Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Sexual Life Of The Savages

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Today I'm following up on last week's lost classics of Brazilian post-punk Não Wave post. I mentioned there that I had just found another compilation that looked at the same São Paulo post-punk scene - The Sexual Life Of The Savages, put out on the great Soul Jazz label. It's another fantastic set of tunes - in fact I think that it's actually a better look at the scene than Não Wave. There's a bit more variety on it, including several great synth pop tunes (think '80s Depeche Mode in Portuguese!). Again I'm amazed at what a vibrant scene it was, and how well these bands hold up when compared to their peers. It's been a real blast discovering this stuff, and it's been difficult deciding what to share with you because it's all so good and varied. I've decided to go with all girl band As Mercenarias' Panico - a short sharp blast of punk-pop energy, so tight with it's chunky bass and angry guitars. This jumped out of the speakers at me and made an instant impression. I cannot recommend these two compilations enough - they're incredible!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Apply Some Pressure

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Maxïmo Park are a Newcastle four piece whose debut album A Certain Trigger gets it's US release this Tuesday. Since the prevailing musical mood in the indie rock world today is post-punk - here's where I namecheck The Jam Gang Of XTC - they fit right in. Of their peers they sound most like The Futureheads, though without that band's glorious 4 part vocal harmonizing. To me sounding like The Futureheads is a good thing. Apply Some Pressure is sharp and buzzing new wave, and features a great catchy chorus and some very cool keyboards. Much the same can be said for single b-side I Want You To Leave, though it's less catchy and more frenetic. Still pretty damn sharp tho'. One other little odditiy of note regarding this record is that it's being released by Warp Records, a label not usually known for it's indie rock roster. If you're not over the whole post-punk, new-wave revival thing that's been going on for the last couple of years - and I'm not, yet - then you will probably dig this record!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Funky Friday With An Electro Pioneer

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I've been on kind of an electronic binge around here lately so I'm sticking with that theme for today's post. Jack Dangers has been making electronic music for some 20 years now, most famously as Meat Beat Manifesto. I've been a huge fan for years, from the industrial flavored early years to the breakthrough records - Satyricon and Subliminal Sandwich, right up to last year's ...In Dub, a great set of reworks from 1992's RUOK?. The man has been a huge influence on electronica over the years, and in my opinion doesn't get half of the attention or the accolades he deserves. This week brought the newest MBM release, At The Center. It's on Thirsty Ear Records, a label that has risen to prominence over the last couple of years as home to some bright young talent in the modern jazz scene. They have also encouraged their artists to experiment musically with some of today's electronic talents - the "Blue Series" of recordings. There have been collaborations with Spring Heel Jack and DJ Spooky, and now Jack Dangers. Here he collaborates with Craig Taborn (grand piano, Fender Rhodes and assorted other keys), flautist Peter Gordon and drummer extraordinaire Dave King (a Minneapolis native who plays in jazz bands Happy Apple and The Bad Plus and also plays in low key electro-pop act Halloween, Alaska). The end result is a fusion of the dubtastic electronic grooves of MBM and some very cool modern jazz licks. It's tight and pretty damn funky, and there are also a couple of more experimental pieces on the record. Here are a couple of tracks that stand out to me - Flute Thang features, yes, flutes. And some pretty fat beats. Musica Classica is more of the same but filled out with some very lovely piano playing. Jack is also taking Meat Beat out on the road here in the US for the first time in 7 years, where he'll be joined by Consolidated's Mark Pistel, drummer Lynn Farmer and audio visual dude Ben Stokes. All the dates are listed here. Go and see 'em - I have 2 or 3 times over the years and they don't disappoint!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

V.S.O.B. - Oxbow Lakes

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The focus of today's edition of Very Special Old Beats is the 1995 single Oxbow Lakes (from the Orbus Terrarum LP) by those masters of tripped out atmospherics The Orb. It's amazing to think that this is 10 years old already. I love it's almost classical melody, gorgeously pounded out on a piano. It's watery, layered beats and reverb and echo all carry me blissfully away. A Guy Called Gerald's Oxbow Lakes (Everglades Mix) loses most of that gorgeous melody but adds the seductive diva coo-ed "heys" and his depth charge sonics and junglist beats that bounce and pan around your head. Carl Craig's Oxbow Lakes (Psychic Pals Family Wealth Plan Mix) takes it in a Kraftwerkian electro direction, with house-y beats and buzzing synths. Thankfully he has the sense to keep that melody and about half way through it he drops it in - I love it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Lost Classics Of The Brazilian Post-Punk Era

