Thursday, April 24, 2003

World Without Shrimp

…is the title of my new compilation CD. Please let me know if you want a copy (just e-mail me your snail mail address). The music is mainly stuff I've been buying (or in some cases downloading) lately: a lot of microhouse (ie minimal, texture-focused, sort-of-experimental house/techno), with a bit of electro (stuff that sounds like 80s stuff) thrown in the middle for variety. I'm biased but I think this is one of the best selections of dance music you will ever hear, and you can quote me on that! Here, because a blog allows you to be pretentious and long-winded, is a list of tracks with a few words about each one:

Brooks - Dripping in Gold (Mantis): What better place to start than jittery, bleepy, slightly paranoid disco-funk? A left-of-centre but totally infectious groove from Andrew Brooks, protégé of Matthew Herbert (see below) and demented English wunderkind of experimental house (still only 20 years old, we're led to believe!). Great lyrics too…and the last you will hear for some time.

Metro Area - Miura (Environ): One of the biggest and most original dancefloor hits of recent years. On the one hand this is an unashamed tribute to the glory days of disco's past, complete with fabulously cheesy handclaps. But on the other hand, the production from this New York duo is so detailed and so subtly off-kilter--like the swelling keyboards that eventually burst into strange vocal chirps, to give just one example--that it comes off as anything but glibly retro. Essential.

The Soft Pink Truth - Gender Studies (Soundslike): The Soft Pink Truth is the solo house project of San Francisco's Drew Daniel, one half of the experimental electronic duo Matmos. This track is loveable from start to finish, a hilariously brilliant, utterly camp synthesis of '80s funk basslines, vocal samples from the "lovers'" school of '90s R&B, and weird glitchy electronics. Its "point" is hopefully self-explanatory, especially if you listen all the way through.

Akufen - Deck the House (Force Inc): This extremely trendy Montreal producer takes the cut-and-paste approach to sampling to almost ridiculous lengths; this lunatic track is made up almost entirely of samples lasting less than a second, but somehow it all hangs together (just). It demands total surrender but it's worth it.

Tiefschwarz - On Up (Classic): A short break from the madness with a more straightforward house tune from this German duo. I like Tiefschwarz a whole lot, both as producers and as DJs. The synth riff that runs through this track might be the simplest idea ever, but just try getting it out of your head. And if you're ever lucky enough to hear "On Up" played in a club, rest assured the place will explode.

Pantytec - Quattroporte (Perlon): More Germans, but this is a different kettle of Fische. From the legendary Perlon label, a devastating example of so-called "microhouse," an umbrella term for experimental, texture-focused house/techno; that is, most of the non-electro stuff on this CD. This track takes the genre to its weirdest extremes with its unsettling bass growls, bizarre little synth wobbles, and strangely insistent vocal loops ("danke schoen, domino," I think one of them says). Despite all that, like all microhouse this retains strong ties to the dancefloor, although it would be a brave DJ that played this your average club!

Closer Musik - Departures (Kompakt): Yet more Germans, on the even more legendary Cologne label Kompakt. This is a sublime piece of minimal techno, starting with eerie, bell-like tinkling before a stripped-down 4/4 pulse settles in, followed by the main event: a complex repeating pattern of foghorn squelches that doubles as bassline and melody. More layers are added over the course of the track in the form of supplementary rhythms and dreamlike keyboard washes. But descriptions don't do it justice--this really is an immensely moving piece of music.

Swayzak - Make Up Your Mind (!K7): The next few tracks are a bit of a detour into dance music's recent infatuation with '80s sounds--to me, the second most interesting thing in current dance music (after microhouse). This track, by an English production duo with vocals by German singer Clare Dietrich (Teutonic influence again!) is basically a house tune, but Swayzak's affection for the 80s shows through in the unashamedly robotic and "awkward" synths, as well as Dietrich's slightly-bored vocals.

Kylie Minogue - Come Into My World (Fischerspooner Mix) (Festival Mushroom): The New York based figureheads of the much-derided "electroclash" movement remixing the impossible princess herself? Who could resist! More to the point, who would want to? A wonderfully tongue-in-cheek remix, climaxing (and I use the word advisedly) in an ecstasy of noise and panting. Classic!

Felix da Housecat - Madame Hollywood (Emperor Norton): More tasty electro, with Chicago producer Felix laying down a simple but memorable groove that somehow manages to be both belligerent and melancholy, while French DJ/"vocalist" Miss Kittin does an inspired deadpan monologue over the top. Everybody wants to be Hollywood!

Vitalic - La Rock 01 (Gigolo): This must be listened to very, very loud. An utterly brilliant, merciless, life-changing slice of electro/techno, this track by French producer Vitalic will inspire either total devotion or a headlong rush for the "stop" button. I hope it's the former.

