Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Beastie Boy - Hello Nasty

Capitol Records: 1998

I don't think anyone anticipated the Beastie Boys having such big hits as those spawned off Hello Nasty. A fun single or two, sure, but surely their schtick was utterly dated as the '90s drew to a close. Three MCs, rhyming off each other's interplay like Run DMC was still relevant (okay, they were still around, but y'know what I mean), a bunch of wicki-wicki-waa from an actual DJ, and who ever really liked their rock and funk explorations anyway? No, the Beasties should have failed, unable to keep pace with hip-hop's over-indulgence of gangsta shenanigans and seeking the bling life. Or worse, in an attempt to reconnect with the youth, adopted nu-metal into their repertoire.

Holy hell, is it ever a good thing they didn’t give two flute loops about what contemporary audiences expected of them and simply cut loose with what they do best. If there’s any scene they did get chummy with, it was the electronic one, which had shared history with the Beastie’s brand of b-boy bombast (weren't The KLF initially just the Scottish Beasties anyway?). The lead single Intergalactic was the perfect olive branch to ravers worldwide, with big beats, quirky electro sounds, and enough ‘up to date’ retro vibes that any DJ could drop it and get a massive reaction. Small wonder Lord Discogs recommends names like Daft Punk, DJ Shadow, and Mr. Oizo on Intergalactic's page.

Oh yeah, there's a whole album more to talk about with Hello Nasty. I'm sure ya'll remember Body Movin', probably thanks to yet another goof-ball video the Boys were masters at. A third single off here was Three MCs and One DJ, which had the trio feeding off numerous scratch samples and turntable trickery from Mixmaster Mike (sort of an honorary fourth Beastie Boy). Quite a few tracks on here do this, to be honest, though more often than not it's post-studio production creating the dense sound collages of off-beat samples, thick rhythms, and indie rock leanings.

As for the rest of the album, well... Okay, there's a reason most only remember Hello Nasty for Intergalactic, Body Movin', and not much else: too much filler. Oh, it's good filler, in that you won't find yourself itching for the skip button if you're willing to take the album in full, but can any of you recall how Picture This or Flowin' Prose go? I sure can't, and I just listened to the damned album! Maybe it was one of those instrumental, psychedelic funk jams?

Despite a second half that just can't live up to the first (how could anything with such a one-two punch as Body Movin' and Intergalactic?), Hello Nasty's still a high recommendation for those diving into the Beastie Boys' discography. It may not be as ground breaking as Paul's Boutique or as stupid-fun as Licenced To Ill, but it reaches a comfortable middle-ground between the two, and propelled the Boys back to the front of hip-hop relevancy. Not bad for three white former punks.

Monday, July 29, 2013

00.db - Heaven & Hell (Original TC Review)

Fektive Records: 2009

(2013 Update:
"harmonizing peaks"? 2009 Sykonee, you doof, those are progressive chord changes. You know, one of the defining characteristics of progressive trance? Not that it's surprising to find them here, considering Mr. Fleming and Mr. Blonde's trance background. Heh, having now heard their
very early offerings on that For Your Ears Only DJ mix J00f did, it's remarkable that their music would both end up down psy trance's back alley.

As a duo, they released another album the year after this one,
Angels & Demons, which I've yet to hear. Is it any good? Dunno if they've got plans for another one though, as both seemed more focused on solo output as of late. Not to mention all the promotions Fleming's been up to, what with a label to oversee and club nights to play out at. Who's got time to hash out another forty-plus minute 'chill-out' extravaganza?)


IN BRIEF: Solid as a rock

I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a super-group, but the pairing of psy-trance favorites John Fleming and Ricky Smith (‘00’ and The Digital Blonde, respectively) definitely created a huge amount of buzz when they started releasing tracks together. Simply put, the two earned a huge amount of goodwill with folks who grew frustrated with the continued watering-down of trance music at the hands of those that shall remain nameless. They offered an easy entry point into the realm of psy, focusing on catchy hooks and driving rhythms supplanted with the sub-genre’s spacey attributes, yet seldom going off the deep end into psy’s more random wibble. With John the DJ and Smith the producer, it was only a matter of time before these two favored sons finally joined forces. So they did, forming the fan-chosen moniker 00.db. And took their sweet time in coming out with the album everyone was looking forward to.

I suppose the two didn’t want to let their burgeoning fanbase down, hence the some-odd three years it’s taken for a full-length since their first single. While I have no doubt they wouldn’t want to release anything less than their best, high expectations can have a tendency to force musicians into a corner they never wanted to be in the first place. The fans demand - or at least hope for - nothing less than a classic, so you gotta’ deliver on those terms, right? Of course not, but nor do you want to lose all that good favor you’ve earned either, especially so in the fickle field of (slightly) underground trance.

In terms of offered material, if a double-CD album for a debut isn’t enough to be satisfied with, then their fanbase is more fickle than I thought. It certainly could be considered a bold artistic statement, but truthfully that’s not quite right. Rather, Fleming and Smith had more music than could be held on one disc, including a forty-plus minute ambient excursion at the very end. I’m not sure whether Dreamcatcher was added to fill up the second CD or because they were working on something of this nature as a side-project to their typical trance cuts, but whatever the reason it’s part-and-parcel of the Heaven & Hell experience (more on which in a bit).

The trance cuts don’t offer much in the way of surprises here, even if you aren’t already familiar with them from the first Psy Trance Euphoria compilation many first appeared on. In fact, much of this reminds me of the sort of material you might find on those old Rave Mission compilations from the mid-90s, where the likes of Astral Projection and Alien Factory could be seen rubbing shoulders with Paragliders and DJ Tomcraft. They pretty much stick to a “not quite epic, not quite psy” style, and execute it with about as much class and consistency as any savvy trance veteran. Some are more melodic (Indigo, Pro 1, Darkness, and the remix of Astrix’ Ice Cream); some are more spacey (Lantra, Run, and, shockingly, Worlds Of Space); some are more techy and driving (Ark, Orga, Entropy; and so on). Most of them make use of the tried and tested ‘harmonizing peak’, breakdowns are seldom gratuitous, vocal samples are fine, and the psychedelic bits are tasteful. All in all, if you aren’t immediately turned off by the first track-proper (as always, the first one’s more of an ambient intro), then you’re going to enjoy the music on here - probably more so, since Indigo, though solid in its own right, is one of the weaker cuts.

As for the forty-minute behemoth that closes out CD2, it’s okay for an extended ambient excursion. Though it says it’s a “chill-out journey”, there’s actually very little chill about it, as many of the soundscapes and synths used are quite grandiose. It’s also not a singular composition, but rather a collection of four segments titled Stratosphere, Atmosphere, Mantle, and Inner Core; indeed, a journey from heaven to hell. In that aim, it thematically succeeds, as the compositions gradually transition from benign to downright creepy (seriously, that… growl towards the end… *shudder*). Musically, however, it at times feels like it overreaches, but it’s tagged at the end of the album, so no big loss if you don’t feel like indulging.

Heaven & Hell certainly is a fine enough debut album, despite not really pushing the trance genre anywhere it hasn’t been before. In that regard, this honestly isn’t more than a 6/10 - at least on paper. This album deserves an extra nudge up a notch for one simple reason: it’s consistent from beginning to end. So long as you enjoy trance music - of any kind, really - you will find no reason to skip any of these tracks, which is remarkable considering there isn’t much of an album theme beyond supplying quality tune after quality tune. That in of itself is a rare enough feat to deserve the 7.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mind Distortion System - He Claims To Be Not Human (Original TC Review)

Trishula Records: 2007

(2013 Update:
Well, so much for Trishula, only lasting to the end of 2008 before their output dried up. I don't know if they've completely shut doors, as their website is still up, so I'm assuming you might still find material in their catalog out there if you look hard enough. Might still be worth your while to do so if you find dark forest psy to your liking, as I've yet to hear much that stood out the way some of Trishula's acts did.

As for Mind Distortion System, this remains his only full-length, though he has released a smattering of singles on numerous compilations for other labels since Trishula's end. Dunno if they're worth digging for though. To be honest, I always found his contributions to the Trishula compilations the weaker offerings, and was somewhat surprised his album turned out pretty good. Wait... a psy trance producer, saving his best work for the
album? What a twist.)


IN BRIEF: Crafty rhythms? In psy trance??

Having been associated with Trishula Records for a while now, ol’ Jara Nelson’s been patiently biding his time in the trenches for his kick at the album can. It can be a dangerous game to play, the waiting one - growing disinterest from followers of a project as the months wear on, as but one example why - but the psy scene’s long gestation periods (trends either linger longer or innovative new ones lack) work in favor of those who’s release dates are further along than others.

As Mind Distortion System, Nelson has carved out his own tiny niche in the psy world, but then that can be said of just about any Trishula artist, to be honest. This little label hailing from Deutschland has frequently impressed by skewing far from the norm when psy trance is often guilty of sounding far too similar from label-to-label, act-to-act. With tracks that often challenge the head, Trishula definitely has established themselves as a label worth keeping tabs on for fans of the forest sound. MDS is no different in this regard, so the better question isn’t how he stands against dark psy in general (quick answer: above), but rather amongst Trishula’s roster.

