Monday, June 6, 2011

Is trance cool again?

'Snooze 4 Love' 
Running Back Records 2011

Its amazing how one track can galvanize an entire genre back into public discourse.  Bok Bok seems to have accomplished as much with the recent 'Silo Pass' off his Southside EP—bringing instrumental Grime roaring to the front of DJ's vinyl crates worldwide.

But its another feat altogether to jumpstart a genre as uncool and unobtrusive as trance.  Yet that's exactly what Todd Terje is trying to do.

His latest single 'Snooze 4 Love' is a liquid jaunt back to 1997, a simpler time when one could listen to a Jan Johnston track without rolling their eyes; when one could still bump Cafe del Mar in the car and not be enroute to a tanning salon.

'Snooze 4 Love' is a lush track that seems built for summer sunday hangovers—the bass from last nights party still ringing in your ears, the sun peaking into your messy apartment.  The synths are slippery yet consistent and the structure of the track is linear as fuck.  Granted this isn't groundbreaking stuff—even back in 1997 it wouldn't have been—but its classy enough to start turning heads back to the days when trance wasn't a dirty word.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gerry Read creats Patterns


Instra:metal helped build the bridge between techno and dubstep that, at this point, seems completely natural.  By refining the marriage of techno’s forceful impetus with dubstep’s brooding ethos, Instra:mental (along with Martyn, Shed ect.) helped unite the German and British electronic music scenes, epitomized by tracks like “Vicodine”.  The muffed out, humble kick drum, and the insistent pulse that urges you toward the floor, capture the numb sensation one feels at a party you know you ought to be having fun at but simply cannot.  The occasional clav echoes into nothingness and you remember why you’ve been refusing to join the vacuous party that surrounds you.

Gerry Read’s “Patterns” begins by navigating that same space.  Muffled pulses surround.  Humid textures abound. But rather than submitting to the claustrophobic emptiness of the club, the track walks over to the bar, politely places its drink back onto the bar, straightens up its tie, and jumps headlong into the party.  The synths surge to the top of the mix, thrashing wildly.  It’s difficult to tell whether these are happy or violent movements but one suspects that such distinctions are besides the point.

A plucked melody soon follows, confining that childlike joy one gets from dancing alone and setting it to song.  Discreet depression gives way to dastardly delirium so seamlessly, one wonders why every wallflower beat-head isn’t thrashing about.

Download the latest Dark Arx podcast below.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lone - Emerald Fantasy Tracks

Lone started showing up on a lot of people's radar earlier this year because of his association with Werk Discs.  His sound was slow in tempo and gauzy in texture—not unlike label head Actress's music, albeit with more hip hop flare.  Sometime between now and then, someone smacked the blunt out of this kid's hand and gave him some ecstasy.  Lone's sound has grown into a 90s inspired rave-House throw-down with one foot in the warehouse and one foot in the modern UK bass music scene.

Cloud 909 opens Emarald Fantasy Tracks—his latest mini album on his own Magic Wire Recordings—with Lone's familiar barrage of bing-bong rave stabs and it seems things are off to a good start.  4/4 kicks thump, naturally.  Fat snares swipe across the midsection.  Everything is so goddamn swung!  And not the post-Dilla, chugalug kind of awkward hobble.  Lones tracks swagger across the floor with a self assured exuberance that is all but absent in much of the beat-music created in the late-great J Dilla's wake.

Cloud 909 demonstrates a sound that Lone has been exploring for a while now.  He's taken cues from Aphex Twin, borrowing his affinity for vintage synths and long, stretched out melodies that seem to harmonize with themselves.  But where Aphex Twin's fractured masterpieces' synth-lines creep out of some dark paranoid corner, sobbing for attention, Lone's drop from the sky.  The sunny calls rest on top of the beat until the rhythm is so enveloped in hazy joy that it lets go in a fit of hand claps and cowbell hits.

