You’ll have to excuse the language in this review, but It’s Album Time is fucking Grade-A, highfalutin schmaltz. There’s no other way to put it. On paper, it’s the exact shit we should detest. The role of grim-faced music critic is not an enviable one, but sometimes someone somewhere needs to put a foot down. Rational logic would state that there are so many musicians in this world attempting to break in — artists who would sacrifice limbs and their future-born for a mere press mention. So why laud someone who so blatantly tickles the line of what can be considered parody, who is seemingly kicking back and taking the piss at the same damn time? Well, largely for that exact reason. Todd Terje makes it look easy. His effortlessness is enviable and his debut album deserves to be embalmed and hung above a fireplace like a boar’s head — a relic that could conceivably be dated to any era, but one we should feel privileged to call our own.
A quick trace of lineage aligns Terje with an upstanding cast of Norwegian countrymen, most notably Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas. Strain to think back 10 years and you’ll remember that Norway was then poised for a takeover. Though Terje wasn’t as vaunted as that dynamic duo of space disco, the core kept a tight rapport, touching up each others’ tracks and pushing the cosmic fold beyond their country’s borders. And for a while, it was a hit, earning their soaring synth workouts some serious crossover acclaim. But recent years has seen the faction peel apart a tad. Most recently, Lindstrøm had a 2012 foray into chintzy prog with Six Cups of Rebel and there’s a thick krautrock/jazz/house haze surrounding the current work of Thomas. Terje, however, has evolved into an entirely different beast, a veritable virtuoso with an ear for melody so infectious it borders on subliminal. He crafts the sort of tracks that cause those with the faintest knowledge of dance music to perk up with recollection upon hearing them. And his current unbeaten streak is nearing ghastly, almost to the point where you half expect him to release a dud with his next one and feel foolish for doubting him every time he comes up aces.
As such, one can’t help but feel the title of his debut album is pointed. It’s almost as if he’s challenging himself. Terje is capable of turning out 12-minute sun-kissed anthems like a mustached Berry Gordy, but what about a proper long-player that ticks off all the boxes? Given the sheer latitude on display here, it’s safe to say he’s pulled it off, masking the quirky tongue-in-cheek-isms referenced above with undeniable mastery. The coat of irony weighs heavily at times. “Svensk Sås” is a calypso send-up played straight, and album centerpiece “Johnny And Mary” is a cover that finds a super-sincere Bryan Ferry assuming the role of Robert Palmer. Taken on their own, both tracks are confounding, B-side fodder. But it’s difficult to find much fault with their inclusion here, acting as buffer from the surrounding hoopla.
And boy, is there ever hoopla. Following an effective title card intro, the opening suite of “Leisure Suit Preben” and “Preben Goes to Acapulco” find Terje weaving through orchestration he’s never before mined. Xylophone cascades over a staunch bass line which lends the passage a real “procedural cop drama” vibe. “Strandbar” and “Delorean Dynamite” are the first glimpse of the flailing Terje we’ve grown to love. The former burrows until it hits pay dirt in the form of a stabbing piano run, while the latter is cocaine excess in audio form. It cascades, relying on some more brusque bass work to lend its defining flourish. Following the Palmer cover, the album’s tail delivers an unflinching string of highs. “Alfonso Muskedunder” sparkles itself into a lather, eventually climaxing in a flute-drum combo that is so shiny you can see your reflection. And “Oh Joy” is the standout of the release, taking an entire three minutes to build before absolutely splooging in a triumphant and extended synth climax.
Despite being around for over two years now, “Inspector Norse” closes the album. And it’s a testament to the track’s wonder that it doesn’t sound played out in the least. Most of us could recite it in our sleep and his decision to fade the track out into the recording of an audience chanting along with the famed hook is noteworthy. As mentioned, Terje’s uncanny grasp of melody is his moneymaker. If the guardians of pop radio had any sense about them, they’d contemplate giving Terje a push akin to the one Disclosure’s received over the past year. Of course this isn’t likely — Terje doesn’t seem the type to welcome a gussying of his image — but still, in a perfect world, this would be topping all charts, not merely those belonging to DJs.]]>
Phillip Sollmann’s career is a lesson in contrasts. Though his first morsels came out as Dial was just getting established, Sollmann, better known as Efdemin, came to prominence just as the minimal boom of the mid 2000′s was waning, with perhaps his best known tracks (“Acid Bells,” “Lohn und Brot”) eschewing the bland pastiche that minimal was becoming in favor of reduced, hypnotic house music. His ability to construct deeply engaging, resonant long-players (2007′s Efdemin, 2010′s Chicago, and the recently released Decay) has kept him and his characteristic sound firmly in the spotlight — a sound that tempers the roughness and directness of Detroit house and techno with a distinctly German minimalism without compromising its dance floor propulsion. His work in computer music and drone under his birth name has long been distinct from his career as a DJ, but with Decay the two worlds are becoming ever closer. We talked to Sollmann recently about the merging of these two worlds, the Internet, and the history of electronic music.