Like most of the producers on this label, Nelson’s tracks don’t reveal themselves to you all at once. However, I found his offerings on this album even more difficult than most. While I didn’t go in expecting something like insta-melodies, an easily recognizable song structure or pattern seemed to be lacking as well. Beats are laid out and various twisted sounds and effects worm their way about for the duration, with something resembling a hook popping up for a brief bits every so often. I can see many non-fans of dark psy dismissing this album very early on.

In fact, I was about ready to too, when something clicked. Rather than focusing on finding hooks or figuring out atmosphere, I did something that isn’t typically thought of with regards to psy: succumbing to rhythm. Sure, some artists are very adept at beats but the genre generally isn’t known for intuitive drum programming. Most of the time it’s there in service of synths and acid, and little else.

And this isn’t to say MDS’ tracks are ultra-funky or something to that effect - in fact, most of his rhythms are still very much stylistically in forward-drive and little else. But whereas other producers - especially in dark psy’s case - settle for monotonous drones, MDS seems to have extra spring to his. It’s as though a kind of giddiness crept in, and it makes Nelson’s rhythms that much more infectious.

So obviously, the tracks on offer here will make far more sense while flailing under a canopy of trees in the middle of night rather than being played in the background as you drink your tea at home. Still, there’s enough going on here to grab your attention should you let the primal portion of your brain dictate your listening habits. Never predictable, yet always with purpose, MDS cleverly keeps his tunes moving and shifting, letting the beats dictate the direction as squiggly sounds, shuffling synths, psychedelic effects, and disconcerting tones effectively provide a worthy trippy support. You most likely won’t be humming any of these later, but they’ll definitely leave an impression and, perhaps most importantly, will draw you back to rediscover some other twist you may have overlooked before.

Individually, these tracks deliver. As a whole though, He Claims To Be Not Human grows samey-sounding in the second half, as MDS tends to stick to the same themes throughout the album (having every track roughly the same BPM doesn’t help in this regard either). There are a few moments that’ll leap out more than the rest though. For instance, final track Gate Of Desire sounds like Nelson borrowed some of the synths of fellow labelmate Olien. Elsewhere, Koshka makes use of some chopped up spacey sounds, lending an almost ethereal tone to an otherwise sinister album. Oh, and remember that sped up sample of Disney’s Whistle Stomp that made a superstar out of a cartoon hamster? It’s back in Cartoon Hunter, but surprisingly given better context here, such that it’s actually kind of amusing to hear instead of fucking annoying like in its previous usage. Mind, it probably helps that it’s immediately followed up by a vocal that asks, “Won’t you fucking shut up for ten seconds,” not to mention the track itself is amongst the darkest brooders on this album.

So in conclusion of my graduate thesis- er, review of this here album, MDS’ role amongst the Trishula roster appears to be the guy that’ll more likely pummel your temporal lobes rather than tickle them with nifty hooks or enveloping soundscapes. Which is totally cool, in my books. Good rhythms are sorely neglected when it comes to dark psy, and to hear an album that provides solid groovy potential amongst the usual twisted atmospherics is a welcomed treat.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Neil Young - Harvest Moon

Reprise Records: 1992

Two decades after delivering an album everyone loved, Neil Young finally released a pseudo sequel to Harvest, this here CD titled Harvest Moon. Everyone loved that one too, though aside from the titular song, it didn't quite reach the same level of commercial success. There were undoubtedly many reasons for it – chief among them Harvest Moon's very laid-back country vibes not exactly jiving with mainstream interests in the year 1992 (who cares about that old hippie crooner when we got Michael Bolton serenading the airwaves!) - but like so many albums in Young's discography, it's endured as a proper classic, spawning memorable tunes you're likely to still hear in concert during his acoustic moments.

Funny thing is, though the idea behind Harvest Moon sounds like a shoo-in, it likely wouldn't have happened had circumstances nearly forced him into making the album. Consider: Young had had twenty years to round up The Stray Gators again, take a trip to Nashville, and deliver an album full of charming, radio-friendly country-rock folk. Yet he never did, his occasional trips to the mid-west finding him exploring proper-country instead; only a few of the original session musicians were brought in for those albums. So what convinced him to finally do what his fans wanted for years upon years?

Hearing damage, mostly. Following the raucous Weld tour with Crazy Horse, Young’d developed a bad case of tinnitus, forcing him to tone his music down for a while. Okay, and a two decade anniversary wasn't such a bad incentive either.

That said, he couldn't exactly repeat Harvest. Aside from generally better production (such lush echo and reverb here!), the lyrics and themes Young was exploring as he neared his fifties were quite different compared to topics of 1972. Condemnations of southern States attitudes? That's small time stuff compared to global issues like war (War Of Man) and environmentalism (Natural Beauty). Also, how could he write songs about forlorn love when he’d been happily married for years? Just won’t work anymore, so instead we have music reflecting on the friendships he’s had (From Hand To Hendrix, One Of These Days, and, um, his dog in Old King), the relationship he’s in (Harvest Moon and Such A Woman), and perhaps even where he may end up (You And Me). Fairly broad topics, all said, but Young has a way of making them feel intimate, as either a window into his own feelings, or as a message for those who can relate to his lyrics.

In the Harvest review, I quipped that many Boomers likely turned to that album as post-partying comfort music. I’ll freely admit that Harvest Moon has served a similar purpose for myself on occasion, a nostalgic calm even for things I’ve yet to experience. That, in a nutshell, is why Young’s endured for so long: writing music that isn’t bound by specific generations, but by earnest, human feelings, and he’s at his best here. No matter the age, someone will find something relatable in Harvest Moon.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Neil Young - Harvest

Reprise Records: 1972

The only Neil Young album you’re supposed to have, even if you’re not much of a Neil Young fan. Or at least, that was the assumed case waaaayyy back in the ‘70s, when all his Boomer fans would turn to Harvest’s charming, laid-back good ol’ country rock vibes to ease themselves from whatever bad trip they might be suffering from (citation needed). I can’t even think of what album could be considered “the only Neil Young album you’re supposed to have” now, as the man’s musical career’s all over the place. True, there are releases that are good representations of what he’s capable of (After The Goldrush, Rust Never Sleeps, Sleeps With Angels, any live album), but you’re almost always missing out on some aspect of his career. Even Archives, Vol. 1 only reached as far as Harvest, which capped off the first ten years of ol’ Neil making music. Holy shit, he’s been doing this for a freakin’ half-century now, hasn’t he!

Anyhow, what Harvest definitely became was Mr. Young’s most popular album, likely because it was also one of his best selling ones, especially in ’merica, where they love those home-grown country-rock tunes. Just, sshhh, don’t remind them he’s actually Canadian.

The big hits off here were Heart Of Gold, Old Man, and The Needle And The Damage Done. That last one isn’t even two-minutes long, a brief, somber reflection dedicated to those he saw losing their lives to drug addictions. The first two though, hoo boy, were they ever major tunes at the time. You’ll still hear them on the radio, though whether a rock or country one, I’m not sure – that banjo bit in Old Man definitely would sound out of place along all that Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones. And Heart Of Gold, you’ve heard it. No, really, I can guarantee you’ve heard a version of it at some point. Heck, I heard it long before I even knew who Neil Young was, when Boney M covered it on their Nightflight To Venus album I frequently played as a child. Hey, maybe that’s where this Young obsession stems from!

As for Harvest, the album, it’s definitely one of Young’s odder collection of songs. The old-timey country bits (and hits) were put together at Nashville with ridiculously talented session musicians he dubbed The Stray Gators (seriously, Ben Keith’s pedal steel guitar work almost steals the whole album). A short while later, Young brought the group out to a barn at the ranch he’d recently purchased, and recorded one-take rockier tunes on the fly. In between, he got to record a couple songs with the London Symphony Orchestra, lending almost ridiculous bombast to an album that typically comes off down to earth.

Predictably, Harvest ends up quite a slap-dash listening experience, even for a Young album. It may have been his most popular effort, but as you can find most of these tunes elsewhere now (and in stronger renditions), it’s not the most essential purchase anymore.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Drexciya - Harnessed The Storm (2013 Update)

Tresor: 2002

(Click here to read my original TranceCritic review.)

Drexciya was the first review I ever published, a very important moment in the world of techno. Well, no, it wasn’t – heck, it wasn’t even a blip in the grand scheme of things, and techno fans sure as hell weren’t checking out some funny new website called TranceCritic, even if Harnessed The Storm was the first review there. Still, if anyone expecting trance came away from that one with a better appreciation of the deep sea dwellers from Detroit, all the better. It’s not the best review, but without that first step, we’d never have gotten to where we are today, whatever ‘here’ currently is.

Actually, let’s find out. Instead of just an ‘update’, here’s a newish review of the same release. Ahem…

Despite being mainstays of Detroit techno’s second generation, the duo Drexciya stood well apart from their contemporaries. Part of it was their enigmatic origins (pro tip: cultivating hardcore fanbases works best when your work remains mysterious), but whereas many in the Motor City (or foreigners drawing influence from it) started exploring minimal, dub, or jazz-fusion during the ‘90s, Drexciya looked more to the past for inspiration, taking their cues from electro when most had moved on from it (too ‘80s, man). And in fully immersing their mythos with underwater sonics, it created a sound unlike any other, Drexciya singles turning into hot commodities whenever they’d sprinkle forth.

