jules or Nukleuz hardstyle compilation. I’m just lacking the chemicals to push this CD any higher on the charts.
19. Lee Coombs-The Land Of The Monkey Snake (Sleevin) (US) (Mix disk)
A new release from a great group of DJs in San Francisco otherwise known as Sleevin Records. England’s venerable breaks DJ Lee Coombs mans the controls on this mix. While there are a lot of Playa (Burning Man) breaks, which I do not care for, I was impressed by Coomb’s continuing taste for the housier side of breaks ala Simply Jeff. Coomb’s own productions are energetic and could really take the West Coast by storm.
18. DJ Logic-Zen Of Logic (Ropeadope) (US) (Artist Album)
Sorta picked this one up on a whim having played some DJ Logic cuts back in the Acid Jazz days as well as owing a few good singles on Ropeadope-a label outta Dee-troit. Nice mix of blunted hip-hop intros, soul, and afrobeat. This is one hell of an album that I am sure everyone will sleep on. Do yourself a big favor and don’t.
17. King Unique + Nubreed-Electric _02 2xCD (EQ) (Australia) (Mix disk)
King Unique hail from England and have made some great house records for the Junior London imprint. Their of-the-moment mix samples Claude Von Stroke (guess which song, -it’s the same one on EVERY mix), Steve Bug, Booka Shade, and Sascha Funke. It’s solid but not much different than any of the other new house comps coming out. Australia’s Nubreed just didn’t do it for me. A lot of techno and not much of what I like.
16. Bass Freq-Tuner Heat (Neurodisc) (US) (Compilation)
Neurodisc’s qualifications for bass music are large and nebulous. Basically if it shakes the windows and rattles the door panels in your car it’s on a CD. I like that. This disk plays it fast and slow, techy and old school, and succeeds in making an amazing car stereo companion.
15. Various-Radio Recordings Three (Radio) (Denmark) (Compilation)
This is a great seven song EP that a fellow journalist handed me in Amsterdam. It’s a sampler from a little label outta Denmark with an excellent track record for quality music. Nice mix of current minimal, progressive, and breaks sounds as well as a so-so TrentemÃƒ¸ller ambient cut. High quality and an imprint worthy of seeking out.
14. DJ Azeez-Do The Right Thing (Recordinspector.com) (Mix disk)
DJ Azeez runs one of the most respected hip-hop stores in Vienna and his knowledge of vinyl is unsurpassable. His love is late 80s and early 90s hip-hop-the faster and grimy the better. An amazing mix that hits like a sawed-off and takes us back to a make believe time when hip-hop and house music were twin brothers. I pity the fool who doesn’t own this mix. Azeez promises an early 90s backpacker mix next. I cannot wait.
13. Alan Ryan-Big Chill 2006 (Mix disk)
Alan is a friend of a friend from Liverpool and this mix comes on like one of those classic Earth comps on LTJ Bukem’s Good Lookin’ imprint. Big Chill is subtle and soulful drum and bass rollers from a time when drum and bass promised to save the world. If sex were a CD this would be it.
12. Rob Da Bank & Chris Coco-Listen Again 2xCD (Ether) (UK) (Mix disk)
Rob is best known as the DJ who replaced John Peel on the Beeb and is fresh off last year’s top shelf Fabric comp. as well as his up and coming Bestival at Isle of Wight. I was majorly disappointed by the fluffiness of his track selection and it’s general unevenness and cannot give it the ringing endorsement I wanted. Chris Coco, a legendary producer, really salvages this mix with yet another bumpy ride of eclectica just like Da Bank’s Ã¢â‚¬â€œthe difference being that Coco’s best tracks carry a melancholy weight to them that Da Bank’s best just do not possess.
11. Green Velvet vs. Cajmere -Sessions 2xCD(Ministry Of Sound)(UK) (Mix disk)
Ministry Of Sound continues the trend of highlighting American DJs with the third Sessions mix in a row featuring a high profile DJ from Chicago. The Cajmere disk is deep and soulful but with some jack in the tempo to keep the floor moving. The Green Velvet mix is the one to put on your iPod though. A no-holds barred dance floor assault with plenty of acid for the old schoolers out there. Every track a classic.
10. Roger O’Donnell-The Truth In Me (Great Society) (UK) (Artist Album)
An entire album constructed on a Moog Voyager??? How could I say no? This guy’s background is as keyboardist from some pretty dubious 80s new wave groups but none of that sort of garbage ends up on The Truth. Instead the disk is comprised of pretty new age music that collides a few times with vocalist Erin Lang’s angelic pipes reminding me a lot of the obscure Wire side project Dome or even mid 70s krautrock for you hardcore electronic music fans out there. Worth seeking out!
9. Nightmares On Wax-My Definition (Apace Music) (UK) (Mix disk)
A solid mix of headbobbin’ boom bap from my favorite Warp record artist Nightmares on Wax. US, UK, and French hip-hop are well represented as well as some nice dub and old school soul. My Definition has a beautiful, melodic quality to it reminiscent of N.O.W.’s original works. Mine’s not mixed and that sucks, I hope the commercial release is because these tracks demand to be mixed.
