Tuesday, June 29, 2010

detroit, briefly (or not)

it's been a month already since that memorial day weekend, so i figured i should finally get around to finishing this, my final thoughts (with pictures courtesy of my friend ivo and RA) on movement aka DEMF aka my first detroit experience.

i wasn't really sure i would even be doing this until just days beforehand. but for the most part, this worked out fine. saturday morning, i hopped in my buddy ivo's car. after a long drive and extensive traffic delays, we got into detroit that early evening, and stumbled upon sibin, a friend of a friend and a fellow DEMF first-timer, in need of a ride into the city. long story short, sibin ended up staying with us for the duration of our 48-hour stay in the city, and we had a blast.

due to having work tuesday morning, we reluctantly left detroit monday evening, but we packed a bunch of music into those 2 days. i did miss a few acts i really wanted to see, including the basic channel/chain reaction showing of mark ernestus, scion, and the moritz von oswald trio... but it was hard to get too upset when there was plenty of other great music. in general, i approved of the crowd: young or old, everyone was there simply to have a good time. perhaps the 'run-down' image of detroit acted as an obstacle only fit for only the most devoted of dance music fans. anyway, here's my thoughts on the weekend.

SATURDAY early saturday evening was a pretty casual affair, with fun sets by jamie jones, paco osuna, and claude vonstroke. it was josh wink, though, who opened nicely in front of richie hawtin's plastikman set. moving back and forth across the festival grounds, we caught the ovum label head working the main stage crowd with anxious, reduced, acid-inflected tracks of foreboding techno. perhaps we made one mistake in leaving him to check out marco carola for a bit. if you 'get it', marco can be a lot of fun with his amped-up minimal techno, but i just couldn't buy into his hype tonight.

check out this picture, showing the crowd looking on as josh wink works under a single light in the middle of a darkened stage...

and then check this one, as the amphitheater is immersed in richie hawtin's dark, introspective world of plastikman. look up the pictures and video elsewhere if you want... starting with an abominable bass drone, hawtin took off, launching wave after wave of polyrhythmic acid riffs, supplemented by booming kick drums and snare hits. familiar melodies, drum rhythms, and vocals popped up all over, and in a variety of tempos. at times, the set went into downtempo, hypnotizing the crowd with slow, funky rhythms accented by huge hand claps. hawtin ended the hour-long set with an all-too-brief drum machine jam, and grabbed the mic to say thanks as the crowd roared in thunderous applause... but i know i wasn't alone in hoping that he would have played for (much) longer.

regardless, the night had only just begun, as we headed to the centre street social party. this was originally billed as a sort of showcase for the ostgut ton record label, with 3-hour sets by ben klock and marcel dettmann (as well as daniel bell and a pile of other american talent), but things started to turn sour just a few days before the festival, when dettmann had to cancel due to the much dreaded 'visa issues'. the show went on, with ben klock ready to throw down a 4-hour set... which was stopped an hour in. sometime after 4am, the sound was cut off as the party organizers announced the music would resume after a police check of the venue space; then, we were told the music would have to stop until 6am; then, we were told the party was shut down completely. seems like a shooting nearby scared the police into shutting down a number of clubs and afterparties. while sibin headed to the 'i love you but i've chosen techno party' (and later reported it was a great time), ivo and i were tired from our drive and called it a night. what a bummer, and definitely the biggest disappointment of the weekend.

SUNDAY after enjoying a leisurely meal at a small french diner (i think?), we made our way back to the festival for day 2. earlier that week, a HUGE lineup change occurred. the much-anticipated ricardo villalobos, due to break his near-decade-long absence from the U.S. with a 3-hour set at the festival followed by a boat afterparty, had to cancel due to... you guessed it, 'visa issues'! taking over his spot would be a richie hawtin dj set.

this lineup change created some interesting dynamics. seeing hawtin dj outside to a 'hometown' crowd was intriguing, as was the idea of skipping out for an hour in the middle to see robert hood's live set. but one thing was for certain: berlin-based cassy did a magnificent job opening for hawtin, putting together one of the absolute best sets of the weekend. it was interesting comparing her set to claude vonstroke's just 24 hours previously: whereas CVS played to the crowd, cassy took control. revealing a discrete smile and little else, the adorably zen-like panoramabar dj fed the audience a hypnotic blend of hard-hitting techno. a friend referred to her mixing as very 'casual': the transitions weren't perfectly precise, but they didn't have to as tracks swirled hazily in and out of each other. i did not expect her to bring that type of intensity, but maybe that was the 'hawtin effect' ... either way, i was thoroughly impressed.

