Friday, 14 December 2012

Jacques Greene - The Ready EP (EP Review)

In other areas of music it seems people are bending over backwards to invent new genres and sub-divide existing ones. This kind of electronic music, however, has fractured and evolved so frequently over the last couple of years that it makes trying to pigeonhole a trend, sound or track a futile exercise. Martyn’s 3024 imprint is just as big a culprit as any in this cross pollination and combined with Jacques Greene’s ever shifting productions we’re quite happy to sweep any genre implications under the big rug that is ‘house’ and get on with enjoying The Ready EP.

The Ready EP marks yet another checkpoint in Jacques Greene’s exploratory journey of dance music. Here he’s decamped to the rainforest where Predator was filmed. Lead track opens with ominous tribal beats and a dense atmosphere, thick with apprehension. Cymbals scatter and the bass bubbles as this svelte monster slowly hauls itself out of the mist with as much muscle as Arnie or Carl Weathers but much more stealth. A syncopated minimal pluck urges the track onwards while the vocal’s siren call dances on the edge of recognition. ‘Ready’ lulls it’s listeners into a false sense of security by plodding forwards with a smooth, laconic gait. By the time it changes up to its storming 4×4 beat you know it’s coming for you and it’s already too late.

Second track, Prism, converges on the more recognised house formula with a straighter kick and clap backbone. It’s still rich in texture and thick with tension though. A powerful bass line provides the rising heartbeat of the track whilst delicate melodies float overtop in a haze of reverb, encapsulated by a canopy of distant shakers and hats. Again the drifting vocal flirts with your nagging memory, almost daring you to remember it’s origin.

Dakou, rounds off the digital EP with a cleaner production style. Emotive chords wash away the sweat and dirt of the previous two tracks allowing the listener to bathe in bliss. Gentle, arpeggiated synths swim around the percussive low end before an acid lick ripples through. The ebb and flow of the vocal now soothing in its inexplicable familiarity.

Jacques Greene’s The Ready EP is a fusion of melody, emotion, atmosphere and propulsion that pushes the envelope for electronic music. It’s not an EP that will slide easily into many DJs’ sets but if you hear this out you’ll know you’re having one heck of an amazing night.

Originally posted at Blah Blah Blah

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble (Album Review)

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is a musician of rare breed. Not only a producer and performer but also a singer. It’s the kind of whole package that we don’t see very often and therefore have good reason to get excited about when we do. We’re not the only one’s as he was snapped up in 2011 by Polydor, another rarity – major record labels getting involved with rising electronic artists. Trouble is his debut album.

Trouble is, for the most part, a collection of bass heavy tracks taking their influence from the multi-faceted genre of house. Avid TEED fans will have already heard half of the album through pre-released singles including ‘Garden’ which has been on a mobile phone advert. At 14 tracks, however, Trouble still has plenty of new material up its sleeve. ‘Your Love’, in particular, is a euphoric tribute to 90s house and breakbeat and an instant favourite.

Newcomers will be blown away by TEEDs signature crunchy bass and driving beats. It’s a schizophrenic approach to production whereby all manner of weird and wonderful sounds drop in and out of the mix. Nebulous pads hover menacingly over tinkling melodies while the percussion does its complex polyrhythmic shuffle underneath. Despite the chaos it’s the subtle, understated vocals and sensitive lyrics that imbue these tracks with a touch of emotion. It’s TEED’s soft delivery that tames the four to the floor stomper of ‘Household Goods’ and evolves ‘Tapes & Money’ from a great dance track into a great pop song. New double A-side single ‘Stronger’ is another highlight and swaps out the otherwise pounding bass for a line so funky and addictive that it will have you strutting even if you’re sitting down. The other ‘side’ to the single is ‘American Dream Part II’ and despite the whimsy title is a gigantic, wobbling track heading straight for the dance-floor. Here TEED’s lack of lyrics accentuates the power of the track, leaving it’s sheer, glistening muscle to do the work. It’s worth pointing out that there are a couple of numbers on the album that don’t shine quite as brightly but clocking in at over an hour it’s hard to feel short changed.

‘Trouble’ is a long over due meeting of two, hitherto separate, worlds. That of the credible electronic musician and the high budget major labels. With artists like Caribou and SBTRKT paving the way for successful yet slightly less obvious electronic albums, TEED stands as a flag bearer for exciting, new and quality pop music.

