Thursday, November 23, 2006
The Idiot Sound, We Call That Lo-Fi


As I maybe alluded over here, I'm vibing some hot zone music to go with my hot zone food today, and what could be more timely than a new Souljazz comp that follows in their awesome Dynamite series, only this time it's focused entirely on teh Dancehall.

I don't know what it is about dancehall - I've always really liked it in theory and sometimes in excectution - but too often I've found it rather tiresome to listen to for any extended period of time. Maybe it's just that I can't parse the patois, or perhaps my hackles get raised easily when homophobia is displayed...

Anyway, Souljazz tried a couple years ago with this comp, a half-baked effort if ever there was one. They've done a bit better this season with Dynamite! Dancehall Style, which blends old-school faves and the inevitable dubstep track or two without seeming like a cop-out. Here's some choice cuts:


Anthony Red Rose - "Tempo"

Fat Eyes - "Assault Rifle"

Lady Saw - "Sweetest"

Shinehead - "Billie Jean"


Posted by Mallory at 5:58 PM | | Comments | links

"I could write a song - with real words, not phony ones like 'Odelay'."

Needs a new Rhyming Becktionary

I think everyone's forgotten, but Beck brought out a new album this year. It was called The Information and probably the most interesting thing about it is that it came with DIY artwork; if you cared enough to buy the record, you could make your own album art out of the free stickers. I've only heard the music, so I missed out on this record's most enjoyable feature.

Beck - New Round
Beck - Diamond Dogs

Beck's most recent two records have been extraordinarily dull; I'm not saying anything new by noting that Guero saw him repeating himself for the first time, but I'm not saying anything inaccurate by mentioning it again. The entire point of Beck was that he was a crazy-ass guy who'd try anything to make weird, catchy pop music. Guero was just Beck trying to be Beck and, as a result, making rather dull pop music. But it doesn't have to be this way. Let's take a look at where Beck can go from here.

The only track from The Information that I have on regular rotation is "New Round." It's not so much that it does anything different to what Beck has done before, but rather that it does it right. Aside from Beck's junkyard popsmith image, he has his folk trubadour persona - his 21st century Nick Drake aspiration - and that's the Beck behind "New Round." It was the Beck responsible for Sea Change and to some extent Mutations as well. It works fantastically at times, for instance on "Nobody's Fault But My Own," "Golden Age" or (especially) "Lost Cause," but he has never been able to sustain that approach over an entire album.

This is for any number of reasons. "New Round" works in the same way all the best introspective Beck does, using his monotone speak-singing as an advantage, surrounding it with suitably moody production and packing it with enough intricacies and quirks to convey the emotion his voice can't. When it succeeds it can be devastating, sounding like Beck is remaining outwardly stubborn and morose while his inner emotions are projected in glorious technicolor behind him. Unfortunately, it too often does not work. Sometimes the production is focused on novelty when it should be focused on emotion (Has anyone considered that maybe Nigel Godrich isn't actually all that? I know he's part of the whole Radiohead brilliance phenomenon, but his greatness with that band does not necessarily translate to him being able to spin gold from anything handed to him, like, say, The Strokes or Travis). Somtimes Beck's monotone is just boring, rather than an unemotional counterweight, and sometimes Beck's songwriting is not strong enough to stand up without the bleeps and bloops that support his more freewheeling work.

Beck surely has the capacity to produce an album full of songs like "New Round" and "Lost Cause," but it seems unlikely he will ever do so. His strike rate with this style is too low. You could cobble together a good mix tape from his past attempts, but introspection is not Beck's path back to glory. Instead he should be attempting to recapture the thriftstore party atmosphere that made Odelay, Midnite Vultures, and Mellow Gold such enjoyable records. His big mistake with Guero was that he tried to capture the sound, not the spirit.

The solution is so obvious that I'm not sure what the bigger the surprise is: that it's already happened, or that it's only happened once.

