Friday, August 27, 2004
Fond Feelings:

Whigfield - Was A Time
Big big repeat-replay tune for me. What is it about shuffle/schaffel?!? I've already written so much about it but there's something about this stuff that makes me feel like there's more more always more to say, it's like a bottomless well of potential but elusive meaning. But the joy of "Was A Time" isn't just its driving glam rhythm; this reminds of one of those early uptempo Saint Etienne tunes ("Join Our Club" maybe, though the chiming Spanish guitar, twining round the beats like bright crimson wisteria, actually puts it closer to "Duke Duvet", or Basement Jaxx's "Rendez-vu"): blatantly populist and physical but also eerie and magical, but most importantly all of these things at once, all inextricably intertwined.

Whigfield has a great presence here as well, with hints of shrill imperiousness that remind me slightly of early Sinead O'Connor, but then folded back into her sweet pop persona - "da da da da" backing vocals and anxious-to-please key changes. Best of all, her departures into slightly scary spoken word! "Too. Bad. I. Can't. Read. Your. Mind!" She sees a europop hit and she wants to paint it black...

M. Mayer - Speaker
Underrated this for the longest time: who needs Mayer in non-lush mode? But I've come around to the idea that this Chicago house throwback is one of Mayer's most satisfying records, and (theoretically) a dancefloor bomb. As with pretty much all Mayer tracks the focus is on the subtle build, from the ultra-sparse opening (just a 4/4 pound and a spectral synth hook) through ominous bass riffs and skeletal hi-hats, and then a raft tiny insectile percussive effects and that stereo-panning minimal acid squiggle, squirming around your neck, ears and shoulders. The polite gentility of the robotic vocal ("I am not a talker; I'm a speaker, speaking to you") is the key to the track's success I think: Mayer never goes for the easy payoff menace that was open to him, just a gradually increasing, compulsive disquiet, a scratch you can't itch but which seems to itch itself.

And THEN! Those slightly syncopated handclaps, only just out of time with the kickdrum so that the rhythm section generates a delightful friction. I like to think that those handclaps represent some sort of the dramatic irony, hinting at something "we" know about the groove but which the groove itself doesn't. I realise that doesn't make sense. At any rate it's a wonderful record, one whose sparseness belies the enormous amount of care and attention that has gone into its construction. I've listened to it more than just about anything else these last few weeks. I'd love to play it first in a DJ set, and feel the hair on dancers' necks rise as they begin to sense just what sort of groove is actually overtaking them.

Christina Milian ft. Joe Budden - Whatever You Want
Christina's album has so many exceptional tracks ("I Can Be That Woman"! "Miss You Like Crazy"!), that it's hard to single out one, but I chose this one because it helps me to get out of bed in the morning, and indeed, may end up serving this function for the longest stretch since the tyranny of Shakedown's "At Night" in 2002. Like Mya's peerless "Free", "Whatever You Want" is a shameless, brassy disco retread, all funky bass and triumphant horns and whistles. So far so good, but it's Christina makes this track, her performance so self-assured and confident and right there that she resembles a particularly talented Idol finalist, full of live panache and wearing an outfit to die for.

Fantastic lyrics, too: "I can feel the groove when you're holding me, like to let you think you're controlling me" her multitracked vocals admit, before the "real", unaccompanied Christina cuts in, "...even though that ain't the deal - when I want I take the wheel!" with a sassy delight that's irresistible. Joe's in fine form too: "Only Mike puts up numbers like me, and he's no longer playing but"-and here somewhat remorsefully-"neither am I!" (Everyone tells me Joe's album sucks, but between this and "Pump It Up" and "Fire" he's three for three as far as I'm concerned.) Something tells me that commercially this isn't gonna be Christina's "Crazy in Love" like "Dip It Low" was her "Baby Boy" - its disco bounce fun seems too innocent and uncomplicated for the current chart climate - but I'd dearly love to be proven wrong.

