Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hard Ass Sessions Volume IV

1. Martelo vs Canblaster – Cannibal
2. Dubbel Dutch – Dead Pool
3. Seiji – Buzzcut
4. Savage Skulls & French Fries – Marawa

Lean and deadly ruff house rinsers from the motley crew of Martelo vs Canblaster, Dubbel Dutch, Seiji and Savage Skulls & French Fries. There's some dancefloor heat right here, from the doomy crunk meets crooked House flex of 'Cannibal' to the swooping subs and twysted Bubblin' dip of 'Marawa'. The ever-ready Dubbel Dutch unit drives out the teasin' bleep 'n bounce of 'Dead Pool' and the revitalised Seiji goes in all frisky with 'Buzcut' made for those who require some space on the 'floor. Total winners for the Night Slugs lovers and up-to-the-minute ravers!

Altered Natives - No Mortgage EP

A1 The Rain
A2 Heavenly Melodies
B1 No Mortgage
B2 Voyage

Also known as Danny Native, Altered Natives had a busier 2010 than just about anybody—and if 2010 is going to be remembered as anything, it will be as a busy year. Dropping a defining album, loads of standalone 12-inches and a clutch of MP3s to SoundCloud, he's a great example of the way that London-centered bass has thrown up not only amazing records and a lively template that musically has benefited a lot of what surrounds it, but also a lot of artists with distinct touches. It can take time to sort them out, but Altered Natives comes on straightaway—especially impressive given that more so than a dense commingling of current bass's various inputs like so many others (think of the crossing referents of Lone, Girl Unit or F), he tends to shuffle between fairly well-defined genres. Mastering the whole for him means mastering the parts.

The No Mortgage EP features four soulful house tracks: two vocal sample numbers on the A, two instrumentals on the B. It's not kaleidoscopic—that's for albums. But it's joyous in a way that's easy to approximate but harder to make seem effortless, ingrained. Take "Heavenly Melodies," featuring a lightly cut-up gospel-choir sample: "I'll think about it," over and over. It's a big revolving backdrop, like in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and it works perfectly as both a pastiche of early '90s Nu Groove and a starry-eyed right-now track in its own right. "The Rain" radically alters an Ann Peebles vocal sample (taking a gruff woman and turning her to a vulnerable man) over something you could hear DJ Funk want to speed up. "No Mortgage" is sunset piano house with a basic keyboard solo; it sounds like someone's satisfied set-closer. And "Voyage" dusts off some Italo synths with elegant restraint. It's a decent place to

Krystal Klear / Arethis - Green Silver / Rugged Angels

a. Krystal Klear - Green Silver
b. Arethis - Rugged Angels

Cooly G's Dub Organizer label flexes some serious vinyl muscle with deadly yet divergent cuts from Krystal Klear and Arethis. Hanging on a Boogie tip, Hoya:Hoya resident and renowned electrofunk master Krystal Klear drops the heat-seeking vibes of 'Greensilver', the kind of scorching soul track we could imagine Foot Patrol controlling the floor to down at the Moss Side leisure centre on a saturday night in '86, only given a lick of subbass and some buffed-up synth gloss for 2010. The vibes quickly get more urgent on the flip with 'Rugged Angel' from North Carolina's Arethis, switching to international future garage mode with a superbly restless 2-stepper built from potent techno stabs and the kind of quicksilver syncopation that takes no prisoners. For rude girl/bad boy DJs only!

Hizatron - HZA EP

01] Telescope Dope
02] Executive Ball Scratcher
03] Klondyke

Melodic IDM/Tech-House fusions from Nottingham's Hizatron, a contemporary of Spamchop and the Blunted Robots crew. 'Telescope Dope' operates on the A-side, a hurky-jerky tech-house wiggler with bobbling kicks and surging synthline tricks borrowed from Mnml techno. 'Executive Ball Scratcher' gets a bit groovier, melding twinkling electro-marimba type sounds reminding of Caribou or the Border Community lot, mixed with ruffled Garage House patterns before 'Klondyke' contorts itself into a febrile ball of twitching percussion and discordant, morphing synthlines with a clever arrangement emerging from the

Bakey Ustl - EP 1

01] A Tender Place
02] Nose Candy
03] Heroin

Floor-killing House music from Firecracker's new sublabel, dropping the hugely in-demand heat of Bakey Ustl's 'A Tender Places'. This cut has been receiving much attention of late in the sets of Jackmaster, Ben UFO and Joy Orbison, sounding like some crazy scientist with a Dance Mania addiction splicing Soundhack and Moodymann just for the hell of it. We've not heard a House record this deranged all year, and it's on clear vinyl with a very special cut to boot. Kudos! Flip it and you'll find the slightly more simmering vibes of 'Nose Candy'. Together with the limited edition, screen-printed artwork and Japanese plastic sleeve, this is every bit the connoisseur's wet dream - pressed up in strictly limited numbers so act

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coki - Urban Ethics

01: Shock It
02: Old Hope
03: Serious
04: Intergalactic
05: Robotnik
06: Animal
07: It

At long last Coki ‘s "Urban Ethics" triple LP finally drops. A natural sequel to the recent Mala-produced monster "Return II Space", "Urban Ethics" is the other side of the same Digital Mystikz coin. Where Mala offers the deepest seismic dub cuts, Coki delivers something altogether tougher. Opening cut "Shock It" leads the way with the kind of atmospheric intro and Scything buzzsaw bass drop that will knock the dancefloor sideways. "Old Hope" and "Serious" dip into Mala territory, proving that Coki has a rootical side as well - these are heavyweight jams that would sound fresh on the dreadest sound systems. "Intergalactic" mashes the two, mixing roots horns and a neck-snap riddim, while "Robotnik" and "Animal" have 'nasty' written all over them - not for the faint hearted! Last but not least is the disorientating "It" - spliced beats, killer bass and something nasty lurking in the fug of ganja

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Breton - Counter Balance EP

01. RDI
02. Counter Balance
03. December
04. Pop Death
05. Hours Away

Hemlock have a habit of thrusting highly impressive new artists upon the world - think James Blake, Untold, or Fantastic Mr Fox. London's Breton are the latest in line, emerging fully formed with a sound that's equal parts post-dubstep, rakish indie bloke vocals and Big Dada-style leftfield HipHop. Their five track 'Counter Balance EP' has already won favour with er, Coldplay's Chris Martin, and is set to achieve much acclaim going into 2011. The minimal framework of African guitar, crisp halfstep drums and ethereal cockney vox in 'RDI' hints at something on the edge of dubstep, while the rest of the EP is driven by moody HipHop beats, with the highlight of 'December' clearly primed for bigger things. Can you smell major labels or is it just us?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sidwho? - I Do The Night

A1 I Do The Night
B1 I Do The Night (Session Victim Dub)

Adelaide-based producer Sidwho?'s second Future Classic 12-inch of 2010, "I Do Night," might, at first, appear to rank as his most subdued number yet, but thanks to some nifty drum programming it ends up as a snappy piece of indie disco. The low 120s are where the multi-instrumentalist has drawn the most acclaim—his 2009 "Vote Bowie for President" was picked up by a slew of slo-mo house and disco DJs—and continues to excel. This time around, the analogue haze that has characterised much of Sidwho?'s solo productions doesn't stick around for too long, resulting in a more refined and cleaner sound. As a result, the jilted percussive-focus of this A-side lends itself to a slightly more robust time slot than your usual Sidwho? fare.