Last year you gave a lecture called “100 Years of Techno.” What was that all about?
Phillip Sollmann: That was a really funny experience. It was at Robert Johnson in Frankfurt. They have had this series going on for two years, I think, where they invite people from different areas or domains of electronic dance music to talk about whatever they want to. They asked me what I want to do, and I said I could imagine talking about the origins or the predecessors of what we have today as techno. It was a pretty freestyle thing; I wouldn’t call it a lecture. I was talking about music that was loop oriented as well as early electronic pioneers. I gave some examples in films and audio, and I brought a large collection of records and played music from Iceland to the Sahara and back. It was a really a lot of fun.
I always thought that if I know about something, then everybody knows about it, but the guy who invited me told me to talk about everything because most of the audience was quite young, and they would love to hear about that. It was a very nice two or three hours — I don’t remember; I could have done maybe five. I brought so many records and pictures and stories, and then I played a long DJ set: about seven hours, which was awesome because everyone who came for the lecture stayed in the club and we had this very close experience. I had the feeling I could go much further in my set musically than I could normally because people had heard me talking for a long time, and they could ask things and we had this intimate situation, which was a really great experience. I mean, I love that club anyways, and playing there is among the best experiences you can have, but that was a very special night. So we are now talking about a second edition because there was so much left to talk about.
What were some of the key records that you brought for that first edition, and what were some that you want to touch on going forward?
Like I said, I think things that I know or love are too obvious to talk about. I played Silver Apples to the young people, and most didn’t know about them, and they were blown away by this music, with sinewave oscillators and drums, but all live and so loopy and awesome. And then I played music from This Heat — “24 Track Loop.”
I talked a bit about Hermann von Helmholz, who did all the basic physiological writings about acoustics in Berlin in 1850, around that time. I talked a lot about Raymond Scott’s early music, and early ideas of sequencing, like the Rhythmicon from 1931 which was built by Léon Theremin, and all of the Moog stuff, the Buchla, and how those led to Roland and Yamaha. And of course a little bit of Stockhausen, the musique concrète guys, some Xenakis, Laurie Spiegel, and Morton Subotnick. I didn’t play any Pyrolator, which I love so much, and there is so much that I didn’t show. It was good fun, but it was not, like, a big thesis or anything. The title, “100 Years of Techno” was only to show that this idea of repetitive music is old. I also played some stuff from Ethiopia, some pattern-based ritual music, and it’s so much like Detroit techno, somehow. So it was just the idea of broadening the view.
How do you apply your love for these earlier forms of techno into what you produce now?
Well, I don’t know. All the music that I listen to and everything I read and watch and see becomes part of my system, and it’s quite uncontrolled, the subconscious part of what you’re doing. It forms and filters what I do and what I don’t do, or what I don’t like and what I love. The perfect moment for making music is that you prepare a lot and you set up a system or a setting where you can let yourself go and just react to what is happening. Right now I’m playing a lot with a modular synth, and I am just starting to work with that again after two years of not doing it. It totally controls me by its boundaries and possibilities, and everyday it’s completely different. I don’t have a goal that I want to reach or, like, a record I want to release. It’s just playing at the moment because I have some time to explore. Of course I record here and there and I use some of it, but this is the best state, when you can just let yourself go. And sometimes out of nothing something happens — I wouldn’t say I make it, it’s more like it’s happening.
You went to the Institute of Computer Music in Vienna. What was your focus there, and what did you do there that you still use today?
I think the most important thing about that time is that when I decided to go there after I got accepted, from that moment on, my whole life was focused on music completely. Before that I was always working in different fields, like as a journalist, or working in bars, and doing different things while trying to make music without connecting it to making money. In Vienna I was living on nothing for a few years, and I had a very simple life. I was studying a lot of music. I had very nice teachers and had some help in Max/MSP programming and stuff like that, but I had a lot of time on my own. I was making music that never made it into a release, but it feels like I was preparing something that I could use later.
I didn’t buy any techno records for three years. Not at all. I had no money, and I wasn’t really interested in that for a while and was really absorbed by this whole improv and neue musik, musique concrète stuff. I was exploring all that and trying to find what I wanted to do and always ended up with drone. And then when I came to Berlin, I met some old friends and I went out and I saw Berghain and saw all this crazy after-hours stuff, and it was very interesting. I started making a lot of music again, and it all came together. And now I am here, you know? [laughs] It kind of took over, and now I’m trying to go back to the Viennese time a bit more, now that I’m getting older and can’t work late too often anymore.
Your drone or installation music is under your real name, while everything else is under a pseudonym. Why?
Yeah, it’s quite strange, but it’s more serious stuff, and at that time I wanted to divide it into parts. But with the new record [Decay], I think it was the first time that it came together, these two different people. That will be the goal for the next years: to make music that contains both worlds and is still interesting. That would be my vision of future techno. I’m never really satisfied with what I’m doing; even if I put out something, it’s only just what I’m doing at the moment, and I try to realize much better music in the end, hopefully.