Whether House is just a pitstop along Lone's ever-evolving style, or if its here to stay, Lone has become a producer to watch.

Download the whole EP here. (pw:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bok Bok - Say Stupid Things

Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990, who run the London based Night Slugs label, occupy the same super-swag, of-the-moment-cool that Diplo and A-track sported so well during the latter half of the noughties.

These two don't do much that is sonically groundbreaking, but their approach to dance music rocks that same fuck-all, if-it-has-a-beat-then-I-can-dance-to-it inclusiveness that defined Mad Decent's releases for so long.  Night Slugs releases are looked forward to with eager anticipation in the Bass music world because each carefully curated track has an air of carefree abandon, loaded with upbeat charm and teenage vigor.

It makes sense then, why Modeselektor, the German dance music powerhouse duo, would recruit Bok Bok along with fellow UK bass-bandit Ramadanman, for their first installation of the new Monkey Town Records compilation series entitled Modeselektion.  Although 2010 has arguably been Ramadanman's, Bok Bok, probably the least well known of the three, makes a fierce showing. 

Modeselektor shows up in typical fashion—all fat synths and pimp-slap snares—on VW Jetta.  Ramadanman deploys an admirable attempt at aping the Modeselektor sound, but by definition, that kind of endeavor will always fall short of the real thing.  It’s Bok Bok's Say Stupid Things, with its bothered lyric and twitchy shuffle that steals the show.  On what is one of his most serious outings yet, Bok Bok one-ups the veteran (Modeselektor) and the newfound darling (Ramadanman) without ever leaving his ever-growing comfort zone.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Swizz Beatz launches Monster Mondays

If there was ever an industry artist worth taking a promotional cue from, it’s Kanye West.  And that's exactly what beat brainiac Swizz Beatz is doing with Monster Mondays.

Modeled after Kanye’s hugely successful G.O.O.D. Fridays series, Swizz Beatz’s Monster Mondays is set to release a new track every Monday, starting with this week's "DJ Play the Beat."

The track is all trumpets and handclaps, featuring the reassured bass bumps that Mr. Beatz has made popular.  Also making an appearance is Kanye collaborator and London based R&B chick Estelle.  If this is any indication of what’s to come, expect big things.

Download the track below by clicking the little arrow on the right-hand side
Swizz Beatz Featuring Estelle - Dj Play The Beat by USRapNews

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Download James Blake — Klavierwerke

Over the past year James Blake has been quietly wooing music critics the world over.  (That sentence began and ended with the same word, ha)  With his singular production aesthetic and wildly accessible body of work, Blake has fast become one of the most important producers around.

The things he does sonically betray every genre they suggest without seeming disobedient or showy.  UK bass music's signifiers decorate Blake's most basic tendencies, but the core of his music is some soul and funk-music quagmire that he navigates via carefully chosen left turns.  Passing associations with dubstep are relevant only insofar as they provide context from whence this music came—a scene characterized by a mile-a-minute progression of new sounds and artists that, in spite of its documented ability to absorb and incorporate its peers' sounds into re-appropriated new forms, has been unable to hold a candle to Blake's unmistakable authority.

Blake's sound is both playfully naive and at times heftily glum.  He tickles his tracks until they let out a flash of uncontrolled emotion, a shriek from say, one of late R&B star Aaliyah's tracks, and your not sure whether to clap or cry so you just press repeat.

Texturally, his music is full of similar contradictions.  Witness dehydrated fuzz blast to the surface for just a moment as liquid bass hugs the bottom end of the mix—both of which operate rhythmically and atmospherically—albeit running in opposite directions.  Experience the vast expanses of his claustrophobic mixing technique or the way in which his tracks breath deeply with life while at the same time choke for air.

Blake's latest release, entitled Klavierwerke or "piano works" (for all you non-German speakers) is, as the title suggests, based largely around his own piano playing.  Far from a classical piece, this EP is a continuation of his warmly futuristic soul contortions—albeit reigned in.  On past releases his tracks rarely raised their voices, throughout this EP they don't climb above a murmur.  Carefully sampling his own humming, hissing, breathing, Blake has created his most personal record yet.