On the flip, Session Victim have been enlisted to provide a dub. The result is a pleasant house excursion, where the pair introduce an intermittent midrange filter while drawing out the original's vocals. The morphing bassline and delicate synth melody combine well, but it doesn't quite match the workability of Sidwho?'s crisp drums and dramatic

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nebraska - Four For Four EP

1 This Is The Way
2 Bar Story
3 Ras El Hanout
4 Arrondissement

Four brand new tracks of filtered, disco-infected and funked up deep house music from Nebraska. 'this Is the Way' starts the jam with heady, filtered disco loops, while 'Bar Story' finds a heavier bass-driven groove with a sublimely tempered euphoria. 'Ras El Hanout' is an infectious display of edit mastery, guaranteed to please lovers of Trus'me or even Soundhack, and he tips out on the shimmering late night aura of 'Arrondissement'. Another crowd pleaser from Rush Hour, fans of Rick Wilhite, Trus'me, or Shake should check this!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Das Racist - Shut Up, Dude

01. Whos That Brooown
02. You Oughta Know
03. Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell
04. Rainbow in the Dark
05. Fake Patios
06. Nutmeg
07. Shorty Said Gordon Voidwell Remix
08. Chicken and Meat
09. I Dont Owe Nobody Shit
10. Ek Shaneesh
11. Hugo Chavez
12. I Dont Want to Deal with Those Monsters
13. Don Dada
14. One Dollar Can
15. Coochie Dip City
16. Deep Ass Shit Youll Get It When Youre High
17. Shut Up Dude

When you first heard "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell", did you wonder what a full-length Das Racist album would sound like? Did you even think they were capable of an album at all? Maybe you expected a whole mixtape filled with bewildered yelling about name brands on some postmodern Fatboy Slim shit, or one of those hipster-rap records filled with a bunch of half-serious post-crunk/booty bass homages. But if you were a bit more curious, maybe you went to their MySpace page and heard the elaborate reference-fest "Rainbow in the Dark" and a deconstruction of co-opted dancehall dialect called "Fake Patois" and caught on to something deeper. Maybe you started wondering if they were a bit less trivial than you suspected.

As it turns out, "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" has as much to do with the whole of Shut Up, Dude as the Beastie Boys' "Cooky Puss" does to the referential overload of Paul's Boutique. Das Racist's Brooklyn-buzz affiliations and humorous bent might mislead you into thinking it's an exercise in cheap laffs for people who don't take rap seriously, but this album feels a lot more like the irreverent hip-hop fanboy mania of ego trip magazine than smarmy genre tourism.

Himanshu Kumar Suri aka "Heems" and Victor Vazquez have something elaborate going on, toying with and subverting the rules of hip-hop lyricism even as they pay them respect. "Who's That? Brooown!" uses A Tribe Called Quest's well-worn "Scenario" as a reference point, but Heems mutters his callbacks to Busta Rhymes' verse in a sleepily cocky voice that sounds like the exact opposite of Busta's off-the-charts energy. The repetition and recursiveness that made "Combination" so polarizing crop up in odd places; one otherwise-complex line in "Ek Shaneesh" simply ends "drinkin' beer, drinkin' beer/ prolly drinkin' some more beer" before teasing an obvious Tears for Fears-referencing internal rhyme that never actually comes. Familiar hit-sourced hooks are self-sabotaged with trailed-off mumbling (the Juelz Santana-sourced, Billy Joel-jacking "You Oughta Know"), the spiritual presence of Bob Marley is called into the not-so-lofty service of soundtracking their tribute to dollar cans of iced tea, and they actually named one of their tracks "Deep Ass Shit (You'll Get It When You're High)" as a rib-jabbing mission statement. (No points in guessing which prolific Oxnard-based underground producer gets his beat used for that one.)

If they were just fucking around, those gags would wear off and leave you with nothing but a series of smug hey-get-it? nudges. But Heems and Victor are serious enough about coming up with memorable lines that they come across like some kind of lyrical stealth operatives. The fact that they often go from water-treading repetition to intricately built phraseology mid-verse is a great riff in itself. One of the shortest and simplest lines on the album is one of the cleverest-- "W.E.B. DuBois/ We be da boys," from "Hugo Chavez"-- but there are also moments where you're left wondering how they could make so many unexpected linguistic connections look so easy. Their go-hard rampage on "Nutmeg" is 1990s-reared, cipher-honed style gone berserk, turning a funhouse mirror on Ghostface's finest moment of abstract pyrotechnics, as it starts with the unlikely couplet "Queens Boulevard/ Kierkegaard" and gets even more dizzyingly ridiculous from there.

Granted, there's a certain information-overload college-student bent to their humor, evident in cross-genre namedrops like "Richard Hell Rell" or the mentions of Tao Lin and "and Dinesh DiSouza. But Das Racist push past mere signifying to come across as straight-up literates with a way of making cultural studies out of entertainment and vice-versa. Several lyrics take offhand references to Bollywood stars and Cuban sandwiches and extrapolate stream-of-consciousness ethnographies out of them, while "Shorty Said (Gordon Voidwell Remix)" draws out punchlines and commentary about identification by listing all the racially divergent celebrities that women supposedly claim Victor and Heems resemble (Egyptian Lover; Amitabh Bachchan; Slash without his hat). Das Racist approach this idea of otherness in a way that feels both playful and provocative, asserting their identities in a way that both reinforces their individuality and goofs on their stereotypes. And if it hits a certain nerve, it's probably the same one that got tweaked by the sociological b-boy stoner comedy precedent of "Chappelle's Show". Fast-food hipster-rap, my ass-- these dudes are the

Sound Stream - All Night

A1 All Night
B1 Tease Me
B2 Deeper love

We knew it was coming, we just didn't know it would take this long. It's been well over a year since Tama Sumo closed her Panorama Bar mix CD with "All Night," prompting speculation that a fifth instalment to Sound Stream's definitive series of cut-up disco-house was soon on its way. After all but vanishing from memory, its official release now feels like an unexpected tax rebate.

There are no surprises here: all three tracks are like any other previously released. But it's hard to think of a producer currently who slices, dices and loops in the same devastatingly effective manner as Frank Timm. The lead track on this record is a fine example of his approach: take one bar of disco with shiny Rhodes chords, loop it, hold that tension, drop a large house chug, save a moment of melodic breakdown for decoration. The simple technique has become iconic and that's why his records are indispensable. Of course, "Tease Me" and "Deeper Love" are cut with familiar scissors, although the respective, loungier string-centric and wah-wah loops aren't as likely to perk up a flagging dance floor in the same way as the thumb-slap bass on "All Night" certainly

Starkey - Space Traitor Vol. 1

1. Robot Hands
2. Playing With Fire
3. Holodeck
4. Paradise
5. Lenses
6. Robot Hands (Egyptrixx Remix)
7. Robot Hands (Kaiser Remix)
8. Paradise (Rudi Zygadlo Remix)
9. Paradise (ARP.101 Remix)
10. Paradise (+verb Remix)
11. Playing With Fire (Ital Tek Remix)
12. Space Traitor Vol. 1 (Short Story)

Chunky bundle from Starkey, combining his 'Space Traitor EP' 12" with a CD of remixes from Egyptrixx, Kaiser, Rudi Zygadlo, ARP101, and Ital Tek. These are some of his first new productions since the 'Ear Drums And Black Holes' LP dropped at the other end of the year, firing out the lurid rave ruffige of 'Robot Hands' and the mad grimey string slashes of 'Holodeck' plus a laidback moment with regular vocalist Anneka. The CD also includes his exclusive 'Lenses', next to the slippin' cyber Funky remix of 'Robot Hands' by Egyptrixx and a splendidly screwed and agitated Wonky revision of 'Paradise' by Arp101. Perhaps most impressive of all is Ital Tek's dread-filled sci-fi-step version of 'Playing With Fire'. Heavy

Eliphino - Undivided Whole EP

01 You'll Know
02 L.F. (I Know)
03 Condensation
04 I Just Can't

Four tracks of well-studied Garage/House manoeuvres from Eliphino. On the A-side he burns up the Joy Orbison-indebted 'You'll Know' next to the loose and smudged shuffler 'L.F (I Know)'. On the flip 'Condensation' sounds like a drowsy Speed Garage track and 'I Just Can't' finds its flex in screwed Garage at a 115bpm pace. Fans of XXXY, Illum Sphere or Martyn should join the

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pariah - Safehouses

01. The Slump
02. Prism
03. Railroad
04. Crossed Out
05. C-Beams
06. Safehouses

Do you still get docked points for being derivative when you better the source material? London's Pariah made his name on a soul-fueled 12-inch for legendary techno label R&S, two tracks that were impressively well-produced but didn't exactly break the mold. His R&S follow-up is something much bigger, a double EP that subsumes the diverse world of UK bass music into one glossy package but does little to expand or build on its borrowed foundations.