EPs were all well and good, and many a classic cut appeared on those records. Yet surely a concept like Drexciya deserved the full-length treatment, and nearly a decade after their debut, there finally came Neptune’s Lair. As far as I can tell from online gushers, it met expectations, so the natural follow-up was eagerly anticipated. Harnessed The Storm arrived three years later, and while many a fan enjoyed it too, their concept seemed a bit tired now. Electro had resurged in popularity, while techno was drifting from Detroit’s heritage, various European takes on it the new hotness of the 2000s. But hey, what’s it matter? Drexciya were such a unique duo, that even if their concept and productions were coming off old-hat in the new millennium, they could carry on by name recognition alone, with no pressure to change with the times. Folks came to Drexciya records to hear their aquatic electro, and damn it, that’s what they’ll get.

Only they no longer did. The unfortunate passing of member James Stinson in late 2002 shocked everyone within techno’s world and, as a point of respect to his partner and friend, Gerald Donald (other half of Drexciya) put an end to the project. Harnessed The Storm would be the last music they released. Truly a shame, but in some ways a blessing too, ending them on a high with legacy intact. I mean, can you imagine if they’d jumped on the minimal bandwagon too?

Eh? I didn’t describe any of the music on Harnessed The Storm? Silly, there’s a link at the top with over one-thousand words doing so.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Sven Väth - Harlequin - The Beauty And The Beast

Warner Bros. Records: 1994

Sven Väth is Sven Väth, a very important- wait, I did that joke for him already. Then let’s get right to it for this mega-maxi CD of Harlequin – The Beauty And The Beast. As the lead single to his sophomore effort, The Harlequin, The Robot And The Ballet-Dancer, there was quite the bit of expectation going in. An Accident In Paradise was hailed as a early classic of the emerging German take on techno (trance!), even with some of the odder sonic doodles hampering the album’s overall flow. Could Sven capture the same magic he and Hildenbeutel crafted with Ritual Of Life, Caravan Of Emotions, and L’Esperanza?

Not with a convoluted title like Harlequin – The Beauty And The Beast. What is that even supposed to mean? I realize The Harlequin, The Robot, And The Ballet-Dancer had something of concept going on, but the title is horribly clumsy. Not to mention just glancing at it along with the so-very ‘90s CGI cover art undoubtedly had some wondering if Sven had gone all prog rock on them. The music may be perfectly fine, but man does the presentation do it no favors.

In the end, the track with the longest title was picked for the lead single, annoying any scribes setting out to review it. It’s a decent enough tune, in that early Teutonic techno sort of way. Skitchy backing synths, a lead that’s easy enough to get hooked on, and some nods to goa trance that was catching on elsewheres in clubland (although the Club Mix is about where you’ll hear most of it, what with over ten minutes to work with).

Remixes then. Since this was intended to be Sven’s hot new single, there’s a pile of them. Underworld’s take on Harlequin – The blahblahblah works the group’s classic cool groove into a twelve minute excursion that plays to all of progressive house’s ‘back-in-the-day’ strengths, never feeling as long as it actually is. And as the original owed some sonic nods to psy, Total Eclipse offers a proper goa spin on the tune. C.J. Bolland’s also here, beefing up the beats if you like your techno hard and bangin’. And finally, Pascal F.E.O.S. gives us a remix that’s a little more bare and acidy.

No, wait, that’s not ‘finally’, if you got this American version of the single. All those other remixes, they’re just too Euro, man. What this tune needs is some proper, deep, funky garage-house from the likes of Murk. In fact, forget whatever the original sounded like, let’s get Marck Michel on the microphone, giving Harlequin – DamnitI’mnottypingitanymore more soul than those Germans could hope to craft. And you know what? This ‘remix’ is so good on its own, let’s have four versions of the same bumping, muscular vibes. ‘Cause that’s the ’merica way of doin’ things, boy.

Quite a diverse collection of remixes then, but unfortunately overstuffed, leaving the finished product a middling affair. Too many utterances of “the beauty and the beast” methinks.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

DJ Brian - Hardesertrance3 - Son Of The Moon

Moonshine Music: 1999

And so he did. Erm, keep the hard-hitting tech-trance vibes going for the duration, I mean. DJ Brian, that is. For the follow-up, Hardesertrance3? Goodness, didn’t you read the previous review? What do you mean you’re in the future and stumbled upon this review by accident? Reading this blog in reverse chronological order, I can understand, as Blogger’s layout isn’t exactly conducive to continuity attempts. But from the literal future? That’s far out, man. Far out of space and time!

Okay, enough of that. Someone must have mentioned those plusses and minuses I brought up on Hardesertrance2, as DJ Brian’s jettisoned almost all progressive trance for this instalment. There’s Salt Tank’s Rezmorize near the end, getting you two progressive names for the price of one (if you don’t know why, please hand in your ‘progressive card’ to the lady at the exit), and that’s about it. For Hardesertrance3, Mr. Brian Golub starts out hard and trancey, and barely lets up.

As before, you get a goa-leaning opener, this time care of Human Movement’s Traveller’s Theme, and for a whopping ten minutes at that. Yeah, it’s one of those ‘journey’ tracks, but pretty cool nonetheless. Shortly after, it’s back to our good ol’ friend Oliver Lieb again, but this time under the one-off Snakeman guise, which he used to indulge himself with some proper tribal beats, and Medicine don’t disappoint, son.

And the hard techno keeps coming. Geezer’s Tickling The Trout is here, its raw, thumping acid goodness almost out of place for a set supposedly meant for the desert (harsh my vibe, yo). Even deeper into the tribal techno is Electronic Home Entertainment’s Traffic EP (yes, it’s called that), which mixes wonderfully into another vicious Lieb tech-trance beast, Quantensprung as S.O.L. – if you ever wanted more in The Black Album style, there’s your cut, my friends.

DJ Brian can’t help himself from pulling out an anthem though, but for once he’s ahead of the curve. Joshua Ryan’s bleepy, fist-pumper Pistolwhip was yet another inescapable trance hit, featured on tons of obvious track lists and compilations throughout 2000 and especially 2001 when the single was re-released on NuLife Recordings. This here Hardesertrance3 CD’s a ’99 offering though, the same year the original Pistolwhip came out on Fragrant Music. And according to Lord Discogs, this was the tune’s first major release. What I’m getting at in this long-about way is, even though Mr. Ryan’s hit was quickly played out by the end of 2001, I’m quite content hearing it on this CD due to these conditions. Okay, and the surrounding tracks are kick-ass as well.

So Hardesertrance3, an overall better set than the previous one, if you like your hard desert trance (techno) with a proper kick to it rather than all psychedelic and wibbly. Surely this is the direction of sound that will take this series to the next level, establishing it as a string of classic DJ mixes. Wait, this was the last one? Well, f-

Saturday, July 20, 2013

DJ Brian - Hardesertrance2

Moonshine Music: 1998

I'll have more opportunity to talk about the Moontribe parties that Moonshine loved promoting in short order, so let's get right into this here DJ Brian figure. A founding member of the California-based desert rave promotion, he soon established himself as 'the late-night trance guy'. And since we're dealing with whole bunch of West-American hippies (probably), that means he played psy. Well, yes and no. It was undoubtedly a part of his tracklists for some of those dusty all-nighters under the desert stars, but the music he compiled for his series titled Hardesertrance started out with more commercial intent (probably).

Since we're skipping straight to Hardesertrance2, it's clear I don't have the first one. I did hear it back in the day though, and thought it good, in that acidy, outdoor, tribal trance sort of way. The formula was simple enough: start off bangin' with a touch of psy, then unleash a few recognizable anthems towards the end (Netherworld!). DJ Brian follows a similar style on this one, and for the first few tracks, it looks like we have another winner in Moonshine's catalogue.

Right, so having L.S.G.’s kick-ass Train Of Thought at the fourth position is such an easy way to tickle my earlobes, but the surrounding tracks are strong company. Opener Emotions from Sonic Fusion sets a suitable 3am desert vibe, and tracks from System 7 and Rotortype round out a solid first lap of this disc. Huh, funny seeing Rotortype’s Be Yourself here, in that it was quite an older track by ’98, having already appeared on a few other notable CDs (an early DJ-Kicks from C.J. Bolland, for instance). And this, unfortunately, sets a trend that hampers Hardestertrance2.

The next track is India from E-Razor (yet another collaborative project between Martin Eyerer and Oliver Lieb). Cool, but I’ve already heard this one on a Nick Warren Global Underground. A little further down, we find our good friend Air from Ferry Corsten’s Albion guise (holy cow, was this track ever canned). I’ll give DJ Brian some props for choosing the storming Palefield Mountain remix, but it’s still an obvious anthem. Oh, and Slacker’s here too, with the track Psychout, which one could have heard off that same Nick Warren Global Underground. Finally, throwing in Amoeba Assassin’s Rollercoaster as your closer, and you’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve somehow stumbled upon a ’98 progressive trance DJ mix instead of something advertised as more on a psychedelic tip.

