Wonky Won the War

I‘m pretty sure it’s Sesame Street that’s responsible for my obsession with “words of the day,” so I suppose that means I should be thanking Jim Henson for the fact that today has been filled to the brim with all that is “wonky” in life: I did not get out of bed this morning. No sir, I ziffed out of bed, after which I proceeded to schlif down some breakfast, slink into some clothes, and pick up where I left off in my attempt to cycle through my entire playlist entitled, “Tunes that most closely represent the way I imagine a day in the life of Dr. Seuss would play out.” Confused? Let me explain.

claude vonstroke

While there are, indeed, a multitude of genres into which one can separate the huge number of disco tunes being produced these days, when it really comes down to it, each of these genres (And we’re speaking purely in terms of “these days” of course– the early nineties are a different story) can be filtered out into two simple, all encompassing categories: Those tunes that take themselves seriously, and those that don’t.

Difficult to grasp? Think of it as the difference between a Deadmau5 set and a Crookers set. What would you expect to hear from each? Well, from Deadmau5 you’d likely expect to be put into a mood; At the very least, the last thing you’d anticipate whilst being surrounded by mind numbing progressive house beats is for Joel to hop on the mic and spit some vulgarity or tell a joke. A Crookers set, on the other hand, has less than six degrees of separation from a Mitch Hedberg performance. In fact, I would be moderately surprised if the guys hadn’t figured out a way to incorporate some old geez’s comedy routine into one of their sets already. Why? Because they don’t take themselves seriously, and thus, neither does their music. The dudes are hardly taking the “surround you with emotion” approach, and you know what? It’s all good with me, because for the moment, wonky seems to be winning.

So what does this all mean? It means it’s time to put your beautifully crafted chord progressions and traditional instruments aside, and let 2009’s platter of questionably crafted sounds, unstable melodies, and poorly syncopated rhythms take you for a journey deep down into the rabbit hole.

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The Rapture – W.A.Y.U.H. (Claude VonStroke’s Pantydropper Vocal Mix)

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Sukh Knight – Ganja Dub

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Das Glow – Lite Brite (Strip Steve Remix)

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Doctor P – Badman Sound (Extended Mix)

What’s Happening to Our Producers?

I can’t say I’m not a little frustrated. The normal process by which I write a majority of my updates seems to have fallen through; In the past, my time was very rarely spent actively searching for new tunes to cover. In fact, the case was actually quite the opposite, in that most of the music I choose to share has found it’s way to me, simply due to the tendency of high quality music to spread rather easily through our tightly linked disco districts. Recently however, I’ve been lucky to encounter a track or two that I can even bring myself to listen to, much less love. Maybe it has something to do with this supposed “recession” we’re in. Maybe the contracting money supply is also contracting the creative pool of the many producers that most of us rely on to keep our spirits lifted. And yes, I can see how one might point out that my guess makes little sense, but how else should I account for the drastic change in the quality of music output? Seriously, check this out:

Two of my favorite artists of all time are Daft Punk and (to a somewhat lesser extent, due to their having not been around for quite as long) Crookers. Both artists have managed to put out works that far exceed the standard, to the point that they’ve created miniature revolutions within their respective niches, and both have done it on more than just a few occasions. After listening to their latest, however, I’ve found myself stumped (not to mention nearly brought to tears) as I wonder whether either will make a recovery from the extremely questionable tunes they’ve released.

Crookers

Crookers have always kept their style plain and simple. Their clean beats are well cut, and feature an exceedingly minimalist nature, but despite this, they’ve always managed to keep their tracks progressive enough that upon reaching the end, one feels as though he or she has been taken through the song, and not simply exposed to a couple of bland beats for three minutes. Their remix of Isa Gt’s “Pela O”, however, turns their reputation upside down. Literally none of what’s mentioned above is present in this track. In fact, with random loops that simply repeat and alternate back and forth providing the sole bit of substance for the track, it’s hard to find anything interesting at all.

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Isa Gt – Pela O (Crookers Remix)

Daft Punk

As much as I hate to say it, I think the Daft Punk track I’m about to include is even more of a failure. I’m actually banking on the off chance that perhaps some lonely bedroom producer discovered how to recreate the Rollin’ and Scratchin’ synth line, and then proceeded to use the Daft Punk name to promote his mix, because I find it incredibly difficult to accept the fact the both Guy Manuel de Homem Christo and Thomas Bangalter would find this take on Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out suitable to release.

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Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out (Daft Punk Remix)

Please children… work your magic. Make me feel better.