Pariah is nothing more than a recycler and polisher of dubstep trends, a problem highlighted by opening track "The Slump," which literally sounds like it was built from sounds taken from other producers. Those metallic rimshots are from Mount Kimbie's "Vertical," and stabbing bass and trickling percussion nicked from any number of Ramadanman productions. By the same token, "Crossed Out," subsists on the same euphorically smooth ascension and perfectly-polished vocal samples as so many other "Hyph Mngo"-soundalikes. It's far from daringly original, but Pariah's pads are so liquid smooth, the vocals so perfectly positioned, the drums just the right amount of springy, it's impossible not to get pulled into his enveloping and immersive soundscapes.

Occasionally Pariah stumbles onto something unique, as with "Railroad," the EP's shortest but most vibrant track. Starting off as a typical Burial invocation, 8-bit clouds roll in and overwhelm the track in liquid computer funk. The brewing storm threatens ominous destruction, manifesting itself in brief eruptions of junglist breaks as every element sloshes and careens in what feels like suspended chaos. But it's a contained chaos held firmly between Pariah's surprisingly expert hands, and his measured control of every sound and melodic motif means that the result is emotionally overwhelming rather than claustrophobic. Similarly, the oddball "C-Beams" focuses on a lurching piano that attempts to maintain momentum wading through an unpredictable beat, with seemingly little regard for conventional rhythm.

A universalist in a scene obsessed with highly-specific individuality, Pariah's production values are higher than most, and his focus on emotion and expression means that his considerable potential extends far beyond the dubstep community. To someone who doesn't keep up with every record to trickle out of every prominent dubstep imprint, these may even sound like revelatory tracks. Judging from the rainy atmosphere of "Safehouses," Pariah is just as concerned with reaching beyond the realm of dubstep. The near-ambient track is a bold move on a release format usually reserved for dance floor-oriented tracks, and while it's not particularly groundbreaking, its suffocated melodies are deeply affecting.

And therein lies Pariah's true talent: The key to enjoying Safehouses is turning your thoughts off and just enjoying the impeccably-produced music. That's not to imply that this is dumb music (it's not), but such beautifully evocative sounds deserve undivided attention, no matter their context. In forcing us to do that, maybe Pariah has already achieved some ultimate, transcendent success. Or maybe not. At any rate, he's on to

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Joy Orbison - BB / Ladywell

a. BB
b. Ladywell

Fresh-as-f**k House music from the prodigious Joy Orbison. On the A-side the instantly arousing 'BB' finds some smooth-yet-dirty hybrid of Detroit and London flavours, where gritty garage drums tuck into sultry rolling house formation and the bassline just can't decide if its a square bass groover or a deeply padded subbass shudder. Either way it's just deadly effective. Flip over and the sparse, streamlined flow of 'Ladywell' comes off like some blend of Cassy and Kyle Hall, marrying streamlined, mesmeric vocal motifs with more rugged claps and masculine kicks. Mastered and cut at D&M, ready and raring for the rave. These will sell out in a flash - you've been warned!

Trolley Snatcha - One Trick Pony EP

01 Pass Me By
02 Always On My Mind
03 Rocco's Revenge
04 We Go Deep

Trolley Snatcha is the latest artist to receive the Dub Police stamp of approval with his diverse four-tracker the "One Trick Pony" EP. Proving that he is anything but, Trolley turns out a selection of tunes that display a mature and open-minded approach to dubstep. From the ear-battering Trolley trademarks that litter "Pass Me By" and "Rocco’s Revenge" to the smoothed out bliss of "Always On My Mind" and the light techno touches of "We Go Deep", this EP will grab the attention of anyone with a keen ear for quality

Night Slugs Allstars Volume 1

01. Mosca – Square One VIP
02. Lil Silva – Golds 2 Get
03. Girl Unit – IRL (Bok Bok Remix)
04. Kingdom – Bust Broke
05. L-Vis 1990 & T. Williams – Stand Up
06. Jam City – Arpjam
07. Lil Silva – Seasons
08. Egyptrixx – Liberation Front
09. Bok Bok & Cubic Zirconia – Reclash Dub
10. Optimum – Broken Embrace
11. Jacques Greene – (Baby I Don’t Know) What You Want
12. Velour – Booty Slammer
13. Girl Unit – Wut

In UK club music 2010 was the year of the Night Slugs. To celebrate this fact, they round up 13 prime cuts for their 1st CD release, including exclusives and VIP versions from their top boys and showcasing the most virile memes of Teched-out Funky, Jacked-up R&B and Electroid Bass music. On an upfront and exclusive tip, there's a ramped-up VIP mix of Mosca's awesome 'Square One', next to Jam City's all-new and stupidly effective 'Arpjam' plus the shocking force of an L-Vis 1990 & T. Williams hookup entitled 'Stand Up', all created especially for this comp. You may also notice a few newish names, introducing the likes of Ikonika's buddy Optimum on the fluttering, tranced-out Funky riffs of 'Broken Embrace' and the lazer-soul House of Montreal's Jacques Greene with '(Baby I Don't Know) What You Want'. Still fresh out the box, Girl Unit's outstanding 'Wut' anthem makes a bold appearance next to Kingdom's athletic Ballroom banger 'Bust Broke' and there's still no f**king with Lil Silva's 'Seasons', possibly the label's canniest A&R move. Factor in Bok Bok's remix of another megatonne bomb 'IRL', the sweetened synth licks of Velour's 'Booty Slammer' (now outed as the work of Hyetal and Julio Bashmore), and the warped electro-heat of Egyptrixx and Cubic Zirconia, and you know what the outcome is...

Martyn - Left Hander / Shook Up

1. Left Hander 
2. Shook Up

Man-like-Martijn Deykers slinks into motion with two outright killers on 3024. Remarkably, this is Martyn's first solo 12" of 2010, a year in which he dropped a crucial Fabric mix and expanded his label's horizons to draw blunted and Techno sounds into the fold. With 'Left Hander' he cuts in from a broken house angle, sharing certain rhythmic traits with Altered Natives while firmly retaining his feel for soulful, classically-informed Detroit melody in grand style. On the other side, 'Shook Up' goes one step duttier, dragging the drums down to a gruffly accented swing while sly strings, twinkling keys and fluttering synth motifs imagine some infectious fusion of mad effective South London and Detroit disciplines. Basically, this 12" is lethal and your turntables want it, badly!

Clouds - Spat

01 Spat
02 Era Of Black Holes Part

The already-excellent dubstep duo Clouds have taken their game to the next level with two stunning tracks for their freshly minted Channel Zero imprint. As the logic goes, if you're a producer starting your own label, you'll save your very best tracks for release on said label. Clouds have certainly done that here, keeping the brilliant 'Spat' for the A-side, to deliver a shocking future-stepper coated with the sort of twinkly icy-blue electronics they're known for. On the flip is the real treasure on 'Era Of Black Holes', shirking any dubstep responsibilities to reveal an extra dope instrumental hiphop rhythm, sounding like Flying Lotus jamming with Lukid after a particularly relaxing sauna session. This 12" is already in demand and we expect it to fly out. Big record!