With Decay you seem to be a little more focused on techno.
I think techno was always part of my musical world. If you listen to the first album, you have that side there as well. I just posted this set from seven years ago in Jerusalem, which I just listened to for the first time after seven years. It’s exactly the same music that I’m playing at the moment. I’ve always been interested in both worlds. I love house music and I even love people singing or whatever, but I also like very dark and strong techno. But this is a problem for the outside world, that they are not supposed to be presented as one — you know, in one person or one show or whatever. I always try to bring in as much as possible. For some people, that maybe know me as the guy that did “Just A Track” or “Bergwein” or something, and they may be a bit surprised.
Going back to Underground Resistance, in the early days you would have extremely harsh techno music, and then you would have vocal house with saxophones and whatever. It was the same label and the same guys, and that was just one idea. I like these extremes.
Over the last two or three years, I’ve just played more and more what I want to play. Sometimes I was maybe playing more for the audience, or thinking that it would fit better if I would play more like this or that instead of just playing what I was feeling. That is completely over, and I’m just playing what I want to play now.
[Ostgut] has helped me a lot, of course, with filtering some stuff out that I don’t want to play, but I think I’m just trusting myself more and also realizing that there’s people coming to hear what I’m playing. Sometimes I felt like I have to entertain someone, but that’s so boring — if you try to play to meet people’s expectations, everybody’s bored. You have to present something that you want to do, and then most of the time it’s surprising, and then it can get really good. Sometimes really bad. [laughs] But that’s part of the game.
How did your recent stint in Japan affect your work on Decay?
It didn’t affect this record because it was all recorded in Berlin before I left for Japan. I only organized and made final decisions in mixing there, but the music itself was 90% recorded in Berlin. But I was impressed by the culture and behavior of the people. I’d been there many times, but this time we stayed there for three months and we met lots of people. We also traveled a lot through the country and we went to a temple for two weeks, nearly every day attending a ceremony. That had a very strong impact on us, and in this state of mind I finalized the album. But there’s no Japanese music or instruments on in. I’m trying to work with someone who plays a very old Japanese instrument. I can’t say if it’s happening, but I would love to do that. There are some very interesting tunings and some very different performing rituals. I would love to go back there for a year, if I could. It was really a very intense experience.
So you would say it was more that the environment of Kyoto affected the album?
Exactly. Yeah. It’s very funny. Most of the journalists are focusing on this and saying it’s a Japanese album or something. [And I'm like], “Aw, dude, come on. I told you. There’s nothing Japanese in it.” You can mention it, but you don’t have to completely focus on that. But of course everyone does. Of course you need something special or new because otherwise it’s just another techno record — I understand. [laughs]
You tend to use a lot of samples in your music from old TV shows and movies, and instead of burying them in the mix they sit very prominently on top. What can you tell me about that?
I just have to do it. When a track is about to be finished, then maybe I can work in some strange person talking about something that you might not understand. I have a large collection of these recordings. Whenever I see a movie which I like or where I think someone’s voice is interesting, I try to record it. There is no big concept behind it, I just like it. I think it’s a nice contrast to the electronic music that you have. There is this person talking and this recording always has so much information of the space it was recorded in, the time, the technique, the hiss… or maybe it’s from a vinyl record or it’s from an old VHS or something. And that’s what I totally love, to bring all this information in. I’m trying not to filter it out or to clean it or put it into reverb on it or something, because that would hide most of the information, and I like this contrast between electronic music and the human, very bodily experience of someone talking. The first track, “Some Kind of Up or Down Yes,” is my favorite track.
It sounds like it’s from one of those old quiz shows.
Yeah, it is. It’s Salvador Dalí on “What’s My Line?”.
There’s always been a strong visual element to what you do, between the design of the record sleeves, as well as your involvement with the art world in Berlin. And nowadays it’s really common for basically every song to be on YouTube with some sort of video behind it. Does this sort of thing bother you?
Yeah, a little bit. I’ve tried to control it as much as I can. I mean, I appreciate that people like the music that much and that they want to put their own visuals under it, but I would like to control it. So I am working with some [visual] artists for this project, and we’re about finish some videos. Maybe it can reach other people as well if you have the visual, and it reflects the musical ideas a little bit.
The whole Internet thing kind of freaks me out. All this information and all this hype and these blogs and whatever… I can’t really decide anymore what is important or what I should look at. It takes so much time, and I still — honestly, I’m a person who really loves to have a paper in his hand and read, or a magazine or a book. I’m really too old for this blog world. I’m always happy when someone tells me, “This is a really good one.”
It was just this week that De:Bug is going out of print — I guess that’s just a sign of the times.
Yeah, it’s sad. De:Bug helped us so much. They were big, big, big supporters of Dial from the beginning. It’s really sad. I know many people that work there or used to work there, and I know that all of them put all their effort in and never really earned a lot of money or anything. It was just because they liked doing it. How did you find out about this?
I saw it on Facebook.
What do you think about Facebook?
In what way?
