Sunday, April 25, 2004

Theo Parrish: Parallel Dimensions
Ubiquity Records
Release Date: 18th May 2004
Rating: 4.5
forthcoming in prefixmag.com

In the ever-evolving world of house music, it’s difficult to remain relevant, and many records have a shelf life of about a year. Last year's hi-hat tones and other samples are quickly bested, new production techniques are established, and some of the most innovative producers in all of music keep things moving forward--producers like Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano and others are busy inventing subgenres that sound like nothing ever created before.

This being said, for an album originally released in 2000 to sound completely relevant today, a producer must be doing something right. This leads us to the world of Theo Parrish, perhaps one of the most influential producers in house music, and the re-release of an absolutely classic record.

Some basic background: Theo Parrish began deejaying at 1986 at the age of 13, influenced and aided by Chicago radio djs and producers such as Larry Heard, Lil’ Louis, Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy and Walter “Get Down” Brown. At 14, the beatmaking commenced, and over the years, Parrish’s production sound would evolve into something unique: deep and rhythmic, with a jazz element coupled with distinct Detroit basslines. At present, nearly twenty years on, he’s still actively Djing, remixing and producing. He’s also still residing in Detroit, a city where he has undoubtedly left his mark on its much-touted sound.

Parrish originally released Parallel dimensions on his own label, Sound Signature in 2000. The record was limited to 1000 copies on CD, with no full-length album pressed. Fortunately, for fans of the jazzy, organic and hypnotic sounds of Parrish, the record has not been allowed to slip through the cracks into to become an obscure collector’s item—Ubiquity records has re-released the record; full of organic textures and plodding, hypnotic beats. Its equally beautiful and haunting, with grooves deep enough to lose yourself in completely.

Parallel Dimensions is quite frankly, a masterful record. “Anansies' Dances” relies on ghostly whispered vocal samples serving as a rhythmic element, anchored only by the kick drum and watery background noise. The track then gradually melds into a decidedly lighter piece with the addition of jazzy piano chords. “Serengeti Echoes” starts with a lively disco percussion line, and uses cut-and-paste vocal and string samples drawn out over 12 minutes of tension and release. My favorite track from the album, “Space Ghosts,” is reminiscent of something you would hear from Matthew Herbert: heavily edited synths, cut up hi-hats, static or white noise used as a staccato rhythm element and edited string samples that add a slightly paranoid feel to the song.

Parallel dimensions is an absolutely gorgeous album, albeit one that was nearly relegated to the ebayers and cratediggers. Fortunately, due to the re-release, music aficionados, be they fans of jazz, house, hip-hop or otherwise, will be able to indulge in what is one of the best records I’ve had the pleasure to hear this year.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Recap: The Black Dice and LCD Soundsystem at All Tomorrows’ Parties
Camber Sands, United Kingdom.
April 2-4, 2004

Colin James Nagy

Upon entering the off-season summer holiday resort in Rye, located in the southwest of England, things begin to strike you as a bit odd. It’s as if the collective hipsters of London, New York, Stockholm, Berlin and various other cities have overrun a small holiday compound aimed at middle class Britain. With rows and rows of private chalets, multiple stages, and more 50 acts in all, All Tomorrow’s parties is a utopia for the musically inclined—and not just limited to indie rock.

This years’ lineup was curated by Steven Malkmus, Sonic Youth and Foundation on the second, third and fourth days of April. The complete list of bands is far too numerous to mention, but on the electronic tip, LCD soundsystem and the Brooklyn’s Black Dice (both affiliated with DFA records) had exceptionally strong showings.

LCD soundsystem, known for a string of excellent 12’s, namely “Losing My Edge” “Beat Connection” and the recently released “Yeah” managed to translate the studio wizardry of Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy (who heads the band) into an electric live act. Murphy’s stage presence was absolutely amazing, and to the delight of many enthusiasts of the vinyl releases, the band played some unreleased new material with a distinct punk edge.