Braiden - The Alps

01. The Alps
02. The Alps (Kassem Mosse Fix)

Rinse FM's master of all things electro, techno and Funky makes his recording debut with 'The Alps', backed up with an immense Kassem Mosse remix. In a way, his original track balances the moody sensuality of Jerome Sydenham with the funky fresh essence of the Night Slugs sound, hitting a confident stride comfortably straddling both sounds in unique style. Flip it and one of the year's heaviest producers, Kassem Mosse of Workshop and FXHE fame, unleashes the haughtiest hi-hats and kinkiest cowbell rhythms to maintain his position firmly at the front of the forward-thinking House movement. Irresistibly direct dancefloor

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Piece of Shh... - Diablo Riddim

01 Diablo Riddim (PoS Original)
02 Diablo Riddim (Zomby's Acid)
03 Diablo Riddim (Hektagon's Shuffle)

Very crafty post-dubstep wrigglers from Belgradeyard Soundsystem member, Piece Of Shh... backed with deft remixes from Zomby and Hektagon. He's had a dope release out on Earsugar Beatbox and remixed Sutekh previously, but this is his first proper foray into the dubstep arena. His 'Diablo Riddim' skitters between concrete dubstep rave and squirming techno signatures, before Zomby steps in with a much less frantic and swaggering reduction of rave styles at ruffly 130bpm, and Hektagon runs harder with the febrile funk to give a canny flux of sea-sick dub-tech and raving acid strikes. Tuff & techy

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Andrea - Retail Juke / Write-Off

A. Retail Juke
B. Write-Off

After a bit of a pause, Andrea returns with an invigorated sense of funk and a bad case of scuffed shelltoes. A generation after Chicago House irreversibly infected the Northern club scene, Andrea soaks up and sweats out the latest footworking Chi-town developments with a distinctive melodic flourish and innate feel for the floor. 'Retail Juke' keenly latches on to that feeling of delirious suspension that marks the best productions from RP Boo, Roc, Nate or any of those agile young cats, matching their flighty rhythm programming toe-for-toe, while tweaking the vibes with a fine-cut pop sensibility. It opens up with an impatient metronome and sparkling Rhodes keys ushering in spasmodic sample edits and unregimented drums, honing that slow-fast thing that's impossible to describe and so bizarrely effective. On the flip, 'Write-Off' sounds like an Ice Cream van taking a wrong turning and ending up wheel-deep in some hyperrealist dayglo forest without SatNav or a working sense of direction to hand. It finds that filigree balance of tension between rapid-fire sample textures, twinkling melodies and dragging bass undulations, keeping an implosive, centripetal sense of funk deep in the pocket and yet still quite melancholy in its own fidgety way. Highly

Pearson Sound - Blanked / Blue Eyes

1. Blanked
2. Blue Eyes

Ramadanman switches to his Pearson Sound alter-ego for two killer Juke-infused roll-outs on Hessle Audio. 'Blanked' is the one you want, mapping percussive patterns somewhere on the cusp-of-'ardcore-and-garage, and Chicago Juke styles with a stunning midway drop sounding like early '90s Autechre pads. 'Blue Eyes' takes the flipside for a straighter revision of the Juke sound with brittle, splintered rhythms and succinct synth drops and that infectious female vocal snippet, but for the most part this is just a perfectly formed naked roller ready for mixing by able DJs. While the distinctions between his two sonic personalities are becoming blurrier, there's a much-reduced aesthetic to these tracks that set them apart from pretty much all his recent material, making this a certified winner. Big twelve!

CRST - Good Love EP

01 Good Love
02 Good Love (Doc Daneeka remix)
03 Ultra64
04 Dance (Mosca remix)
05 Good Love (D Malice remix)
06 Revisit

Heavyweight goodies from No Hats No Hoods with two tracks of limber Garage, backed with a Funky mix from Doc Daneeka and a very spicy Grime refit from Mosca. 'Good Love' is one of those vintage-sounding Future Garage bubblers that just demands to be pulled up and rewound every time, while Doc Daneeka diverts it's charm and energy into a tighter rolling rolling Funky remix. On the flip CRST's 'Ultra64' goes deeper with bouncing dub chords and a tidily clipped 2-step rhythm, but the real winner has to be Mosca's itchin' 'Dance' remix, built rude and rugged like some vintage Dexplicit riddim or sumfink, yeah? Two scorchers, one

Toby Tobias - The Try

01 The Try (original - Miss Bee vocals)
02 The Try (The Off Key Hat remix)
03 Highway 24
04 Highway 1

Beautiful elegic mid-tempo boogie tune by Toby Tobias similar in the style to his excellent ''this feeling'' release on Rekids. Comes with a loose funky take from hyped Off Key Hat ( Dissident, Untracked ). flip over for more peak time action: ''highway 25'' is a bubbly, synth heavy modern disco tune while ''highway 1'' takes it in a more oldschool acid-house

Mates of State - Crushes

1. Laura (Girls)
2. Son et Lumiere (The Mars Volta)
3. Sleep the Clock Around (Belle & Sebastian)
4. Technicolor Girls (Death Cab for Cutie)
5. Long Way Home (Tom Waits)
6. Love Letter (Nick Cave)
7. Second Hand News (Fleetwood Mac)
8. 17 Pink Sugar Elephants (Vashti Bunyan)
9. Roller Coaster Ride (Dear Nora)
10. True Love Will Find You in the End (Daniel Johnston)

Crushes (The Covers Mixtape) is the sixth full-length release by husband/wife duo Mates of State. It was released digitally via iTunes as well as from the band's website on June 15, 2010. As stated in the title, the album is the duo's first mixtape. On the band's website, they explained the reason for the mixtape's creation. "We've been talking about doing a covers record for a long time. We'd hear a great song at 2 AM while driving the straight line from one part of Texas to the next, and all we'd want to do is play that song as if we had written it." The album was recorded and produced by Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, making it their first self-produced record to date. The album was mixed by Peter Katis (The National, Interpol, Frightened Rabbit, Jónsi), a long time collaborator of the Mates of

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jack Dixon - Substitute EP

01. Substitute
02. With You
03. I Let You
04. Stay
05. Be There
06. Needin' U
07. I Let You (The Phantom Remix)
08. I Let You (Damu Reflex)
09. Be There (Cairo Remix)
10. Substitute (Swarms Remix)
11. Stay (Daily Remix)

The Silverback team is proud to present to you London producer Jack Dixon. He takes us on a garage trip of high emotions and melodic syncopations, warm basslines, echoing vocals and chords that definitely sound like chrome! This EP is simply large: 6 originals and 5 remixes. The title track, ‘Substitute’, sounds like what could be the ultimate cross-over between a future garage sound and dubstep rhythms. This one will be haunting dancefloors all over the world. ‘With You’ gives bubbling subs a whole new meaning while ‘I Let You’ and ‘Stay’ show the melodic songwriting skills of Jack Dixon: organs and pads that will go straight to one’s musical heart and head. ‘Be There’ brings out an amazing baltimore rhythm covered with a garage blend. And finally (we told you it was a big one!) ‘Needin’ U’ shows Jack’s UK funky side.
As if this wasn’t enough, let us announce the remixers. We are honoured to have each of them rework one of Jack Dixon’s tracks, giving us their signature sound and amazing levels of production. Polish prodigy, The Phantom, turns ‘I Let You’ in a James Blake-ish grime banger, while future Silverback signee, Damu, brings out his lazered brilliance. Cairo strips ‘Be There’ down to the next levels of UK garage while Swarms takes ‘Substitute’ to a throbbing, down-tempo, violin-infused stepper that just seems to never stop building up. Finally, Belgium’s new hope, Daily, refixes Dixon’s ‘Stay’ into the old school garage sound for those late night sessions!

Goth-Trad - Two Face

1. Two Face
2. Sunbeam

Something a little different here from Mala's renowned and revered Deep Medi Musik imprint. Goth Trad kicks off "Two Face" with a trembling, eastern trill in the intro, interrupted by smacking drum kicks in a bleak, hollow soundscape. A deep, warping b-line underpins the tune with its computer game bleeps and recurring motifs. Up next, "Sunbeam" offers a more instantly recognisable Deep Medi sound with sweeping atmospherics whistling around a stabbing beat, deadly subs and low end prowess. Pattering bongos creep in around the halfway point definitely one for fans of the Mala, Pinch and Loefah

Untold - Stereo Freeze / Mass Dreams Of The Future

1. Stereo Freeze
2. Mass Dreams Of The Future

Making a power move into the world of House and Techno, Untold drops two sides of Detroit-inflected techno for R&S. While he's clearly flirted with the idea on the Roska collab 'Myth' and the awesome 'Gonna Work Out Fine' EP, this is his most damagingand deadly punt into 4/4, albeit with super heavy subs. 'Stereo Freeze' arranges haughty Chicago snares and optimised acid sequences with the kind of subbass levels that makes you catch your breath, resulting in one of the meanest UK Bass fusions out there. On the flip he makes a nod to label mate Model 500 or UR with chunky square bass and rugged rolling House patterns, also quite compatible with the likes of Slakk's eski-house riddims or the tuffer end of technoid Funky and Dubstep. It's just great to see/hear stuff like this on a platter marked with the raring black stallion!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