Ciara ft. Petey Pablo - Goodies
Houston - I Like That

I love love LOVE R&B-crunk crossover (someone on ILM labelled this stuff "bubblecrunk"!). I think back when I first heard "Yeah" last year I posted here with the guilty confession that I kinda preferred it to "proper" crunk. That remains true, except that I no longer feel guilty - who couldn't love these deliciously melted collisions of slinky song and hardcore grunt. If much crunk proper has a slightly uncomfortable aggressive air to it, tunes like "I Like That" and "Goodies" (not to mention Pablo's "Freek-a-Leek") blur the edges with soft tunefulness, so that their high-impact hi-jinx have a flushed sensuality, still deep-thrusting but more consensual, still a penetrative force but akin to a probing, questing tongue.

Like probing tongues, these tracks rest on that sexual/sickly divide. "I Like That" positively slithers, its overstuffed profusion of synths prickling and sticking to the skin on the inside of your ears. It's hard to think of another recent R&B tune that sounds so immediately large, so inviting from the very first note. And I love the array of lead vocals, backing vocals ("Wo Wo Wo Wo!") and guest raps seem to overlap eachother - everything about this track seems to suggest a certain spilling over, a wasteful excess that I love.

"Goodies" is closer to the weedy-in-the-best-sense Lil Jon blueprint (and indeed he produced this): enormous handclaps, an addictive synthwhistle hook and of course those ubiquitous rave riffs. Ciara (a singer? a group? it's hard to tell) remind(s) me of En Vogue circa Masterpiece Theatre, combining breathy allure with a cynical priggishness that verges on a generalised dislike of men - or perhaps rather the unwashed masses. For Ciara (as with En Vogue), being classy necessitates being classist, and they affect an almost aristocratic pretension here - including a brief outburst of shrill, almost operatic vocal melodrama. Which is why the clash between Ciara's faux-refinement and the unrepentant baseness of Lil Jon's production is inspired: totally undermining Ciara's claims to respectability, the cheap and wanton groove leaves them resembling bad actors in a sexploitation film, protesting in vain that they musn't, musn't give in, all the while allowing their blouses to slip further and further.

Sunday, August 15, 2004
I was trying to thrash out exactly what it is that makes Tiefschwarz's recent string of remixes so startling and intriguing, and how it is that they cohere as something we might call a "body of work" when they cover such a broad range of sounds and approaches - in essence, why Tiefschwarz are to 2004 as Ewan Pearson was to 2003, awarded the title of Remixer-I-Want-To-Canonize. Listening to their mix of Mocky's "Mickey Mouse Motherfuckers" (as part of Ronan's excellent DJ-set as Omnipotent Baby, What Goes Wrong When Trying To Make Friends) it struck me that a good deal of the attraction lies in Tiefschwarz's essential crudity. Which is an odd thing to say about a duo who started off making luxuriant, "classical" deep house and now make fractured, complex electro-house epics. I guess what I mean is that, at least in their current incarnation, the duo aren't afraid to be obvious in their "juvenile" appreciation of the varied abundance of sonic tricks that litter dance music history, deploying them with all the subtlety of a "shock and awe" bombing campaign. The main attraction of "Mickey Mouse..." is a bouncy percussive bassline that reminds me simultaneously of early Warp and Technotronic, over which the duo lace a meaty, cut-up house beat and drizzling synth explosions; these are aural equivalents of Mocky's Peaches/Gonzales-style swearing, their primary purpose being to convince you that there's nothing the duo won't stoop to.

Warp and Technotronic (or early house-pop generally) are big reference points for Tiefschwarz, as they are for quite a few producers in the post-electroclash scene - it's surely only a matter of time before some French wag makes an instrumental "edit" of "Pump Up The Jam" so that Ivan Smagghe can put it on one of his mixes. Both sources are notable for the way they inextricably intertwine populism and brutalism (it's easy to forget how much "Pump Up The Jam" broods) with sonic hooks that are both abrasive and accessible, and (in the case of house-pop) songs and vocals that try for a sort of mock-toughness, a steroid sexuality. What I particularly like about Tiefschwarz though is that they don't over-emphasise the brutalism at the expense of the populism. On ILM Jess said in relation to Smagghe's Death Disco mix that if artists are going to revive early Warp then they should take their cues from LFO's "We Are Back" and not Sweet Exorcist's "Testone", and I know what he means (the greatness of the latter record notwithstanding). "We Are Back" is actually a harder, heavier record than "Testone", but its enormous, slightly silly computer chorus and ungainly galloping groove are more instantly inviting than the latter's slightly abstract menace and steely precision. As Smagghe's Suck My Deck mix shows, abstract menace and steely precision can have their own considerable benefits, but it's the way that Tiefschwarz circumvent this general tendency towards default minimalism that distinguishes them from even the best Black Strobe affiliates - and, indeed, makes their thick, voluptuous remix of Phonique's "The Red Dress" a peak moment in that set.

