Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The new style

I'm just back from Hamburg, which I found unexpectedly "alternative" and "much-going-on" city. There is something of Berlin party/arty vibe in this port town, but its smaller, more compact and less touristic than the capital. I spent there three nights – a party every night.

The 1st night

We went to a really tiny and trashy place at the harbour - The Golden Pudel Klub. Cheap beer, free admission, a smoky room… I would expect to hear some alternative rock or punk rock there, but music was really cool and up-to-date. I'd even say that it may be the new trend – a mixture of electro beat with some IDM influence and a massive bass (not that massive and evil as in dubstep though). The new LP by E.Allien and Apparat comes to my mind. Surprisingly I recognised just few things (for instance, the DJ played a rocking remix of the classic Aphex Twin's tune Windowlicker), but music was so good! What was even more surprising was that the DJ was a quite old guy, looking more as an old-school rock guy… Well, he rocked! My friend told me that actually Pudel Klub is a really popular spot in Hamburg, often being a place for afterparties.

The 2nd night

A gay party at Uebel & Gefährlich was on. It happened in a former bombshelter – a big, grey concrete building, one of those buildings you expect to see in the post-soviet Eastern Berlin not in Hamburg. I must confess that I missed the live act – Namosh –, which was shorter than foreseen. DJs played some glamour electro-house tunes, which were OK, but nothing really extraordinary.

The 3rd night

This night we were in a place called Planeten & Blumen where Remute played live. Amazing, the venue was a really undergroundish again – looked like a basement. Despite it, the club was cosy, just with really few decorations, some basic lights, cheap admission (5 EUR) and great music. There were two DJs in the beginning, who was spinning nice tech-house / minimal. Then Remute (the real name: Denis Karimani, pictured aside) followed. The opening tracks were nothing so special, but slowly they became more sophisticated, kicking and energetic. In general it was a mixture of tech-house, electro, lots of (neo)acid and some techno. Fortunately he was not one of those boring guys who passively stand behind a laptop - he was twisting knobs and sliders on controllers and other gear thus actively fucking up the outcoming sound. The party was not too crowded, but practically all people were dancing. Cool vibe! As the last thing he played his latest release Please say something (on Ladomat 2000, see it below) with a bit cheesy, robotic sample "say something… go to hell!" Brilliant!

In brief, that was Hamburg by night. It's certainly a place where I'd like to go again.

Remute - Please say something

Tag wars or where minimal comes from

I kindly sugest reading the last Sherburne's column at Pitchfork. It's a retrospective analysis of the term minimal techno - where does it comes from, what it means etc. This urged me to eloborate on this topic a bit.

He is absolutely right that today the word "minimal" is used so widely and intensively that it looses it basic meaning. Most of the music called minimal is not minimal in the classic sense at all. There are some elements of minimalism, but in fact in tracks of artists and labels like A.Smoke, D.Eulberg, A.Under, Ware, Areal, Circus Company there are so much things going on, this music is changing and mutating all the time. It has almost nothing to do with classic and pure minimalism as used to be produced by R.Hood, D.Bell, M.Vainio (check the last Mika Vainio's release - it is still so minimal). However, there are still released some music which follows the initial idea of how minimal techno should sound. For instance, M_nus releases are still quite minimal in this sense. That's right again - Kompakt people avoid call their music minimal any more, for example, when I interviewed Tobias Thomas, he described it vaguely as the new bass music that incorporates some popmusic aesthetics.

But if we look back we see that it happened to many music genre signifiers. Once one kind of music becomes trendy, becomes relatively demanded and recognised, the term itself gets largely marketed, and after some time it gets too blur, too aproximate, even confusing. To some extent it happened to Detroit techno, then more obviously to electroclash and electro in general. At one point electro was almost synonym to electronic music, although technically this music didn't have the typical electro beat.

Let's go one step further - I suppose this tagging and evolution of music genre terminology has more to do with emotions than strictly logical classifications. If simplified there is some dualistic evolution based on binary opositions going on. Imagine - the house music was born out of disco as an opposition to the first. Chicago house was an underground answer to the mainstream disco. Already in this century house music is too big, too mainstream, too everywhere, and some people started to call one kind of house music tech-house thus coupling it with techno and sort of distancing this music from the term "house music". Intelligent drum'n'bass/artcore was born in response to jungle. The same way trip-hop came out of hip-hop, and something similiar happened to techno as well. People started to call some of it "minimal" or "electro" thus segregating the new sound from some rather boring, too standard techno of mid-late 90's and hard monotracks (known as Schrantz).

Another point, which was interesting is the discussed column, was that most of the tags were quite unadaquate and even funny if we think of them. Just think of the term "Intelligent dance music" and use of it. Or "experimental" (well, nowadays it's already a bit out-of-date), or "progressive". Ain't it funny? What will be the next one?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Monstababes rock da floor

I've been to Lesbians on Ecstasy concert (pictured aside) few days ago, and must note that these 4 girls really rocked! I was expecting quite standard rrrriot girls electropunk – screaming vocals, some guitars on top of simple drum machine patterns and shit like that – but it was definitely something more.