I mean it’s there now. We have to deal with it. These days you end up more and more with — there’s a link somewhere and you click on it, and then you end up on a Facebook page, which contains no information and has always the same grid and this cage-like design. It all looks the same, and so much is lost on the way. I don’t want to sound negative, or like a cultural pessimist or something, but I’m really not the biggest fan.
The Internet changed the way people listen to music quite drastically. I think it’s very rare that people listen to a whole album these days. So the experience that I have in my car still, which has a CD player, is a very rare one. Like, when I get a CD I put it in and I listen to the whole CD. Sometimes I drive an extra mile to finish that song or that CD, you know? It’s not good for the environment, I’m sorry, but it’s a very nice way of listening to music.
Well you have a Soundcloud, but it’s all mixes. Would you ever put your own music up there?
They keep telling me that I should upload my album there and make people listen to it a week before it comes out, but that seems so silly to me. Because then why do we have a release date? But they tell me, “Yeah, but this is how people do it these days.” And I’m just like, “Hm, OK.” I’m not sure how to deal with all this.
Is Pigon still mostly Max/MSP-based?
No, but we haven’t done anything in two years, sadly. Because Oliver [Kargl] is the father of two kids now, and he’s taking care of them most of the time. He can totally live without making music for a while. But I have the feeling that he’s coming back soon, and we can start making new stuff again. But no, Pigon was never limited to Max/MSP. It started with that, but then we used whatever. I think when he comes to my new studio, which is finished now and very nice and working and everything is connected… you can just come in and switch it on and it starts. What’s more important than the tools that you use is what you want to do and what inspiration you have. And that was always good, making music together. I hope he’s ready soon.
You were using this Max patch that you called Rocker. Do you still use it? Has it evolved over the years?
No, I have it on the computer that’s in the basement, and I want to now bring it up and see if it’s still running. I hope it is — it had a very nice sound. I loved it. I want to hook it up and sync it to my whole environment now. I stopped using Max for a while because I’m not a super-clever programmer and it took so long for me to make things. And then I decided to make music instead of making patches. But I miss some things about it. I really appreciated the idea of Max For Live, and I used Live at the time when it came out, but now I work in an analog environment and use the computer as a tape machine.
Were you using Max mostly to create things that you needed but that didn’t exist? Or did you enjoy making patches in Max?
I think it was an interesting process because I learned about sound synthesis while patching in ways I would not with, like, Cubase, or something that someone else programmed. I looked at patches other people made, and then totally changed everything in there. I always loved physical modeling, and Max has some really amazing abstractions for that. I’m not the math guy, I’m not a programming freak, so it took a long time to make something useful. But I like the sound a lot; I think it’s much better than anything else from a computer. But then you have friends that say, “Yeah, but if you used SuperCollider then you would have real sound.” It’s like, “Okay, forget it.” [laughs]
You also run a couple of small labels: Lirum Larum and Naïf. What’s your approach to these labels?
Naïf is a platform for friends, and a bit more tool-y music — club music. Cheap production, no cover. It’s the opposite of Dial, let’s say. And it’s totally free because the guy that runs Diamonds and Pearls distribution is such a nice guy. It is such a luxurious possibility that he’s like, “Whenever you want to do a record, you can do a record.” Normally people would get on your nerves and say, “Yeah, you need a business plan, at least four records a year,” something like that. Hopefully there will be more records coming in the next year. It’s called Naïf; it’s simple music you can play in a club. It’s just a vinyl record. That’s it. And I love the a cappellas — I love vocals, as you know. So that is the only rule that I have: that you have to deliver the extra vocal skit. I play a lot of these little snippets in my sets. I always loved records where you have something to play on top of the music, just for a second.
Liram Larum is with Oliver, and when he became a father we kind of slowed down a little bit. But we also will continue with that one day, but it’s also the same distribution, same situation. Totally fine, no hassle with that.
So what else is upcoming for you?
I’m traveling a lot this year, playing a lot with the album coming. And I have all these videos to be released soon, and I will make some more experimental, droney stuff, hopefully, this year. And two remixes… the last ones ever, because I really don’t like remixes.
I don’t know. It takes so long. I don’t really understand the idea of remixes. It takes so long for me to make music, and if I make a remix, I spend so much time making other music. I’m not the best remixer. There are people who can easily do it in five hours, and I’m not them. I try to be as relaxed as I can and take care of myself. Sometimes this traveling is a bit too much, but I’m trying to find strategies to deal with it better. But it’s really good.
The great thing about playing and being a DJ is I can go to Japan this year, or I can go to the States and to South America again, and I really appreciate that, after all these years. Sometimes you end up in this kind of ghetto where you meet the same people you could meet in Berlin, or you see the same shops or the same clubs that have the Funktion-One sound system now and, you know, blah, blah, blah. But from time to time you run into something completely mindblowingly different, and so local, and so full of love, and so disconnected. When that happens, it’s so great. And that happens — especially in Japan, still. You end up in a club in southwest Japan, and it’s so mindblowing because it’s awesome people and amazing sound, with, like, hand-made sound systems and no lights and people just dance. It’s great, you know? And that’s why I still love doing this so much. Of course, I also like playing in Fabric, it’s also great. London is a very different vibe than Berlin or New York. But it’s very rare that you end up with something that you don’t expect at all and it’s a completely local style.
