In our interview, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and DJ Scott Grooves chalks up his tinkering nature, expansive discography and trio of personal labels to simply keeping busy. He also crafted LWE’s 66th exclusive mix which isn’t going to do any damage to his reputation as your favorite DJ’s favorite DJ.
Sherard Ingram’s music and life have simply seen too much growth and change to permit easy characterization. Sure, a through-line connects the span of his work, but not one that parallels any single current of electronic music history. Tipping our hats to The Wire, Little White Earbuds eagerly turn to Ingram with some follow-up questions of our own.
With Christopher Rau’s debut album due to arrive on Smallville this fall, LWE wanted to shed a little light on the man behind the music and present an exclusive podcast exploring the “bluesy, calm atmosphere” that is his metier.
Even if we could ignore all his considerable undertakings and accomplishments, Mike Huckaby would still be an LWE favorite for his refreshingly level-headed and thoughtful perspectives on the electronic music industry. We tried to coax a few of those out of him in the Q&A that follows, and we’re honored and thrilled to present, as LWE’s 50th podcast, an exclusive 78-minute mix from one of the crucial artists of our time.
If you’ve followed this website even casually, it won’t stun you to read that I consider Entropic City an exemplary album from one of the most vital voices in techno today. LWE dubbed Brussels’ Peter Van Hoesen one of 2008’s “Breakout Artists” and, for his lengthy run of singles last year, we heralded him as one of five “Artists Who Defined 2009.” With quicksilver bass lines coursing beneath their rough, brambly surfaces, Van Hoesen’s shadowy warehouse tracks have long capitalized on an air of urban dystopia. The ten tracks grouped here, though, show off the producer’s experience in sound design better than ever, and the neglected Gotham skylines and abandoned, lightless interiors evoked prove vivid sonic descriptions of the title chosen for his first album under his own name (though the producer seems to have additionally mined the less figurative, thermodynamic definition for inspiration).
Earlier this month, the New York Times‘ ArtsBeat blog ran an assessment of the latest Joy Orbison EP in graph form, in which Andrew Kuo mapped his knee-jerk reactions to each of the record’s three tracks, vacillating between breathless Aphex Twin comparisons and “Fatboy Slim Junior” skepticism. Cute, if a little pat, it speaks to the “buzz about the buzz” situation that Joy’s been saddled with, his music discussed more by a watchful but largely disinterested blogosphere than by his ardent fans. A contributor to that record, Actress (Darren Cunninham) is similarly blessed with high expectations, yet he’s bypassed most of the factional fanaticism of electronic dance music and hardly registered with whatever it is that now occupies the district once known as indie rock. Perhaps it’s that his compression-faded, gray-scale sound is too modest in scale, or simply too murky. There are no sinus-clearing swells in Actress’ music; the sensation is closer to the sound of blood rushing through your ears. The man’s no recondite wall flower, though. His debut album, Hazyville, found its way onto quite a few best-of-decade lists, and his tracks have been licensed by Trus’me’s house-centric Prime Numbers, as well as for two Fabric mixes. His latest transmissions have made it easier and easier for me to see what it is that so many find special. His records have a naggingly familiar sound but, at the same time, have trademarked a sound that’s unmistakably “Actress.”
East Flanders was a veritable gold mine of house fundamentals in 2009, thanks to the underestimated work of the young We Play House Recordings. With an aesthetic as direct and to-the-point as the label’s chosen name, the line has typically favored retro synthetic palettes and low-slung earworm grooves. And though all of their records have been worth a look, when you start tallying last year’s out-and-out stunners — San Soda’s “Dorsnee,” Dynamodyse’s “Gare du Nord,” Reggie Dokes’ “Dancefloor Spectacle,” Russ Gabriel’s “Le Voyeur,” Ramon Tapia & Maxim Lany’s “Highway,” to name names — you can’t help but wonder how they’ve kept such a modest profile. WPH starts the new year with an in-house affair, a quartet of 90’s throwbacks from the team-up of label founder Red D and the producer behind roughly half the label’s output, San Soda. And yes, as the title suggests, you may sing along to them.
It’s getting to be full-time work keeping tabs on Brendon Moeller these days. Spread over his assorted monikers, he issued at least eight records of new material in 2009. Cohort Shigeru Tanabu has conducted himself a bit more discretely, though he did notch a soaring, string-laden peak time record with Wave Music early last year, and followed it with the loose “Jazzin'” for Apt. International. Originally a guitarist, he’s also made numerous contributions to Moeller’s Beat Pharmacy records, but Manaboo presumably brings the duo’s collaboration to full interactive fruition, the label press release emphasizing an engagement of their shared enthusiasm for jazz. Don’t let track titles like “Blutrane” mislead you, though; techno and house are the crucial touchstones here.