R1 Ryders - Full Throttle EP

A1 Hydraulic
A2 Intellitek
B1 Karni4
B2 Karni4 (Refix)

Another one of Fact magazine's producers to watch in 2010 returns with a long awaited follow-up to their much in-demand 'Rubberband' EP, tightening the screws on an infectious and righteously seedy blend of Grime and UKF. "Hydraulic" opens the twelve and will be familiar to many after spending what seems like an eternity on dubplate, working the floor into a rhythmic frenzy not too dissimilar to Lil Silva at his most robust, while "Intellitek" edges into straighter House territory with a nice line in squishy keys and rolling toms. The two versions of "Karni4" on the flip revert to a more sturdy Grime template, with the original delivering a Terror Danjah indebted jam whie the re-fix tempers down for a more bouncy funkified version. Strong

Friday, October 29, 2010

Margaret Dygas - Invisible Circles

A Invisible Circles
B Frankly

As so many other classic labels shuffle off into irrelevance, there's something reassuring about Perlon's ability to stay on top of the game. Invisible Circles, the latest 12-inch to be encased in oversized text, is one of the best records of the year so far, featuring two provocative cuts by Margaret Dygas. Like See You Around, her last release on Non Standard Productions, Invisible Circles was mixed by Tobias Freund, and focuses on the experimental side of house. But while that record seemed to shrug off the dance floor almost completely, this one strikes a perfect balance between beats and the avant-garde.

The title track shows Dygas indulging her love of eerie vibes. It begins with 32 measures of nothing but a muffled bass kick, then eases slowly into a murky dreamscape. The "hook" (for lack of a better term) consists of heavily processed vocal samples, layered over undulating industrial sounds, ala Einstürzende Neubauten or P16.D4. It's far too austere for the average nightclub, but its spine-tingling energy could be perfect in the right scenario. In an interesting flourish, some of the twisted vocal samples are featured on a locked groove that hugs the record's label, so DJs can spread this nightmarish motif across as many tracks as they please.

On the flipside, Dygas reassures us she's not too artsy for jack music. "Frankly" rides a stronger groove, forming a jagged bricolage of scattered breakbeats, distant sax and clean electric guitar chords. If the A-side harks back to first-wave industrial, this one does the same for early '80s post-punk. Both sides are fantastic, but for my money, Dygas's experimental tendencies work best when coupled with a funky beat, as on the B-side. Nonetheless, the choice to make "Invisible Circles" the title track hints at Dygas's personal preference, especially when considered alongside the chaotic musings of See You Around. Either way, as her third release to date, Invisible Circles reveals Dygas as a truly talented producer who's not afraid to go against the

Efterklang - Raincoats

01. Raincoats (Single Edit)
02. Harmonics (Covered by Peter Broderick & Nils Frahm)

'Raincoats' really stood out from the tracklist of Efterklang's most recent album, Magic Chairs, chiefly because there's a vocal hook in it that sounds eerily similar to 'Hangin' Tough' by New Kids On The Block. It's a lovely production however, finding the Danish post-rockers making a harmonious marriage of elaborate electronic programming and organic - almost folky - live band performances. The B-side is likely to draw a crowd all by itself: Peter Broderick and piano maestro Nils Frahm take on an acoustic cover of 'Harmonics' (another track from Magic Chairs) which proves that even once all the electronics and extra personnel have departed, there's still a strong piece of songwriting at the heart of what this band

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Seven - Siren (Remix)

A Siren (Remix)
B The Villain

A firing new remix of SEVEN's ravetastic dubstep track that might have you feeling a bit woozy from all of those chopped & screwed, slowed & skewed sirens! B-side "VILLAIN" is a chunky monkey of skittering breaks and

J.Rabbit - The Sex Crime EP

a. Crazy Talk
b. Disco Stick
c. Sex Crimes
d. Thug Life

J.Rabbit is killing it right now. The New York resident, is not new to the genre, and with releases on DZ’s Badmen label, Play me, and huge remixes for the Party Like Us Crew, there seems to be no stopping him these days.
Here, He lets off some steam with a 4 cut monster EP for the Trillbass crew. These tracks are pure nasty dancefloor killers. Insane Basslines, and thumping drums pump thru all four of these tracks, and leaves nothing to the imagination. These are a must for any DJ who wants to destroy bassbins... J.Rabbit is a beast, welcome to the revolution.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Girl Unit - Wut

01 Wut
02 Every Time
03 Showstoppa

Solid gold anthem business from Girl Unit on the follow-up to the killer 'I.R.L' 12" for Night Slugs. It would appear from his form this year that Girl Unit specialises only in BIG tunes, which is no bad thing when you've got a rave to rub up the right way. At the pinnacle of this particular monolith is 'Wut', his scorching fusion of Araab Muzik-style martial 808's and purest R&B synthline saturation that's become a staple in the sets of Jackmaster, Ikonika and Oneman since the summer. There's no avoiding it's lazered brilliance, beaming rapturous organ and that earworming vocal snippet like the light of the second coming. OK, maybe that's a bit strong, but we've definitely seen nerds prostrating at the speakers when this is dropped. Still following the crunk money trail, 'Every Time' jams out spindly triplets and boom-quaking bass hits with properly epic synth arrangements, leaving 'Showstoppa' to go out in a blaze of glory driven by huge black Bentley bass wamps and future lurching synth moves. Right here, right now, they don't come any bigger than this 12"

El Rakkas - Seas Of Disease / I & I Remixes

1 Seas Of Disease (LV Remix)
2 I & I (XI Remix)

El Rakkas, the duo from Graz, Austria, can be described in a very broad fashion as the sound that fills the void between Rhythm and Sound and the generalized stereotype of Dubstep. This could be a basis of thought, but as that denotes an artist with more in common with headphones than that of a dancefloor, it really is not wholly accurate, as anyone who has pushed our previous LoDubs 12" by them through a proper soundsystem (LoDubs-014, featuring the originals of these two remixes) can attest to. Now, those mystical elements are scrutinized by two pillars of our sound, LV and XI, with a sensibility that shows a pretanatural understanding of the individual songs inherit traits.
LV, largely known for productions on Hyperdub (We honestly believe "Turn Away" is by far the best song on the recent Hyperdub comp) Takes "Seas of Disease" and gives it a punchy near four-on-the-floor kick drum and driving swing, that along with distinctive crakles and effects demonstrate what could be a nexus of a whole substrian of the sound, should some big headed blogger decide to come up with a catchphrase for it. in a true ying to the LV's yang, XI presents a monster of a remix of "I & I" which unlike many throw-everything-at-the-wall remixes, contains a largely understated kick drum, nor anything garish in the way of a melody. The raw power in this remix comes from what we are referring to as an "Anti-wobble", a ingeniously applied bassline full of subharmonic sweeps, bleeps, and creeps that much like the LV remix, really demands a classification of its own. It simply must be heard in the correct environment to be

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cubic Zirkonia / Bok Bok - Hoes Come Out At Night (Ikonika Mix)

01. Cubic Zirkonia - Hoes Come Out At Night (Ikonika Mix)
02. Bok Bok & Cubic Zirkonia - Reclash (Give It To Me)

Another transatlantic soundclash on Night Slugs, this time centered around the New York-based R&B / acid house band Cubic Zirconia.On the A-side, elite Hyperdub producer Ikonika remixes Cubic Zirconia's "Hoes Come Out At Night", letting Tiombe Lockhart's dirty rap vocals ride her charging 145bpm riddim. Infused with all of Ikonika's signature cosmic synthwork, the 'Hoes' remix is also delightfully ghettotech-flavoured and primed for peak-time dancefloors. On the flip things get deeper as Night Slugs captain Bok Bok and Cubic Zirconia's Nick Hook collaborate on an retrofuturistic acid-bassline banger by the name of "Reclash". This time Tiombe is a ghostly presence, delivering disorientating incantations over Bok and Hook's jacking 808 drums and soaring synth psychedelia. Killer Night Slugs Booty from outer

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

01. Earthquake
02. Don’t Cry
03. Revival
04. Sailing
05. Memory Boy
06. Desire Lines
07. Basement Scene
08. Helicopter
09. Fountain Stairs
10. Coronado
11. He Would Have Laughed

Halcyon Digest is a record about the joy of music discovery, the thrill of listening for the first time to a potential future favorite, and that sense of boundless possibility when you're still innocent of indie-mainstream politics and your personal canon is far from set. In revisiting that youthful enthusiasm, Deerhunter brilliantly rekindle it, and the result meets Microcastle/Weird Era (Cont.) as the band's most exhilarating work to date. Whether those halcyon days were real or just idealized doesn't matter. With producer Ben Allen, who lent a bass-heavy sheen to Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion, these four guys-- lead singer Bradford Cox, singer/guitarist Lockett Pundt, bass player Josh Fauver, and drummer Moses Archuleta-- have created a seamless album of startling emotional clarity.