Do you have any other examples?
Last year I had one of these experiences when I went to Istanbul. I expected to play at a club inside, and then it was outside, on the beach… Suma Beach — I didn’t expect that. It was such a beautiful vibe, and they had this hippie feeling going at the beach. It was very soon after the riots: at Taksim they had these riots, and the military was suppressing it. Then you had all these people there, and it felt so free and kind of like a parallel world to the Turkish reality at that time. It was really, really great. I didn’t want to go home. Sometimes when you don’t expect anything it’s the best.]]>
I wouldn’t call them eclectic, but Jonsson/Alter seem to have a roominess in their sound that makes most deviations seem normal. Maybe compare them to Move D, who remixed one of their early singles — they have a hint of “jam band.” There’s a pulse that ticks upwards or forward but doesn’t change directions, and then they throw whatever on top. That might be an oversimplification of music in general. Basically, Jonsson/Alter are not artists who are going to release complex, curveball records, because their airy sound already allows them enough space to experiment.
That said, “Brevet Hem” is apparently enough of a pop song to require an abridged “Radio” mix, which is new for them. The track appeared on their last album, 2, marked by its sort of halted, echoing female vocal, NY house circa ’91 hand drums, Seinfeld bass, and the duo’s typically luscious atmospherics. Where the original had the time to soar and appeal to bigger rooms, the “Radio” mix — appearing on a limited edition 7″ record — cuts it down to those essentials, only peaking for a fraction of the time while alluding to a kind of quiet storm style of house. On the flip is the rare dub version that takes the “dub” aspect in its title seriously. The rhythm shuffles more, organ stabs come to the fore, and much of it, including the vocal, is subject to washes of swirling, stammering delay. Both are well-built reductions, but this release is really only essential for the Jonsson/Alter equivalent of people who follow Phish on tour.]]>
LWE’s Curator’s Cuts podcast series features our staff mixing together recent favorites and providing explanations for their selections. LWE staff writer Steve Kerr compiled Curator’s Cuts 35. We will post the tracklist later in the week, as the curator discloses and describes it as part of the podcast.
Curator’s Cuts 35: Steve Kerr (76:32)]]>
It feels like timing has dulled the impact of Sasu Ripatti’s most recent renaissance. It’s not as though he’s ever curbed his profligate evolution, making great lateral moves and nailing everything from microhouse to supremely narcotic dub techno, from glacial electroacoustic improv to fractal sequencer programming. Coverage of his music has tended to favor projects like Tummaaand Vladislav Delay Quartet, painting the image of an artist going into his dotage by pursuing more “serious” forms, while glossing over the brash, vivid rhythms of contemporary Raster-Noton releases Vantaa, Espoo, and Kuopio. Ripatti has no interest in battling this image; his most recent effort is the vinyl-only Ripatti label. Its third release is credited to his Vladislav Delay alter ego, and it joins those Raster-Noton releases as some of his most accessible output.
The opiate fog hanging over those Vladislav Delay Chain Reaction release lifted a while ago, but Ripatti03 is hyperactive even by Kuopio‘s tightly wound standards. “Footwork-influenced” is the press release byword for the spray of kick drums and foil-covered stabs, but it’s a superficial affinity. “SND-influenced” is as descriptive, but Delay’s music never holds our attention by virtue of referring to something outside of itself. It is recognizable as his music by its characteristic materials but is also different on a molecular level from his other stylistic tangents. B-side “#22″ is aggressively staccato, but we float over the track at a familiar syrupy rate. The biggest innovation in this approach is in the way Delay constantly deforms the frames of reference between each loop. “#22″ is a constant struggle to remember the immediate past. The same sounds never loop in exactly the same way, harshing the flow with tugs of time dilation. A-side “#5″ opens with an interpolation of Elgato’s “Zone” before erupting into some kind of showdown between Z’EV and DJ Premier. The rules governing Sasu Ripatti’s music are out of reach in a way they aren’t with many other producers, and his mastery of inner space in the latest manifestation of Vladislav Delay remains as sublime as ever.]]>
DVS1 is an American producer who makes his bones in Europe, counting his closest contemporaries as those who soundtrack Berghain’s Sundays. Given this robust globalization, it’s no wonder that he’d encounter a clip of talented producers along his path. And such hobnobbing is on display via Mistress Recordings, his sublabel that has built quite the resounding catalogue in less than a year of existence by featuring releases from U.S.-, UK-, and Germany-based artists. The same robust globalization, however, has proved consequential, hindering his own production rate as of late. But as he revealed in our mid-2013 DJ Debriefing, that’s poised to change. “You know, I’m finally finding the pleasure in writing music, so I want to find more time for it,” he told us at the time. As such, we arrive at HUSH02: a pair of tracks largely void of anything begetting his referenced “pleasure,” but nevertheless a welcome return to form.
