Monday, December 19, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Max Ulis

Max Ulis was one of the first people I connected with in the Vancouver music scene, and rightly so: a veteran of the larger community that has expanded and expanded to what it is now, Max has been an integral part of developing and incubating Vancouver’s post-techno dance music scene since the early 2000s. Dipping his toes into garage and grime when those genres were just getting going, as an essential component of the LiGHTA! crew he brought dubstep to Canada’s West Coast and defined its early history here.
He’s an absolutely killer DJ -- catch him on any given night and you might get an electro-leaning set, a dubstep-leaning set, a house set, a garage set, a modern “bass music” set, or any combination of the three.  Ask anyone from the West Coast or anyone else who’s seen Ulis DJ and they ’ll testify that he’s a real monster behind the decks.  But he’s an equally adept producer: though his style has changed and evolved -- particularly over the past year and a half -- it’s all been united by a dark, smoky aesthetic, and it’s been fascinating to see him apply it to a UK-friendly series of productions probing electro, garage, and house. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Post-Structuralist Dance Milieu of Milyoo

I've probably already turned you off with that title.  It's a little pretentious, I know.  But it's in honour of Tommy Wilson, a philosophy-obsessed rock climber who also produces some of the weirdest, fussiest house music around as Milyoo.  As I said in my review of his excellent debut album Archeology on RA, I've been pretty heavily invested in the man's work since I first heard his debut single "Dasein" in all its nauseous, pressure-chamber glory on Mary Anne Hobbs' BBC Radio 1 Experimental show.  The Kentuckian producer was the discovery of London underground scene-queen Subeena, who signed Wilson to her brand new OPIT label and released "Dasein" as part of a three-track EP that I described at the time as "too airy and hollow to even be called dance music."

That might have been a little harsh or even dismissive, but "Dasein" stands, even in its new context as part of Archeology, as a supremely weird track, like 2000s Autechre rendered in a cartoon world of playfully elastic steam-powered industry. Dismissive because, as it turns out, you could maybe kinda sorta somehow dance to Milyoo.  Short-lived Bristol label Saigon released the four-track Kazuadon EP at the beginning of this year, highlighting Wilson's intentionally odd but persuasive grasp of vocal sampling and manufactured melody, but it was still weird as fuck.  Then it seemed like a switch flip: on two singles released for OPIT and supremely undervalued London house underdog West Norwood Cassette Library, with "Colors" and "Biogram v2" respectively, Milyoo repositioned himself as a weirdo house producer, whether it was with the savant stomp of the former or the drawn-out repetitive hypnosis of the other.  Milyoo's music is eminently post-structuralist, really: it refuses to confine itself to any one meaning, context, or interpretation, and comes from a place of churning alchemical transformation and metamorphosis rather than any kind of definable stability.  His drums twitch, his vocal samples are cut into weird and angular shapes, and his chord progressions feel more like exhalations than proper melodies.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Vincent Parker

Vincent Parker is one of Vancouver’s most prolific and idiosyncratic artists: you’re as likely to find him booked at an ambient show as a noise show as a synth show as a dubstep(ish) show, but there’s a few reasons for that.  First would be his versatility: the dude can do everything from, well, drone to noise to hip-hop to something resembling other forms of dance music without ever quite conceding to their conventions.  While his sets can often devolve into torrents of noise or exploratory synth odysseys, especially lately he’s been casting at least one careful eye over the dancefloor.  It might be a consummately fucked-up, misfit dancefloor, but there’s room to dance there nonetheless.
It was Vincent’s set at this past September’s New Forms Festival that finally convinced me of his cross-platform potential -- I’d had an idea before, of course, but I hadn’t seen anything this direct or bull-dozingly effective in one set from him before.  Preceding a bill that included L.A. hip-hop weirdo Shlohmo and Bristol grime/dubstep lynchpin Superisk, to properly warm up the crowd Parker played an all-originals set completely primed for the dancefloor.  Representing some mutant hybrid of dubstep, garage, and hip-hop, his crashing beats and distorted synths were moulded into recognizable shapes, crash-landing in captivating configurations before doing it all again, shifting subtly over the course of an hour without too many of the wild changes in direction that might be expected from Parker.  It was exciting to hear him so capably play to a dancefloor crowd like that, and sure enough the material he’s been working on lately runs along the same thread -- sacrificing none of his edge or energy, Parker has been crafting genreless bangers, notably unleashing them on the self-released (and absolutely fantastic) collection of cosmic hip-hop Respecanize.