Mind you, there’s no real fault on DJ Brian’s part in how this CD’s put together, and for all I know, it’s a faithful recreation of one of his Moontribe sets. As a commercial disc, however, the track selection’s over-familiar for those well-versed in what progressive trance had to offer in ’98. The opening of Hardesertrance2 does help it stand out, but DJ Brian would only emerge from the glut by keeping the hard-hitting tech-trance vibes going for the duration. Ain’t no one else playing that sound on Moonshine.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fatboy Slim - Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars (Clean Version)

Astralwerks: 2000

In some ways, I'm more embarrassed to have this CD than even ICP. Why should I, a grown adult, have a “Kiddies' Clean Version”? Well, it was a gift, but the tongue-in-cheek label on the cover strikes me as deliberately insulting on the manufacturer's part. This isn't just the 'Clean Version', like many hip-hop pop albums offer, oh no. This is for the children, for we at Astralwerks, we thought about the children, oh how we thought about the children. We even moved the image over a little, so the sun no longer peeks through the woman's cooch – hell, you can't even tell it's a woman anymore, much less the sun creating those rays of light. Isn't that better than our usual antics of totally replacing the cover image for stateside distribution?

Norman Cook's Fatboy project was incredibly popular when he released Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars, his prior album offering two or three ultra-mega hits that we still hear today. So that there would be a 'Clean' option for his follow-up doesn't surprise me. It's still baffling why it'd been thought of only for the kids though (what kind of teenager wouldn't get the one with crude language?).

And what major changes can we expect on this “Kiddies' Clean Version”? Star 69's been cut. Yeah, no surprise on that one. Not a big deal losing it though, as beyond the lyrical gimmick, it was a mediocre tune. There's also a slight edit of “what the fuck” in Song For Shelter, which makes- wait! Why didn't they just edit the 'fuck's out of Star 69 too, keeping the track?

Frankly, that's all I can tell's been 'cleaned up'. It's been well over a decade since I've heard the original version, so if some naughty language from Macy Gray or Bootsy Collins was edited out, I don't know anymore. Come to think of it, I don't think it matters where this album's concerned, as Halfway... is a surprisingly mature sounding effort on Cook's part compared to the rest of his discography.

Yeah, he's had his classy moments, but folks were buying up his albums by the boatloads for the big beat party anthems. Halfway... has a couple offerings as such, like Ya Mama and Drop The Hate, yet Cook sounds bored with these cuts, just going through the big beat motions. Far more intriguing (and re-playable because they aren't so dated to late '90s music) are the blues, gospel, funk, and soul offerings. And even with all the crafty beats and samples Cook throws into his tunes, the guest vocalists (including the memorable husky voice of then-soul-queen Macy Gray) help excel what could have been little more than homage to some of ol' Norman's musical upbringing.

Put simply, Halfway... is easily Fatboy Slim's most consistent album, and maybe even his best. Unlike his other albums, which have big hits and forgettable filler, these are all songs I have no problem returning to and keeping lodged in my head.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Gorillaz - Demon Days

Parlaphone: 2005

It could have simply ended with the first album. Albarn and Hewitt had made their 'anti-pop' pop statement, had their fun. But, pondered ol' Damon, what if they could do it again, only better? Could a cartoon band be just as popular a second time? After all, that Prozzak duo utterly failed to recapture the 'glory' they achieved. Surely the Gorillaz couldn't succeed where others had failed, especially when their music was generally so esoteric.

Yet, something happened to the group that was absolutely brilliant in hindsight, something that seldom happens to cartoon characters, if at all. They aged. And with age came a growing history of their world, most of which could only be gleaned from online content or music videos. The Gorillaz were developing continuity, and for music geeks who were already intrigued by their quirky sounds and designs, this was like catnip. There were ongoing changes with this band (or phases, as it's come to be known), and if you wanted to keep up to date on all the going-ons of their world, you'd have to pay attention to all the little details that'd be sprinkled forth. How could any fan resist this ongoing story, especially considering the oddball setup that was presented in the first album?

So Noodles became a teenager (a super-soldier experiment one at that!), Murdoch turned more demonic (what's up with that?), Russell’s morose after losing his ghosts (no, Del!), and 2D... well, he's kinda the same. The plan worked, and by establishing the story of how Noodles wrote the majority of Demon Days, it gave Albarn an opportunity at a proper concept album, or at least one that was far more unified in tone than the previous Gorillaz effort.

Guiding the whole enterprise was Danger Mouse, his popularity on the rise following The Grey Album. Emulating Dan The Automator’s eclectic sound from Gorillaz could never be easy, so it’s just as well that the Mouse scales back the genre jumping. There’s still plenty of it – tracks ten through fourteen runs the gamut of grime, dance punk, folk (!), and piano-pop that would make even Brian Wilson weak in the knees – but in maintaining a lo-fi, dubby Casio aesthetic to the proceedings, Demon Days is a far more consistent listen than the first album. No matter how weird things may get, you seldom feel the need to skip anything, as it all plays into the Gorillaz’ bizarre anything-goes style. Only a cartoon band could get away with such catchy anthems like Dirty Harry that features a child’s choir.

Oh yeah, there be anthems here. Feel Good Inc. and DARE were the big ones, but O Green World and All Alone are awesome examples too - no mere filler here, my friends. Plus melancholy moments like El Mañana and Every Planet We Reach Is Dead round things out. Demon Days is a great album, all said. Only quibble is none of the guest rappers top Del’s work, but then few could anyway.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Kruder & Dorfmeister - G-Stoned (Original TC Review)

Quango Records: 1993/1995

(2013 Update:
Dear Lord, how did I go through a downtempo review without bringing up the acid jazz influences as well? Ah right, I still wasn't exactly sure what acid jazz properly sounded like, even as late as 2006. Come to think of it, does anyone? Beyond what was released on the Acid Jazz label, that is.

Not much else to add to this EP. I did clean up the paragraph layouts from its original version though, as this was written during my track-by-track years, and so many tiny paragraphs were unsightly for such a short review as this.)



IN BRIEF: More than remixers.

Considering just how big a profile Kruder & Dorfmeister have amassed over the years, it can come as a surprise that their discography as a duo is rather small. Plenty of remixes, for sure, but when it comes to original material, the selection is limited. However, like other acts with huge profiles but few releases (eg: Leftfield), what does get released is usually quality.

Even in the beginning, Kruder & Dorfmeister pulled no punches in their objectives. This debut mini-album, released to kick off their G-Stone label, had all the head-nodders of the mid-90s abuzz, intrigued by the prospect of a smoother, jazzier alternative to Ninja Tune’s trip-hop eclecticism. Small surprise downtempo label Quango felt it was a good idea to pad out their early catalogue with K&D’s sound. G-Stoned may not have been the most unique EP, but it certainly had a maturity present that was more-or-less lacking in much of electronic music.

The first track, Definition, is about as loungey as lounge gets. The rhythms are laid back, gentle keyboards and xylophones fill out a smokey ambience, and a flute improvises along the way. Revolutionary? Hardly, but still a nice bit of downtempo vibe. Deep Shit moves us into, well, deeper territory. The mood is far more dubby as trip-hop beats and echoy trumpets noodle about. Some tribal chants penetrate the murk at times, but aren’t interested in leading. This track’s about pure atmosphere, and little else. Wonderfully chill, though.

Combining the mood of Deep Shit with the pace of Definition is High Noon. Probably the most prominent feature here is a little harmonica playing mid-way through. Although it doesn’t take you out of the lounges, it does briefly lend a bit of country feel to the track. And to take us out is Original Bedroom Rockers. As the slowest groover out of a mini-album of slow jams, the easy-going, cool-sexy vibes and samples are definitely fit for sensual delights; dubby vibraphone pulses throughout the track wrap you up like a tender embrace. Most smooth indeed.

As nice as these tracks are though, I do have a complaint about this release in general: it’s over too fast! Yes, yes, I know G-Stoned isn’t meant to be a full album, but, man, does it ever leave you wishing for it to keep going.

With that in mind, this release probably isn’t the best starting point for folks just getting acquainted with Kruder & Dorfmeister’s material; their remix album The K&D Sessions™ is the one in that category. However, if you are a casual fan looking for something more to tide you over until the duo make another full studio release together (if ever), this will suite you fine. Since the market price for G-Stoned is nice and cheap, it’s a safe purchase either way.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Various - Groovetechnology v1.3: Swayzak

Studio !K7: 2002

It wasn't always so bad. In fact, minimal dub deep-tech micro-whatever was thrilling stuff, in its own understated way. That’s a fresh style of music for you though: plenty of room for experimentation and innovation, nothing stuck in tropes and clichés; kept just far enough in the underground that, should you lean your ears its way, it’s easy to discover, yet remains cultivated by only a small group of enthusiasts (“I see that bandwagon you arrived on, Club Land. Maybe come back in a few years.”).