The LCD release that could best sum up the vibe of the new songs is “Give it up,” a hybrid of straightforward punk, with synth noodlings and other electronic elements, which augment, but never overshadow. On top of Murphy’s charisma and vocal performance, the most noticeable element propelling the band on their tour was exceptional bass guitar from !!!/ Out Hud’s Nic Offer and drummer Pat Mahoney, a longtime friend of Murphy’s. It was a show-stealing performance on the last night of the event, and a served as an excellent preview of the band's forthcoming LP, rumored to be out sometime summer.

This leads us to the other performance of note: The Black Dice. Without a doubt, they are at their best live. Though Beaches and Canyons (as well as other EP and 12’ releases) illustrate their abstract talent, it is through the sonic bombast of their live performances that their strength and cohesiveness can be clearly seen. Having recently lost their drummer, the band’s setup was comprised of two banks of samplers, effects and guitar. Sadly, the performance, at times resembling the walls of sound created by My Bloody Valentine in their heyday, were a bit too much for the largely indie rock crowd, it was a truly memorable performance-- one that even converted some nonbelievers into Dice devotees.

After all of this, the ride back into London through the lovely English countryside provided the necessary calm to get our collective heads straight and board a plane back to New York and everyday life, leaving behind this temporary musical utopian compound.
Dykehouse- Chainsmoking
7’
Ghostly
a version forthcoming on prefixmag.com

I put this 7-inch on the platter, gearing up for some so-called IDM, as Mike Dykehouse is known for such releases on electronic labels like Planet Mu. Rather than bleeps and squiggles, Chain Smoking was a perfect slice of dark, shoegazed psych pop. I heard a guitar line that faintly brought to mind My Bloody Valentine and some Creation Records releases from back in the day. A driving drum pattern anchors the whole bit, with intentionally na├»ve lyrics a la “Tear open the clear blue skies and put some life in your empty eyes.” What’s exciting about this 7’ is that an electronic artist can make such a significant crossover—and pull it off so well. The first tease of this came on Ghostly International’s excellent Idol tryouts compilation with his cover of the Wire’s “Map Ref,” and we will likely see much more of it on his forthcoming LP, Midrange, which has been temptingly described by Neptune Records as, “a thick and gorgeous pop swell that’ll put you back in Bush 1 era.”

Friday, April 16, 2004

MULTIMEDIA
Moving Patterns
when: Fri 4.23 - Wed 4.28
where: Austrian Cultural Forum (11 E 52nd St, 212.319.5300)


After the Austrian influx of the Repellent Festival, the Vienna-via-New York fever continues with this six-day fest with a strong focus on the country's vibrant electronic music scene. The talent-rich lineup includes performances from the Sofa Surfers, Electric Indigo, Eno collaborator Hans-Joachim Roedelius with Patrick Pulsinger, funk-infused rock from I-Wolf, and 8-bit beats from a collective of Gameboy musicians — rounded out with screenings of short films and commercials soundtracked by Austrian musicians. Tonight commences with sets from electro artists hp.stonji and dZihan & Kamien, the founders of Vienna's Couch label, best known for their audacious 22-member DK orchestra project. All events are free. Fantastisch! (CJN)

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Zero 7: When It Falls
Elektra
Rating 3.6/5
A version forthcoming in prefixmag.com


Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker are Zero 7, a duo oddly named after an obscure South American nightclub. The two came through the ranks as London studio engineers along with then-unknown Nigel Godrich. They gained initial recognition with a stellar remix of Radiohead’s “Climbing up the Walls,” (commissioned by Godrich while producing The Bends) followed by their 2001 release Simple Things. Though accused of being Air sans irony, the debut was packed with meandering Moogs, orchestral arrangements and stunning vocal performances, quickly rising in the charts to become a summertime downtempo favorite in the UK. The record illustrated a deep knowledge of seventies soul and R&B, updated with synths, horns and an overwhelmingly warm and well-studied production sound. Simple Things then became omnipresent; it had the ever-important street cred— A favorite of BBC Worldwide DJ Gilles Peterson—while simultaneously being available for public consumption in gastropubs and fashionable high street boutiques before making a strong stateside appearance. This widespread popularity could have been a curse, but instead, Henry and Sam had the backbone to appreciate they are indeed onto something.