Where much of Suck My Deck proposes a new sort of compulsive dark-electro purism - stripping away the exterior peculiarities of electro, house, acid, bleep 'n' bass and techno to produce a sleek, shiny homage to physical menace - Tiefschwarz celebrate a profound impurism, gleefully mixing and matching the most paradigmatic, temporally-confined tricks from different styles. The music is retro, yes, but rarely do any of their mixes call to mind a particular moment in musical history; instead, the effect is closer to that of bootlegs, or the work of particularly skilled multi-genre synthesists like The Avalanches, Richard X or Daft Punk. Richard X might be the best reference point actually: if his productions imagine a world where the synthetic aesthetic of the early eighties never died, Tiefschwarz attempt a similar feat in resurrecting the rudimentary sonics and technology of dance music from the late eighties and early nineties. It's a conceit I'm sympathetic with: the fact that arrangements are now more sophisticated and subtle than those of early house-pop with its stuttering snares and pseudo-acid basslines doesn't take away from how powerfully effective that music remains, how gloriously ambitious and novel it sounds.

Of course, neither Tiefschwarz nor any other contemporary producer has made anything as shiny and unambiguous as "Vogue" or "100% Pure Love", and I wonder whether it's something they can successfully attempt. As with Kompakt-style pop-techno, the attraction here is the negotiation of two extremes: on one end, slithery electro minimalism, on the other, brash, bold-stroke dance-pop. If Tiefschwarz's work didn't attempt to master both of these extremes simultaneously I can't imagine it would be as compelling as it is. Your advised to not take titles like their "Black Box Remix" (of Chicks On Speed's "We Don't Play Guitars") too seriously - the "Black Box" as such is a spectral echo in a dubbed-out, rock-grunty house mix that even includes a weird rock/rap breakdown section.What Tiefschwarz cannilly absorb is not the disco vocals or glittery piano riffs, but science of house-pop, the physical impact that underscored the sweet hooks.

Perhaps the duo's best remix to date - and incidentally their biggest LFO moment - is their take on Spektrum's "Kinda New". I use "accomplished" deliberately, because despite their aforementioned crudity, this track is marked by its strategic use of restraint, delay, build-up and finally climax. The most immediately remarkable aspect of this record is its pompous swagger: the opening rough snare tick suggests a certain level of impatience, as if the track is biding its time until it can get going, but wants you to know that it's not one to be trifled with (like a man tapping his foot ostentatiously in a queue). Tiefschwarz build on this with awesomely resonant metallic bass hits, used sparingly to indicate that the track's full force is approaching - this time reminding me of scenes in monster films where the beast's incessant approach is marked by growing ripples on the surface of a glass of water - interspersed with these erupting bleep riffs that seethe across the surface of the groove, a tightly restrained panicky euphoria that can't help but bubble up in momentary lapses of restraint. The song's vocals, a bit too sneery in their original form, are interwoven with these effects, creating a new narrative: the smug self-satisfaction of the groove itself. "Cos you know this feeling... is something kinda new...." it whispers, later cackling "Tonight I give it up to you!". At which point the rudimentary bass groove unfurls with these glorious (but never soft) mirage-like flourishes of synth shimmers, accompanied by searing, stereo-panned Vitalic riffs and the vocalist murmuring ominously "let it in-side-you!". It's a homage to the triumph of its own inevitability - how can you resist a groove like this?