Its a humble move for a guy on the brink of international success.  One that will no doubt encourage more critics and fans to cozy up to his work.

Download the Klavierwerke EP in its entirety here

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jamie XX releases solo single

Fanboys rejoice. Although not a proper release from the much hyped The xx,  their drummer, appropriately named Jamie xx, has released his first solo single.  Featuring a steel drum lead over some shuffling drums, the track seems to come from a pretty genuine place, rather than some opportunistic cash-in.

Entitled Far Nearer, the release features the pitch shifted vocals that are all the craze among Brit beat makers these days.  Insistent without pounding, relaxed without being breezy, the track suggests a promising future for Jamie xx if the whole indie-darling-come-international-popstar thing doesn't exactly pan out.

Also, download a mix he did for French fashion label Collete over here

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Download Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand

Armand Van Helden and A-Track collaborate on another lighthearted tribute to New York.  The awesomely titled duo—Duck Sauce—shout out Barbra Streisand on this catchy dance floor track.  While Streisand may seem an unlikely recipient of such praises, as any vinyl enthusiasts can attest, her records are a staple of used record stores all around the city.  Whether that is a testament to how good or bad her actual music is seems irrelevant.  Her records have become a constant reminder of old New York in an era when DJs mine those times for modern cultural relevance.

The video—an endlessly silly take on the New York party scene—features more talented artists than I care to name, but will anyway: ?uestlove, Todd Terry, Santigold, Biz Markie, Smif n Wessun, Fafi, Just Blaze, Dj Mehdi, Buckshot, DJPremier, Ezra Koenig, Kanye West, Pharrell William, Diplo, DJ Premier.

Its always nice to see DJs make music just because its so goddam fun to do.

Download the track here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Four Tet - Nothing to See

Ever since Four Tet grew out of his bedroom studio's polite, jazzy explorations and got all techno on our asses, I've had precious little quality music of his to hold on to.  For a while it was unclear why he ditched the sound he helped create (and was clearly so good at making) in favor of more club centric music.

It seemed he had been making his older music in the vacuum of his apartment, and when he finally looked and up realized that his fan-base was largely made up of electronic music fans, decided to explore their world a little further.  His first few steps haven't been stellar—this years lukewarm There is Love in You, along with a string of underwhelming remixesbut Kieran Hebden seems to have grown into his own as a club music producer.

Off a fairly recent release with fellow producer Mala, the track Nothing to See finds Four Tet bridging the gap between his older productions and his new ones.  Whereas his newer material has been clean and minimalist in approach, this track hearkens back to his earlier days of messy jazzy abandon.  However not without updates.  Nothing to See is undoubtedly jazzy, but not free-formHebden's time as DJ has taught him to focus his impulses and tailor them to the dance floor.

The result sounds like Theo Parish's Falling Up meeting the Junior Boys at Pantha Du Princes house for dinner, or, er, something.  Cheers all around.

Breach - Fatherless

Electronic dance music is unique among popular musics in that it's output is largely instrumental.  When lyrics do appear, they are usually functional call outs to get the party started, or create a mood.  Aside from Matthew Dear's outings under his own name I'm finding it difficult to point to an artist who incorporates lyrics into their music for anything aside from rhythmic utility or dramatic effect.

One of the few consistent avenues for literal communication with the listener has been song titles.  It seems like the more minimal a piece of music is, the more thought is given to its name.  Take for example, Regis's late 90s techno masterpiece Delivered into the Hands of Indifference, a stark record to be sure, but one that was given a hefty political undertone thanks to its poetic title.

So it is no small statement when an artist like Breach entitles his latest track "Fatherless."  The brooding, angry track stomps about, wildly searching here and there, seemingly lost among the flutes.  If a picture can tell a thousand words, how many words fit on a 12"?
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