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My favorite record in the world right now is this absolutely enormous compilation of Brazilian post punk music from 1982 to 1988 entitled Não Wave. Featuring a handful of bands from São Paolo, it floored me the first time I listened to it. Here is a scene that was as vital as it's counterparts in the UK & New York No Wave scenes - the same edgy, art-rock meets funk, but shot through Brazilian culture - lyrics in Portuguese, the polyrhythms of Brazilian percussion, and lots of cuica. It's been a real blast trying to spot the influences of these bands - Talking Heads, PIL, The Slits, ESG, A Certain Ratio, Joy Division & New Order and on and on and on... I really cannot recommend this collection enough. Here are a couple of tracks to sample -

Ira! - Lá Fora Pode Até Morrer

Akira S & As Garotas Que Erraram feat. Holger Czukay - Sobre As Pernas

Then today when I was at the record shop I came across a new compilation from the great Soul Jazz label called The Sexual Life Of The Savages which is another look at same São Paolo scene! Turns out the Akira S tune posted today is on this too - I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I'm sure you'll be reading and hearing about it on these pages soon!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Funktastic Breaks

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Today's tracks are a couple of current hits from Amerie and Nicole Wray. Two beautiful r'n'b divas (look out for the videos - they are gorgeous), they are riding hit singles that are variations of the theme that Beyoncé brought us with Crazy In Love - classic vintage funk stylings, sparse percussive breakbeats, and plenty of attitude. Amerie's 1 Thing (Remix featuring Jay-Z) definitely follows that earlier blueprint, but roughs it up even further - I love the grittiness of the music on this tune, and the beats are fierce. This is a remix of the tune that features a cameo rap from Jay-Z. Nicole Wray's If I Was Your Girlfriend is much smoother, though similarly sparse in it's construction. Instead of a James Brown vibe it's got more of a Shaft thing going on, especially with those wacka-wacka guitar riffs. I really dig these tunes - get your groove on.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Funky Friday With Nobody And Everything Else

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Here's a bit of low key funkiness from one-man (Elvin Estela) band Nobody. His new LP on Plug Research is called And Everything Else. Featuring collaborations with Prefuse 73, Mia Doi Todd, rapper Xololanxinco and a few others, it fits into the leftfield, backpacker folktronica hip hop thing (enough genres in there for you?). The difference here is the addition of sunny, west coast pop flavor and a hefty dose of psychedelia. Wake Up And Smell The Millenium is definitely on the funkier side of things with it's big breakbeats. It also rocks the hell out of some harpsichord riffs which not too many hip hop tracks do - I'm all for more harpsichord. The more psychedelic pop side of Nobody is well represented by the great cover of the Flaming Lips track What Is The Light? (taken from their own psychedelic pop masterpiece The Soft Bulletin). Voiced by Chris Gunst and Farmer Dave Scher from Beachwood Sparks, it's a beauty of a cover that still manages to get a little funky with it's beats. I bought this without having heard anything by Nobody before and have been very pleased with it's lush, sleepy head nodding goodness. A big thumbs up.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

V.S.O.B. - Very Special Old Beats

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The lads over at Empire State Human and Headphone Sex have been posting some slammin' electronic beats (both old and new school) over the last few weeks, and it's got me digging through stuff to get in on the action. 10 years ago Rising High Records put out the compilation pictured above - dodgy title for sure, but some killer tunes from RHC and Plavka, The Black Dog, Air Liquide, Ride (remixed by Portishead) and several tunes either by or remixed by Wagon Christ. Here are a couple of those Wagon Christ moments ...

His "Me Too" remix of Project One's Cheeba '95 - I Like to Smoke Marijuana is a seriously booming junglist ode to the finer pleasures of the fragrant herb and it's meditative properties. One of my personal favorite jungle tracks.

Wagon Christ's Reedin' (Redone) is a remix of a tune from the classic Throbbing Pouch album. I love the jazzy vibe - woozy horns and reeds, swanky vibraphones, all slowly building up and falling back down again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sorry For Laughing

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Released (and then re-released with 4 bonus tracks) last year in Europe, Nouvelle Vague's self titled LP finally got a US release a couple of weeks ago courtesy of Luaka Bop Records. For those of you who don't know, it's a set of new wave classics (songs by Depeche Mode, Dead Kennedys, The Undertones and more) done in a smoky, bossa nova jazz style. It's helmed by Marc Collins (Ollano, Volga Select, Suburbia) and Oliver Libaux, and includes the vocals of several different chanteuses. It's fabulous of course, and now that it's domestic there's no excuse for US readers to not go and get it! The US release also contains the bonus tracks, minus the version of the Flock Of Seagulls gem Wishing (If I Had A Photograph) which is one of the Euro release bonus tracks but failed to make the US record for some reason. I was very happy to see that this reissue includes this snazzy version of the Josef K classic Sorry For Laughing. Too bad I didn't have this when I posted the original & Propaganda's version last October!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Remastered Antmusic Part 3

