February 22, 2009


Music To Watch Space Girls By

I can't claim to be much of a Trek watcher, but for whatever reason, I've always had a particular admiration for the work of Leonard Nimoy: His two autobiographies (I Am Not Spock [1977] / I Am Spock [1995]), his wondrous turn in Information Society's Pure Energy, his recent jaunt into BBW photography. Which is all to say I was not surprised, my friends, to find myself in awe of this -- his 1967 opus, the secretly great Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space.

True, it may appear like some shameless, assembly-line bit of Trek-schlock, but in time, I've come to think of it as A.O. Scott does The Wrestler: "It’s a bit phony, perhaps, but to refuse to embrace [the subject's] deep hokiness would be to cheat yourself of some of the profound pleasure it offers."

Yes: Nimoy – perhaps the only Jew on Earth gifted with a listenable baritone – really seems to've put his heart into this album, and that is what makes it so endlessly, inconceivably good. This thing has everything from the solemn spoken word to the lighthearted '60s romp, from mini-plays ("A Visit To A Sad Planet") to torch songs ("Lost In The Stars" -- co-written by Kurt Weill!), and even a bizarre closing track about a sea war ("Amphibious Assault"). Why Nimoy took this so seriously, and how he actually ended up succeeding, our simple human minds may never be able to fathom.

Oh, Music From Outer Space. If only we had more things like you down here on Earth.

Leonard Nimoy – Spock Thoughts [Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space, 1967]
Leonard Nimoy – Highly Illogical [Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space, 1967]

February 21, 2009

Some More Fine German Electronic Music [Efdemin + Mobilee Records]

Germany continues to be the leader in fresh electronic music. Home to many of the best electronic music labels (Kompakt, Bpitch Control, Perlon, Trapez, et al), I feel like Germany's electronic music scene is difficult, nay impossible, to beat today. A couple of fresh new mixes from some Germans are here to continue the streak.

First up, Efdemin. Efdemin's self-titled debut made it on my top ten list for 2007, and with good reason. Efdemin's style is certainly minimal but also efficient, milking sonic pleasure from the smallest musical elements, such as a dry snare or simple bell chime. His smartly titled mix CD, Carry On - Pretend We're Not in the Room, is equally as wonderful, mixed with deep house ("Soul Revival"), mimimal techno ("Blank Scenario") and even spoken word ("Watcha Waiting For?"). The spoken samples are perhaps the standout element of this mix - the beat verses in "Watcha Waiting For" are wonderfully abstract, and the use of a Gus Van Sant short, Do Easy ("Doiicie (A)"), and Gossip Girl monologue (gasp!!!) are clever pop culture nods. Here's a couple of tracks from the mix below:
The Showroom Recording Series - Watcha Waiting For? [Carry On- Pretend We're Not in the Room Mix, 2008]
Minilogue - Doiicie (A) [Carry On- Pretend We're Not in the Room Mix, 2008]
Next is the inaugural podcast from Mobilee Records, another fine German mimimal techno shop. Though strictly mimimal techno, abstract vocal snippets are peppered throughout to give the mix an organic feel. Something great to listen to at night to melt away the daily grind.

"Relentless Nights" (Mobilee Records Podcast 001)

These podcasts are set to be released on a monthly basis, so RSS junkies, update your reader apps!

February 18, 2009

Finely Cut Electronic [Rex the Dog]

adorable aesthetic with a bite

I first got turned onto Rex the Dog when I heard his single "I Look Into Mid-Air" on the nearly perfect Kompakt Total 6 Compilation in Winter 2005. There is an undeniable sonic and visual aesthetic with this fantastic cut-up electro artist. First, the music: Rex the Dog produces bangers that are sonically dense, finely cutting synths, drums and vocals in hyper-rhythmic fashion. Second, the visual: Rex the actual dog (pictured above), who is featured in all of Rex the Dog's music videos and cover artwork, is absolutely adorable. Who says electronic music lovers can't "feel"?

Case in point: watch the music video for the song "Bubblicious" below and if you aren't smiling and nodding your head in absolute glee, I owe you a coke:

Also, for your listening pleasure, check out two additional Rex the Dog tracks below:
Rex the Dog - I Look Into Mid-Air
The Knife - Heartbeats (Rex the Dog remix)

February 8, 2009

Dub Punk [The Ruts + Mad Professor]

Still waiting for "Volume 2"

Music inherently is an art form that builds on itself, often developing new genres by mixing previous ones. Rock sprung from jazz and the blues, house music from minimalism and disco, hip-hop from funk and so forth. However, sometimes new music forms are created by literally slapping two seemingly opposing genres together to create something wonderful. Such is the case with the marriage of punk and dub.