Carry the anything goes, futurism-through-foraging mentality of Odelay through to the present day, and whom do you get? Tim Mosley, that's whom. And fair enough, there probably isn't an artist in the world whom I would not consider able to benefit from a Timbaland collaboration, but Beck would be particularly great. You don't even need to consider the contemporary implications; back in 1996, although Beck and Timbaland were operating in vastly different arenas, their approach to music, that is, getting asses shaking by being as weird as fuck, was rather similar. Or in another way: find a Beck a capella from '96 and lay it over Ginuwine's (Timbo-produced) "Pony." You've pretty much got the party mash-up of the century right there.

But you don't need to imagine how great a Beck-Timbaland collabo would be. It's already happened. They did David Bowie's "Diamond Dogs," for that Baz Luhrmann movie that everyone hates, Moulin Rouge (incidentally, I don't get why folks can't deal with the music in that movie. Maybe it's just because I've grown up watching music videos, but I really don't see any disconnect in planting "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in the middle of a garish 19th Century Parisian period piece).

"Diamond Dogs" is such an underappreciated high point in the Beck catalogue. For a start, the song is absolutely perfect for him, to the extent that I'm willing to call his version definitive. It was never one of Bowie's most loved songs, anyway, being the lead single off a concept album that never got the love things like Ziggy Stardust or Low did. It even sounds like a Beck song; lyrics like "The diamond dogs are poachers and they hide behind trees," and "In the year of the scavenger, the season of the bitch" have the ring of classic Beck nonsense, and the track's steady grind works much better as Beck/Timbo avant garde R&B/rock/pop than Bowie boogie.

Beck needs his freak back, and there's no better than a.k.a Thomas Crown to give it to him. And you can't say Tim wouldn't be interested. Beck would offer all the possibilites a Justin collaboration would and that Timbaland was in discussions with The Rapture shows Mosley could be interested in stepping outside the already rather vast R&B/pop/hip hop umbrella he works under. The Rapture was priced out of contention, even with Tim offering them heavy discounts, but Beck seems to have larger amounts of label money at his disposal; certainly enough to make high concept videos, anyway. I know where I think the dollars could be better spent. In '96, Beck had two turntables and a microphone, and ten years later, he's due back in the club. And the best part is, Timbo knows how to mix clever production with emotional resonance much better than Nigel Godrich. He did it on Nelly Furtado's most recent record, he did it fantastically with Justin, and, oh, yes, there were a few songs with Aaliyah that don't sound too bad. The Mosley-Hansen hook-up would not only let Beck party the way he used to, it would let him cry the way he wants to. And it would also thrill me crossover loving heart to no end. Let's get it happening, guys.

In other news, how much do I want this?


P.S. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. Except Ian. Unless he wants it.



Posted by Jonathan at 7:51 AM | | Comments | links

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

DOWNLOAD

01. The Visionaries - Hindsight
02. Mighty Casey - Liquorland
03. Jay Dee - Fuck The Police
04. Clipse - Wamp Wamp Ft Slim Thug
05. Dilated Peoples - Bullet Train
06. Jurassic 5 - Linguistics
07. West Side Connection - Westside Fo Life
08. Fabolous - Superwoman Pt 2 Ft Lil Mo
09. Kudu - Hey 50
10. Professor Murder - Champion
11. Klaxons - Golden Skans
12. Spank Rock - Far Left (Audioporno Remix)
13. Shitdisco - Disco Blood
14. The Rapture - Whoo! Alright - Yeah... Uh Huh
15. The Blow - The Big U
16. Hot Chip - Just Like We (Breakdown)
17. The Knife - We Share Our Mother's Health
18. Sayag Jazz Machine - Flipper Down (Memories Mix By Co)
19. Radiohead vs. The Jungle Brothers - How Ya Want It (PZ Punchup Remix)
20. Masterminds - The Spinners
21. Mnemonic Ascent - Hold Back
22. Lyrics Born - Hello (Remix)


X-posted @ NSB


Posted by Lady K! : at 8:55 AM | | Comments | links

Friday, November 17, 2006
Just One Pair Is All I Want...