rumors circulated that maybe villalobos was in town; indeed, a familiar-looking dj strolled behind cassy as she played. but no, it was just someone else (adrian from dj duo masomenos, i've been told)... and so hawtin took over with typical fanfare. to his credit, the man seemed to be filling in very well for the (hugely) missed villalobos, splicing together loops of digital beats and dropping atmospheric breakdowns, but we knew we had plenty of time to see him later...

so, then - robert hood! the contrast between the two techno masters was easy to see. whereas hawtin created sleek, precise music with computers hooked up to high-end midi controllers, hood took a truly simplistic analog approach. his set was all about weaving fast, harsh, skeletal rhythms together, over and over and over, even if things didn't sync up 'perfectly'. i've read that he encountered problems early on his set, but having arrived late, i only saw an excellent set of raw, authentic, hyper-rhythmic techno.

after hood blew out our ears, we finished the festival with a final hour of hawtin. after hood's live set, i felt a bit underwhelmed, but hawtin grabbed my attention one last time by ending his set on a suite of plastikman loops. as the crowd gave him one final round of applause, we left in order to grab a bit of rest in order to make it through the late night and early morning...

MONDAY after what i guess was a few hours of sleep, we awoke, showered, and headed for the resolute party/vakant vs. dumb unit showcase at tv lounge. confused set-times meant we arrived near the end of camea and alexi delano's tag-team set... but, the vakant 1-2 punch of alex smoke's live set and dario zenker's dj'ing more than made up for it. alex smoke was particularly interesting, crafting a weird, noisily melodic set supplemented by his own (fx'd) vocals. then around 6am, the attention turned outside, as chicago favorite, kate simko, started up in the bar's outdoor area. as the sun crawled higher into the sky, kate kept it simple, slow, and groovy, with just the right amount of depth. then elon took over with a set of seriously deep house music. our new friend sibin thought it a bit intense, but i thought it was nice seeing a dj push the limits with some really scandalous tracks. at 9am, with the party still going strong but realizing we needed one last nap before the push into daytime, we retreated once more to our hotel...

before heading to old miami. we had heard a lot of tradition surrounds this old biker/veteran's bar, so we had to check it out. the music takes place on a shaded patio on the back lawn of the property, and when we arrived there around 1pm the entire place was fairly packed as the UK's matt tolfrey finished a (relatively, at this point) high-energy set to a crowd that was finally starting to slow down after a few days of nonstop partying. after tolfrey, it was time for a few detroit kids: matthew dear and ryan elliott.

bad weather threatened to end the fun early: just as dear and elliott began their tag-team set, rain started coming down hard, and even as the PA speakers were covered with tarps, seth troxler, another detroit darling and ringleader of the event, got on stage to announce that the music would stop. with his word, the party started clearing out, leaving only a fraction of us left wondering what to do. but the guys found a happy medium to keep us dancing: keeping the larger, outside speakers off, but turning up the monitors under the tent (and as you can see from the picture, using a blanket to cover up wires and cables). having created a solution, dear and elliott playfully responded to the weather (it was still raining) with a slowly-developing set of warm, gentle dance tracks, enhanced by the duo's geeked-out fx accents. soon, the sky cleared enough to turn on the main speakers, and the slim crowd was rewarded for their faith with looser and funkier jams.

with just a few hours left in detroit, we decided against taking the time to get back to the festival, so we stuck it out as long as possible at old miami. dear and elliott brewed up an addictive stew of slow-burning tracks for hours... with a few solemn pauses for observances by the military veterans on site. as we slowly cruised through the 5th hour of their set, reality began creeping up into the back of our minds, and we ejected ourselves from the party, dropped sibin off at another hotel, and started the drive back to chicago.

to conclude, i had a great time and i think we did a good job for being first-timers. next year, we know to leave earlier, and plan on having tuesday off in order to stay monday night, and really trying to soak up as much music as possible, no matter what. there weren't too many problems that weekend; missing some music is to be expected, but what we saw was consistently good. with particularly excellent festival sets by plastikman, cassy, and rob hood, as well as some great afterparty action, i think our weekend in detroit was a success.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

shed to release new album in august: 'the traveller'

one of berlin's absolute finest, shed (aka rene pawlowitz), will release his sophomore LP, the traveller, on ostgut ton august 30!

pawlowitz has used a handful of aliases (and labels) through which to put out his music, but his biggest splash in the edm world was, without a doubt, his debut full-length album, shedding the past, released on ostgut in 2008. the album is an hour-long take on 4/4 techno with swinging breakbeat and dubstep rhythms, all topped with gorgeous, melancholy atmospherics... it was considered by many to be one of the best of 2008, and it is definitely a personal favorite of mine.