Deerhunter have never lacked ambition. 2007 breakout Cryptograms came as two discrete halves: one front-loaded with ambient drifts and clanging post-punk aggression, the other blasting off into sunny psych-pop. Microcastle turned out to be a sprawling, ghostly amusement park of a double album, with violence and frail beauty never far from each other. And then there are all those EPs, side projects, and rarities. In blog posts and interviews, Cox has shown himself to be a music lover of the highest order, almost a platonic ideal of the artist as fan.

This record marks a distinctly different approach for the band, more streamlined and stripped down, and in its sparest moments, it echoes the stark intimacy and one-take effortlessness of records like Neil Young's Tonight's the Night or Chris Bell's I Am the Cosmos. Fans of the band's earlier stuff may understandably miss some of the old electric-guitar squall, but Halcyon Digest's expanded instrumental palette-- acoustic guitar, electronic percussion, banjo, autoharp, harmonica, vocal harmonies, and saxophone (!)-- creates endless depths of intricacy and nuance to explore in headphones.

In the past, Deerhunter's gift for garbled sonics and Cox's stream-of-consciousness methods made it easy to downplay the group's lyrical ability. That's not the case here. Whether by Pundt, who sings lead on two of Halcyon Digest's best songs, or Cox, Deerhunter's songwriting congeals into a style all its own, with lyrics moved front-and-center. The words fit perfectly together, down to the most trivial minutia: Cox asking, "Did you stick with me?" at the start of garage-pop fist-pumper "Memory Boy", right after the track people are most likely to skip (funny!), or Pundt mentioning a "marching band" on another uptempo proto-anthem, "Fountain Stairs", as Bill Oglesby's sax first appears.

The topical ground covered here is inspired, too: "Revival", a sort of Southern gothic folk-rock baptism, embraces religion. "I'm saved, I'm saved!" Cox exalts, "I felt his presence heal me." Recorded to four-track, "Basement Scene" "dream[s] a little dream" that soon turns nightmarish: "I don't wanna get old" quickly becomes "I wanna get old" as Cox weighs the alternative. And first single "Helicopter" is a beautifully watery electro-acoustic farewell that uses a tragic Dennis Cooper story about a Russian prostitute (graciously reprinted in the liner notes) to support its emotional bleakness.

Then there's seven-and-a-half-minute finale "He Would Have Laughed", dedicated to Jay Reatard, the Memphis garage rocker who died last winter of drug-related causes at age 29. Its lyrics are the most cryptic on Halcyon Digest-- full sentences are rarely formed before Cox closes them off with his usual crisp consonants. A simple acoustic guitar riff repeats as other percussion elements and electronic tones pan across the track, occasionally joined by the full band. Cox admits to growing "bored as I get older," and then goes into a dream-- "I lived on a farm, yeah/ I never lived on a farm"-- until he finally all but asks, "Where are your friends tonight?" The track cuts off unexpectedly mid-note.

Deerhunter unveiled their new album by asking fans to print out a vintage DIY-style poster, photocopy it, and tape it up all over town. In the last couple of weeks, band members have participated in all-night online chats with some of their most devoted fans. We'll never be able to parse every lyric or tease out every technical intricacy-- though somebody will probably try-- but that is what Halcyon Digest is all about: nostalgia not for an era, not for antiquated technology, but for a feeling of excitement, of connection, of that dumb obsession that makes life worth living no matter how horrible it gets. And then sharing that feeling with somebody else who'll start the cycle all over

Morrissey - Bona Drag

01 piccadilly dalare
02 interesting drug
03 november spawned a monster
04 will never marry
05 such a little thing makes such a big difference
06 the last of the famous international playboys
07 ouija board, ouija board
08 hairdresser on fire
09 everyday is like sunday
10 he knows i’d love to see him
11 yes, i am blind
12 lucky lisp
13 suedehead
14 disappointed
15 happy lovers a last united
16 lifeguard on duty
17 please help the cause against loneliness
18 oh phoney
19 the bed took fire
20 let the right on slip in

Bona Drag, the most enduring success of Morrissey's solo career, was built on his first true taste of failure. After the dissolution of the Smiths, Moz was, quite oddly, tipped by many to struggle without his longtime songwriting partner and bandmate Johnny Marr; he wasted no time proving them wrong, releasing his debut solo single, "Suedehead", just over two months after the final Smiths single. It became his biggest hit to that point, the first of four consecutive UK top-10 singles, and, with "Everyday Is Like Sunday", one of the tentpoles of his outstanding solo debut, Viva Hate.

And then the wheels fell off. Morrissey began what was to be his follow-up album, Bona Drag, surrounded by acrimony and litigation. He had fallen out with producer Stephen Street, plus former Smiths bandmates Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke-- all of whom had played key roles in that successful string of hits. The breakup of his partnership with Street was the most devastating: He had co-written all of Viva Hate and served as an unofficial mentor for Morrissey's early solo years, performing on records and playing several instruments.

Amidst the rubble of these personal relationships, Morrissey issued his fifth single, "Ouija Board, Ouija Board", a relative commercial failure that was so critically savaged that Bona Drag's progress was abruptly halted. When Morrissey did finally return to recording, he contrasted the trifling, almost-novel morbidity of "Ouija Board" with two dark, excellent, descriptive, and quite underrated singles about outsiders-- "November Spawned a Monster" (about a disabled girl) and "Piccadilly Palare" (a young male prostitute). It was a brief recovery: Morrissey's second proper album, 1991's Kill Uncle, still turned out to be a dud. (A move to L.A. and into more muscular rock thankfully soon kickstarted the second phase of his solo career.)

As a title, if not a studio creation, Bona Drag was rescued in 1990 and issued as a compilation record piecing together that first run of seven singles-- six of the m rich and eclectic and rightly beloved, one of them the song that derailed his progress. And without the weight of being an A-side, buried in the middle of the record, even "Ouija Board" comes off as charming. The seven B-sides chosen from the era were well-selected, too. Five are as good as their A-sides: the elegant (albeit edited version of) "Will Never Marry", "Yes, I Am Blind" (ironically introspective considering its title), "Such a Little Thing Makes Such a Big Difference" (not surprisingly well-detailed considering its title), and the archly humorous "Disappointed" and "Hairdresser on Fire".

The compilation was a reminder of how fruitful this period of Morrissey's career had been when he needed it most. Despite a brilliant three-year solo run, coming right off the back of his seminal work with the Smiths, Bona Drag was issued into a rapidly shifting UK music scene. Mancunian music in particular was drastically changing, going from the miserablism, soul-searching, and spikiness of post-punk and the Smiths to the rolling rhythms and textures of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. The years covered by Bona Drag coincided directly with the crossover of acid house and subsequent emergence of Madchester, a hopeful injection of youth, optimism, and hedonism, traits met with suspicion if not outright hostility in Morrissey's worldview. Moz was instead often writing songs about England's past-- whether the dissolution of key facets of its national identity in "Everyday Is Like Sunday", decades-old gangsters in "The Last of the Famous International Playboys", or out-of-fashion slang in "Piccadilly Palare"-- while the generation behind him was re-writing UK indie's future.

The hook on this reissue of Bona Drag is the addition of six previously unreleased tracks (though three-- an early version of "At Amber" called "The Bed Took Fire"; "Let the Right One Slip In"; and "Please Help the Cause Against Loneliness", given to Sandie Shaw-- have been issued in other forms.) In sum, the songs are a nice addition to the Morrissey catalog, all worth hearing though none perhaps necessary. In a career of odd reissues and collections, however, they at least make a welcome addition to this 20th anniversary release-- all genuine curiosities for completists that will please non-fans.