Friday, November 18, 2011

araabMUZIK in Vancouver

I’ve told a few friends that my favourite musical instrument is the drum machine, only to be faced with dumbfounded looks or even derision.  An artist like araabMUZIK, however, is exactly the kind to prove my point: one of the year’s most interesting figures, he’s slowly rising to prominence in the hip-hop world -- certainly beyond his original Dipset associations -- but has also become a sort of indie darling, though his aesthetic incites as much frothing rage amongst the musical elite as it does wagging praise.  His solo album Electronic Dream was an instant earworm and a consummately guilty pleasure, taking entire trance songs and demolishing them with his MPC drum machine -- it was cheap, way too easy, and way too fucking effective.
For me, anyway, Electronic Dream has managed to firmly stand its ground in the rushing dialogue of dance music, staying in rotation for months and months beyond so many of the year’s mostly highly-touted albums.  Something about the album’s rigid but springy rhythms and the spongey decadence of its sample material is irresistible, exciting, and thrilling: pure musical indulgence, so-wrong-it’s-right-kind-of thing.
Of course, it would be wrong to subtract araabMUZIK’s own considerable talent from the equation: even when dealing with other people’s material as on Electronic Dream, his ear pummeling hip-hop beats that nevertheless place as much emphasis on melody is rare in his world, and his emergence is well-timed, taking advantage of a mainstream rap scene obsessed with the shittiest of lowest common denominator music.  Electronic Dream is merely a way to take this obsession to the extreme, literalizing the hints at trance that so many prominent producers, rappers, and singer succumb to now.
Beyond just his own productions -- whether Electronic Dream, the super fun Dipset Trance Party mixtapes, or his beats for numerous rappers -- araabMUZIK also has an engaging live show, where he goes nuts on an MPC and runs wider than the scope of Electronic Dream.  Suffice it to say it needs to be seen to be appreciated, but below you’ll find an extended clip to get the gist of the kind of drum machine heroics he supplies.  I’m particularly excited for his show in Vancouver this weekend at the Electric Owl, where he’ll be joined and well-matched by Fool’s Gold associate Party Supplies, who has a similar mastery of the MPC but under a different umbrella than araabMUZIK’s cotton candy melodic tendencies.  Whatever your feelings on araabMUZIK, it’s worth a gander. I’ll be there.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Taal Mala

We've already had a great deal of talent featured on Futureproofing Vancouver, and a diverse breadth at that, but there's perhaps no better singular representative of the truly inspiring, fearless and diverse nature of Vancouver's electronic scene as one Taal Mala. A junglist at heart, his music has and does encompass pretty much every genre you could think of coursing throughout the hardcore continuum, from rave to jungle to techno to dnb to garage to grime to dubstep and a little house as well -- enough that you could mistake him for a UK producer that grew up on all that stuff in its natural habitat. His music is separated from the pack by a keen musicality missing from so many North American "dubstep" producers, an ear for melodies that are catchy and memorable without being simple or predictable, and an elastic flexibility borrowed from jungle that makes them eminently danceable to boot.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Monolithium

Maybe this one should be titled Futureproofing Victoria.  Monolithium, aka Longshanks, aka Chris Long, is perhaps the "head" in Victoria -- bawse-man of the city's prominent Subdiv crew, promoter extraordinaire, and one hell of a DJ to boot. He's arguably responsible for building one hell of a dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate scene in a relatively tiny city, one that might be said to rival anything Vancouver could offer.  He's part of this series not only because of Victoria's incredibly close proximity to Vancouver but because his impassioned and precocious efforts have had a mutually beneficial effect for making both cities hotspots in Western Canada for underground electronic music, and his endless support for local talent has helped to nurture the kind of overwhelming roster I'm presenting to you with this very series.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Salva's Weird Science