Serge Gainsbourg - Bonnie & Clyde (Herbert's Fred & Ginger Mix) (Mercury/Universal France): If you're still standing after the last track, here's something to wind down with: English microhouse legend Matthew Herbert remixing saucy Frenchman Serge Gainsbourg (with accomplice Brigitte Bardot). "La seule solution, c'était mourir!" Delicious.

Herbert - It's Only (!K7/Soundslike): More from Matthew Herbert, this time an almost unbearably lovely tune with the voice of Herbert's longtime companion and collaborator Dani Siciliano, together with a lot of sampled percussion, a spiky, jazzy bassline, mournful keyboards and a flugelhorn. I love this so much!

Schneider TM vs KPT.michi.gan - The Light 3000 (City Slang): Hmm, I seem to be drifting even further into melancholia here. Anyway, this is a cover. I won't spoil the surprise by telling you what it's a cover of. But it's strange and it's brilliant and I think it's the perfect ending.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

What's your game?

I saw Ripley's Game in a rather irreligious Good Friday jaunt today. Most disappointing; the direction was flat, there's no real tension, John Malkovich does his standard villain turn (delivering all lines in an expressionless monotone), Dougray Scott as the corrupted innocent is so unlikeable that I couldn't bring myself to feel the least concern for his moral destiny, whatever existentialist insights are in the original book are rendered at best sketchily. Not that I've read the book, or any of the Ripley books; Jim didn't like the Minghella film of Talented Mr Ripley because he said it replaced the novel's portrayal of Ripley as a fundamentally amoral and rootless character (in, if I remember correctly, a kind of existentialist vein, l'acte gratuit and so on, or perhaps it was more Nietzschean, in any case it's apparently interesting) with an over-explanatory layer of repressed homosexuality, which I can see being annoying, but at least it had something to make you interested in the character, plus the film looked gorgeous; today's film, on the other hand assumed you were interested in Ripley from the start, and that its sumptuous Italian interiors would do all the aesthetic work. Big mistake on both counts. Ray Winstone was the only redeeming feature, wonderful as always.

But anyway, what was interesting for me was that this was the first film I've seen in ages completely cold; without reading any reviews, without seeing it discussed on The Movie Show, without any internet gossip. It was a slightly strange experience. Although I'd like to think I don't have my opinions of movies decided for me by critics (and certainly, I often end up disagreeing with them), I can't help the fact that they often provide a template for my reactions. With this film it took a while to settle on a set of terms through which to crystallise my dislike of it! (Wanker alert.) Actually, it would be much more interesting to see a good film in this way, to like something without pre-emptively knowing why.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Melbourne 20.7.127 def. Western Bulldogs 14.11.95

Keeping the AFL scores by popular demand! I didn't go again, which was a bit pathetic. I didn't really have any excuse other than not feeling like it very much. Not good enough! Oh well, nice to see the boys managed to have a win without me.

In other news, I went to opening night of Alban Berg's Lulu the other night. It was absolutely amazing; probably the best opera production I've ever seen. Emma Matthews in the title role was enchanting, and totally repaid the company's faith in getting a young and relatively inexperienced Australian soprano for a very demanding role. Simone had whipped Orchestra Victoria into amazing shape, I suspect using an actual whip because last time I heard them they were shite. There was a huge buzz in the auditorium; Emma got a standing ovation which was extended for Simone; rare enough in Melbourne, surely almost unheard of for an uncomprisingly modernist twentieth-century opera. Sadly, this is the kind of thing we'll be missing when Simone leaves.

Oh, the party afterwards was fun too but that would be telling...

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Essendon 17.10.112 def. Melbourne 10.15.75

...but I didn't go, fortunately. Although the film I saw instead, Punch-Drunk Love, proved to be a rather unsettling emotional rollercoaster, much as the football would have been. I can't quite decide whether I liked or or loathed it, which I gather is quite a common response to P.T. Anderson films (this is the first one I've seen). I would insert a standard agnostic response along the lines of "at least he gets a reaction" or "at least he has an aesthetic," but much the same could be said of Sam Mendes, whom I despise (on the basis of having seen about half of one of his films), so I won't. I will say that symbolic pianos are not generally a good sign for me (why are there so many of them in films these days? I've half a mind to boycott all films with pianos), even if they do turn out to be harmoniums. Which is a roundabout way of saying, maybe the director was a bit too pleased with himself? Maybe the film was rather too proud of having coaxed a "great" performance from Adam Sandler? I don't know. Actually, I have the feeling that I'm talking myself into liking this film less, so I'll stop.

Incidentally, it's just occurred to me that giving the scoreline from this week's game at the top of the post like that is a bit Hornbyesque (the comforting solidities of the home and away season giving order to my chaotic bachelor life etc.), so maybe I should stop that too. Pity.

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