Alfred & I both raved way back in July(here and here, respectively) about Escort's previous single, "Starlight," a simmering slice of summer's madness delivered in discotheque form. I made the rare journey to a local record store on a quest for more Serge Gainsbourg music (I've just finished Fistful of Gitanes, but more on that later), and though I was unlucky in that quest, imagine my astonishment and delight when I found a brand new Escort 12" single! "Love In Indigo" is every bit the stunner that "Starlight" was, this time on a deeper boogie tip - much more bass-led and sporting a set of delicious string breaks sparkling like gold cufflinks. B-side "Karawane" reveals an unexpected afro-beat direction, complete with some stunningly deployed samples. Classy, funky disco for the naughties dancefloor - like KRS-One might not have ever said, not so much old school as true school. Coupled with an unexpected epiphany last night at The Proletariat to the tune of Sister Sledge, I'm quite ready to whip out the old disco dubplates and ring in the Holiday season with glitter, high-stepping dancefloor action and plenty of good-old fashioned pomp. I wanna see some freakin' pomp!


Posted by Mallory at 11:09 PM | | Comments | links

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
The Burden of Expectation (AKA Mallory's Week In The City)
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Without naming names and starting pointless fights about what is (like most things, really) nothing more than a matter of opinion, I'm finding certain colleagues reactions to the recently leaked Bloc Party album both a) disarmingly vague and irritating and b) exactly what I expected. Given the level of (deserved) praise Silent Alarm received, it doesn't take a genius (or a well-heeled monkey with a protractor) to anticipate a critical slashing of its' follow-up.

Needless to say, the early word on this is precisely what I imagined it would be - the most conservative so-called critics are ready to give it the boot, while a few people who (shock-of-the-month-club) took the opportunity provided by Silent Alarm to become fans are willing to listen twice, maybe even three times to their new record.

What are they finding, these lucky few?

Well, they're finding that the 192 kpbs .mp3 files that have illegally escaped the clutches of the record company are of a muted, rather poor sonic quality. No! Do go on!

They're finding that the songs on A Weekend in the City are different from those on Silent Alarm, yet obviously written and performed by the same band. "Do you see what I did there?"

They're also finding that some of the quirks and flaws inherent in Bloc Party's sound are still intact. For instance, Kele still exhibits moments and passages redolent of third-form poetry (vampires are mentioned twice, Sudoku once, and Bret Easton Ellis is both alluded to and quoted). The band still uses the same loud/soft patterns and punching/soaring alternations. They're still crippled by an enormous debt to minor chords and certain comfortable progressions.

They still have those kinda goofy backup vocal stylings a la "Helicopter." And I'm not sure if that's a flaw or a virtue, actually. So it goes in the middle.

They're finding that the virtues exhibited by repeat exposure to Silent Alarm are still here on its sequel. Kele still sings like a tense "ordinary man" accustomed to cloaking his vulnerability in a sense of retributive pride and world-weary dismay. The band still packs a rhythmic punch, even if its somewhat lopped short by a weak (hopefully-not-the-final) master which is heavy on compression and low on seperation. The songs still soar along in a manner evocative of U2 but without the latter's pernicious self-righteousness. There are still moments of intense ugliness alternated with flashes of beauty.

In short, it's the new album by Bloc Party. And just as haters (and those regrettably shorn of their ears) declared the album inferior to the (rather lopsided) EP, those quick to follow popular opinion will regard A Weekend in the City as Silent Alarm's leftovers. Fine with me. That's just more room at the feast-table for the rest of us.

Bloc Party's debut album was an unexpected explosion that ranks as one of the classics of the naughties despite its flaws, just like a hundred great records before it. Its successor builds on the debut without rewriting the book overmuch, yet adds elements and influences which weren't as obvious on the first record. It's the textbook example of the follow-up: consolidating ground, winning few new converts but not alienating the fans. Or it would be if we were retroactively judging, say, the second Ramones record. Instead, certain crusties are taking out their alienation from youth culture by binning the second record by the buzz band of 2005 on the basis of an un-finalized leak. Which they would be doing regardless of the quality of said record or said band.

Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen. You have officially become your elders.

I've been listening to A Weekend in the City almost constantly since getting it - several times in the car, a couple at home, etc. It's a great second record, with many valid high points ("Hunting For Witches," "Waiting For the 7.18," the Cure-like "I Still Remember") and nothing jaw-droppingly embarassing.

And... (wait for it):

It's not as good as Silent Alarm. You know, the album that effortlessly ranks amongst my ten favorites of the decade thus far.