Among the early proponents of the sounds was British (former) duo Swayzak, often lending a dubby, spliff-bliss vibe to their tunes which helped set them apart from other, like-minded micro-house chaps like Akufen and Herbert. Studio !K7, already a credible hip label at the turn of the century, saw the unique musical potential of this scene, and tapped Swayzak to offer their DJ talents in compiling this here Groovetechnology v1.3 as a showcase of deep-minimal-tech. Or wait... was it the short-lived UK label Groovetech Records that initially put these out, and Studio !K7 merely handled the German (and global) distribution? That makes better sense as v1.0 and v1.2 show up on Groovetech (not to mention the title of the series itself). Or maybe Studio !K7 bought out Groovetech, liking the cut of their musical jib? Who knows a decade on (the record execs, most likely).

Anyhow, if the idea of a Swayzak commercial DJ mix sounds odd, it's because they’ve barely done them (along with this, also a Fabric entry). I... don't think they're interested in the format, if Groovetechnology's anything to go by. This is pure mixtape action here, friends, and honestly, for this style of music, I much prefer it this way. Screw trying to hold a steady groove with monotonous minimal momentum, let's just enjoy the tunes for what they have to offer.

And oh yeah, the classic names are on display here. Deep, dubby goodness from Akufen’s Architextrue, Basic Channel’s Q1.1, and Convextion’s Crawling & Hungry; icy-cool electro from Ellen Allien’s Funkenflug Der Traume and Bergheim 34's Take My Soul; groovy ambient-tech from Villalobos’ 808 The Bass Queen, Bitstream’s Monolith, and Son.sine’s Upekah. There’s quite a bit to enjoy here, especially if you’ve an inclining towards the dubbed-out chill side of techno.

Plus, you hear that? No, not all that space within these tunes – you’re supposed to hear that. I mean the lack of white noise hiss, that annoying effect that plagued so much minimal-tech in the latter end of the decade. Oh, how wonderful to not hear any. I won’t deny it’s an effective, erm, effect out on the dancefloor, but God does it annoy elsewhere, ad nausem, especially when everyone adopted it; like detuned supersaws in trance, or mid-range wobble in dubstep.

Sorry for that tangent. Don’t let the minimal association deter you from Groovetechnology v1.3, as Swayzak’s brought together as classy a collection of such tunes as you could find in the year 2002. Trust.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Various - Grooverider Presents: The Prototype Years

Prototype Recordings: 1997

The jungle scene’s a weird one for the genres it cultivates. While you have your institutions like atmospheric, darkstep, or ragga (which can lay dormant for years before resurging again), more seem to have a glorious birth of creativity and inspiration, then utterly die from disinterest (how long’s it been since jazzstep was popular?). Tech-step was one such sub-genre to emerge during the ‘90s, the sort-of in-between linker from the original darkside sound to the darkstep sonics that came to define growling, aggressive jungle in the coming decade. It kept all the shadowy attributes the soldiers craved, but stripped things down, removing the complicated Amen breaks in favor of hard-hitting 2-steps; also, Reese basslines.

At its peak, Grooverider was one of tech-step’s biggest supporters, and he launched a label promoting the stuff, Prototype Recordings. Not only did he lure in prominent acts like Lemon D and Dillinja to his print, but it also helped launch the careers of future stars such as Photek, Ed Rush, Optical, and John B. Though short-lived, Prototype was one of jungle's true cutting edge labels of the '90s, and if you don't believe the hype, here's a handy compilation of material Grooverider was pushing.

Hot damn, just look at these tunes! Dillinja's future-shock, bassbin demolishing Silver Blade is here. Fancy-pants John B’s here with Secrets, a sinister tune that's like early Photek having sex with Johnny L (yeah, we're still half a decade away before his indulgence with electroclash). Ed Rush & Fierce team up for the blistering Locust, so aptly named as the basslines growl like a swarm of the reprehensible insects on the move (though more of an early darkstep tune, to be honest). And just so everything's not so agro and dystopian, Optical, Lemon, and Matrix offer tracks that feel the free-flowin' funk better while retaining that good ol' shuffling tech-steppy goodness. Oh yeah, and Grooverider gets in a bunch of tracks under his Codename John guise, decent enough offerings though rather old-school in execution compared to these new cats.

Still, with a mere ten cuts on this CD, that’s barely scratching the surface of Prototype material. Offering a few more cuts along with the main ones is a bonus DJ mix disc option, with Grooverider himself handling the decks. It’s… um, not a very good mix. Tunes are fine of course, but these are far from clean mixes. I’ll grant ol’ Raymond some slack with working from a limited track selection, and he acquits himself fine when he manages to, erm, ride the grooves between some mixes – the transition from his Deep Inside to Lucust is thrilling. Others though, like forcing the Dreams Of Heaven vocal into Silver Blade, is utter pants, and should have been handled with a quick cut instead.

Whatever. The music on CD1’s the selling point, and if you’re filling out your classic tech-step collection or just need a proper history lesson, don’t hesitate to scope out The Prototype Years if you get the chance.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ice Cube - AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted

Priority Records: 1990/2003

The only Ice Cube album you're supposed to have, even if you're not much of an Ice Cube fan. Oh, he's released tons more since his debut, not to mention plenty of collaborative work alongside groups like Da Lench Mob and Westside Connection. Some of it's been good, some not so good, but aside from maybe his work with N.W.A., O'Shea Jackson was never as virulent as he was on AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. No, check that, he's even more vicious here than on Straight Outta Compton, the bad blood between him and his former posse firing him like no other motivation could. Not only was he gonna make a bigger mark than them solo, but he was going to do so with ‘the other coast’, Public Enemy’s own production group The Bomb Squad.

Hanging around the politically charged Chuck D undoubtedly played a role in Cube’s new-found lyrical focus. He still brought tales of gangster shenanigans, but they were far less glorifying and misogynistic compared to what his contemporaries offered. Rather, they spotlighted the decay of American inner city life, how it was destroying black communities, and how everyone – from the white upper-crust of society to the lowest scuzzed beggar – was all accountable. Cube offers no solutions, and indeed that can make AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted a tiring listen as you bear the brunt of his anger, but damn if it isn’t a visceral experience.

And the music! If Cube’s just discovering how potent his lyricism could be, we’re also capturing The Bomb Squad at the height of their powers too. As this was made in the golden age of sampling, tracks are incredibly dense with (likely) un-cleared content. Unlike, say, The Dust Brothers’ production for Paul’s Boutique, who just tossed in whatever they could for the sake of it, The Bomb Squad keep grooves tight and propulsive. Just take a gander at the titular cut, with those funky breaks, bass drops, scratches, gun shots, etc. Even if Cube’s words aren’t for you, try denying bobbin’ your head to these beats. Not to be outdone, Da Lench Mob prove they're up to the sample-raiding with Jackin’ For Beats, first appeared on the Kill At Will EP, but included here on the 2003 reissue of AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (the whole single, actually).

So if Ice Cube’s debut’s as good as I say (any hip-hop head would), why’s it taken me this bloody long to pick up a proper copy? Oversight mainly, but going through all that Del Tha Funkee Homosapien material recently reminded me to correct it. Yeah, ol’ Del’s cousins with Cube, which most folks know, but perhaps less known is how, as still part of Cube’s crew, he helped pen some of Mr. Jackson’s rhymes here. I dunno how many specifically, though a track like A Gangsta’s Fairytale sure sounds like something Del might write (there’s even a ‘Dr. Bombay’ reference). I wouldn’t recommend AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted if you’re only a fan of Deltron 3030 though, as they’re literally worlds apart.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Various - Groove Armada: The Dirty House Session

Muzik Magazine: 2002

Most of the free CDs music magazines gave out often had some sort of article tie-in: year-end retrospectives, hot new genre exposes, etc. I'm at a loss as to why Muzik tapped Groove Armada for a mix CD though. The duo was between albums, and their commercial clout had significantly dwindled in the time since Vertigo, only Superstylin’ having made any kind of impact in the interim that I can remember (were they still a big deal in the UK?). Muzik itself had seen a revamp on the issue this CD came with, but nothing hints at celebrating that accomplishment here. Even the cover’s all about The Chemical Brothers, nothing to do with a ‘dirty house’ session from the London boys. Really, the only thing I remember from the April 2002 print was Muzik’s panning of Boards Of Canada’s Geogaddi - the sheer audacity of even going there, mang! Incidentally, they also gave “tulip trancemaster” Tiësto’s debut In My Memory the same score; Boards and Tijs, on the same level? Scandalous.

Alright, I’m getting bogged down in that back issue. I need to stop that, but unfortunately The Dirty House Session isn’t terribly interesting, even as a freebie. Whatever the reason behind Muzik calling up Andy Cocup and Tom Findlay for a mix CD, the duo didn't put much effort into it.

Assembled in a day, it's primarily a collection of tribal funk house, the sort of thing they claim one might hear were you to catch them at a club. Ugh, not with that kind of mixing, I wouldn't. This is Oakenfold levels of beatmatching, in that sometimes there's none at all. Might it be that they figured that's just what their audience expected of them? They'd already released a DJ mix prior to this one for Back To Mine, and were due to release one for the AnotherLateNight series as well; both tend to have chill, laid-back, mixtape vibes going for them.

Whatever. It’s not that bad. So what if the minimalistic funk-breaks of Duji’s Be Careful What You Say abruptly ends, going into the ambient ‘sleepy Ibiza mix’ of Planet Funk’s Inside All The People? Yeah, that’s a silly thing to do for your very first mix, but the tunes are fine at least.