The same techniques and approach from Simple Things have been used on their second release, When It Falls. It’s a fluid continuation and contrary to some of the recent music press, this is not a bad thing. Put simply, Zero 7 have created a winning formula and stick to their guns--the vocal collaborators from the first record, Mozez, Sophie Barker and Sia Furler, appear again with the sole addition of Tina Dico-- who adds her smoky voice to the folk-acoustic guitar, restrained trumpet and gentle electronic cadence of “Home.” Album opener “Warm Sounds,” featuring Mozez, is everything you enjoyed about Simple Things: warm Rhodes tones, flute, strings, with the only noticeable difference being a slightly more mature arrangement. It would be simply wrong to file this under the ever-increasing pile of empty chillout/downtempo releases. Rather, When It Falls serves as a perfect soundtrack to hazy summer evening layabouts. Take it in gradually, let it breathe a bit, and enjoy. (CJN)



Trevor Loveys- Intastella
Freerange Records
Release: 17th May

One half of the jump-up house duo Switch, Instastella is Trevor Lovey’s debut record for Freerange records, having also recorded for various labels including Nuphonic, Frontroom and Ephemeral. The record is far from being straightforward 4/4 though—-it features the characteristic spring of jazz-funk house, but also soulful downtempo contrasted with chopped-up sample-based cuts verging on broken beat territory. The first single, “The Bounce” can best be described as new school disco without the kitch element cluttering up record bins as of late. Emphasis is placed on the infectious rubbery bassline and the use of heavily filtered samples. The records' finest moment comes from a vocal performance by Louise Dumberton on “Elevate Your Mind,” --think Recloose-esque beats and synth stabs bathed in warm, swirling tones with subtle echo applied. Further demonstrating the eclecism of Intastella, “Dynamite” is a tune that will undoubtedly appeal to the cut-up party breaks set. (CJN)

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Fabric 15
Tyrant: Craig Richards

Craig Richards is the best DJ you don’t know. Why? Because he eschews the blurry time zone-treading lifestyle favored by his Tyrant counterpart, Lee Burridge, focusing instead on his weekly residency at Fabric. On the third of the Tyrant mixes, Craig handles both discs, finding the records that leave even the most devoted trainspotters throwing up their arms in frustration. Hint: It’s because Richards really is something special; both as a selector and with his flawless live mixing. Disc one delves deep into Germany’s finest labels, extracting pearls from Sender, Trelik, Multicolor and Perlon. Oddly enough, one of the highlights comes from a tune reminiscent of Green Velvet’s "La La Land" in its utter pisstake of dancefloor hedonism-- John Shananagans “Charlie’s on the Dancefloor” featuring Mu. Disc two starts pitched down and is “much more psychedelic than any of the drugs,” to quote the Villalobos-rivaling vocoder on Jimi Tenor’s “Muchmo.” Dettinger picks up the the pace later in the mix with his off-kilter rudiments on “Totentanz” and Richards ends with the sound of a grimy London basement with The Warlocks’ sped-up two-step synth stabs on “Silence is Defeat.” Being a homebody never sounded so relevant.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Greyboy-Soul Mosaic
Ubiquity

Greyboy returns after a three-year album hiatus with a "case study in beats, soul and funk," an appropriately clinical description as Soul Mosaic is indeed well-researched. As always, the beats are meticulously crafted, but he's collaborated with artists from around the globe for the first time to add new depth with full vocal tracks. A home renovator by hobby, Greyboy has "stripped back the musical layers," allowing space for the vocal performances to shine through. "Genevieve," a favorite amongst the Worldwide contingent, is simple: slow broken beats, stunning vocals, bass, and acoustic guitar. These mature, uncluttered arrangements coupled with stellar collaborations prove Soul Mosaic to be Greyboy's defining work. (CJN)