Thursday, August 30, 2007

Division Kent's Gravity

Division Kent are Andrea B. & Sky Antinori. They are from Switzerland, but are named after a street corner (Division & Kent) in NYC. Their MySpace page lists their influences as new wave/electro/indie/punk/dub/pop, which sounds right up my alley. And until last week I had never heard of them. I got an e-mail from Stefan (in Switzerland), who said he was a friend of the band. Attached was an mp3. He wrote that based on my blog posts, this was something I might like. The mp3 was for a song called This Big Hush. I recognized the song title, quickly dl'd the song and began to play it. It was what I thought it was - a cover of a classic Shriekback song from the band's 1985 album Oil And Gold. It is a lush, atmospheric track, and one that has always held me spellbound. Happily, Division Kent did not ruin the song. It is, I thought, a pretty damn good version. It is not a radical remake, just a nicely updated version. I decided I needed to hear more, and after a few more e-mails I acquired a copy of their new album Gravity. It is the follow up to their electroclash-y 2006 debut Monsterproof (which you can stream at the website). It is set to be released in Europe on September 7th, with no word yet on a US release.

Gravity is a nice step forward from Monsterproof. In the studio they are a duo, but onstage they expand into a 5 piece band, and to me it sounds as if Gravity was influenced by their live excursions. While it is still full of elecronic sounds there is a warmer, more organic approach taken, and one that rocks a little bit harder than it's predecessor. Looking for a simple "sounds like" guide? I hear Ladytron, Metric, Midnight Movies, Death In Vegas and Depeche Mode (no coincidence there as half of the album is co-produced by the Mode's longtime collaborator Gareth Jones) in the mix. It is modern indie rock with a dash of '90s electronica (Rooftop Rallye) plus a splash of krautrock. There are a couple of really dance-y tracks (Offshore), a couple of moody ballads and even a kind of Tom Waits moment on Salty. Both Andrea & Sky sing (in English and in French), and their voices compliment each other (and the music) well. I have to say the album is a pleasant surprise, and one deserving a wider audience. Enjoy the moody space of This Big Hush (produced by NYC composer/producer Peter Scherer), and the glimmering electro-rock of Pat The Pan Am Pilot.

Listen to more Division Kent on their MySpace page and on the Hype Machine.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Music Tuesday - New Young Pony Club

New Young Pony Club's debut LP Fantstic Playroom hits US stores today. I came across a leak of it three or four months ago and have literally not stopped playing it since. The MO of this British 5 piece is simple - they are post-punk revisionists. They really don't bring anything new and exciting to the table, except for some exceptionally catchy songs. Which is a good thing because it saves the album from being a pointless retread. Elements of your all my fave '80s bands are represented, from the Talking Heads to Gang Of Four to The Cure to the B52s. The band whips up a tasty melange of disco, funk and new wave, much like CSS. Lead singer Tahita Bulmer is a driving force here, with vocals that range from breathy coos to shout-y rage, and there is a certain snottiness to it that I really dig. The sassy and sexy lyrics and sharp, contemporary production have kept me entertained all summer and show no signs of wearing out their welcome. Here are a couple of primo examples of why you should own this record; The Bomb is one of the harder edged tunes, all sharp riffs and sweet "ah-ha-s". Grey is a mellow groover, Cure-ish synth pop with a vintage Peter Hook bass riff and a chorus harmonies that totally remind me of Cindy & Kate from the B52s. Mmm-mmm good.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Funky Friday 4+1

A tasty little assortment today. ESG bring the old school spartan funk rarity. M.I.A. delivers a sweet Bollywood disco treat. Dr.Who Dat? delivers lush, blissful and summer-y jazz-hop. After Dark is a great compilation of new Italo stuff, including the Kraftwerk cover and the remix of the Indeep classic.