Yes, tunes. As said, tribal and funk jams are the name of Groove Armada’s game, and though the mixing’s pants for the most part, I still vibe fine on Essa’s dubby Africans In Space (it’s like if Sandoz did house!), or a shufflin’ groove remix of Armada’s own Superstylin’. This is ‘dirty house’ though? Fine, electro house was still in its infancy, not even really a thing yet (Satisfaction only came out that same year). Folks weaned on sleazy, trashy house music that came to dominate the term ‘dirty house’ will find a decided lack of it here. No, this is all about shakin’ those hips and ass, girl. What else can you expect from a loopy funky house track called Rumpfunk?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Greendale

Reprise Records: 2003

I mean, what else was Neil Young gonna do in his career? He'd explored rock music in nearly all its forms: country, punk, grunge, etc. He did classic rock before it was ever 'classic', and he even did proper classic rock, rockabilly. Folk music? Done it. Blues music? Conquered. Electronic music? Damn straight he went there! Death metal? Well, okay, maybe not that one – I can't imagine ol' Neil's 'baying at the moon' singing working too favourably when Cookie Monster growls are the norm. Still, Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) isn't too far off from power-chord distortion metal...

Anyhow, what I'm getting at here is, after a long, long history of having done about all one could ever hope to in rock music, taking a stab at a rock opera wasn't so daft – no less odd than his other quirky ventures over the years. This being Neil though, Greendale wasn't going to be a performance piece on the scale of The Wall. Rather, it was a small, intimate effort, relying on just him and Crazy Horse’s brand of kick-ass country-blues rock to tell the tale, though the tunes are musically simple, even for them. Incidentally, so was the production itself, almost on the level of a community theatre show, which makes sense from a thematic standpoint, as it's all about a small town and a series of events that shake a family to their very core.

Spoilers? Well, since I know barely anyone reading this on an electronic music blog is likely to listen to Greendale - even long time fans were rather confuddled over it – I may as well let you in on the story that takes place.

A family called the Greens lives in a sleepy town called Greendale. About the only major ruckus they caused was when Edith and Earl Green changed the name of a rancho they bought. Sacrilege! How can anyone change the Double L to the Double E? Aside from that though, not much happens for the first few songs of Greendale. Then, in a chance pullover by Officer Carmichael, he catches Jed Green drug running. No one knew Jed was a bad apple, and he only makes things worse when, in a panic, he shoots the policeman! Oops.

As you can imagine, the townsfolk aren’t too pleased, and following Carmichael’s funeral, the media seeks to interview Grandpa Green about the incident, an old curmudgeon traditionalist (with a sense of the Fourth Wall no less, often complaining about “that guy singing”). Just as the old man literally tells the media to get off his lawn with a shotgun, he has a heart attack and dies.

Sun Green, the firebrand young activist girl, doesn’t take kindly to seeing her family fall apart due to the media, and... oh dear, I’m running out of self-imposed word count. I’ll just leave on the note that by the end, the FBI kills a cat, and the final song, Be The Rain, is all kinds of awesome!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Eurythmics - Greatest Hits

BMG Records (UK) Ltd.: 1991

Don’t worry, we won’t be getting bogged down with greatest hits CDs for the coming week, as this is the only other one I have. Well, titled ‘greatest hits’ anyway. I also have a pile of ‘best of’s, plus an annoying auto-label quirk turned a bunch of ‘collection’s into ‘super hits’ (damned reissues). Since I prefer getting original albums of artists, I don’t have that many such releases, but there are a few acts where all you’re interested in are their best songs, and little else. Why yes Eurythmics is one such group.

Maybe one day I'll pick up their sophomore (and most memorable) effort, but aside from those icy-cool synth pop classics, a lot of the music Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart crafted together doesn't do it for me, at least enough to enjoy but a cursory listen every once and awhile. Their stabs at gospel, blues, and soul were never awful or anything, but there's only so much tinny harmonica I can handle, and the '80s were not kind to most wind instruments (oh God, what have you done to the saxaphone? And why do you insist on still using it!?).

For anyone that wasn’t around during Eurythmics’ run, listening to Greatest Hits can be startling. Sweet Dreams has endured as a classic synth ‘anthem’ (and been raped by shit remixes for years as a result), and other tasty keyboard goodies like Here Comes The Rain Again and Who’s That Girl will get rotation on many ‘hey, remember the ‘80s’ channels or theme-nights. So tied to Lennox and Stewart are these tunes that many of the younger generation probably figure that’s their only sound. As Greatest Hits clearly showcases, this is not so. Your moms and pops (we’re not yet at the grandparent stage with the ‘80s yet, are we…?) won’t find it shocking hearing gospel-rock (!) Sisters Are Doin’ For Themselves (the Aretha Franklin collab’) or Motown tribute Would I Lie To You? alongside pure new wave cuts like Sex Crime (1984) or oh-so ‘80s ballad Miracle Of Love. It’s just what Eurythmics did, taking the new wave ethos of post-genre bending, mixing it along with a crafty sense of fashion (alright, so Lennox was just doing David Bowie; still cool to see a gal on that though).

Not much more I can say about this one. You know the big tunes, and if you’re curious to hear what other musical stylings Eurythmics dabbled in, Greatest Hits is a fine primer to get (mostly because, as a former Columbia House option, you can find it anywhere for bargain bin cheap). If you’d just rather hear more pure synth pop though, their early ‘80s albums are worth your investment instead. Well, except for their debut In The Garden, unless you’ve a fancy for the off-kilter side of new-post indie-wave rock something-or-other nonsense. Well, okay, it’s not that bad, but nothing from that album appears here – and damn, what a swerve into Sweet Dreams one year later, eh?

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Steve Miller Band - Greatest Hits 1974-78

Capitol Records: 1978

You’ve likely heard more Steve Miller Band songs than you’re aware of. While everyone – and I mean everyone - knows The Joker, Jungle Love, and Fly Like An Eagle are by the space-folk rock act, there’s plenty more they’ve released that you’re going to recognize without even realizing it’s the same band. Yes, even within the narrow time frame of their discography this greatest hits package covers.

For instance, I always associated Swingtown with my old man, as it’s been one of his staples for whatever bar band he happens to be playing in, easily and awesomely nailing the opening “Ohhhhh” refrain and lyrics. It was years before I discovered this was one of Steve Miller Band’s biggest hits, yet after hearing so many practice sessions growing up, I can’t help but think it’s my dad on the vocals, and not Steve Miller. Oh my, this is quickly turning into an anecdote review, isn’t it?

Can’t be helped. Steve Miller Band’s music has become so ubiquitous on radio stations (not to mention endlessly licensed out for soundtracks) that you’re almost guaranteed to have at least known someone older playing the ever-living shit out of these tunes. Some sort of memory will become associated with a Steve Miller Band song – even if it’s nothing more than, say, a teenaged Homer Simpson singing along to The Joker - that almost any discussion about their music will undoubtedly turn anecdotal over where you heard it (more often than not, at a bar or house party).

Despite the band having a long history with plenty of variety, this particular release deals with the peak of their radio popularity, and boy did Steve Miller ever hit upon a winning formula: good ol’ Southern blues, folk and rock, with just enough psychedelia to stand out from their peers, and dance floor savvy (ooh, is that a touch of disco I hear in Jungle Love?) to make these bar staples for decades to come. Despite this particular greatest hits collection gathering up music from a mere three album’s worth of material, very little AOR makes up this package; maybe the synth-effects lead-in to Jet Airliner, Threshold, could be considered one, but Miller realized he could get double the royalties if Threshold was considered a separate track, and you can’t imagine your classic rock station playing Jet Airliner without that lead-in, now can you.

Look, you don’t need me to tell you Greatest Hits 1974-78 is a solid package of charming pop-rock. You’ve heard tunes like blues-stomper The Stake, starry-eyed hippie folk Wild Mountain Honey, and inoffensive rock-chugger Take The Money And Run plenty of times, even if not these songs in particular. Steve Miller took blues-rock staples, turned them about as radio friendly as one could in the ‘70s, and crafted a pile memorable hits as a result. You wouldn’t want to hear these all the time, but good luck holding back a nostalgic grin on your face when one of these songs crops up.