First of all, the Lesbians were tougher and harder than the most popular bands of this kind (Le Tigre, Peaches, not even mentioning Chicks on Speed from whom LOE seem to have borrowed their silly name). Probably one may compare them to Cobra Killer but LOE musically are somewhat more straight, beat orientated and they don't care so much about arty shows (e.g., the attitude is simpler, more punk).

Technically songs were quite diverse, including elements of industrial, early rave techno, electropunk, breakcore, hardcore techno and even metal rock. Nevertheless, all this formed their unique sound. The drummer used some kind of electronic drumming pad thus producing very tight and metallic beats, like of Einstürzende Neubauten.

In fact, the singer Lynne T looked like Peaches a bit. She was singing (often using electronic pitch shifter to alter her voice) with bulging eyes and vivid gestures by this freaking out and fascinating the audience at the same time. They were so energetic and the venue was so small that it was hard resist dancing. Hard, but still entertaining and funny. They sang also a cover-version of Fat Truckers song Superbike, just singing super dyke (if I'm not mistaken, "dyke" is a slang for "lesbian"). I assume that this is not really that kind of music you would like to listen at home while having a joint or a glass of wine, and probably the records are a bit boring, but Lesbians on Ecstasy playing live are definitely worth seeing.

Lesbians on Ecstasy - Tell Me Does She Loves the Bass

Monday, May 22, 2006

It's over

A couple of reviews/impressions from last gigs.

a) 1, 2 – cauri!

It was a great event, full of excitement, although really different from the previous Skaņu Mežs party. First of all, because of the venue – an area of the Riga port territory, which is recently given away to different artists who are welcome to develop their projects there. But all this is just a technicality, in reality it is just a wonderful place – semi-industrial objects from the Soviet times on a bank of the river Daugava and a picturesque panorama of the city.

The main floor was located in a rather large hall, which looked like a former factory. I started warm-up with some electrohop/IDM, and soon Tim Exile followed with his live performance. Standing behind his laptop, screaming in a mic and dressed in a pink jacket with angel wings attached he looked (and sounded) so wicked. His music was a bit harder than on the last records, more hardcore/breakcore, but at the same time being playful and inventive, because of the thorough live processing (at least, that was the impression I got). It was a shame that Tim was chosen to play so early, when people just started gathering and not being ready for fierce dancing yet.

The next was some local industrial guy Marchwitza, who were into some kind of electronic body music, I guess. I didn't see him much, but people said he was cool. Meanwhile I went to check another party nearby – a small open-air sound system run by friends and surrounded with a cosy and lively vibe. It was free of charge plus the weather was beautiful, so no surprise the spot was crowded. After many years I saw Martinez Gonzales playing his own tracks there – amazing melodies, smooth bass, and summer-time mood! (I should write something more about this guy for those who don't know him yet, e.g., non-Latvian readers.) After him Android (a half of Alexandroid project, Lo Recordings) was spinning some really nice, intelligent techno tunes. Everybody was dancing until police came and stopped the party.

OK, back to the main stage. Cobra Killers had started there. They are two girls from Berlin, melting noise, industrial, electopop and spooky melodies into weird collages. Still it was more about performance – actually they sang on top of the pre-recorded songs. Both were dressed really kinky – high heels, short skirts, long stockings etc. –, and acted in a sort of provoking way, but still keeping some distance (so berliner). The sound could be better, especially vocals from mics. The only enjoyable place was right in front of the speakers.

After the Cobras Ned Beckett – a Warp DJ – began his laptop set. Many interesting tracks, but, again, the sound was too ravish and the venue – too echoing, not really appropriate for IDM stuff. No, I mean, people enjoyed it as an underground rave party, where a booming soundsystem and feeling that this was something special were enough, and where you do not give a shit about some specific things like acoustic parameters, sound clarity etc. No doubt, it was indeed something special as the Warp artists don't come to Latvia every week. Then again it was mine and DJ Drazza's turn to play until the end. It went quite freestyle as far I remember. In fact, by that time we both were already quite drunk, but somehow it goes well together with Skaņu Mežs traditions and the general mood in these parties.

To conclude with the party was kicking, and I'm sure that the quality of sound in this venue is just a matter of time. I hope they will keep rocking on, and we will see there many other great artists.

Some more photos here.

b) Vive la Fête

They played in Luxembourg recently. It was very nice, kitschy and elegant pop music or electropop to be more precise. I was expecting to see just a duo – Els Pynoo and Danny Mommens – but there were three more players thus forming a real live band. Indeed their music was even more live than in records – they used live (processed) drums, bass, guitar, and synths, of course. Because of guitars their music was a bit reminiscent of another cool electropop band – Ladytron.

All of them had long hairs hiding their eyes, besides the guys who were playing keyboards and bass had black masks on their eyes, if I'm not mistaken (a bit like Chris Corner in his I am X project, which is also fine e-pop stuff). The guys had black haircuts as in their song Schwarzkopf: "Les cheveux noirs comme une pop star, C'est ce que je veux pour ce soir" (Black hair as of a pop star, that's what I want tonight). Naturally, Els Pynoo – the lead singer – was the most distinctive with her blond hair and sexy ballerina outfit.