last week, shed's website posted a small essay discretely announcing something new for the producer, as well as discussing how techno has operated - and should operate - in a full-length album format. a techno album "has to be more substantial than a paint-box for your euphoric memories of perfect nights long gone."

sure enough: today, resident advisor revealed a tracklist and the august 30th release date for the traveller. all signs point to another album approachable via either the dance floor or the living room. right now, i personally feel that the most recent ostgut ton LP, marcel dettmann's dettmann, was a bit of a disappointment. i've been awaiting the next full-length move by the berlin-based label, and i definitely have high hopes for the traveller!

new FREE autolux single! 'supertoys'

finally, more signs of life: autolux releases a new song from their upcoming album!

obviously this blog loves autolux. the dreamy, noisy, shoe-gazing trio of eugene goreshter (bass guitar/lead vox), greg edwards (lead guitar/vox), and carla azar (drums/vox) crafted one of my absolute favorite albums ever, 2004's future perfect. since then, well ... not much has happened. apparently the band has spent years trying to find the best place to release their sophomore album...

then, earlier this year, the band revealed some details of the new album, transit transit, but still gave no date for it to be released. then last month, again through their myspace, autolux announced tuesday, august 3rd as the official release date. and just yesterday, the band has offered up the first single, 'supertoys', as a free download at their website. trade your email address, and they'll send you a download link.

i am really digging this track: the lyrics, the singing (carla sounds so dreamy here), and that freaked-out fuzz guitar solo at the end...

once again, check out autolux's myspace for more information, streaming tracks, and updates. presumably to support transit transit the band has announced a nationwide tour starting in august. attention, chicago heads: friday, august 20 will see autolux playing the bottom lounge here in chicago!

Friday, June 18, 2010

friday night mixes

it's hot, sticky and foreboding out, which is a good enough excuse to stay in and listen to music.

forward strategy group - electronique.it podcast E.P.079
gotta sign up up to electronique.it for this one, but it's worth it for their mix series. forward strategy group is patrick walker and smear, and they craft industrial-strength techno... smear's recent remix on zooloft records is a real earth-scorcher. this set hits it hard, fast, and noisy, with some harsh dub chords and cerebral bleeping... and the ending should leave no mind un-blown.

marcel fengler - RA.209
RA archives their mixes pretty quickly, so grab this one while it's hot! marcel fengler is a resident at berlin's berghain club, and his productions have always been worth a listen. fengler starts off this RA podcast with some really gorgeous deep dubs, then kicks it into high gear, landing magnificently onto his own 'chi twine' halfway through. check out the tracklist at RA. very nice!

marcel dettmann live @ sub club (glasgow) - 04-02-2010
only 35 minutes long, but it's packed with power! i could wish this was longer, but it's still a very tight set of diverse tracks.

xhin - electric deluxe podcast 019
lately, this guy has thrown down some relentlessly driving techno in his podcast mixes. here, xhin trades the four-on-the-floor for a bunch of off-dancefloor styles and bpm's, featuring amon tobin, squarepusher, and radiohead's jonny greenwood among many others that should tickle your brain nicely. a very thoughtful collection of heady tunes, this one... definitely a keeper.

enjoy! and thanks to those who came out to the morseland wednesday to listen to me spin my records - good times. more music and reviews soon....

Monday, June 14, 2010

monday night news/food for thought

i just enjoyed some soup and toast, and i've been reading some of this stuff:

sonar chicago
chicago heads, here's more information on this september's chicago version of spain's barcelona festival. looks like the main day events will go on at the chicago cultural center downtown. i'm really excited to learn more about the "experimental slant" of the weekend. smilecoldanatomy will secretly hope for a few favorites to make an appearance. *cough*monolake*shed*vladislav delay*cough*

juno plus interviews ben klock
check out this conversation with berghain/ostgut ton superman ben klock. very cool to see where he came from and where he's trying to go. this writer looks forward to ostgut's upcoming 5-year compilation, as well as klock's berghain 04 mix... and is still trying to forget about his heartbreaking detroit shut-down (more on that later).