ESG - Moody (A New Mood)

M.I.A. - Jimmy

Dr.Who Dat? - Braziliant Thought

Glass Candy - Computer Love
Indeep - Last Night A DJ Saved My Life (Mirage Mix)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My New Favorite Record This Week - Midnight Juggernauts

Australian synth-rock-electro-pop trio Midnight Juggernauts have a great debut album out called Dystopia. Unfortunately it is an Aussie only release, with the rest of the world pending. These guys fuse all of the best elements of the current French electronic music scene to some solid indie/new wave/rock and pop songs. They then polish everything up with spacey electronics and dance floor glitter. I first encountered them through Paul's review over at 75 Or Less. He referred to it as the "sleeper hit of the summer", and my interest was piqued. I am hooked. A few years ago fellow Aussies Cut Copy really grabbed my attention with their debut album Bright Like Neon Love, and I get the same feeling from this. I am a big fan of indie dance, and these guys hit all the right notes. The '70s flavor comes in the disco beats and breezy ELO/Fleetwood Mac-isms. The '80s are represented by new wave keys and New Order-isms. The '90s dance revolution forged by Daft Punk and the surge of their followers is here in the gloss and cutting edge electronics. It is a seductively good listen, and deserving of a wider audience, so let's hope that it gets a US (and Euro) release soon. Shadows was the first single from the album, and is a semi-spooky disco number with gloriously huge bass riffs. However, it is Into The Galaxy that really has me entranced. Slowly building on a wave of synths, it explodes into a prime slice of 1981 new wave, all herky jerky with moody vocals. That is, until the chorus, when the gleaming ELO vocals kick in. And what a catchy hook. I can't get enough. Enjoy!

Monday, August 20, 2007

This Is The Record Of The Time

A month ago I wrote about the 25th anniversary edition of Laurie Anderson's Big Science album. A classic bit of experimental pop art, the album opens with the song From The Air, which is about planes falling from the sky. Dan The Automator has done a remix of the song. Art pop + hip hop = good.

From The Air (Dan The Automator Remix)

Good evening. This is your Captain.
We are about to attempt a crash landing.
Please extinuish all cigarettes.
Place your tray tables in their
upright, locked position.
Your Captain says: Put your head on your knees.
Your Captain says: Put your head on your hands.
Captain says: Put your hands on your head.
Put your hands on your hips. Heh heh.
This is your Captain-and we are going down.
We are all going down, together.
And I said: Uh oh. This is gonna be some day.
Standby. This is the time. And this is the record of the time.
This is the time. And this is the record of the time.

Uh-this is your Captain again.
You know, I've got a funny feeling I've seen this all before.
Why? 'Cause I'm a caveman.
Why? 'Cause I've got eyes in the back of my head.
Why? It's the heat. Standby.
This is the time. And this is the record of the time.
This is the time. And this is the record of the time.

Put your hands over your eyes.
Jump out of the plane. There is no pilot. You are not alone. Standby.
This is the time. And this is the record of the time.
This is the time. And this is the record of the time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Funky Friday Mixtape

Funky Friday has been AWOL for two weeks now. Today I rectify that with a bumper selection of beats and bass and grooviness. It is a nice little mixtape that goes from hip hop to '70s prog, with stops at techno, post-punk, acid, France, Australia and the '80s. Prepare to get down...

Midnight Juggernauts - Shadows
Calvin Harris - Merrymaking At My Place
Lil Mama - Lipgloss
The Knife - Pass This On (M.A.N.D.Y. Remix)
Luke Vibert - Rapperdacid
Modeselektor - 2000007 (featuring TTC)
Tussle - Trappings
Black Moth Super Rainbow - Rollerdisco
Rush - Tom Sawyer (DJ Z-Trip Remix)
Sixtoo - Jackals And Vipers In Envy Of Man Pt.9

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hot Promo Action - Baby Elephant

Baby Elephant is the latest collaborative effort to emerge from the mind of hip hop legend Prince Paul. A quick primer in case you don't know; he was an original member of Stetasonic. He produced De La Soul's debut (and invented the oft maligned hip hop skit in the process) and parts of their next two records. He then went on to form the Gravediggaz with RZA, Frukwan and Too Poetic. In the late '90s he helmed Handsome Boy Modeling School with Dan The Automator. In between he found time to release a few solo LPs as well as do production work on records by Vernon Reid, Princess Superstar and MC Paul Barman. According to this interview there has been bad blood between him and Dan The Automator, so there will be no more Handsome Boy Modeling School albums.