Edit: I can’t explain to you how relieved I am to have discovered that this “Daft Punk remix” is, in fact, a counterfeit. As such, in an attempt to halt the spread of an undeserving bedroom producer’s pilfered track, I’ve removed the download link. The stream, however, will remain up for some time, in order to make an example of this unfortunate experience.

Dim Mak Presents: Everything You Thought You Couldn’t Have

I must say it’s been quite some time since we’ve heard almost anything from the Ed Banger crew. I have this strange inkling that Justice might well have been struck with the misfortune of sailing off the edge of the earth in their gallant search for a proverbial new world, and even the immovable, longtime members seem to be shying the news as of late. But hush children, I assure you, there’s no need to worry; Though it may seem as though our beloved team of groundbreaking artists have hidden themselves away in their laboratories, you’ve simply found yourself at the mercy of a well kept secret. See, our good friends over at Dim Mak have (incase you failed to notice the exclusive appearance of Mr. Pedro Winter himself only a month ago) all the while been supplying LA’s truest disco fans with a constant stream of awe inspiring dj sets and sweaty, sweaty parties (think underground railroad), and, though it saddens me to say it, you’ve been missing out!

Fortunately, you shan’t be left in the dark yet again, seeing as Dim Mak has officially gone all out on their upcoming Avalon-strocity of a dance party and has managed (by means of some ridiculous supernatural power) to summon the dj Feadz to make Los Angeles sparkle upon the night of the 12th of September. (That means you’ve got a little over a week to go ahead and cancel all your appointments and such. Don’t worry, you didn’t really need to go to them anyway) Considering a live Feadz headliner has become somewhat of a rarity since the inception of Uffie, it goes without saying that this isn’t something you’re going to want to miss. And as if that’s not enough for your metaphorically Irish electro tolerance, I suggest you take a look at the rest of the lineup. We’ve got Kid Cudi (I’m sure you’ve heard Crookers‘ Embrace the Martian?), Paparazzi, Them Jeans (If you’re unfamiliar, you must live in a cave), and the notorious Hyphy Crunk, all waiting to help you lace up your dancing shoes. Sure, a couple of those names do indeed frequent LA, however, having them all to yourself together in one night is pushing insanity.

For those of you who’re finding yourselves a tad confused, here’s a couple tasters to get your blood running hot. I trust the next couple minutes shall ensure that I’ll be seeing you there.

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Feadz – Go On Beef (Mr. Oizo Remix)

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Feadz feat. Spank Rock – Back It Up

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Kill the Noise – Hey You (Paparazzi Remix)

Around the World A-round the Werrrlldd

We all know the internet has had quite a large effect on the music industry; Sometimes I doubt that there remains a single soul left in the world that hasn’t contributed a dollar to Apple’s iTunes at least once in their life, but looking at this massive change from a modern perspective, it’s all good, right? Digitalization has allowed artists like Radiohead (and several other open-minded trend setters) to release their work upon completion and without corporate delay. Further, I feel it’s safe to say that a fairly large chunk of those of you who are reading this would find yourselves shit out of luck when it comes to discovering new music without the abundance of audio blogs on the net. In fact, you might actually be forced to (gasp) scour a record store. And I mean, yes, there’s the whole issue of creative copyrights, but seeing as it’s been discussed just about everywhere else on the net, I’m sure we’re all quite aware that merchandise and performance make up most of a musicians income anyway, so really, the only ones getting hurt by free music downloads (in most cases!) are the massive (although it must be mentioned that they seem to be losing steam) record labels. Point being, to sit back and accept the digital takeover as a collective win for the music world is quickly becoming an effortless feat, and this makes it twice as hard for the hesitant few to point out the complications that most certainly do arise.

Sure, there are thousands of complications here and there that I could complain about, but what’s really getting to me as of late is the notion that the ease of the transfer of music across the globe may actually be having a negative affect on the concept of culture that separates one nation’s musical style from another’s. Thinking back a couple years, ever since French artists like Justice pioneered the nu-rave electro sound back in late 2005, we’ve been hearing nothing but knock offs of that particular sound, regardless of the country of origin, and it’s only when an artist emerges that truly has pioneered a unique and individual style that it becomes easy to see what we’re missing.