FACT talks with regis
turn on a few sandwell district tracks and cozy up to this lengthy chat with karl o'connor, aka regis. the man has been making dark, visceral tracks for more than 15 years, and lately has helped grow sandwell district into one of the best techno labels in the world... his 'variance iv' is a punishingly cerebral work of art. worth your time, this one!

mathew jonson discusses his new album
read this interview with the wagon repair leader, on the heels of his solo album debut, agents of time. jonson sounds like a pretty groovy guru here, which makes sense given the trance-inducing nature of his music. from this chat, it sounds like he has a good grasp on how to work with the long-player format; i'm hoping for good things when i finally give agents of time a thorough listen.

and because i'm a huge fan of all things cosmic, i've been intrigued by these literary pieces of outer-space goodness:

hubble catches planet being devoured by its star

hints of life found on saturn moon

quantum teleportation achieved over 10 miles of free space

and in some final news for now, to any chicago north-siders out there: i'll be dj'ing at the morseland here in rogers park this wednesday night. i'm opening and only playing an hour or so but i have some fresh records to play out so i'll try to keep it deep. cheers!

Friday, June 11, 2010

sonar festival coming to chicago!

xlr8r is reporting that sonar, the annual spanish music festival, will take over chicago in september!

not much has been revealed, except that this will take place thursday-saturday, september 9-11 both during the day and at night... and "will become a regular event". check out the official SonarChicago website, where you can register your email address to get the latest news. smilecoldanatomy looks forward to yet another reason why chicago does it BIG in the summertime!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

my top albums for 2010 (so far)

summer is upon us, so i think it's a good time to look back and consider the musical output of the last half-year. there's plenty to keep your ears busy, but of the stuff that i've heard so far in 2010, i keep returning to these albums:

the black dog - music for real airports
i blogged about this a few months ago, mostly intrigued by the idea of a response to brian eno's 1978 album music for airports. honestly, i have little knowledge of the black dog's music, but this album is simply brilliant, no matter the context of its creation. there's 14 tracks here with cryptic air travel references as titles, but most of them blend together to create a seamless hour-long journey that literally floats, soaring through clouds of softly pressurized but nevertheless foreboding drones. the album weaves between ambient passages and rhythmic tracks filled with sputtered, broken drumbeats, with sampled vocal clutter of airport activity sparingly applied throughout. tense, delicate, at times frightening, and always achingly deep: a captivating listen, and my current pick for album of the year.

tin man - scared
a vinyl-only release, i got my copy just last week and i've been slowly succumbing to its charms. scared showcases tin man's growing maturity as a producer and songwriter. you have more of his slow, minimal drum and 303 programming, but i see such an improvement in the delivery of lyric, melody, and ambiance as tin man continues to glide through retro and futuristic thoughts of love and isolation. my favorites tracks reveal enhancements to tin man's unique voice that i find especially gorgeous, such as 'space case' and 'self help'; there's also 'zone unknown', which features a sort of vocal melody that unexpectedly and beautifully soars skyward. if there is a weak spot among these 8 songs, i'd say it has to be 'stand by me,' a song whose relatively conventional approach sorta turns me off. otherwise, scared is full of hazy, experimental pop abstractions. disturbingly blissful, darkly romantic, but always with a sense of cozy warmth... frankly, i can't wait to see what tin man comes up with next.

pawel - pawel
paul kominek has been around dial since the beginning; after a handful of EPs, here is his first LP effort released on the hamburg-based record label. if you're familiar with the alternately playful and melancholic depth of dial's other output, this should be a welcome addition to that sound; if you're not familiar, i still recommend this as an excellent album of shimmering, summery house music. while it's not in any way mind-blowing, it doesn't have to be: there's definitely enough going on inside these tracks to warrant repeat listens. in terms of dancefloor-ready albums, i think this is the best so far this year.

so, those are my favorite albums of the early part of this year. i want to note that there have been some hugely anticipated albums, such as marcel dettmann's eponymous full-length, scuba's triangulation, and peter van hoesen's entropic city, which have felt a bit underwhelming to me so far. but with upcoming full-length releases by mathew jonson, pan sonic, donato dozzy, and niederflur, among many others, there's tons of interesting music to look forward to as we move into the second half of 2010.

Friday, June 4, 2010

matthew dear preps new album: black city

smilecoldanatomy loves matthew dear. last year, this writer was lucky enough to thrice see the centerpiece of dear's 2009 musical output: the hecatomb audio-visual live show under his audion alias. this summer, dear releases black city, his fourth album under his own name and first since asa breed in 2007.

dear's other aliases rely on his distinctively weird production, but under his own name, the man creates a sort of vocal pop music... still, of course, strung out over his hypnotically disjointed rhythms.

black city sees the light of day, and unfortunately the fading light of summer, on august 16. it will be released on ghostly international, which has, along with its sublabel spectral sound, been home to many matthew dear and audion releases. too bad this won't get released any sooner... but until then, you can go to his website to sign up to receive a freely-downloadable single from the album, the funky-weird "i can't feel"; or go to pitchfork for a stream if you're lazy.

go go gadget: matthew dear minimal pop!