Even without those additions, this would be one of the most complete and necessary compilations in rock history, working both as a functional and utilitarian way to catch up with Morrissey outside of the UK and as a way to re-assess him within it. That the latter needed doing in the face of these songs is frankly

The Fresh And Onlys - Play It Strange

01. Summer Of Love
02. Waterfall
03. Strange Disposition
04. Tropical Island Suite
05. I'm All Shook Up
06. Be My Hooker
07. Fascinated
08. Plague Of Frogs
09. Who Needs A Man
10. Red Light, Green Light
11. I'm A Thief

Over the past few years, San Francisco has given rise to a new scene of garage-pop bands pushing the frustrated proto-punk sounds of the 1960s in different directions. Girls are indie-pop classicists who hit heartbreak even when they don't reach for it. Thee Oh Sees take the scrapiest, ugliest sounds on the Nuggets compilations and run with them. Sonny & the Sunsets play cartoonish games with the skewed innocence they hear in oldies-radio fare. And then there are the Fresh & Onlys, who seem in love with the era when garage-rock thud and folk-rock jangle first fell for each other. The guys in the band aren't revivalists, exactly, but they are pastiche artists. And in their florid, carefully orchestrated chug, we hear bits of any number of historical pop moments: starry-eyed Buddy Holly pep, Byrdsian guitar sprawl, willfully silly Donovan Mellotron idealism, scraggly Sebadoh sighs, bored Dandy Warhols stoner glamor.

Since forming a few years ago, the band has kept up a steady stream of 7" and cassette releases, and Play It Strange is their third LP in as many years. But this one finds them starting to pull all those ideas into something a little more focused, something easier to digest. For the first time, they've left the confines of their home studio, and now they're working with an actual producer-- former Fucking Champs guy Tim Green, who might not exactly be Daniel Lanois, but he's still a big step for this band. Their smart little melodic flourishes have always been there, but now you don't have to strain your ear to hear them.

Even at their most straightforward, the Fresh & Onlys still find plenty of room to play around in the margins of their songs. "I'm All Shook Up" is a relative rave-up, but organs blurt and bass murmurs deep in the mix, adding melodic accents to the pounding. "Who Needs a Man" is a swampy rush that ends before you know it, but the ghostly shades of surf-guitar exotica keep things restless. And then there's "Tropical Island Suite", this band's shot at eight-minute "Hellhole Ratrace" grandeur. A straight-ahead, simplistic bash dissolves into muffled feedbacky noise halfway through, then returns as a slower, strummier lope. It's as if the band couldn't decide which way to play the song, so they just went with both ideas.

Singer Tim Cohen has a flat, affectless voice, nowhere near as expressive as peers like Christopher Owens or even Sonny Smith. But that baritone works nicely in the middle of the mix, and it's fun to hear him sounding bored of being a player on "I'm a Thief" or trying to escape information-age overload on "Waterfall". My favorite line comes on "Be My Hooker": "I can hear the open sea calling me, but I don't know, I don't know"-- wanderlust and indecision rendered in one quick, direct stroke. He keeps things concise, and the whole album finishes up business well before the 40-minute mark. May this band continue to crank out inventive little nuggets like this long into the

Sufjan Stevens - The Age Of Adz

01. Futile Devices
02. Too Much
03. Age Of Adz
04. I Walked
05. Now That I'm Older
06. Get Real Get Right
07. Bad Communication
08. Vesuvius
09. All For Myself
10. I Want To Be Well
11. Impossible Soul

With his sixth proper album, Sufjan Stevens does battle with what we've come to expect from a proper Sufjan Stevens album. This time, instead of painstakingly humanizing the locations, historical inhabitants, and trivia of a certain slab of America, he's more concerned with his own state of mind. Banjos are out; moody electronics, deep bass, and drums that burst like geysers are in. The lengthiest song title on his last LP, 2005's Illinois, was 53 words long; here, that same superlative goes to a tune called "I Want to Be Well". He's whispering less, hollering more. And at the climax of The Age of Adz, the devout Christian and poster boy for mannered indie-dude sensitivity shouts, "I'm not fuckin' around!" no less than 16 times. Believe him.

Yet, there is no mistaking this as a work by the Detroit-born, Brooklyn-dwelling overachiever. Trilling flutes, meticulously arranged choirs, and an overarching sense of hugeness are still apparent. The record's last track, "Impossible Soul", is a five-part suite that lasts more than 25 minutes and boasts harps, horns, blips, Auto-Tuned vocals, a twee-dance breakdown, some cheerleader call-and-response, and even a little trad-folk guitar picking, you know, for kicks. That single track bulges with more engaging ideas than most artists could muster in a career, and there's no one else on earth that could've come up with it. Even the record's glitched backdrop isn't entirely unprecedented; Stevens' pre-breakout 2001 instrumental album Enjoy Your Rabbit could be looked back on as a sketchbook for what would become The Age of Adz. So as Stevens' current restlessness fights it out with his past accomplishments, the listener ends up winning.

Once again there's a concept tying everything together, though it's not quite as educational-- or virtuous-- as before. The Age of Adz is a reference to Louisiana artist and self-proclaimed prophet Royal Robertson, whose work appears on the album's cover and liner notes. A paranoid schizophrenic, Robertson translated his anguish through apocalyptic sci-fi posters after his wife left him following nearly 20 years of marriage. His comic-book style pieces-- which have been shown at the Smithsonian, among other museums-- are colorful, vengeful, and crazed. They feature B-movie style robot monsters who spout cartoon captions like, [sic] "I'll distroy much town's of adultress !!WHORE'S!!" Robertson's work is a long way from the cutesy cover of Illinois, and the fact that Stevens chose such an eccentric and hate-prone avatar for inspiration this time is telling.

Because The Age of Adz is a relatively dark affair, with the 35-year-old songwriter sometimes forgoing his child-like naïveté for something more oblique and adult. Considering the triumph of style that was Illinois (and the legions of lesser lights that subsequently turned it into some sort of over-the-top Disney on Ice parody), the change of perspective is welcomed.

The record is book-ended by two quaint, characteristic acoustic passages that find Stevens reconnecting with a past love. "It's been a long long time since I've memorized your face," he starts. This is the Sufjan we know. But, in between that short intro and outro, the album tells the story of a relationship with fantastical zeal. The tale is sordid and a little absurd, filled with betrayal, selfishness, frustration, suicidal thoughts, a raging volcano, and a space ship. "I've lost the will to fight/ I was not made for life," he confesses on the title track, as robo-noises and churchly backups translate Robertson's futuristic drawings into sound.

Across the album, he relives the more harrowing aspects of a deep personal bond, pinging from bitterness ("At least I deserve the respect of a kiss goodbye," he sings over gloriously spare electro-pop on "I Walked"), to confusion ("I thought I was so in love/ Some say it wasn't true," he head-scratches on the hymn-like "Now That I'm Older", a masterclass in modern vocal arrangement), to, um, melodramatic transmogrification (referring to himself in the third person, he inhabits the Rome-burning volcano of "Vesuvius", singing, "Sufjan, the panic inside, the murdering ghost that you cannot ignore"). Surrounding himself with music that expertly balances between over-orchestrated and chaotic, Stevens elevates his pedestrian travails about love and lust into legendary myths in which he's rarely the hero.