What, were you hoping for a miracle?

Also cross-posted.


Posted by Mallory at 9:14 AM | | Comments | links

The Slits @ Emo's in Austin, 11.11.06
slits1.jpg


"Do you know what it means, the Slits in Texas on Veteran's Day?"

No. And we never found out either. Which suited me just fine - the Slits were at their best when carving out a space based on the commonality of sexuality's terrors ("Or What Is It?") and a appealingly trite rejection of consumerism ("Shoplifting," with its gleefully anthemic "I pay fuck-all!"), rather than grandstanding about the usual political suspects.

Original Slits Ari Up and bassist Tessa Pollitt led their merry band of fellow travellers (six Slits in toto) through the changes at Emo's (lol) in Austin on Saturday night. In attendance were myself and fellow FF7ers lady k! and senor shoup - another merry band, though slighly less large and dread-y. (Budgie was no where to be seen.) It must be said, the audience didn't seem to know quite what to make of things, a rather vocal contingent up front excepted. Perhaps it was the band's determination to avoid nostalgia (Cut dominated the proceedings somewhat less than expected), perhaps it was their repeated demands upon those in attendance to make "bird sounds." Most likely it was a sense of being completely dominated by Ari Up's alarmingly fit, nearly stentorian stage presence, which seemed to treat the audience as though it should, you know, actively become involved in the performance or something. Goodness. End result - the thrashing or at least happily bopping majority had a good old time, the rest went home to sit in front of their X-Box.

slits2.jpg


The band's sound vacillated between old-guard punk, trad reggae, punky reggae, and some indefinite other, in which something even more deliciously, suffocatingly primal than their Earth Mother riddims began to rear its head. This was made most clear when the Slits alternated rebel rock and lover's rock within the context of individual songs, and when they played material from their daring and overlooked second album, Return of the Giant Slits. All told, only three songs from Cut, the only album most concert goers could be reasonably expected to have heard, made the... setlist ("Typical Girls," "Shoplifting," and "FM"). Instead, the crowd was treated to a new song ("Slits Tradition") from the quickie EP Revenge of the Giant Slits, an oldie ("Number One Enemy," available on that release and the shoddy Live at the Gibus Club) and some more traditional reggae material, such as Ari's rasta polemic "Kill Them With Love," which originally appeared on her solo record of last year. We were also treated to some rather odd statements, such as the one that the Slits "invented New Music." I think Schoenberg and Stravinsky, among others, might have had a thing or two to say about that, but we'll let that pass for now.

But don't you let them pass :

Not so much a live show as an event,
the remaining dates for Slits Tour 2006,
an uproarious and almost dangerously wholesome good-time:


11.16 Thu - San Diego, California. The Casbah
11.17 Fri - Los Angeles, California. Troubadour
11.18 Sat - San Francisco, California. Mezzanine
11.19 Sun - Oakland, California. The Uptown
11.20 Mon - Eureka, California. Synapsis
11.21 Tue - Portland, Oregon. Dante's
11.22 Wed - Seattle, Washington. El Corazon
11.26 Sun - Chicago, Illinois. Logan Square Auditorium

In the meantime, treat yourself to two songs from their undervalued sophomore album:

"Earthbeat"
"Animal Space / Spacier"

Cross-posted with S&M 'cuz it's like that.


Posted by Mallory at 7:16 AM | | Comments | links

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Hot Chip at The Mod Club, Toronto, November 6th 2006

Hot Chip will put you down, under the ground


Setlist:
Keep Fallin'
Shake A Fist*
And I Was A Boy From School
Out At The Pictures*
Just Like We (Breakdown)
Colours
Hold On*
Graceland*
Beach Party
No Fit State

Encore:
Careful
Over And Over

*As far as I know/can tell, new songs.


As at least one other member of our little collective could tell you, Hot Chip rock surprisingly hard live. Well, "rock" isn't quite the right word. As a band that have made a lovely, restrained album that's one of my favourites of the year for emotional rather than ass-shaking reasons I had some small amount of trepidation about them seeing them live, and not just because it meant I was going to have to finish off a 50% essay after going a full night without sleep (concerts in Toronto should end earlier, or else the bus back to Guelph should leave later).

