Wednesday, January 17, 2007

CD review


How to Dance

(Circus Company)

French duo Nôze’s second album is an exploration into the funkier, quirkier side of minimal house music. The hoarse ranting of madmen meets melodically with synthesizers, pianos, droning cellos, blomping saxophones and guitars over jingly-jangly four-four beats. The disc is replete with whimsical, ambient noises, clever nonsense and eccentric percussion that evoke Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs. How to Dance is an inventive oddity to be listened to while discussing surrealism or working on the construction of your doomsday device.

Good: 8.5/10

Awesome: 7/10

Angry: 4/10

Maximal Noize

Maximal Noize

Alex Ridha AKA Boys Noize rocks punk attitude, hip hop style and robust, analogue techno beats that rage-rather-than-ring in the New Year.

What kind of tunes do you want to hear as you kiss, holler and toast in your New Year? Ear-crushing, hesh, rock-electro bangers and indie-dance anthems coming from the able paws of a hip, young Berliner, I should hope. Otherwise you're reading the wrong article. If you're with me, Alex Ridha is your man for the job.

The distorted, chopped-up cacophony of analogue pulsation, production static and mutilated samples that comprise and punctuate Ridha's tracks has become a fixture in the electro world. His impeccable production and very timely taste means that you're more than likely to hear his songs amidst the vanguard of modern dance music and means that the list of DJs that you'll hear unleashing Boys Noize tracks sounds like a name-dropper's who's-who of underground techno personalities. His tunes have a raw sound, a desolate, modern feel and numerous tasteful Rock 'n' Roll allusions that belie the songs' electronic trappings and make them jump right out of the stereo.

Having started DJing at 14 and producing original music at 16, Ridha has already compiled a sizable discography in his 24 years that includes plenty of originals and some of the best indie-rock remixes around. He has released tracks on labels like International Gigolo, Datapunk, Turbo, Kitsuné and Institubes and has numerous other music projects on the go, including kiD Alex, an angst-ridden indie duo that he sings and produces for, and 909D1SCO, a retro synth-disco revisitation.

"Musically I'm really looking for the best of Daft Punk, from 95 to 98," says Ridha in describing the musical orientation of Boys Noize. "I think it's a really timeless sound."

He says that the sounds being made by him and a handful of other producers are more than just a wave of techno. "For sure it's electronic. It's all based on techno music, but it has many references to other things. We all have this punk attitude. Or maybe even a hip hop attitude," explains Ridha. "My mixing definitely comes more from the hip hop side. I do cuts and mix things fast."

"The scene is still very small," says Ridha. "Like in Berlin for example, I feel like I'm the only guy playing this music. I feel like it's small around the world. You have tonnes of people playing house and minimal and just a handful of people doing this music that I'm doing." I instantaneously know what he's talking about, but it's a style of music that simply lacks a name.

"I wouldn't exactly say it's the opposite of minimal… like… Maximal maybe?" says Ridha when I challenge him to classify the music he's describing. That moniker certainly fits in Alex Ridha's case, because despite the diminutive-sounding aliases he goes by, the sound is monstrous and the mixing is most definitely full-on.

What are Alex's predictions for the "maximal" sound in the New Year? "I think in 2007 it's just gonna blow up," He says. But, according to Ridha, when the mainstream catches up to him and his ilk, he won't be waiting to have his steez bitten. "When I hear bad copies of myself or Justice or something like that, then I'll know it's time to move on to something else."
(Photo courtesy of the artist)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Computer Delicious.

Now I have a computer. Now I can write on the internet.

There is a theory stating that the universe, viewed as an average frequency of all the light and radiation therewithin, is a deep forest green. If the physicists who boldly purport themselves to be in possession of such knowledge of the outermost secrets of the universe are to be trusted, then the mean colour of mankind’s night-time cities would have to be roughly equivalent to the puke-orange sludge wafting past my window.

Seat 16E. “Sorry sir, normally I’m not picky, but I really wanted a window-seat, and uhh....” Keep your flight back locked and tabled in an upright turbulence, and please pay prepared to carry on refreshments when the in-flight movie hits an altitude of forty thousand gallons of jet fuel.

The electric amber- and purple-tinted clouds ripple away to reveal the circuit-board-esque city below. Its avenues and alleyways transmit an unimaginable amount of automobiles, humans, information, food, trash, toxic waste, luxury items, electricity, greed, love, suffering, tragedy and pleasure day to day, end to end, top to bottom. Its lustrous edifices and ramshackle markets spell profit and infinite opulence to some and doom for others.

Our descent upon the streetlit metropolis reminds me to get my leather jacket on so that I can hop into the aisle and charge to the front of the plane just before the seatbelt lights go off and the sluggish, coffee- and sweat-smelling denizens around me take their cue to stand up and clog the only escape from this overheated, beige person-mover. Nothing annoys me more than that eight-minute purgatory between when the doors of the plane open and when all the fat people and business-crabs get their shit together. I could be out there. Like right now. It’s like the worst kind of poorly-written suspense novel. It feels like waiting for your dentist appointment rather than waiting for your first ultrasound.