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Last year Columbia Records began reissuing the Adam & The Ants back catalogue, starting with the first 3 LPs. The entire process has been guided by Marco Pirroni, guitarist and co-writer for so much of Adam's career. They are beautifully packaged, and all contain a wealth of bonus material. I posted a couple of tunes from Dirk Wears White Sox and Kings Of The Wild Frontier last year. The final 3 albums are now available, either for purchase individually or packaged together in a lovely box (pictured above), with room to fit the first 3 CDs too. The key with buying the box is that you get a bonus disc full of never before released stuff - demos and the like. I personally passed on the box - I don't think I need a remastered copy of Strip - but a co-worker of mine bought it so I got to peruse it's loveliness - and it is lovely. I did however pick up a copy of Friend Or Foe, and today's tunes are taken from the bonus material. Most of the bonus stuff is the demos for the records, and they are often a fascinating listen, stripped of all the big tribal percussion and production. I particularly enjoy these two - Goody Two Shoes (Demo) with it's simple drum machine, and a much scruffier sounding Place In The Country (Demo). If you are a fan of any of this old Antmusic you would be well advised to invest in a couple of these reissues - they're fantastic. Anf if you are a real Antmusic geek, you've got to get the box.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I Started A Dance Craze Based On My Anxieties

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Mark Oliver Everett, AKA Eels is an emotional alchemist - he is an ace at taking human misery and turning it into audio gold. His latest LP is a double disc sackful of woes called Blinking Lights And Other Revelations. It's a fascinating listen, full of scruffy pop gems that are all based on the unhappy things that have happened in E's life over the years. It has it's hit-or-miss moments, but overall it's a pretty memorable set of tunes. I mean, who else is going to write an uptempo, goofy groovin' rocker like Going Fetal? The title of this post is a line from the lyrics - very amusing words they are too. Also of interest is the featuring of Tom Waits, who is credited with "weeping" and also namechecked in the lyrics.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Funky Friday With Lyrics Born

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Today brings a couple of cool hip hop tunes from Lyrics Born. He recently released Same !@#$ Different Day, a set of 8 remixes and five new songs. I'm loving the groove of I Changed My Mind (Stereo MC's Rattlesnake Mix). The backing track is typically Stereo MC's - repetitive, uptempo, smooth and very funky. I think that Lyrics' laid back, blue-sy flow on this track is a good fit for the Stereo MC's style. The album comes with a DVD which has a very cool Shynola video for this track as well as a couple of other vids and some live performances. Remix packages are usually not so great but I'd give this one a thumbs up - I'm especially digging Pack Up Remix with it's hard ass beats and energized raps from KRS-One and Evidence.

Lyrics also makes a guest appearance on the new DJ Z-Trip record Shifting Gears. The Get Down has a great old skool feel to it - the electro beats, the vocoders, the party-going-on-in-the-background. Old skool is definitely what the Z-Trip album is musically all about, and it features other raps from Chuck D, Murs & Supernatural, and Aceyalone and Mystic. All in all it's a pretty entertaining listen, altho' I'm not really feeling the Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) collabo.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A '90s Obscurity

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Eggstone - a Swedish trio, formed in the late '80s. Their 94` LP Somersault contains a quirky blend of twee pop (which has been kind of a recurrent theme around here this week), American indie pop (think Pixies), British indie pop (think XTC or Blur) and the kind of softer stuff Kings Of Convenience excel at. The Dog is built on a great set of angular riffs, the chorus is hugely catchy, and I really enjoy the xylophone versus guitar solo thing at the end. This screams hit to me, but alas, not so. The rest of the album is equally melodic and entertaining.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Loopy Psychedelic Electro Pop

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Of Montreal - Oslo In The Summertime

A crusty, lo-fi hippy hoppy beat coupled with springy, lush electronics. Wonderfully multi-tracked vocals. Funny lyrics about summertime life in Oslo. A chorus that sounds like it's being sung by muppet chickens. A dash of twee pop. It's all of that, and a really fun listen to boot. The rest of the album The Sunlandic Twins is equally entertaining and diverse in it's scope, taking in sunny power pop, much psychedelia, disco and electro and even a bit of new wave. I've been very surprised at how much I'm actually digging this album.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Chicks On Speed Ditch Electroclash

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Wax My Anus

"Wax My Anus, inspired by Courtney Love, sounds like Macbeth's three witches trying to make a record by the Fall."
(The Guardian UK)