8. Gilles Peterson & Patrick Forge pres-Sunday Afternoon At Dingwalls 2xCD (Ether) (UK) (Mix disk)
Let’s face it, at least in America, the death of rave culture has also closed the door on rare groove culture that rave borrowed so liberally from as source material. So for many in the age of post rave- Sunday Afternoon will be nothing more than a peculiar cultural artifact from the 80s. But for serious collectors and hardcore heads this disk will fall like manna from heaven just in time for Xmas this year. An excellent selection of classic cuts both new and old from the two rare groove dudes who started the Acid Jazz movement back in the early 90s. In Peterson you hear the subtle influences of David Mancuso and his Loft parties that come from twenty years of championing this music beginning at Dingwalls in Camden and eventually infecting the entire world.
7. The Glimmers-Fabriclive 31 (Fabric)(UK) (Mix disk)
This Belgian duo (from the utterly mad city of Ghent) lay down an educational mix composed of bits of the last 30 years of pop and dance culture. Fabriclive 31is an excellent disk to hand folks when they ask what DJ’ing is all about exactly. The obsessiveness of this collection of rare old school classics makes it sound fresher than most new tracks coming out right now putting all the focus right where it properly belongs-on the DJ.
6. Marco Carola-Fabric 31 (Fabric) (UK) (Mix disk)
Naples’ #1 DJ Marco Carola lays down his first mix disk and what better label than Fabric for Carola’s first time? A beautiful collection of clicks and blips, audio evidence that Carola has grown from his tribal and bangin’ Open System sound of the early Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ00s. Melody is the key here drawing on microhouse and Detroit influences like Matthew Dear and Aux 88 Carola explores the more cerebral side of the dance floor in the same ways the sadly departed Orbital once did.
5. Martin Solveig-In The House 2xCD (Defected)(UK) (Mix disk)
It’s been a long time since I have featured a house music CD so high in my charts. But this isn’t just house, this is French house and Solveig isn’t just another Roger Sanchez in disguise either. Disk one features some of the best party tracks I have heard in ages and always tasteful (check the inclusion of (ThrowÃ¢â‚¬? by Paperclip People AKA Carl Craig) recalling the reckless abandon of disco and funk back in the day. Disk two points the mix back to the original source material for today’s funk and ends with Jorge Ben’s (Oba, La Vem ElaÃ¢â‚¬?, a ballad so achingly beautiful that I nearly died when I first heard it.
4. Funkstorung-Appendix (!K7) (US) (Compilation)
Sadly this compendium of the Bavarian duo Funkstorung’s highly influential remixes is their final release as members Chris de Luca and Michael Fakesch have decided to pursue solo work. Beginning as an IDM outfit with strong electro and hip hop leanings ala Autechre over the past ten year the duo morphed into a chameleon of hip hop, glitch, and indie with full lengths each more breathtaking and pioneering than the last. Every remix on here is wickedly inventive and original and most never lose sight of a great pop hook to compel even the biggest electronic music haters out there to give a listen.
3. TrentemÃƒ¸ller-BBC Essential Mix (Mix disk)
An amazing two-hour mix from Pete Tong’s show that I received on disk for my b-day (thanks Logan 5). Denmark’s Anders TrentemÃƒ¸ller is one of the fastest rising talents in pop music today and this mix shows off the depth of his almost limitless imagination. For all intents and purposes this mix is divided into three distinctive parts. The first is the opening ambient section, made up mostly of TrentemÃƒ¸ller’s own productions- some beautiful, most long and aimless. The second is the peak hour section featuring some amazing remixes of Chris Isaak’s (Wicked GameÃ¢â‚¬? and even The Doors all with a distinctive dub house feel. Part three begins with the always-awful Le Tigre and delves into his indie friendly side. An amazing remix of Moby’s rave classic (GoÃ¢â‚¬? and Revl9n’s desperate LA punk influenced (Someone Like YouÃ¢â‚¬? make up for any track selection missteps in places (Franz Ferdinand anyone?).
2. Richard Carnage-After Hours Mix (allsexistape.blogspot.com/) (Mix Disk)
This youngster from Bristol has helped to wipe the city’s slate clean of the stoned pretentiousness of trip hop, revitalized the techno scene courtesy of his amazing blog site Tape, and dropped sick mixes such as this one from a little earlier this year. Dark, brooding minimal rests comfortably aside driving fidget, and deep-as-a-well dub house. This mix certainly lives up to its name with layer upon layer of subcutaneous funk building up and breaking down like waves on a beach. A must own for the blunted generation.
1. Justin Martin/Johnny Fiasco-OM Winter Sessions 2xCD (OM) (US) (Mix disk)
Ever since (Sad PianoÃ¢â‚¬? dropped on Ben Watt’s Buzzin Fly imprint the world has been talking about fidget house. Sure most of the producers besides Martin and his production partner Claude Von Stroke are from London and Bristol but San Francisco’s Justin Martin is the genre’s biggest champion and this CD represents the finest that fidget has to offer. Imagine early bleep, West Coast house, the Birthday Party, and jungle all slammed together bound only by the biggest sub rattling bass lines since the heyday of Dillinja’s Valve sound system. Fidget is now and this CD is your introduction. Legendary DJ Johnny Fiasco contributes a sublime mix of housier Chicago cum SF house in the vein of J.T. Donaldson, and while great fails to match the intensity of Martin’s mix.
Tags: Amethystium, Andrea Ravel White Noise, Arthur Lee, Beau Tand, Chicago, Derrick May, DJ Dan, Dragonfly, Emblem, Eriador, esque, fjords, Flaming Lips, Gun Club, Norwegian, Prince, S-TBalearic, Scandinavia, Steve Reich, Syd Barrett, The Ultra Lounge, Tolkien, Trilogy, Vangelis, various