By the time I get through the umbilical corridor to the terminal, the madness is already in full swing. Guards are securing and passengers are careening around me; lost things are being recovered and I need a goddamn drink. I’m what you might call an A-type personality. I generally tend toward social observation and integration. Obviously everyone has their ostrich-in-the-sand moments, but such is not the case as I stomp through the dervish toward the phoney-brick-walled “pub” next to those stainless steel security desks and internet portals. I’m feeling rather chatty after sitting on my compartmentalized ass for the better part of the day.

Like many stories, this one begins when I meet a girl. I promise it won’t be a love story, though. I wouldn’t do that to you. There’s a lotta love in here, but that’s not why you’re reading this. When I hit the scene, she’s sitting at the faux-oak, faux-folk bar of this watering-hole called Joe’s Pub©. The strangely reassuring smell of deep-fried-whatever juxtaposes her refined demeanour and sharp features. I’ll be honest here (and take that as a general rule, by the way). It was admittedly her streamlined figure, bangin’ wardrobe and arrogant, brown eyes that alerted me to her presence. That’s how dudes work, I’m afraid. Don’t lose your faith in the Male over a bit of pheromonal hubris, though. In the twenty-first century, us guys are remarkably quick at mustering substance once we’ve gotten over the initial bit of panting and dilated pupils. Especially us rough-around-the-edges, sophisticated rebel types.

“Is anyone sitting here?” I pipe as I sidle up. Sometimes clichéd lines are clutch. She doesn’t say a goddamn thing, seeing as she gets that bologna eighty-six times a day. I sit down and, noting that she’s drinking some sort of colourful martini, order a double rye whiskey on the rocks, in a tumbler with a splash of apple juice. (I just assume that they don’t have any Angostura. I’d say that no one knows how to make a good whiskey sour anymore, but I’m way too young to know shit like that.) This move is multi-purposed, in that I really like that drink, in that sours can either be sipped or slammed depending on necessity, and in that ladies sometimes mistake this kind of obvious contrast as supplementation. Chicks love to feel supplemented.

Then, gazing at the black-clad barwoman’s generous hips, her retort: “She has a beautiful way of moving, this girl,” in an almost-perfect, anglophone* lilt just barely belied by the unusual wording of the sentence. “She doesn’t see what happens around her and she does many things at once. It’s like she’s dancing.”

I tear my eyes off the fuzzy strip of skin under her earlobe to momentarily feign interest in this particularly graceful server and say, “I guess you have to excel at your job in some way in order to like it. T’es Montréalaise, toi?

Non, Je viens du Lac Saint-Jean. Where are you coming from?” Her cheekbones are sharp and her voice is high pitched. She’s like a hawk or a birch in the wind.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

If LCD Soundsystem's first full length release was the riotous preamble to a brief repeat-age of raving punk rockers discovering the frivolous abandon of disco (read The Clash and Crass in the early eighties) and angular, indie geeks with dilated pupils behind their Buddy Holly goggles, then Sound of Silver, for me anyway, is the strung-out postscript to the golden age of electroclash.

Featuring all of the earmarks of the DFA sound, from the stacatto, garbage-bin percussion solos through cowbell cacophany, to the much-bitten handclap overload, Sound Of Silver is, more than anything, an articulation of everything these guys have been experimenting with over the past couple of years of remixing, DJing, live shows and producing. It is the point at which James Murphy's production goes from a style to an album, which would be a shocker if you never heard any of what's been happening at DFA in the interim between two albums. If not, it fits pretty well in the grand scheme of this collective of musicians. Leaving behind the mix-tape style of the first record (and pretty much everything else ever released on DFA records), this recording has a detectable flow. In the wake of the 45:33 blunder (anything anyone does for Nike is a blunder. I don't care how majestic the grooves or how complete the emotional crescendo), the good folks at LCD are clearly trying to introduce a stronger element of their live act into the mix (which is one reason why the tour of this album is going to be epic). It's gradual, it's groovy, and it sets James Murphy squarely as the Fela Kuti/Tito Puente/James Brown kind of character he plays in concert. It's unabashedly mainstream and agressively accessible, unlike the other LCD Soundsystem album. Aside from any obvious attempts at pop-dom, you'd think that would be an essentially good thing, but listenability does have its failings.

By this I mean that the musicality of the album and the thought-out order of the songs completely eliminate the possibility for a banger to emerge. Proof: did you hear any tracks from this album on New Years Eve? No, you didn't, even though every single electro DJ in existance has hornswoggled themselves a copy of this album. Tribulations blew your face right off of your head; Someone Great is Gone made you tap your feet and reflect about your contradictory, modern existance. Daft Punk is Playing at My House is the reason you're on bad terms with your downstairs neighbors; Watch the Tapes made you wonder if your mom might just want to hear the music her kids listen to.

No, this album is not a banger, a rager, or subculture classic like the first one. But it's still awesome, and I'll tell you why: James Murphy is a funky cat who is remarkable at concocting the feeling that a song is talking to you, and his perception and communication of the hedonistic experience of youth is nearly flawless. Anyways, all your favorite albums don't all have to make you want to punch holes in the walls.

I will, however, have to call bullshit on the track called All My Friends, which could have appeared on a U2 or Tragically Hip album and I never would have noticed, and although Someone Great really is great, it was already released on the Nike promo Super-sellout deluxe album.

If my brief history of listening to this album is any indication, however, I'll delete this post in two days and replace it with an entirely different opinion. Actually, this is the third review of the album I've wrote already!