Lately I've been listening to a great piece of "dub punk" called Rhythm Collision, an LP produced by the punk group the Ruts and modern dub aficionado Mad Professor. Originally released in 1982, Rhythm Collision is two music genres bringing the best out of each other. Filtering punk music through dub gave the former greater sonic diversity, while dub itself was given greater notoriety and respect by attaching itself to a popular music genre at the time. While punk groups like Public Image Ltd., the Clash and the Slits made punk music that incorporated elements of reggae and dub, Rhythm Collision represents a rare musical work where the two genres are given equal standing.

Ultimately, Rhythm Collision is proof that what's on paper doesn't necessarily translate to what is practiced. The seemingly contrary marriage of dub and rock is now widely accepted, with many modern rock bands, particularly those of the dance-rock persuasion, emphasizing dub in their musical compositions. It's safe to say that Rhythm Collision helped bring that reality to fruition.
The Ruts/Mad Professor - Push Yourself (Make it Work) [Rhythm Collision LP, 1982]
The Ruts/Mad Professor - Weak Heart Dub [Rhythm Collision LP, 1982]



1980s, 808s, vocoders, robo-speech, and crazy, stilted, high-wire beats. Is it any wonder this was too good to last?

1) Jam On It! by Newcleus. Chipmunk vocals, rapid-fire synth, and one of the best bass lines this side of 1975. And just wait for the break at 1:50! You will like it.

2) Hip Hop, Be Bop, by Man Parrish. Wikipedia says:
When Parrish was first breaking, hip-hop was still dominated by African Americans and white performers were often considered interlopers. Whether because of this fact or his preference for theatricality, when Parrish appeared onstage he was often heavily made up and wore fanciful outfits that made it impossible to determine his ancestry at a glance. That Parrish was not black often came as a surprise to his fans. At one memorable performance at Studio 54, in a pause in Hip Hop, Be Bop, a young African American audience member close to the stage shouted out in amazement, "Holy s**t, Man Parrish is a White Boy!"
3) 19, by Paul Hardcastle. Perhaps the best known song of the genre. Hardcastle cut up clips of newsanchor Peter Thomas' reports on Vietnam, and, in an insane stroke of genius, placed it over a madcap dance beat. Thomas was initially unhappy about the sampling, but eventually let the song come out. Today, we are the better for it.

Newcleus – Jam On It [Jam-On Revenge, 1984]
Man Parrish – Hip Hop, Be Bop [Man Parrish, 1982]
Paul Hardcastle – 19 [Paul Hardcastle, 1985]

February 2, 2009

Black Secret Technology [A Guy Called Gerald]

Gerald Simpson, aka A Guy Called Gerald

Black Secret Technology is my newest musical obsession these days. Produced by A Guy Called Gerald (formerly of acid house collective 808 State), the album is one of the original drum n' bass long players and considered by many as the genre's crowning achievement. There is a reason for this - the album doesn't skip a beat, providing a seamless blend of pummeling high-BPM jungle beats, smooth bass and eloquently direct and soulful vocal work.

One of the albums greatest attributes is its production. While there are several formidable drum n' bass albums, including Goldie's Timeless as well as fare from LTJ Bukem and Klute, much of them sound almost too clean, methodically constructed to the point where the human element seems to be missing. Black Secret Technology, and Plug's Drum n' Bass for Papa for that matter, don't have this kind of production. They are works of perfect imperfection - sometimes the vocals are too close in the mix and the drums snares slightly muddled - but this is what makes them sound raw and, ultimately, a greater pleasure to listen to.

Unfortunately, today's drum n' bass doesn't have the punch it once had, often complacently played at low volume in modern clothing boutiques or that new hip lounge everyone is talking about. Though drum n' bass's early works, notably Black Secret Technology, still retain that sense of raw madness that helped coalesce a genre built on speed.
A Guy Called Gerald - Finley's Rainbow (featuring Finley Quaye) [Black Secret Technology LP, 1995]
A Guy Called Gerald - The Reno [Black Secret Technology LP, 1995]