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Things I've Talked About

...txt 10 Records 16 Bit Lolita's 1965 1966 1967 1969 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2 Play Records 2 Unlimited 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 20xx Update 2562 302 Acid 36 3six Recordings 4AD 6 x 6 Records 75 Ark 7L & Esoteric 808 State A Perfect Circle A Positive Life A-Wave A&M Records A&R Records Abasi Above and Beyond abstract Ace Tracks Playlists Ace Ventura acid acid house acid jazz acid techno acoustic Adam Freeland Adham Shaikh ADNY Adrian Younge adult contemporary Aegri Somnia Aes Dana Afrika Bambaataa Afro-house Afterhours Agoria Ajana Records AK1200 Akshan album Aldrin Alex Theory Alio Die Alphabet Zoo Alphaxone Altar Records Alter Ego alternative rock Alucidnation Ambelion ambient ambient dub ambient techno Ambient World Ambientium Ametsub Amon Tobin Amplexus Anabolic Frolic Andrea Parker Andrew Heath Androcell anecdotes Aniplex Anjunabeats Another Fine Day Antendex anthem house Anthony Rother Anti-Social Network Aphasia Records Aphex Twin Apócrýphos Apollo Apple Records April Records Aqua Aquascape Aquila Arcade arena rock Arista Armada Armin van Buuren Arpatle Arts & Crafts ASC Ashtech Asian Dub Foundation Astral Waves Astralwerks AstroPilot Asura Asylum Records ATCO Records Atlantic Atlantis atmospheric jungle Atomic Hooligan Atrium Carceri Attic Audion AuroraX Autistici Autumn Of Communion Aveparthe Avicii Axiom Axtone Records B.G. The Prince Of Rap Babygrande Balance Balanced Records Balearic ballad Banco de Gaia Bandulu battle-rap Beastie Boys Beat Buzz Records Beats & Pieces bebop Beck Bedouin Soundclash Beechwood Music Benny Benassi Berlin-School Beto Narme bhangra big beat Big Boi Big L Big Life Bill Hamel Bill Laswell BIlly Idol BineMusic BioMetal Biosphere BKS Black Hole Recordings black rebel motorcycle club Black Swan Sounds Blanco Y Negro Blasterjaxx Blend Blood Music Blow Up Blue Öyster Cult blues Bluescreen BMG Boards Of Canada Bob Dylan Bob Marley Bobina Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Boney M Bong Load Records Booka Shade Botchit & Scarper Boxed Boys Noize Boysnoize Records braindance Brandt Brauer Frick breakcore breaks Brian Eno Brian Wilson Brick Records Brodinski broken beat Brooklyn Music Ltd Bryan Adams BT Buffalo Springfield Bulk Recordings Burial Burned CDs Bush Busta Rhymes Calibre calypso Capitol Records Capsula Captured Digital Carbon Based Lifeforms Carl B Carl Craig Carol C Caroline Records Carpe Sonum Records CD-Maximum Ceephax Acid Crew Celestial Dragon Records Cell Celtic Cheb i Sabbah Cheeky Records chemical breaks Chihei Hatakeyama chill-out chiptune Chris Duckenfield Chris Fortier Chris Korda Chris Sheppard Christopher Lawrence Chromeo Chronos Chrysalis Ciaran Byrne cinematic soundscapes Circular Cirrus Cities Last Broadcast CJ Stone Claptone classic house classic rock classical Claude Young Clear Label Records Cleopatra Cloud 9 Club Cutz Cocoon Recordings Coldcut Coldplay Colette collagist Columbia Com.Pact Records comedy Compilation Comrie Smith Connect.Ohm conscious Control Music Cor Fijneman Cosmic Gate Cosmic Replicant Cosmos Studios Council Of Nine Counter Records country country rock Covert Operations Recordings Craig Padilla Crazy Horse Cream Creamfields Crockett's Theme Crosby Stills And Nash Crosstown Rebels crunk Cryo Chamber Cube Guys Culture Beat cut'n'paste Cyan Music Cyber Productions CyberOctave Czarface D-Bridge D-Fuse Dacru Records Daddy G Daft Punk Damian Lazarus Damon Albarn Dan The Automator Dance 2 Trance Dance Pool dancehall Daniel Heatcliff Daniel Wanrooy Dao Da Noize dark ambient dark psy darkside darkstep darkwave Darren McClure Databloem David Bickley David Morley DDR Deadmau5 Death Row Records Deejay Goldfinger Deep Dish Deep Forest deep house Deeply Rooted House Deepwater Black Def Jam Recordings Del Tha Funkee Homosapien Delerium Deltron 3030 Depeche Mode Der Dritte Raum Derek Carr Detroit DFA DGC diametric. Dieselboy Different DigiCube Dillinja dirty house Dirty South Dirty Vegas disco Disco Gecko disco house disco punk Discover (label) Disky Disques Dreyfus Distant System Disturbance DJ 3000 DJ Brian DJ Craze DJ Dan DJ Dean DJ Gonzalo DJ Heather DJ John Kelley DJ Merlin DJ Mix DJ Moe Sticky DJ Observer DJ Premier DJ Q-Bert DJ Shadow DJ-Kicks Djen Ajakan Shean DJMag DMC DMC Records Doc Scott Dogon Dogwhistle Dopplereffekt Dossier downtempo dowtempo Dr. Atmo Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show Dragon Quest dream house DreamWorks Records Drexciya drill 'n' bass Dronarivm drone Dronny Darko drum 'n' bass drunken review dub Dub Pistols dub techno Dub Trees Dubfire dubstep DuMonde Dune E-Mantra E-Z Rollers Eardream Music Earth Earth Nation Earthling Eastcoast EastWest Eat Static EBM Echodub Ed Rush & Optical Editions EG EDM World Weekly News Ektoplazm electro Electro House Electro Sun electro-funk electro-pop electroclash Electronic Dance Essentials Electrovoya Elektra Elektrolux em:t EMC update EMI Eminem Emmerichk Emperor Norton enCAPSULAte Engine Recordings Enigma Enmarta Epic epic trance Erik Vee Erol Alkan Escape Esoteric Reactive ethereal Etnoscope euro dance Eurythmics Eve Records Ewan Pearson experimental Eye Q Records F Communications Fabric Fade Records Faithless Fallen fanfic Fatboy Slim Fax +49-69/450464 Fear Factory Fedde Le Grand Fehrplay Feist Fektive Records Felix da Housecat Fennesz Ferry Corsten FFRR field recordings Filter filters Final Fantasy Five AM Fjäder Flashover Recordings Floating Points Flowers For Bodysnatchers Flowjob Fluke Flying Lotus folk footwork Force Intel Fountain Music Four Tet FPU Frank Bretschneider Frankie Bones Frankie Knuckles Fred Everything freestyle French house Front Line Assembly fsoldigital.com Fugees full-on Fun Factory funk future garage Future Sound Of London g-funk gabber Gabriel Le Mar Galaktlan Galati Gang Starr gangsta garage Gas Gasoline Alley Records Gee Street Geffen Records Gel-Sol Genesis Gerald Donald Get Physical Music ghetto Ghostface Killah glam Gliese 581C glitch Global Underground Globular goa trance God Body Disconnect Gorillaz gospel Gost goth Grammy Awards grime Groove Armada Groove Corporation Grooverider grunge Guru GZA Haddaway Halgrath happy hardcore hard house hard rock hard trance hardcore Hardfloor hardstyle Harmless Harmonic 33 Harold Budd Harthouse Harthouse Mannheim Hawtin Hearts Of Space Hed Kandi Hell Hercules And Love Affair Hernán Cattáneo Hi-Bias Records Hic Sunt Leones Hiero Emperium Hieroglyphics High Contrast Higher Intelligence Agency hip-hop hip-house hipno Hooj Choons Hope Records horrorcore Hospital Records Hot Chip Hotflush Recordings house Huey Lewis & The News Human Blue Hybrid Leisureland Hyperdub Hypertrophy hypnotic records I Awake I.F.O.R. I.R.S. Records Iboga Records Ice Cube Ice H2o Records ICE MC IDM illbient Imperial Dancefloor Imploded View In Charge In Trance We Trust Incoming Incubus indie rock Industrial Infected Mushroom Infinite Guitar influence records Infonet Inner Ocean Records Insane Clown Posse Inspectah Deck Instinct Ambient Instra-Mental Inter-Modo Interchill Records Internal International Deejays Gigolo Interscope Records Intimate Productions Intuition Recordings ISBA Music Entertainment Ishkur Island Records Italians Do It Better italo disco italo house Jack Moss Jam and Spoon Jam El Mar James Horner James Murray James Zabiela Jamie Jones Jamie Myerson Jamie Principle Javelin Ltd. Jay Haze Jay Tripwire Jaydee jazz jazz dance jazzstep Jean-Michel Jarre Jefferson Airplane Jerry Goldsmith Jesper Dahlbäck Jiri.Ceiver Jive Jive Electro Jliat Jlin Joel Mull Joey Beltram John '00' Fleming John Digweed John Graham John Kelly John O'Callaghan Johnny Cash Johnny Jewel Jonny L Jori Hulkkonen Jørn Stenzel Josh Wink Journeys By DJ™ LLC Joyful Noise Recordings Juan Atkins juke Jump Cut Jumpin' & Pumpin' jungle Junior Boy's Own Junkie XL Juno Reactor Jurassic 5 Kay Wilder KDJ Ken Ishii Kenji Kawai Kenny Glasgow Keoki Keosz Kerri Chandler Kevin Braheny Kevorkian Records Khooman Khruangbin Kid Koala Kiko Kinetic Records King Cannibal