Balkan Beat Box

Hailing from all over Eastern Europe, the project known as Balkan Beat Box claim a “strong urge to create a new musical breed that surpasses the old reality borders,” and after having a listen to a couple of their works, you won’t doubt that they know what they’re doing, and exactly how they’re going to do it. Their music incorporates the talents of 10 unique instrumentalists to create an almost Klezmer-fused electro style distinctive of the Eastern parts of Europe, and though you might find yourself a bit overwhelmed and confused at first, approaching these tracks with an mind will truly open the floodgates of possibility and leave you begging for more. In fact, the Balkan sound has so quickly become irresistible that several other artists, including the Italian Crookers, who were previously completely unrelated to the sound have already made the effort to embrace it within their own work.

Here’s a funky saxophone heavy Balkan Beat Box track, as well as the aforementioned Crookers effort.

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Balkan Beat Box – Digital Monkey

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Crookers – Gipsy P

Rayflash

Hopping back in the plane, I must say it’s certainly about time we return to Japan to follow up on the early summer post on the Japanese crunch god, Rayflash. Though I can’t go so far as to say that his music has much of a Japanese influence, I can certainly endorse the fact that Ray has truly extended his reach into entirely untouched areas of electro. His mixes are notorious for their audible pool of influences, reaching just as much into the Daft Punk library as they do into the heavy electro of artists like Circuit Freak and The Bloody Beetroots, and his latest track is certainly no exception. His nearly eight minute long remix of Artego‘s “Girl” will take you on a pummeling electro journey through crunchy, hair-raising worlds, and I can guarantee that, assuming you make it out alive, the place you end up will not be the one you expected. All things considered, I would advise that you make use of your seatbelt.

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MP3: Artego – Girl (Rayflash Remix)
YSI: Artego – Girl (Rayflash Remix)
ZShare: Artego – Girl (Rayflash Remix)

And for those of you who simply can’t be satisfied by a paltry single track, I thought you might like to know that our good friend Ray has made a special effort to cater to your (and I do mean your; he loves us all) interests. He’s come up with a mixtape that will fill more than an hour of your life with the warped out glitches of his dj sets, and may I say that he’s done an unbelievable job. You may have noticed I’m not prone to posting mixes, but trust me, this one will take power over you. I simply couldn’t hold back.

YSI: Rayflash DJ Mix 2

ZShare: Rayflash DJ Mix 2

Ratatat – What a Pleasant Surprise

Despite the fact that the genre consisting of all the electronic and electro music has assembled much of it’s popularity due to the hype around “new and original sounds”, it would be foolish to deny the appearance of more than just a few styles that could easily be called generic. Artists like The Bloody Beetroots and Crookers have, since the time of their conception stood fast on top of the sounds and styles that they created for themselves, and though I cannot say that I do not enjoy those particular sounds, they certainly do become a bit tiresome after an extended run. Now, please don’t attack me with your feelings on how a group without a definite style is a is a forgettable one; I couldn’t agree more. But when it gets to the point where you almost don’t have to listen to a track before you know what it’s going to sound like, one cannot deny that it does become considerably less interesting.

Ratatat

It’s because of these “ruts”, into which so many artists have begun to fall, that I was, and still am, so thoroughly impressed by the latest album from the likes of Ratatat, entitled LP3: In all actuality, the odds were totally against them. Think about it. A year or two ago, they had a bit of a following, but we all know they didn’t truly emerge until about the time they made a world tour with Daft Punk. (Who would have thought?) In the months that followed, they gathered popularity exponentially, to the point where your red neck friend, who only bought an iPod just last year when he realized that he was among the 3% of people that still didn’t own one, actually came up to you and told you to listen to “Wildcat”, acting like you’d never heard it before. And a few months after that? “Ratatat? Yeah, whatever.” To make things worse, a few underwhelming tracks surfaced on the blogs not long after, which gave people the impression that Ratatat had nothing left to offer. Their path was that of a one hit wonder, and so many people have made premature assumptions, I guarantee that the world is not prepared for what’s about to gush from its noise-making machines:

Ratatat‘s LP3 is gorgeous, in the true sense of the word. Unlike the artists that follow the pattern in the aforementioned paragraph, Ratatat has managed to fulfill just about every request that one could ask for in a follow-up album. It has character, class, and depth, but most of all, they’ve evolved their style to the point that it’s completely fresh, while somehow managing to stay entirely the same. As a whole, the album is considerably lighter and more universally enjoyable, frequently substituting piano (and even an occasional clavichord) and strange and funky noises for some of the drums and extremely rich guitar sounds of their previous works. Nonetheless, you’ll never have to question who you’re listening to. It’s completely different, and it’s exactly the same. Commendable indeed.

Here’s a few tracks to tease, but I must inform you that the entire album is quite lovely. Do them kids a favor!