“Lost Myself” picks up where his only prior HUSH release left off. That was 2011 and if there’s one thing that’s immediately clear, it’s that he hasn’t lost his defining edge in the interim. Built off a chug that resembles Robert Hood at his most pointed, it’s tidy and unrelenting with a bulbous lick pining through a sturdy kick-clap combo. More impressive, though, is “S.O.S.” Bloated in all the right places, the track bounces and churns and snarls across its nine-minute duration. There a glut of included components, but they’re arranged in such a steadily streamlined manner that it holds an even impression of dread throughout. There’s no reinvention of the wheel on display; both tracks lump forward with a staid aplomb, never wavering nor journeying much in their respective runtimes. But if it’s confident techno you’re seeking — the sort that can ensnare an entire room from the jump –both cuts should meet your needs nicely.]]>
Much like DJs making their own extended edits or dancers crying out for one more tune at lights on, DJ Koze prolonged the afterglow of his widely adored 2013 Amygdala album with two remixes packages. Following reworks by Matthew Herbert and Efdemin, the second shift crew of Roman Flügel and Robag Wruhme continue to wring magic from Koze’s originals at the same high caliber as their predecessors.
Flügel’s remix concentrates the scattered elements of the title track into a mostly smooth, gently burbling stream of sound, only a four note melody jumping up so regularly it recalls a fountain on a timer. His signature, jazz-like synth solo segues into a more dynamic second half where Milosh’s honeyed vocals and mallet runs jangle in the air, nodding to the original before diving back into the stream. Wruhme’s “Broky Frumu Rehand” of “Nices Wölkchen” is closer in spirit to the original, content to let details run wild and break into the deep, bass-driven pulse to make space for Apparat’s soaring vocals. Still, it’s considerably more floor-friendly — dreamy but driven along a clear path. Koze and Wruhme are certainly kindred producers, and this remix feels like the fraternal twin who’s a natural dancer. In kind, it’s probably the record’s most valuable cut. One walks away from this second batch of remixes feeling like afterglow of Amygdala could last forever if Koze wasn’t so discerning in his choice of remixers. Instead we get to stretch it out ourselves as long as we keep them in our crates.]]>
[Golf Channel Recordings]
The Central Executives aren’t advertising their real names or anything but I want to bet they have something to do with Whatever We Want Records and the No Ordinary Monkey party. A Walk in the Dark is as successfully anarchic as those projects, referencing all sorts of strange proto-house and disco offshoots. The actual lede here is that I apparently listened to A1, “High Roads,” 22 times before I made it to the second track. It’s like Dinosaur L’s “Clean On Your Bean” crossed with La Perversita’s “I Love You S…,” or maybe something by Love of Life Orchestra, with a lady seductively talking about roads on top. Its groove is gentle, suave, narcotized, and I want to say timeless, or at least out-of-time.
While this track feels like it could have arrived in the early 80s, there are moments where modern touches are more apparent, as on the rigidly funky “Shut Ya Face,” or “Power Point,” with its typing clap sound; both remind of DC Recordings or Maurice Fulton in their playfulness. Others are more subtle, with their age primarily distinguished by the fatness of their kickdrums. I’m not sure if this album is actually top-heavy, but it’s very easy to get stuck on the first few tracks. “Loveray 79″ interpolates a little Harry Nilsson (“people keep talking to me…”) atop a busily strutting arrangement, and then “Waveform Reform” has a guy scatting and a vibraphone solo. Perhaps the best way to describe the album is to say that if you spend too much time listening to deep house, there are a lot of potentially ugly parts. There’s such a spectrum of instruments here, but, possibly because of how great the first track is, this madcap energy feels excusable, if not totally natural. More often than not, elements like the scatting or lounge jazz vocals work seamlessly with the more “tasteful” bits, like the rigid electro bass line that makes sultry closer “Take You Home” boom. A Walk in the Dark may inhabit an offbeat, not-very-salable zone, but its eclecticism, apart from “High Roads,” is also its strongest asset.]]>
Listening to Jacques Greene’s music, you get the feeling that we won’t have much longer with the artist in his current state. The achingly beautiful melodies, steamy synths, and chrome plated production that has so far attracted the attention of people like Radiohead, Azealia Banks, Katy B, and the XX is destined for major exposure. It is most likely the producer’s penchant for r&b that has got him to this point; his tracks typically play with saccharine vocals and heat-warped, shimmering keys that wouldn’t be out of place on a commercial pop track. Greene, however, keeps his sound firmly rooted in the club, drawing influence from, among other places, the most forward thinking UK dance music over the last 15 years. It is a sound that quickly won favor in those territories, his first two releases coming out on the London-based Night Slugs and Glaswegian LuckyMe labels. Anyone who has seen Greene perform live can also attest to the fact that the producer can strip away the gloss and meter out some punishing sounds, also evidenced on his Ready EP for Martyn’s 3024 label. LWE popped some questions to the Canadian in a bid to discover what it is that drives his music [his answers are coming soon] and also asked him to assemble our 198th exclusive podcast. With a raft of exclusives and unreleased material, Jacques Greene turns it out over 70 minutes for your listening pleasure.