Mr. Paul Douglas and a cross for whatever reason

I've said a lot about Salva, whether it was in my deservedly glowing review of his debut album Complex Housing or in my RA Label of the Month feature on the label it was released on, Friends of Friends.  But I'll say it again: the former San Francisco scene kingpin (now based in L.A., the goddamned sellout) is one of the most inspiring and multi-talented producers going in a very crowded landscape of experimental California electronic music.  Part of is due to heritage: growing up on a diet of as much house as hip-hop, Paul Douglas' music doesn't have the same top-heavy swagger of so many of his Cali contemporaries, but instead a delicate and nimble sense of movement that makes his tumbling snare hits feel graceful instead of sloppy.  His own music, especially since Complex Housing, has been a melting pot of styles, whether he's just barely hinting at garage with tracks like "Keys Open Doors," squelchy future funk by way of "Beached" and "Wake Ups," lightfooted house on "I'll Be Your Friend," or a personal favourite, the serrated cotton candy fuzz of "Icey," which I called "the best Joker track never made" and I pretty much stand by that statement.  And I'm talking prime Joker there. [Read on after the jump for more babbling praise an exclusive mix]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Bartel

Thus far the Futureproofing Vancouver series has focused mostly around what I'd suppose you would call "dance music," but there's no shortage of interesting ambient, experimental, and whatever music in this city as well.  Whether it's the Quiet City nights put on by Panospria head Constantine Katsiris (aka Scant.Intone) or any number of shows and concerts put on at semi-legal venues in run-down parts of town, there's no shortage of either soothing ambience or noise in Vancouver.  Bartel doesn't really fit into either of those categories, though I guess if you had to pick one he slots more in the ambient section: making gorgeous tracks that are somewhat beat-oriented, Bartel's sound is marked by its warm, tactile textures and organic soundscapes.  Incorporating guitar and other "real world" sounds, and a deeply complicated bed of ambient sound, he finds a way to suffuse electronic music with a distinct and tangible humanity it can so often lack.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Prison Garde + Eames

Though he's only been in Vancouver for two years, for me, Prison Garde is the epitome of the city's current inspiringly wide-open outlook on dance music.  He defines what Vancouver's club music should be like: witnessing one of his live sets -- particularly in the past year -- is to witness an hour plus of unfiltered, unleaded, unpretentious dance music: drums, bass, synths, all hitting the right places at exactly the right moments.  On the one hand it's almost simplistic, on the other hand it's bewilderingly genius.  He's produced as part of the outfit Megasoid and formerly as Sixtoo, with a long and storied history in his hometown of Montreal, but his material as Prison Garde might be his best yet.  With roots in hip-hop, his sound has been moving all over the place in the past year, and the free album he released just prior to this year's Bass Coast festival -- Systeme Hermes Vol. 1 (which I reviewed for FACT Magazine) -- is an excellent showcase for his diversification, spanning BPMs from 74 to 150.  House, hip-hop, dubstep, techno, whatever, you name it and it's probably swimming somewhere in the Prison Garde stream.   (He also runs the Catalog Gallery in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood.)

Then there's his recent partner in crime, Eames, aka Kevin Ehman.  Ehman as a DJ is maybe a bit more of a house head but shares the same appreciation for both hip-hop and a wide swathe of dance music.  A mainstay in Victoria's bustling scene (soon to be profiled via Victoria kingpin Chris Longshanks) for the past year, he recently relocated to Vancouver and has used the opportunity to maximize his collaborations with Squire, and the result is a wealth of tracks under the name Garde + Eames, subtle but devastatingly effective tracks that pull bits and pieces from each producer's musical personality and turn them into streamlined, purified slabs of silky seduction.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: The Librarian

It might be an unusual pseudonym for a dubstep DJ, but trust me, this is one Librarian who's more than happy to let her hair down. (Sorry).  Based in the beautiful town of Squamish just north of Vancouver itself, Andrea Graham isn't your typical dubstep DJ either.  She calls her vision of dubstep "sexy, powerful, and spacious," and though I might be the "writer" here truth be told I'm having a hard time coming up with a better description. Her DJ sets are something to behold, building sensually and organically into a climax that's paradoxically as gentle as it is explosive.  There is something to be said for "spacious," and her selections have a tendency to bounce around and between the walls of a room as if feeling out the empty space: you need to hear her in a large fucking room to understand.  As focused on elegant melodies and clean lines as much as bassweight, hers is a sound that verges on polite (certainly pleasant) but isn't afraid to dip into the down-and-dirty at just the right time.  It's an enviable balance between the tear-out violence of so much modern North American dubstep and the kind of graceful 2step variations that have since sprouted, halfway between the UK and the West Coast and all the better for it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Kuma