Which brings us to Baby Elephant, a trio comprised of Paul, his long time pal Newkirk, and eccentric keyboard mastermind and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bernie Worrell (P-Funk, Talking Heads). According to the bio "These two legends met while promoting the Worrell documentary "Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth", and they hit it off immediately. Together with Worrell, Prince Paul was able to create the funk/soul album that has been dancing in his head all of these years." The resulting album is a showcase for Worrell's talents. He plays an array of vintage keyboards, synthesizers and pianos, as well as adding his oft-imitated (and sampled) string sections and Moog bass lines. As with all Prince Paul collabos there are some other notable talents on display here; singer/comedian Reggie Watts, Yellowman, George Clinton, Digital Underground's Shock G, DJ Roc Raida, Nona Hendryx and David Byrne all contribute. The resulting album is funny, warm, quirky, funky and filled with killer keys over hip hop beats. There are plenty of familiar vibes and even a bit of reggae. And of course there are skits. I am really digging it's diversity and funkiness and unique sound. Today I offer two cuts to sample; How Does The Brain Wave? is a semi-reunion of several members of the seminal Talking Heads lineup of the early '80s, with David Byrne and Nona Hendryx on vocals. The track also features DJ Roc Raida on the ones and twos. It is loopy space funk, filled with blips and bleeps and some of those great key sounds you remember from 20 years ago. Fred Berry is a great instrumental, a bit more uptempo funk than the rest of the LP - you can really feel the spirit of P-Funk at work here! The album is due to drop on September 11th so be sure to pick one up!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Music Tuesday - Junior Senior

Straight outta Denmark, Junior Senior crashed the pop world's party with their 2003 debut album D-D-Don't Don't Stop The Beat. The hit single Move Your Feet and the rest of the LP were filled with catchy electro-disco pop songs about the joys of dancing and singing. Ultra cheesy yet undeniably catchy, it was the ultimate throwaway summer fun record, filled with '80s synths and nods to everyone from ABBA to KC and the Sunshine Band. It also had a tendency to get a little annoying after a while. I drove my co-workers crazy with it, and then it hit the shelf. In 2005 they followed it up with Hey Hey My My Yo Yo. The only problem was that it didn't make it out here in the US - until today. Rykodisc has issued a cool 2 disc version, compiling the original LP plus the new Say Hello, Wave Goodbye EP - if you didn't get it already, those titles are "borrowed" from Neil Young and Soft Cell! This is kind of a clue to the diversity of influences - disco, funk, rock, Motown girl groups and '8os electro and rap are all stirred into the mix. Or think Jackson 5 meets Go!Team. The new album picks up where they left off, but this time around they've transcended the annoying aspects of their debut. They deliver a cohesive, 35 minute set of catchy, humorous and highly danceable pop songs. They also add a bunch of great guest chick vocalists - Le Tigre sing backups and lead on 3 or 4 songs, as do '60s Motown legends the Velvelettes. And then there's Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson from the B52s on Take My Time. If you're looking for serious muso stuff, keep on moving. But if it's a party starter you need, you've come to the right place, and just in time for the dog days of summer and cruising with top down. Take My Time is the track featuring the B52 girls, and it is a glorious slice of sing song pop. Itch U Can't Skratch is groovy bit of '80s pop-rap that features vocals by Johanna (from Le Tigre) and one of the Velvelettes, and Simple Minds Do Simple Things Part 2 is an '80s pop flavored remix from the bonus EP. A fun record that deserves as much attention as it's predecessor.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

"If there is a choice between the truth and the legend, choose the legend."

Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records and the man who put Manchester on the musical map died yesterday at the age of 57. He had been fighting kidney cancer for the last year, but it was a heart attack that killed him. The man is a legend in my music world - Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and the entire roster of Factory Records are a huge part of who I am as a music fan. He was a maverick in the industry, a man who understood the artists and was willing to do everything in his power to help them achieve some success. Factory Records and it's nightclub The Hacienda were two of the biggest elements of the late 80’s independent-led global dance music explosion. His wit, intelligence and musical savvy will be sorely missed, but his legacy will live on in rock history forever. We will miss you Tony - RIP.
Joy Division - As You Said
New Order - Subculture (Razormaid Mix v2.0)
Happy Mondays - The Boys Are Back In Town

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

My New Favorite Record This Week

Life in SIART's world has been a little topsy turvy for the last week or so which is why there have been no posts. I've been on vacation this week so blogging hasn't been a top priority. Then factor in that my hometown of the last 20 years was hit by a pretty horrific tragedy last week when the I35 freeway bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed. It is a surreal scene, largely because it was a bridge which I (and everyone I know) used many times. My wife drove over it earlier in the week on her way to work. My brother used it to get to his work several times a week. I am amazed (and grateful) that more people weren't killed, especially when you consider the scope of the destruction. Anyway, today is the first time I have had some time and felt like posting, so cop a listen to my new favorite record this week...

The Aliens have indie rock pedigree. Gordon Anderson, John Maclean and Robin Jones were all founder members of The Beta Band, with Anderson leaving before the release of the first EP due to psychosis. He spent the next 8 years in and out of psych wards and undergoing shock therapy. He also released a few solo recordings as Lone Pigeon, lo-fi and full of ideas. The Aliens take flight as a full on psych-pop experience - think The Bees or Super Furry Animals. There are elements of their old band in some of more melancholy of these new songs, but they explore a lot more too. The guys sound like they are having fun traipsing through the best of British psychedelia and pop, from the Beatles to Pink Floyd to The Kinks (with a splash of the Beach Boys). They incorporate a bit of hip hop flavor and a nod to Madchester. There is a clarity to the production, and some of the songs genuinely rock out, none of which could really be said for their old band. There is nothing new or innovative here, but it certainly makes for a great listen. Today's selections are some of the loopier moments. Robot Man has an everything but the kitchen sink over a disco beat approach, and The Happy Song is, well, a happy, strummy song that really rocks.
Robot Man
The Happy Song

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Two Sevens Clash

(from the original album liner notes)
"One day Joseph Hill had a vision, while riding a bus, of 1977 as a year of judgment -- when two sevens clash -- when past injustices would be avenged. Lyrics and melodies came into his head as he rode and thus was born the song "Two Sevens Clash" which became a massive hit in reggae circles both in Jamaica and abroad. The prophecies noted by the lyrics so profoundly captured the imagination of the people that on July 7, 1977 - the day when sevens fully clashed (seventh day, seventh month, seventy-seventh year) a hush descended on Kingston; many people did not go outdoors, shops closed, an air of foreboding and expectation filled the city."

Culture's album Two Sevens Clash has since become a roots reggae classic, having helped establish a vocabulary of terms that became the norm in reggae. It took inspiration from Marcus Garvey, Rastafarianism and Jamaica's reggae rhythms. It proved inspirational to the UK punk rock scene, with bands like the Clash and The Ruts embracing reggae rhythms. The music was impressive, making ample use riddim kings Sly & Robbie and their crack band, and production came courtesy of the legendary Joe Gibbs. The vocals are so sweet, with Joseph Hill's (RIP) lead working beautifully with the harmonies of Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes. This year is the 30th anniversary of this classic and Shanachie has remastered it and reissued it with a bunch of bonus stuff. It is a lovely record, low key and simple. Today's selections are the stellar title track, and two of the bonus cuts, both dub plate versions of album tracks. Sweet skanking...
Two Sevens Clash
See Dem Dub
Not Ashamed Dub