Download LWE Podcast 198: Jacques Greene (71:39)
01. Drake, “OVOXO” (TEAMS ∞ TRUST edit) [*]
02. Frankey & Sandrino, “Save” [Innervisions]
03. Krystal Klear, “Fumer Tue” [Cold Tonic]
04. Jacques Greene, “Night Tracking” [LuckyMe*]
05. Tiga, “Gentle Giant” (Martyn’s Heaven Remix) [Turbo]
06. Partynextdoor, “R A I N ft. Rochelle Jordan” [*]
07. Pablo Mateo, “Roxy” [LACKREC.]
08. Anthony Naples, “Perro” [The Trilogy Tapes*]
09. HNNY, “No” [Puss]
10. A.G. Cook, “Had 1 (slowed)” [*]
11. Aden, “Part of Me” [Ultramajic]
12. Jacques Greene, “No Excuse” (Yung Gud Remix) [*]
13. Seiho, “KOI” [Perfect Touch]
14. Jacques Greene, “1 4 me” (demo) [*]
15. DJ Richard, “Benzos” [White Material]
16. Yung Gud, “Fall In Love” [*]
17. How to Dress Well, “Words I Can’t Remember” [Weird World]
18. iPhone recording of dudes in Delancey Station
* denotes tracks which, at the time of publishing, are unreleased
I think the first time I heard of you, an old flatmate was showing me a video of you jamming in your studio. Over what sort of period of time were you buying equipment before you knew what to do with it and started making music you were happy with?
Jacques Greene: A lot of that equipment I used at first was borrowed from friends. In high school I was introduced to electronic music and completely disregarded any “traditional” instrument afterwards and just wanted to save up to get a sampler. I got a MPC1000 off Craigslist and tried to learn how to use that and then slowly over time would save up for a specific piece of equipment.
How did your first releases with the labels Night Slugs and Lucky Me come about? Were you sending out demos or did they discover you?
I had a friendly relationship with the LuckyMe crew from “way back in the Myspace days.” It feels so funny now, but there truly was an era at some point where all up and coming and young people in music were all on this thing and for a brief period of time the messaging service on it was really great for establishing relationships and trading music. Sadly, though I really like a lot of things about Soundcloud and the other platforms that have taken over now, it definitely feels like that side of things has fallen by the wayside.
Coming from Montreal, who was influencing you on a local level when you started out producing? Were you getting in the studio with friends or was making music a solitary pursuit back then?
A big part of my introduction to electronic music when I was pretty young was to things like Ninja Tune. They used to have an office in Montreal and I actually ended up interning there for a while, mailing out press CDs and such. They paid me in vinyl. So the Sixtoo and Amon Tobin stuff was really important to me. I definitely moved to many different things, but those were definitely key Montreal music figures for me.
Making music was and to certain extent still is quite an isolated thing for me. I think the beauty and comfort I find within it is that I can do all these things myself and there isn’t ever a time where I have to consider my drummer’s ego because I’m writing a beat-less track or what have you. That said, doing everything yourself can sometimes drive you up the wall and into creative ruts that might be easier to step out of if you had a friend in the room to make take over, help with a specific part I might be struggling with or to just keep you company on those especially tough studio days where nothing seems to be going right.
Your penchant for working with vocal samples, particularly of an R&B nature, is well known, and you’ve worked with Katy B, producing a track on her album. Is producing for vocalists something that you’d like to pursue more or is there more fun to be had chopping up and remixing existing tracks?
I definitely want to in the realm of it making sense and working on projects that are interesting to me. Before I ever put a record out my favorite thing was doing bootleg remixes of Janet Jackson and Jeremih and stuff. God forbid anyone ever hears them now, hahahaha. But those all grew out of a desire to work in that world. It feels challenging and exciting to engage actively in the “pop” world. Obviously the lines between these different worlds in music are blurring more by the day but there definitely still are differences, and it’s an exciting idea to me to jump a bit between the two.
That said I don’t think I have the stamina or workflow to compete with the Mike Will’s of this world who seem to make like 25 tracks a week. So I think if I do more of this stuff it would be projects that grow more organically, such as the Katy B album track, where I wrote the beat specifically with her in mind and brought it to her and she wrote it while I was in the room. Not only is it more fulfilling than sending out a zip file with 20 ideas and just hitting refresh on my Gmail for seven months, but it’s quite thrilling to see a singer/songwriter go at their craft and just write a song. Voice is the coolest and most nuanced instrument out there.
Given this pop sensibility that you infuse your music with, an artist album seems like a logical step for you. Is there a Jacques Greene album in the pipeline?