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MP3: Ratatat – Dura

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MP3: Ratatat – Mirando

LA Riots

And here’s a little toss in. For those of you who aren’t aware, a remix contest was staged a while back for “Lo Sforzo”, a querky electro track originally produced by IHEARTCOMIX‘s Ocelot (who has coined what’s probably close to my favorite phrase, ever: “All the fun of trance without all that trance”). While many of the resulting creations were quite entertaining, one of them, which happened to be produced by the now-well-known remix team LA Riots, proved itself to be a particularly floor shaking brick of synthesizer-goodness. Unfortunately, that track has all but disappeared from the internet, and for a while I worried that I’d be forever doomed to living without it. My luck did turn, however, and I figure I should repay the spirits of karma (and the delightful LA Riots) by posting it up here. Be careful… this one bites.

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MP3: Ocelot – Lo Sforzo (LA Riots remix)

I Shall Call It… Minimalectro!

It really is incredible how rapidly the music scene’s been changing these days. Think about it: About a year ago, under the reign of Ed Banger, it was nearly impossible to go ten minutes without having some sort of distorted, fuzzy, static-y, Waters of Nazareth-derived synth rammed into your eardrum, and (needless to say) most of us were loving it. If it wasn’t heavy, it wasn’t fit for the iPod (In fact I’m convinced Mr. Pedro Winter actually just made a typo on his record label’s name. I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be “Head Banger”. But actually, maybe he did it on purpose so as not to draw the metal heads into his own personal genre? I suppose that deserves some pondering…). You know, no one expects any one kind of music to last forever, but even I’m amazed at how fast that blew over. It’s like we all just all of a sudden realized that the guy who invented electro was actually some dead science fiction writer who was promising to build us a space ship. Artists like Circuit Freq and The Proxy almost never make a blog appearance anymore without the blogger commenting on how s/he “Didn’t think people were digesting this kind of music anymore.”

And it’s true; From there, the disco kids decided to get in touch with their roots, hence the massive 80’s revival. Artists like Chromeo, Danger, and Calvin Harris decided they didn’t like all that distortion on their synthesizers, so they started their own revolution, and for a while there, we were all considering buying Delorians, weren’t we? (It’s okay. You don’t have to answer out loud. You were.)

Crookers


The reason I’m commenting is because it seems as though we’ve undergone yet another musical revolution. A couple guys from Italy, working under the name Crookers, decided that they just didn’t like all that noise very much at all, and they decided to do away with it all together. Their tracks are little more than a punchy house beat with a few microsamples, a few vocals, and minimal synth usage, almost like a more progressive, electro-fused minimal, and somehow they’re simply incredible. There’s no doubt the boys have started a revolution: More than just a few producers have recently adopted nearly identical styles, and the news just keeps coming. I’m clueless as to why we’ve gone crazy for merely the skeleton of the music that was so recently such an important part of disco, but that’s not to say I’m not loving it!

Also, if you’ve already hopped on the Crookers bandwagon and are just dying to see those Italian heads bob, you might be happy to hear that they’ve finally make their way out to California. They’ll be throwing down the goods tonight at Cinespace’s Dim Mak Tuesday, as well as at tomorrow in San Francisco.

While you wait, check out their latest body-mover:

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Crookers – Mad Kidz

And you’re just dying to hear more of those delicious housy beats (which I know you are) you might want to look into Aston Shuffle. The (I almost feel ridiculous at this point even having to mention this) Australian artist has a similarly infectious beat, but with a bit of a more traditional electro touch. There’s no doubt the vocoded hook toward the middle of the track will have you clicking the repeat button.

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The Aston Shuffle – For Everyone

A-Trak


Moving in a different direction, there’s been a rather unusual release from the likes of A-Trak today. The hip-hop gone electro dj/producer has recently finished a 45 minute long original piece for Nike that’s intended to be the perfect soundtrack to your workout. According to A-Trak himself, his mix is a cross between his newer Disco style and his hip hop roots, so you can expect to hear a bit of the electro rap we’ve been encountering more and more frequently. If you’re already busting out the short shorts and the ear buds, you might want to grab the mix on iTunes before you leave. It’s under the Nike sports section.

And as a final touch, I simply must include this rather frustrating little video I stumbled across. It’s one thing to have an opinion but oh is Mr. Henry Rollins the ignorant one… If you don’t feel like spending quite a lot of time fuming over the controversial comments on the video, I suggest you don’t read them, lest steam start to leak from your ears.