Monday, May 09, 2005

You've Got To Hold Your Head Up High

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New Order have a new LP called Waiting For The Sirens' Call. Reviews have been mixed, though they've tended towards mostly positive. There have been a lot of comparisons to Technique, which is accurate in it's balance between clubby tracks and rock, though Technique remains the better record. I've spent a couple of weeks with Waiting For The Sirens' Call now and I like it. It's a pretty typical New Order record, split between dance-y techno-pop and rockers. It really doesn't go anywhere they haven't been before, but after 25 years I'm amazed thay can still even get this far - who knew it would last this long? As always there are a couple of not so stellar moments, and some of the lyrics are going to make you cringe, but then they almost always have, eh? Hey Now What You Doing stood out to me right away, and after a few listens has revealed itself as one of the better moments. It fits into the "classic N.O. rocker" mold - big Hooky bass riff, lots of guitars, and a catchier than ever melody and chorus. I love it. I give the record a thumbs up, but then I've found something redeeming on most of their albums to date. If you're a fan it's worth a shot.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Funky Friday - Uncle Louie and Snoop

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I've got a couple of groovy disco tunes for you today. First up is a T.K.Records gem from 1979, Uncle Louie's Full Tilt Boogie. This arrived in my email inbox this week courtesy of Jockohomo (he has a classic John Foxx era Ultravox tune up for you to grab - go now!). He had just gotten it off a disco news group and thought I might enjoy it. He was right. Despite the somewhat dodgy band name, it's a fun tune. Uncle Louie's is an alias of Walter Murphy, best known for the monster '76 hit A Fifth Of Beethoven - you know, Beethoven's biggest riff over a disco beat. He also released records with his Big Apple Band, which included Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards who of course went on to form Chic. Full Tilt Boogie has got a great springy bass line, some killer wacka wacka guitars, big horns and the "do it, do it, do it's" in the chorus are fab - all in all a very tasty little number.

I was watching VH1Jams or VH1Soul last week when they aired the latest Snoop Dogg video for the tune Signs. It has an uptempo disco backing track that instantly had me grooving - it's pure Neptunes gold. It's embellished with Justin Timberlake's blue-eyed soul falsetto (oops, there goes my "street cred"), and also features the great, gruff vocals of one Charlie Wilson, of The Gap Band fame. When he appeared in the video I jumped - he's singing lyrics from Early In The Morning over the bumping Snoop track! That was the last straw. After having dug the previous singles from the record, I knew it was time to buy the album. Of course it's a lot of fun, though due to it's somewhat edgy lyrical content I definitely can't play it around my kids.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Spooky's Schmoo And Little Bullet (Two)

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Fancy a bit of prog house, circa '93? Then you're in luck with today's post from Brit duo Spooky's classic album Gargantuan. When you read about this record it's often in comaparison to another prog house classic, Leftfield's Leftism. One thing for sure is that Gargantuan isn't as consistently good as Leftism, which is one of my most favorite electronic records ever. The other thing about that comparison that gets me is that, to my mind, they sound a lot more like Orbital than Leftfield. There's the same repetition of melody and sampled, girly vocals, and none of the reggae and dub flavor that Leftism has in spades. That having been said, I still love the Spooky record a lot - it's fun and warm and makes me smile. It's finally sunny and 72º in Minneapolis today, and this stuff is going down a treat...
Little Bullet (Part Two)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Teapot Tempest

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Polara are a Minneapolis rock band that is now in it's 11th year of existence. Formed in 1994 by local scenester Ed Ackerson they are a group unafraid to experiment with electronics, straddling the fine line between raging wall-of-sound noise and poptastic melody. Drawing inspiration from Britpop and the shoegazers (and having a singer who reminds me a lot of Roger McGuinn from The Byrds), they've crafted a handful (or two) of records - catchy, scuzzy, shiny rock and pop. The earliest records were released on various indie labels, then they did a brief stint on a major before returning to the indie fold and releasing their records on Susstones, a label started by bandleader Ed Ackerson. They are gearing up to release a new album later this year and have just put out a great little EP called Green Shoes + 4. Teapot Tempest is a catchy rocker with some nice big riffs and cool little electronic noises embellishing it all, and is a pretty good indicator of what this band is all about. There are more mp3s over on the label's website, and if you go do check out some of the other bands - they're all pretty good!

Monday, May 02, 2005


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Robert Schneider is best known as the lead singer & song writer in fuzzy, scuzzy, psychedelic twee-pop rockers the Apples In Stereo. Marbles is his solo side project, and he's just released a new LP called Expo. There has been one previous album released - 1997's Pyramid Landing and Other Favorites, which is a compilation of the material he had recorded up to that point. Although I haven't heard that one, a friend who has it confirms that it's much like the Apples - twee pop. Expo has moments that could be classified like that too, but here the music has been synthetically enhanced with lots of electronic sheen. It's the Apples In Stereo meets Gary Numan, especially on album opener Circuit
with it's Numan circa 1981 keyboard riff. This is a pretty good indication of what the album has to offer - sunny melodies with a nice mix of scuzz and technology.