Right before The Age of Adz's back-to-earth finale, Sufjan finally overcomes his emotional stupor as a host of voices join him for the singalong, "Boy! We can do much more together!/ It's not so impossible!" And then he shakes out of the grandeur, goes back to the finger picking, and sighs the album's more realistic final line: "Boy! We made such a mess together." It's an ambiguous conclusion that, like the rest of the album, was seemingly in jeopardy of not happening at all. In a Signal to Noise interview last year, Stevens said, "I definitely feel like the album no longer has any real bearing anymore. The physical format itself is obsolete; the CD is obsolete and the LP is kinda nostalgic. I'm wondering, 'What's the value of my work once these forms are obsolete and everyone's just downloading music?'" It's a valid question. But instead of succumbing to trends, Stevens barrels through with another long-form work that requires-- and rewards-- time and devotion. As important questions about music's worth in the age of free continue to swirl around him, Sufjan's still combating instant-gratification culture the best way he knows

Everything Everything - Man Alive

01. MY KZ, UR BF
02. Qwerty Finger
03. Schoolin'
04. Leave The Engine Room
05. Final Form
06. Photoshop Handsome
07. Two For Nero
08. Suffragette Suffragette
09. Come Alive Diana
10. NASA Is On Your Side
11. Tin (The Manhole)
12. Weights

There's a recurring gag on "The Simpsons" based around Homer's gluttony leading to all manner of culinary curiosities: sometimes the results work, as with his patented Space-Age Out-of-This-World Moon Waffles (caramel, waffle batter, a stick of butter, liquid smoke); more often than not, he finds out the hard way that a combination of, say, Tom Collins mix, cloves, and a frozen pie crust is no substitute for a decent breakfast. Like that disaster, Everything Everything's debut LP, Man Alive, is proof that enthusiastic experimentation can't save your end product when the underlying elements are so incompatible and unappetizing.

Even before you consider their name, song titles like "My Kz, Ur Bf", "Qwerty Finger", and "Photoshop Handsome" imply EE are a product of media overload and social-networking culture-- the self-absorbed musical equivalent of having 12 browsers open at the same time. To apparently a lot of people this is a good thing. (Sample prerelease hype: EE sound like the Futureheads and Animal Collective.) But stuffing everything humanly possible into your songs can be overwhelming, if not identity-sapping. The first 10 or so seconds of this record is pretty much the only span with any negative space-- and even that resembles the obelisk-staring intro of Coldplay's "Square One". From there on, Man Alive is jacked up with bizarre key changes, superfluous time-signature switches, electro noodling, and half-rap lyrics delivered in run-on melodies, and you ultimately think, "hey, what would happen if Dismemberment Plan got a crash course in Pro Tools and a record deal with Fueled By Ramen?" Everything Everything aren't afraid to answer those tough questions.

All jokes aside, it actually is an interesting gambit to find a continuum within all of those coordinates in terms of bands interacting with personal computing-- after all, D-Plan had a frontman who was essentially a poptimist blogger before we knew what to call it. But even crediting Everything Everything's unclassifiable combination of itchy art-rock, pop-locking electro, and straight-up Brit indie to musical omnivorism, there's a problem that is impossible to get around: If anyone's got a more irritating voice than Jonathan Everything, they probably also have a harp and a few good stories to tell. It's not the constant falsetto that's the problem-- Passion Pit and the Darkness had that, but they also owned their own ridiculousness (not to mention songwriting chops). Jonathan Everything merely inflicts wispy, intrusive papercuts on your eardrums. Hearing it for the first time is akin to seeing a roach-- unpleasant and unexpected, but then you start to worry about where you'll find the next one. And Man Alive is absolutely infested.

And yet, I'd still recommend at least a cursory shot at "My Kz, Ur Bf", because even if it's a particularly annoying song and you can't quite pick out whether Everything is seeking to get caught in flagrante with your boyfriend or your girlfriend, it does have something of a pleasant whiff of 90s alternative radio. Granted, it comes on way too strong and is a complete mess, but it's certainly their mess. Credit Everything Everything for finding their own niche, but it's one that's been unoccupied for good

Liars - Proud Evolution EP

01 Proud Evolution (Album Version)
02 Proud Evolution (Thom Yorke Remix)
03 Proud Evolution (Live From Williamsburg)
04 Come Now
05 Total Frown
06 Strangers

The inimitable Liars are releasing their latest single, Proud Evolution, as a six track EP on October 19th, 2010, which features a remix from Thom Yorke, a live version recorded at Music Hall Of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, plus three exclusive new b-sides “Come Now”, “Total Frown”, and “Strangers”. The disc promises to be both lurid and frightening, but what else would you expect from this jagged, splashy and always surprising trio?

Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love

01. I Didn't See It Coming
02. Come On Sister
03. Calculating Bimbo
04. I Want The World To Stop
05. Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John (feat. Norah Jones)
06. Write About Love (feat. Carey Mulligan)
07. I'm Not Living In The Real World
08. Ghost Of Rockschool
09. Read The Blessed Pages
10. I Can See Your Future
11. Sunday's Pretty Icons

It’s a little unusual to be able to picture a band playing a song off of their brand new album on the Merv Griffin Show circa 1965. But it’s not that unusual at all when you’re talking about Belle & Sebastian. In fact, someone could start up a radio station for “New Oldies” and play nothing but The New Pornographers, The Shins and Belle & Sebastian and have a pretty good niche carved out for themselves. On Write About Love, the UK-based seven-piece are sweet and sincere in a not-so-innovative way that is nonetheless fresh by virtue of the fact that, in today’s musical climate, there just aren’t a lot of similar acts out there.

The album couldn’t be much smoother if it had been spooned out of a Cool Whip container, from lead singer Stuart Murdoch’s wistful vocal stylings to the lock step rhythmic instrumentals that back Murdoch and Sarah Martin’s melodic make out sessions (“I Didn’t See It Coming”, “I Want The World To Stop”). A couple of collaborations are also offered, of which the titular “Write About Love” (featuring actress Carey Mulligan) stands out above the snoozer “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John” (featuring Norah Jones). Still, after such a smooth listen, it wouldn’t be unusual for listeners to seek a slightly more gritty, decidedly more 21st century album to get that sweet taste out of their

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gabriel Ananda - Charming & Alarming

01. Trixini
02. Hyperballet
03. Charming & Alarming
04. Bezwei

One interesting thing about consistency is that it's not achieved by doing the same thing over and over again, but by doing something that's different enough each time, and doing it well. Gabriel Ananda's a prime example, and this third release on his and Marcel Janovsky's Basmati label is varied and creative. "Trixini" opens with wonky, off-kilter folds of dissonance, then drops into a smooth, submerged soup and builds back up, reintroducing the earlier acidic squawks. The structure seems to tell a story, evolving into different sections easily and interestingly. "Hyperballet," in contrast, has deliriously innocent shrieks, then sweet, glowing pastel whistles and plinks; quirky, storytime stuff which would work alongside tracks from his hometown's Kompakt label.

"Charming and Alarming" comes on a bit stronger, and the solid funkiness in the rhythm is complemented as usual by a roughshod aesthetic that makes all the difference. A demented barrel organ and screwloose bloops take turns and then come together near the end. It's not serious music, but it's done with serious attention to detail, form and musicality. The structures of these tunes are all somewhat unexpected, but make complete sense. "Bezwei," meanwhile, is almost totally serious, rolling, tough and eminently clubbable with dreamy, quietly epic pads and wonky melodic percussion which suggests simple melancholy. Like the others, it's rhythm-heavy enough for club rotation but engaging and emotive enough for the playlist at home as

Will Saul & Mike Monday - Sequence 1

A Sequence 1
B1 Small Moments
B2 Sequence 1 (Scuba Remix)

Will Saul's Aus Music imprint has recently been linking house (deep, tech, whatever) with UK bass music, releasing music from Martyn, Ramadanman, Joy Orbison and Appleblim. Saul is among dubstep's most ardent supporters in the house community, embracing the dialogue between the two genres wholeheartedly. Here, we find Saul himself in collaboration with tech house oddball Mike Monday coming at dubstep from the other direction. "Sequence 1" is a quintessential Aus track, made up of shifting blocky shapes and rubbery basslines, but its lightly skipping progression, weird sound effects and prominent 808s recall recent experiments by Ramadanman and his Hessle Audio label.

Meanwhile the swelling synths so typical of new-school dubstep-influenced UK house of the Night Slugs variety overtake the meek tech house of "Small Moments" in grand fashion. Hotflush label boss Scuba provides a remix of "Sequence 1," and provides what feels like one of the pivotal moments in this burgeoning crossover. Scuba jacks up the tempo and adds some UK funky percussion, creating a cartoonishly exaggerated track that wisely avoids the dark technoid explorations of his recent work. In its many iterations, dubstep is often a "serious" music, screwfaced and stoic; it's nice to hear Scuba introduce some wood and rubber into those steely beats of