Originally posted at Blah Blah Blah

Justin Martin - Ghettos & Gardens (Album Review)

If you’ve been following Justin Martin for the past 12 months you’ll have noticed the fine form he’s currently in. Last year’s ‘Lezgo‘ with Ardalan appeared in plenty of best of ’2011′ lists whilst last week’s ‘Don’t Go’/'Rough Stuff‘ EP is already getting a lot of hype. All three of these tracks appear on his debut album Ghettos & Gardens.

Ghettos & Gardens is Justin Martin’s marriage of melody and bass. Rather than being a ‘DJ album’ of club tracks connected by unnecessary filler he has created an album’s worth of songs that stand up equally to home listening and club play. ‘Don’t Go’ takes a beautiful harp sample and underpins it with a tough bass line making it a joy to listen to but also extremely powerful. ‘Hood Rich’ intersperses emotive strings with low end wobble. ‘Kemistry’ slows down Goldie’s original, giving the lush vocal and synths space to breathe before breaking into a disgustingly aggressive throb. Throughout Ghettos & Gardens Justin Martin blends delightful musicality with speaker shaking bass all tied together with slickly produced beats. It’s a surprisingly playful piece of work, something that a lot of producers fail to capture. It’s hard to listen to this album without a wry smile slowly and subconsciously spreading across your face. That’s not to say it’s silly, childish or even humorous but you can’t imagine Justin Martin taking himself too seriously and that reflects well here. It’s as much an album of sunshine and friends as it is of tough beats and bass in dingy clubs. Every so often it’s nice to be reminded that electronic music can be a heck of a lot of fun.

Justin Martin’s debut makes for an extremely satisfying listen, it fulfils the needs of both the ears and the body, the brain and the feet. Ghettos & Gardens exerts a confidence, safe in the knowledge it’s not trying to be something it isn’t. It’s not pushing too many envelopes or needlessly re-inventing the wheel again, it’s just good music done well.

Originally posted at Blah Blah Blah

Lone - Galaxy Garden (Album Review)

The aptly titled Galaxy Garden marks a departure from Lone’s previous two albums of blissed out, hip-hop infused electronica. His third LP retains the atmospheric touches of Lemurian and Ecstasy & Friends. It also shares their soundtrack qualities but this time it’s the sonic backdrop to a psychedelic, schizophrenic journey through the cosmos.

Dreamy synths float all over this album giving it a lush but eery feel. There’s beatless moments where pan pipes, whale noises, running water and acoustic guitar could take it into chill out territory but the frantic tribal percussion sees off any such thoughts. The songs shape shift rapidly and Lone glides through genres so smoothly it’s barely worth mentioning them. It’s the juxtaposition of sounds and ideas that makes this such an interesting listen. There’s a clear 90s house/breakbeat influence but it’s one of many. An old-skool rave track is topped with an 80s style noodling synth solo. Smooth melodies slide over low rumbling bass and insistent broken beats. It’s like NASA broadcast a pirate radio station out of the milky way 15 years ago and it’s somehow returned to earth covered in space dust.

Galaxy Garden is a giant leap for Lone taking his songs light years away from the earthy productions of previous albums. It’s a tricky listen to get your ears around at first but your effort will be rewarded with an LP that doesn’t tire easily.

Originally posted at Blah Blah Blah

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Jimmy Edgar - Magenta (Album Review)

Jimmy Edgar returns with his third album, Majenta. With previous albums released on Warp and !K7, expectations of a fairly leftfield electronica aren’t unfair. He’s already earned himself a reputation as a purveyor of sleazy electro-funk and with track names such as ‘Sex Drive’, ‘Touch Yr Bodytime’ and ‘In Deep’ this looks set to continue.

On first listen it’s easy to identify the bouncy electro basslines and 80s synth stabs that characterise his work. Along with the sexual spoken word narratives and hints of RnB flavour. There’s a tougher feel to the tracks on Majenta, though, a driving yet subtle techno influence, most likely gained from his recent time spent in Berlin. It’s easy to see why this slightly darker direction has appealed to label head man, Scuba. It lends the filthy lyrics a creepy edge, contrasting the shine of false sexual bravado from his Prince-meets-Zdar moments. Certain tracks have got Hotflush written all over them, skittering percussion, deep basslines, stabs and, most importantly, sweetly sung vocal cuts pitched down. It’s a delightful combination of disparate styles.

Majenta is a thoroughly well thought out album. Edgar plays with new genres and directions without sacrificing his own style or attaching himself too firmly to the zeitgeist. It would be a great pop album if it wasn’t for the strictly NSFW vocals.