I think I want to take it there for sure. I resisted the idea for a long time because I don’t enjoy most “producer albums” and thought for a long time that the album format was as archaic and irrelevant as watching cable television (my god, so many fucking ads!), but I’ve kind of come around to the idea and I sort of appreciate the context that the format can give a certain body of work. Just can’t be forced though.
Hypothetically, if there were no limitations, who would you have guesting on your dream album?
Honestly albums loaded with features always leave a really bad taste in my mouth but if I could have like two people I think I’d go for maybe Beth Gibbons from Portishead and Ginuwine. In some real dream stuff I’d love to work with someone completely out of my comfort zone like Steve Reich or something.
You recently remixed Donna Summer for the posthumous Love to Love You Donna album. Were you concerned about taking on this project, that you were being asked to re-tool a disco legend and potentially invoking the wrath of the if-it-ain’t-brokers?
Yes, definitely; but then I heard that her family who controls the estate listened to and approved all the remixes that made it onto the compilation so felt as OK as it could be. I took it on as a maybe. I don’t like committing to something in a way that would put me in a difficult position. If I felt I was not able to do anything with the track I would have asked to not hand in or something.
Over the past few years you’ve racked up some serious air miles. What have been some of the most surprising/weird/exhilarating places to play?
Eastern Europe is definitely one. Every time I play in Poland or Romania I feel so far away from home and yet the shows have always been great and the people there have this really unique energy. Honestly, everywhere I go kind of blows me away both for how similar all our cultures are now due to the internet and mass culture/production and yet makes me appreciate the smaller differences within all these places.
I never thought I would ever get to travel as much as I do and it’s truly the most incredible part of this whole thing. The setting that brings me to these places is also quite often conducive to meeting interesting people and seeing cool stuff and eating different food. I’m going to Asia for the first time this summer and honestly never thought I would make it out there, still feels quite surreal in fact.
Your Vase label came out with a strong run of releases in 2012 but has been noticeably quiet since then. What are the plans for the label musically and are you still wanting it to be more than just a record label?
I wanted to keep it slow and deliberate. We live in the era of the incessant flood of content and I just don’t want to push things out there for the sake of it. I’ve been talking to a few people who make great music about doing records and three are currently being wrapped up, but I just believe in things happening when they need to. I take the same approach to my own music and only put out releases when I truly feel I’ve written something that I feel has a place within the crowded universe of music.
As far as projects with Vase, I’d definitely like to keep doing a couple things a year that sit outside of the world of “record labels.” We got asked by the Tate Modern to present something in the turbine hall last year and the resulting show was a really great multimedia evening of audio visual work from a few people. I’d really like to explore doing more things along those lines.
Which of your peers keep you hungry and on your toes production-wise?
That’s constantly changing and I’m so happy that new music keeps coming out and blowing me away. I really dread ever reaching a point where you turn into some old guy who thinks “music used to be realer” or better in any way. If I felt that way in any way shape or form I would probably get out of this game entirely. Culture moves forward and some of it is insane but yeah, great stuff keeps surfacing. Right the stuff from A. G. Cook, Sim Life and few other bits from the PC Music collective/label out of London is not only the most exciting new electronic music I’ve heard but also perhaps the most confusing. Sort of sounds like interacting with a broken DDR machine at an arcade, but in the best way. I think it’s exactly what music needs right now. It’s weird in a completely genuine way.
Given that you only release on average a couple of things every year, but you must play a load of live shows in that time, how do you keep a live show exciting for yourself?
My live show is gear based and things change up all the time. A lot of the drum programming during these performances is done on the fly on a TR-606 for instance, so there is a fair amount of improvisation and experimentation on stage involved. The possibility of chaos and utter ruin is really engaging and exciting for me. I can’t really think of a single time I’ve performed and felt bored or that I rather wanted to be anywhere else. I make a conscious effort to stay engaged and passionate about the performance aspect of this music shit. At the end of the day music is some form of communication and the live environment when people have actually bothered to get off Twitter (kind of) and Netflix and are in a room they paid money to be in to watch you do you, that’s a thing to be cherished and taken seriously.
What can you tell us about the mix you did for us?
I like the format of the podcast mix because it’s a chance to present things that usually exist within the context of a club environment and the somewhat tyrannical demands of a dance floor in way that can be enjoyed on the subway or at home or something. It’s fun to play varied music that I really really like and piece it together in a way that’s hopefully engaging the whole way through. I tried to approach the mix as if I made a mixtape/playlist for a friend consisting of music that really inspires me and excites me right now.
What can we expect from Jacques Greene over the next year?
Well I’m super happy with this new EP because I genuinely think I’m coming into my own of like, who I am, how I want to present myself, and what I hope to make people feel with this stuff I do. I think I’m slowly getting better at getting what I want from my head into the tracks I make and I’m hoping to kind of push things further into this kind of lane. Hopefully get better at collaborating with other people and just generally challenge myself with new things and making sure I never ever get complacent or jaded.
LWE Podcast 162, contributed by Recondite, was a brilliant live set of his own productions. Be sure to add it to your collection before it’s archived this Friday, April 18th.]]>