And yet for all this inevitability, the interplay of effects still has a certain unrehearsed quality, like you're listening to a junior school orchestra where the possibility of everything falling to pieces hangs over each bar like a dark cloud. Unlike with typical school orchestra fare, the dance music Tiefshwarz create benefits from this ramschackle quality; the rough rubbing together of each component deployed generating a friction that makes the groove seem to spark with static electricity. As with "Prototype", "Timecode" and "Lovelace", this emphasis on sonic interplay reminds me of Orbital, but an alternate universe Orbital where, instead of growing more sophisticated and "musical", their skill at negotiating different ideas actually devolved, resulting in tracks as lumbering beasts, drunken sphynxes (or Voltrons) whose clumsy advances demolish everything in their path quite by accident (Orbital themselves hinted at this possible new direction in their underrated late-nineties rave-homage "Know Where To Run").

This model of dance groove - grooves with transplanted sonic organs that the "body" might reject at any moment - is one which appeals to me at the moment, popping up frequently in the rough'n'ready, gloopy bass grooves of Areal tracks, or in the globular microhouse and schaffel of Robag Wruhme and the Wighnomy Bros (see particularly "Bodyrock", or, in a similar vein, Losoul and International Pony's "International Snootleg", which cycles between lush and spiky with a delicious asymmetricality). It's a model which encourages artists to think out new ways of making grooves work, precisely because they don't have to make the groove cohere, and this lower threshold allows for some inspired bits of amateur sonic surgery, suturing together ideas that can't easily be fused (remember the rat-pigeon made by Bart's identical twin brother?). Being good students of deep house and Black Stobe style electroclash, Tiefschwarz haven't abandoned sleekness completely (and why should they? Amatuer surgery isn't necessarily better than the shiny seamlessness). Instead, this and their other great tracks and recent remixes (of Hell's "Listen to the Hiss", The Rapture's "Sister Saviour", Minimal Compact's "Next One Is Real", as well as their own "Blow") negotiate a charming middle ground: a glittering electro futurism where the intestinal inner workings are proudly displayed on the outside of the reflective glass walls.

Friday, August 06, 2004
The New Thing: playing hard-dance (as in that interzonish hardcore/hard house/hard trance stuff) at 33 not 45. Seriously! Try it with UK Hard Sixteen's "Fucking Voodoo Magic"/"In Complete Darkness" (great 'ardkore-ish titles or what???). Slowed down, "In Complete Darkness" sounds especially great, a lurching throbbing goth-electro monster with slivering synth riffs, Speicher meets Vitalic meets EBM. Maybe it's just that my head is fucked with the flu, but it sounded great to my ears.

(ps. a belated welcome back to jess and andy. I loves you guyz!)


everything here is by tim finney



mail me... here



Vybz Kartel

Memphis Bleek ft. Jay-Z

One Call Away

Don't Stop Believing

Seek & Search

Glowing Glisses
Pumas Don't Worry

Elephant Man
Get On Up

Nina Sky
Move Your Body

The Trick (Think Away)

Scissor Sisters
It Can't Come Quickly Enough






The Church Of Me

DJ Martian


Everything's Usable


Freaky Trigger

Freezing to Death in the Nuclear Bunker



Hackneyed Central


The House at World's End


In Review


Josh Blog


Home of Matos

Must Try Harder

New York London Paris Munich

The Original Soundtrack

Pearls that are his Eyes

Philip Sherburne


Quicksilver Shapeshifter

Radio Free Narnia

Records Ad Nauseum

Sasha Frere-Jones

Shards, Fragments & Totems





Starry vs the Atommick Brane

Stevie Nixed





Vain Selfish and Lazy

The War Against Silence


World of Stelfox

Worlds of Possibility



February 2004

January 2004

December 2003

November 2003

October 2003

September 2003

August 2003

July 2003

June 2003

May 2003

April 2003

March 2003

February 2003

January 2003

December 2002

November 2002

October 2002

September 2002

August 2002

July 2002

June 2002

May 2002

April 2002

March 2002

February 2002

January 2002

December 2001

November 2001

October 2001

September 2001

August 2001

July 2001

June 2001

May 2001

April 2001

March 2001

February 2001

January 2001

July 2000

June 2000

May 2000



Daft Punk


Ian Pooley


Artful Dodger

The Loft