They did their performance professionally and artistically despite that the crowd was quite reserved (well, that's Luxembourg, plus it was a working day). Vive la Fête is a typical party/discotheque band, and obviously people hadn't had a proper warm-up. Regarding their music it may be not something very original or sophisticated, but it is good of its kind. A bit silly, melodic and groovy songs about having fun, sex and party. Yes, basically about party – the longer, the better.

However, everything comes to its end. The final encore song they played without Els – it was a cover version of old good classic Ça plane pour moi originally composed by Plastic Bertrand in 1977. Mommens had a long guitar solo and afterwards he just passed his guitar into the crowd (amazing, I had never seen anything like this). Few moments and they are gone. Cheers! La fête est fini, vive la fête!

p.s. the photo of Els Pynoo (VLF) is kindly given to me by Gilles.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

qass bass

The next day after 1,2-cauri! party (May 13) I gonna spin some elektroish records together with Zagga at Pulkvedis. Everybody's welcome!

Party time

This Friday there will be the next 1,2-cauri! party in Riga. I'm really looking forward to see Ned Beckett (a.k.a. N>E>D) - the official Warp Records DJ -, and Tim Exile, who is mostly making IDM-drum'n'bass-breakcore and is released on Mike Paradina's Planet Mu label. Thus probably the two most known IDM labels will be represented there.

Cobra Killer is a funny duo from Berlin, their music is a wierd mixture of electroclash, noise, rrrriot girlie punk etc. Should be entertaining.

Regarding myself, I will bring some IDM, bastard pop and electropunk records to play, but we will see how its gonna turn out. See you there!

Exile - Merlin

NB! Top 10 - April

April's over, so here are some tracks I enjoyed last month.

> Alex Under – Distantes [M_nus]

It's taken from his new Collage ep (and finally he gets released on M_nus), and it is probably the most techno-ish record from the guy – at least Disatntes is a sort of Jeff Mills style banging and deep minimal techno track, but still having all those Under’s qualities – mindbending, psychedelic drive and playfulness. His music is somehow wierd – a bit reminiscent of DJ Koze, but of course it is diffirent.

> Booka Shade – Pong Pang [Get Physical]

I keep on digesting the superb Movements LP, which is arguebly the best album this year so far. This is sweet and funny avoiding being cheesy though. A phonky acid tribalism.

> Dirka Dirka? – Whooom [Dipolter]

Oh, what an intro, what an echo! Behind this funny name there are two German guys.

> Rekorder – Rekorder 5.3 [Rekorder]

Thumbs up to an exceptionally good release in the Rekorder serie (however, the most exceptional for me is the 3rd track). It is not that minimal as the title and overall aesthetics of the relese may look like – there is something of Get Physical / Border Community deep and trancey business and some minimal, groovy funkiness of Louderbach and Tekel.

> Lazy Fat People – Big City [Border Community]

It’s been around for a while, but the first I got another track from this release – Dark water – and I didn’t like it all, thus somehow not checking the rest... Until recently I heard Big City – wow, it’s beautiful! Unfolding melodies in the best BC traditions.

> Matt John – Forgive the Lines [Underl_ne]

A bit spooky one from his Behing the Atoms ep. I'm sure it works both ways: 4 dancing / listening.

> Claude Vonstroke – Deep throat (Sebastien Leger rmx) [Electro Choc]

Some freaky acidhouse action from America.

> Jay Tripwire – I am a masterbeater (Claude Vonstroke rmx) [Utensil]

This rmx is so deeeep and trippy, and what a nice vocal sample! Well done, Mr. Vonstroke!

> Butane – Tinker Toy [Num]

Butane (Andrew Rasse) is another American producer. A really minimal, rather simple but nice track from his Visualise the Path ep with a smooth subbass and straight repetitive beat.

> Mihai Popoviciu - In Zare [Arhiva7]

Romanian vampdico :)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Missed and coming events in May

What I've missed last week:

Blacktrobe live

That's sad, because I've never seen Blacktrobe live, just Ivan Smagghe dj-ing.

DJ Hacker

The upcoming events I wouldn't like to miss:

The postrock icons Silver Mt. Zion are playing tonight in Luxembourg,

May 6: The legendary Superdiscount guys Alex Gopher & Etienne de Crecy will play in Luxembourg. Other DJs at this event suck (ok, they are not my cup of tea), but it's worth attending just because of this duo.

May 12: the next 1,2-cauri! party in Riga featuring Cobra Killer (2 crazy German girls), Time Exile (Planet Mu), Ned Beckett and Flat-E (both Warp Recs). I'm really looking forward seeing them!

May 18: Vive la fete are coming to Luxembourg. This is one of my favourite electropop band. Kitsch!

Vive la fete - Claude francois

Vive la Fete - Non Stop Vive Fosett

...and maybe some more.