I mean, The Warning is one of those records that really makes me want to never meet Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard. Not because they don't seem nice, they do (and I covet Joe's "Extended Version" t-shirt from the show), but because in my experience meeting people who have made music that "really, like, speaks to me" is disappointing. There's a necessary combination of specficity and vagueness needed for this kind of effect; sure, I love Hot Chip partly because they write about/from the perspective of people like me, but also because there's enough room in the songs that I can interpret them to be really personal.

As a result many of my favourite tracks on the album - "So Glad To See You," "The Warning," "Won't Wash," "Colours" (along with "Crap Kraft Dinner" from Coming On Strong, on which more in a minute) - are on the quieter, more reflective side. As you can see from the setlist below, that is not a side the band indulged much last Monday, but Pete and I still walked away having loved it more than pretty much any comparable concert we'd been to in the past few years (I mean, yes, the Mountain Goats were pretty amazing, but that's a serious case of apples and oranges).

On this show, at least, the six-person band (five in the front playing some combination of keyboard/device/percussion/drum/guitar, and one full time drummer in the back) seemed determined to provoke the maximum amount of dancing possible. The older tracks, which initially seemed kind of limp when I downloaded Coming On Strong (which I now have to buy; there used to be a used copy available down the street from my building, but as I found out last night it's been sold, naturally), were ferocious (I've had that sing-songy refrain from "Keep Fallin'" in my head all day!), and the material from The Warning was ecstatic. Let's not even get into Taylor interpolating "oh you've got blue eyes, oh you've got green eyes, oh you've got grey eyes" into the mid-section of the I-didn't-even-realize-how-much-I-wanted-to-hear-it "No Fit State," which I had just decided on the way up to Toronto that afternoon was maybe my new favourite song of theirs. You could have knocked me over with a feather. And after so much sweat and euphoria never have I been in a crowd so desperate for just one particular song the band had been teasing us with all night, and when they finally played "Over And Over" it detonated like a bomb. By the end, my voice was sore, my legs were sore, I was covered in sweat, and I'd gone from loving an album to loving a band.

And the new material! Usually these are the dull moments of a live show, but all of them were great, particularly the duo of "Hold On" and "Graceland," the latter of which sounded like a polyrhythmic sunrise. The comment in the review of The Warning comparing them to New Order is almost painfully apposite at this point, not because Hot Chip sound like them, but because if there is an analogy and these songs get aired in anything approaching their live versions we are headed for "Temptation" territory, in terms of quality. And although I'd never connected the two, Hot Chip and New Order are actually fairly similar; rock bands (kinda) playing electronic dance music (kinda), lyrics equally loved and derided for both their goofiness and their devastatingly precise emotional command, artfully opaque narrator/singers. I am fantastically excited at what comes next, and given that so far Coming On Strong seems to me to have more great moments than Movement (although I think the latter is a bit underrated; nothing as incredible as "Crap Kraft Dinner," but still), I'm possibly even more excited about Hot Chip. Of course, it helps that unlike New Order I get to be a fan as the band happens, so to speak.

The way the band fucked with the arrangements was also incredibly impressive, turning "Beach Party" into almost-Krautrock, "Just Like We (Breakdown)" into something vaguely akin to high-grade Underworld, "Careful" into an even more storming version of itself. Unlike most concerts even songs I know and love took a little while to identify, and the mass cheers when we did were kind of inspiring. The band actually had impressive stage presence, walking the fine line between cool and dorky exceedingly well.

I don't really have a greater point to make here, other than Hot Chip are awesome and I expect great things from them. But if they're coming your way, you kind of owe it to yourself to check them out. I admit that in addition to this sort of show it'd be neat to see them doing a more musically sedate set (dropping something like "Look After Me" into the middle of this show wouldn't have made a bit of sense), but it's the collision between the raucous and the emotional, as with New Order, that makes the band great. If they put out a live album (which they absolutely should), "No Fit State" alone should prove that amply.


Posted by Ian at 12:53 PM | | Comments | links

 
 
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A group of kids with WAY too much time on their hands.
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