King Midas Sound King Tubby Kitaro Klang Elektronik Klaus Schulze Koch Records Koichi Sugiyama Kolhoosi 13 Komakino Kompakt Kon Kan Kool Keith Kozo Kraftwelt Kraftwerk Krafty Kuts krautrock Krill.Minima Kris O'Neil Kriztal Kruder and Dorfmeister Krusseldorf KuckKuck Kurupt L.S.G. Lab 4 Ladytron Lafleche Lange Large Records Lars Leonhard Laserlight Digital LateNightTales Latin Laurent Garnier LCD Soundsystem Leama and Moor Lee 'Scratch' Perry Lee Norris Leftfield Legacy Leon Bolier LFO Linear Labs Lingua Lustra liquid funk Liquid Sound Design Liquid Stranger Live live album Loco Dice Lodsb London acid crew London Classics London Elektricity London Records 90 Ltd London-Sire Records Loop Guru Loreena McKennitt Lorenzo Montanà Lost Language Loud Records Loverboy Luaka Bop Luciano Luke Slater Lustmord M_nus M.A.N.D.Y. M.I.K.E. Madonna Magda Mali Mammoth Records Marc Simz Marcel Dettmann Marco Carola Marco V Mark Farina Mark Norman Mark Pritchard Markus Schulz Marshmello Martin Cooper Martin Nonstatic Märtini Brös Marvin Gaye Maschine Massive Attack Masta Killa Matthew Dear Max Graham maximal Maxx MCA Records McProg Meanwhile Meat Loaf Meditronica Memex Menno de Jong Mercury Mesmobeat metal Method Man Metroplex Metropolis Miami Bass Miami Dub Machine Michael Brook Michael Jackson Michael Mayer Mick Chillage micro-house microfunk Microscopics MIG Miguel Migs Mike Saint-Jules Mike Shiver Miktek Mille Plateaux Millennium Records Mind Distortion System Mind Over MIDI mini-CDs minimal minimal tech-house Ministry Of Sound miscellaneous Misja Helsloot Miss Kittin Miss Moneypenny's Mixmag Mo Wax Mo-Do MO-DU Moby Model 500 modern classical Moist Music Moodymann Moonshine Moss Garden Motech Moving Shadow Mujaji Murmur Music link Music Man Records musique concrete Mutant Sound System Mute Muzik Magazine My Best Friend Mystica Tribe N-Trance Nacht Plank Nadia Ali Nas Nature Sounds Naughty By Nature Nebula Neil Young Neotropic nerdcore Nettwerk Neurobiotic Records New Age New Jack Swing new wave Nic Fanciulli Nick Höppner Night Time Stories Nimanty Nine Inch Nails Ninja Tune Nirvana No Mask Effect Nobuo Uematsu Nomad Nonesuch Nonplus Records Nookie Nordic Trax Norman Feller Northumbria Nothing Records NovaMute NRG Ntone nu-jazz nu-skool Nuclear Blast Entertainment Nulll Nurse With Wound NXP Octagen Offshoot Offshoot Records Ol' Dirty Bastard old school rave Ole Højer Hansen Olga Musik Olien Oliver Lieb Olsen Omni Trio Omnimotion Omnisonus One Little Indian Oophoi Oosh Open Canvas Opus III orchestral Original TranceCritic review Ornament Ostgut Ton Ott Ouragan OutKast Outpost Records Overdream Pantera Pantha Du Prince Paolo Mojo Parlaphone Paul Moelands Paul Oakenfold Paul van Dyk Perfect Stranger Perfecto Perturbator Pet Shop Boys Petar Dundov Pete Namlook Pete Tong Peter Benisch Peter Gabriel Peter Tosh Phonothek Photek Phutureprimitive Phynn PIAS Recordings Pink Floyd PJ Harvey Planet Dog Planet Earth Recordings Planet Mu Planetary Consciousness Plastic City Plastikman Platipus Plump DJs PM Dawn Poker Flat Recordings politics Polydor Polytel pop Popular Records Porya Hatami post-dubstep Prince Prins Thomas Priority Records prog prog psy prog-psy Progression progressive breaks progressive house progressive rock progressive trance Prolifica Proper Records Prototype Recordings protoU Pryda psy chill psy dub Psy Spy Records psy trance psy-chill psychedelia Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia Psychonavigation Psychonavigation Records Psycoholic Psykosonik Public Enemy punk punk rock Pureuphoria Records Purl Push PWL International Quadrophonia Quality Quango Quinlan Road R & S Records R'n'B R&B Rabbit In The Moon Radio Slave Radioactive Radioactive Man Radiohead Raekwon Ralph Lawson RAM Records Randal Collier-Ford Random Review Rank 1 rant RareNoise Records Rascalz Raster-Noton Ratatat Raum Records RCA React Red Jerry Refracted reggae remixes Renaissance Rephlex Reprise Records Resist Music Restless Records RetroSynther Rhino Records Rhys Fulber Ricardo Villalobos Riley Reinhold Rising High Records RnB Roadrunner Records Robert Hood Robert Miles Robert Oleysyck Roc Raida rock rock opera rockabilly rocktronica Roger Sanchez ROIR Rollo Rough Trade Rub-N-Tug Rumour Records Running Back Ruthless Records RZA S.E.T.I. Sabled Sun Salt Tank Salted Music Salvation Music Samim sampling Sanctuary Records Sander van Doorn Sandoz Sarah McLachlan Sash Sasha Scandinavian Records Scann-Tec sci-fi Scott Hardkiss Scott Stubbs Scuba Seán Quinn Segue Sense Sentimony Records Sequential Seraphim Rytm Setrise Seven Davis Jr. Shaded Explorations Shaded Explorer Shadow Records Sharam Shawn Francis shoegaze Si Matthews SideOneDummy Records Signature Records SiJ Silent Season silly gimmicks Silver Age Simon Berry Simon Heath Simon Posford Simple Records Sinden single Sire Records Company Six Degrees Sixeleven Records ska Skin To Skin Slinky Music Sly and Robbie Smalltown Supersound SME Visual Works Inc. Snap Sneijder Snoop Dogg Solar Fields Solaris Recordings Solarstone Solieb Soliquid Solstice Music Europe Soma Quality Recordings Songbird Sony Music Entertainment soul Soul Temple Entertainment Souls Of Mischief Sound Of Ceres Soundgarden Sounds From The Ground soundtrack southern rap southern rock space ambient Space Dimension Controller Space Manoeuvres space synth Spank Rock Special D speed garage Speedy J Spicelab Spiritech spoken word Spotify Suggestions Spotted Peccary SPX Digital Squarepusher Squaresoft Stanton Warriors Star Trek Stardust Statrax Stay Up Forever Stephanie B Stephen Kroos Steve Angello Steve Miller Band Steve Porter Stijn van Cauter Stone Temple Pilots Stonebridge Stormloop Stray Gators Street Fighter Stuart McLean Studio K7 Stylophonic Sub Focus Sublime Sublime Porte Netlabel Substance Sun Station Sunbeam Sunday Best Recordings Superstition surf rock Sven Väth Swayzak swing Switch Sylk 130 Symmetry Sync24 Synergy Synkro synth pop synthwave System 7 Tactic Records Tall Paul Tammy Wynette Tangerine Dream Tau Ceti Tayo tech-house tech-step tech-trance Technical Itch techno technobass Technoboy Tectonic Terminal Antwerp Terra Ferma Terry Lee Brown Jr Textere Oris The Beach Boys The Beatles The Black Dog The Brian Jonestown Massacre The Bug The Chemical Brothers The Clash The Council The Cranberries The Crystal Method The Digital Blonde The Dust Brothers The Glimmers The Green Kingdom The Grey Area The Hacker The Human League The Irresistible Force The KLF The Misted Muppet The Movement The Music Cartel The Null Corporation The Offspring The Orb The Police The Prodigy The Shamen The Sharp Boys The Sonic Voyagers The Squires The Tea Party The Tragically Hip The Velvet Underground The Wailers The White Stripes themes Thievery Corporation Third Contact Thrive Records Tiefschwarz Tiësto Tiga Tiger & Woods Time Warp Timecode Tobias Todd Terje Tom Middleton Tomita Tommy Boy Ton T.B. Tone Depth Tony Anderson Sound Orchestra Tool Topaz Tosca Toto Touch Tourette Records trance Trancelucent Tranquillo Records Trans'Pact Transformers Transient Records trap Trax Records Trend Trentemøller Tresor tribal Tricky Triloka Records trip-hop Trishula Records Troum Tuff Gong Tunnel Records Turbo Recordings turntablism TUU TVT Records Twisted Records Type O Negative U-God U2 Überzone Ugasanie UK acid house UK Garage Ultimae Ultra Records Umbra Underworld Union Jack United Dairies United DJs Of America Universal Music UOVI Upstream Records Urban Icon Records V2 Vagrant Records Valiska Valley Of The Sun Vangelis Vap Vector Lovers Venetian Snares Venonza Records Vermont Vernon Verve Records VGM Vice Records Victor Calderone Vince DiCola Vinyl Cafe Productions Virgin Virtual Vault Virus Recordings Visionquest Vitalic vocal trance Wagram Music Warp Records Warren G Water Music Dance Wave Recordings Waveform Records Wax Trax Records WEA Weekly Mini-Review Werkstatt Recordings White Swan Records William Orbit Willie Nelson world beat world music writing reflections Wu-Tang Clan Wyatt Keusch XL Recordings Yello Yes Youth Youtube YoYo Records Yul Records Zenith ZerO One Zoo Entertainment ZTT Zyron ZYX Music µ-Ziq