We love to drag geography into discussions of dance music, and with Mr. Raoul K, it’s hard not to. Turned onto to electronic dance music after moving from the Ivory Coast to Hamburg, his reputation as a producer is founded on a growing catalog of euphoric and rather continental club tracks that swirl with traditional African elements. African motifs are hardly anomalous in dance music, but they’ve held an uncommonly prominent role in this particular producer’s discography, and not just the rhythms, either. From the balafon twinkling through last year’s excellent “Wind of Goree” for Mule Musiq to the shudders of kora heard on 2008’s “Le Cercle Peul,” Raoul’s keen interest in working with live recordings of African acoustic instruments is probably the first you notice when you hear his music — at least it was, anyway.
More and more, the recordings of Max Loderbauer and Tobias Freund’s Non Standard Institute seem to parallel the ineffable and absorbing audio artifacts they namecheck from time to time — records like Cluster’s Großes Wasser, Pharaoh Sanders’ Thembi, or This Heat’s This Heat. Like those records, their latest EP sounds as though conceived through exploratory tinker-now, edit-later studio sessions where the ultimate goal isn’t necessarily a new record. All the same, their latest eccentric collection of fascinating, too-brief compositional sketches is a richly satisfying listen. Cut from the same cloth as the track LWE hosted as a free mp3 this month, you could imagine Eitherway as something like last year’s RA-podcasted Mutek set, but parsed into discrete vignettes.
Few things grab my attention like a Benjamin Brunn credit on the sleeve, and it’s particularly nice when they fit as neatly as the one here. Area is an alternate guise for Canadian-born, Chicago-reared DJ/producer m50. I’m not sure what the exact distinction is, but this particular EP — for François K’s Wave Music — traffics in forms of abstracted melodic house not distant from Brunn’s esteemed body of work. Assured opener “LLPOD” has a tense dance floor utility and an almost jazzy swing, but what makes it memorable are the sputters, drips and steam jets animating the background, reminding of the atmospheric eddies of Brunn’s “Raymond.” Its abstracted dub grooves also put me in mind of, for example, Anders Ilar’s “Organza.” Little details similarly animate “Respons,” a simple techno builder that works small wonders with a robotic tintinnabulation bubbling brightly at the track’s surface.
Years before he’d released a single record of his own, Andy Vaz had already left a conspicuous mark on electronic music as the man behind Background Records. When he finally started releasing music, he garnered a good deal of attention for the “clicks, cuts, and a 4/4″ sound exemplified by the cult Soundvariation series. In the last three or four years, though, both his music and his A&R focus have increasingly mined classic house influences. More a shift of priorities than an outright swap of musical templates, house has always been a part of Vaz’s program, and his morphing live sets retain much of the abstract and experimental qualities that characterized his first records. Yore Records, the label he runs with Alessandro Vaccaro, is the focus of another Little White Earbuds interview feature. Today, though, our exclusive podcast focuses on the sometimes silky, sometimes jazzy, and very often jacking music Vaz produces himself. Live sets, as discussed in the Q&A below, are where Vaz feels most comfortable, and this percolating mix certainly finds him in very fine form.
Fostered by the hungry eclecticism of The I-F’s legendary Cybernetic Broadcasting System and the music communities that have gathered in its wake, Bas roR has been DJing around Rotterdam for some time (in clubs and on the radio) and has already notched a memorable EP with Kubra’s “Control Issues,” a collaboration with DJ Tim for Arne Weinberg’s AW Recordings. Like much of the Kubra record, Bas roR’s solo debut recalls the deep and the weird of 90’s techno — Dan Curtin, Ultradyne and Stasis all come to mind, as well as some Rephlex sounds. The brushed percussion, bright melodic squiggles and brooding chord patterns of the title track, for example, are pure zero-gravity, practically describing a slow drift through a meteor shower.
Dance music enthusiasts are almost certainly the most label-conscious people in the record-buying world. How else can you explain the bickering over new Perlon signings, the ubiquity of the compound adjective “buy-on-sight,” or the hastily depleted stocks of anonymously-produced 12″s? We follow our favorite DJs and producers, naturally, but a record publishing operation with vision and taste is very often the best guide to the sounds we thirst for. 2009’s cream of the crop — labels like Running Back, Uzuri, Prologue, Dial, Sound Signature, Blueprint, Apple Pips, and Time To Express — did more than narrow the field of available records, but sharpened our expectations of what new music should achieve. And the mushrooming of secretive private presses (many of them fostered by Hardwax’s distribution) yielded results that were just as rewarding. But from where I’m standing, these five labels loomed largest.
When the time comes for year-end wrap-ups, count on STL’s pursuit of techno’s humid depths to be one of 2009’s leading stories. The past eleven months saw Stephan Laubner following other creative muses as well (and prolifically), but between the “Silent State” EP for Smallville and a mix CD tellingly titled Dub Techno Explorations, it seems safe to declare a new chapter in the STL legacy. Despite its reverb and grit, “Silent State”‘s bass lines were so buoyant that many notched it as house, but Exploration‘s seventy minutes of dub techno oxidation aimed more for texture and atmosphere. Appropriate enough, then, that the Echospace crew took interest, helping Laubner issue — by my count — his tenth record of 2009.