Originally posted at Blah Blah Blah

Futureboogie Recordings - 10 Years

On Mon 27th Feb Futureboogie are releasing a rather attractive compilation album to celebrate their 10th year in the music business. If you’re not from Bristol you’re probably thinking “10 years? Really?”. They first hit our radar last year with their debut release as a record label, Julio Bashmore’s Father Father EP. However, they’ve been throwing parties and managing artists long before Julio found house and synthesis.

The compilation itself is the kind of gold you’d expect from an agency representing such a quality list of artists. Typesun and Crackazat open the compilation with two relaxed jazzy affairs before man of the moment Eats Everything shakes it up with his trademark booty house. Waifs & Strays and Christophe take care of the deep house side of things whilst Simpson and Behling thrown in a little garage infused house before our fellow Brightonian Maxxi Soundsystem steals the show with his appropriately titled track ‘Into The Future’.

With such a high standard of artists not only on their books but now also on their label it certainly marks an exciting time for the Futureboogie Crew.

Greatest Dance Act Of All Time - Mixmag

Here's a thought piece I wrote about the general state of electronic music over the last 30 years. It was originally much longer and included far more facts but had to be cut down.

A couple of weeks ago Mixmag released the results of their public vote for ‘Who Is The Greatest Dance Act Of All Time’.

The Top 20 are as follows:

01. The Prodigy
02. Daft Punk
03. The Chemical Brothers
04. Faithless
05. Deadmau5
06. Plastikman
07. Underworld
08. Fatboy Slim
09. Orbital
10. Moby
11. Leftfield
12. Kraftwerk
13. Pendulum
14. Depeche Mode
15. Justice
16. Basement Jaxx
17. Groove Armada
18. The Shamen
19. Above & Beyond
20. The KLF

Whilst the magazine contains interviews, facts and summaries of the acts, there’s no real analysis of the artists, their order or what it says about dance music in general. That’s where we come in. We’re going to start by noting that whilst this list is (in general) fairly conclusive we’re not going to argue against the results, as it was a public vote. It would be no more useful than disputing the top 40 or even the Beatport chart.

The list is interesting because it is a poll conducted largely within the global dance community, in this case anyone within Mixmag’s reach. This gives us a closed sample group of a similar demographic – everyone here purporting to enjoy ‘dance acts’. The results suggest a wide age spread of voters with the inclusion of acts that pre-date many a current clubber (Kraftwerk & KLF) alongside newer acts such as Justice, Deadmau5 and Pendulum. Three quarters of the acts released music during the 1990s, and apart from Deadmau5 the top 10 have all continued to release music through the 90s up to the present day. Therefore its reasonable to assume that in order to take the crown for ‘The Greatest Dance Act Of All Time’ the act would need to have been around for some time, or at least have had their music around long enough to still be relevant.

If that’s what we have in the top 20 what’s conspicuous by its absence? There’s no Dubstep. Not overly surprising when we take into account the average age and duration of the acts against this comparatively fledgling genre. But with people like Skrillex and Magnetic Man touring stadiums and fresh in young voters’ minds, it can’t have been far off. Drum n Bass also seems underrepresented when you consider it was born in the 90s, prominent throughout the 00s and as relevant today as ever. Notable absentees include pioneers such as Roni Size, High Contrast and current protagonists Chase & Status and Sub Focus. With the reforming of The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays it would be reasonable to expect some Madchester acts in there, New Order being the more obvious choice. Of the other new genres that sprung up in the 00s like Nu Rave, Electro, Fidget etc we only have Justice not even Soulwax make the list.

To complete our analysis we tried to identify how these Best Of Dance lists have changed over the years. However apart from a 2010 Global Gathering poll listing a similar top 10 there is not much to find. Widening our search to include award ceremonies we interestingly discovered that in the UK both the Brits & NME Awards no longer have a ‘Best Dance Act’ category, ceasing 2004 and 2002 respectively. Suggesting that dance music throughout the mid to late 00s wasn’t troubling the mainstream consciousness enough to warrant its own category.

In summary it would appear that it is much harder for newer electronic acts to break into these types of lists, perhaps because we currently live in a fast food digital age where genres and acts can storm to success, galvanise a sound and fade away equally as quickly, leaving the established 90’s acts to dominate. Or perhaps dance music has genuinely had its peak both in terms of quality and commercial viability?….which begs the question: “Is it actually possible to create a modern day act that will be looked at in twenty years as The Greatest Of All Time”?

Let us know you thoughts and who you think could topple the ever present trio of The Prodigy, Daft Punk, and the Chemical Brothers.

Originally posted at Blah Blah Blah