Name: Kuma (James Graham)
Hometown: Vancouver
Vancouverite since: "the age of three or four"
Associated labels: The Konspiracy Group, Immerse
Associated acts: Gunshae
Essential tunes: "Dawn Stepped Outside," "What It's Not," "The Blood Of Heroes (Kuma Remix)"

When we're talking about this whole "dubstep" / "post-dubstep" / "bass" / whatever shit in Vancouver, my mind always goes back to one figure: James Graham, better known in the city as Kuma and under any variations of the pseudonym involving bears.  Or "Captain of the Great Dubship." You get the idea. One of the very first musical connections I myself made while exploring the city, Kuma has been enlightening in outlining the recent history of the city's electronic music scene, partially because he played such a big hand in it himself.  This is the man who brought Kode9 to Vancouver to the infamous "Secret Location" all the way back in 2005, before most people in North America had ever heard of "dubstep.'  Though his role as a promoter has definitely receded in the past few years, he remains a persistent spectre haunting the Vancouver scene: you're likely to encounter the looming stature of his person at the city's best musical shows, he runs a label and collective called The Konspiracy Group, and is also deeply entrenched in the city's flourishing ambient scene as part of the duo Gunshae with Lady Eve.  He releases on his own TKG label -- the recent "What It's Not" single comes with a hearty recommendation from yours truly and also a Greivous Angel remix -- and he's also released on Bristol-based Immerse records, where he actually managed to rouse Horsepower from their hibernation in 2008 to remix his immense "Dawn Stepped Outside."  If that weren't enough, he does a radio show on Thursday nights called Art of Beatz, which has become an institution over the years and even hosted local writer Andrew Ryce (har har) for a year-end retrospective late last year.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: HxdB

I just recently did a profile on Warsaw label Concrete Cut, highlighting the label’s virtuosic versatility in the larger context of an underappreciated local scene with a vibrant cast of characters with as much to offer as any better-documented hub (London, Berlin, Los Angeles, et al).  Well, I like buried treasure -- a lot.  My hometown of Vancouver -- in British Columbia on the west coast of Canada, for those unfamiliar -- sits in a similar position to Warsaw, with a large, colourful and close-knit scene that could rival many of its better-known counterparts.  We can brag about having Kode9 play all the way back in 2005, and an early support system and love for dubstep -- ahead of much of the rest of the world -- has laid the groundwork for an exciting and deeply experimental dance music scene that mirrors London in the ongoing brilliant reinventions and incorporation of other genres (house, electro, juke) into what was once the dubstep template.  All of this is why I’ve decided to start a series of features on the best the city has to offer, featuring interviews and mini-mixes of original material, an aural snapshot of what each artist is about and a chance to see inside one of North America’s most inspiring electronic music hotspots.

Photo by Vasho Pekar

Name: HxdB
Hometown: Vancouver
Vancouverite since: a long time
Associated labels: Gradient Audio, Tectonic, Brownswood, Surefire Sound, Friends of Friends, Crude, Innovative Leisure, Aufect, 10Pin, Mindset, Formant, Palms Out, East Van Digital
Essential tunes: "Typewriter Tune VIP" (Surefire), "New Sense" (Crude), "Booyant" (Tectonic)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Concrete Cut: Warsaw's Elegant Industry

Concrete Cut are a label that first came to my attention with their fourth release, from Sentel, a chiptuney chunk of UK-funky indebted strangeness that sounded like Ikonika on Mars.  It was a good enough release to warrant keeping eyes on the label, and since then they’ve released the gorgeous ambient/dub/garage experiments of ptr1, the post-rock drama of Shoju, the hollow drums of Tom Encore, and the Shackleton-indebted dread tones of Rhythm Baboon.  With releases (notably their debut) from Liquid Molly, they’ve even dipped their toes into the straight-up dubstep stakes (indeed, you can download a Concrete Cut allstars remix package of the first Liquid Molly remix for free).
So yeah, they’re a good label. So good, I’m willing to overlook the fact that they’re a digital-only label (give it time). But what is it that makes them stand out?  Well, they’re based in Warsaw, Poland.  All of those artists mentioned above are Polish. While it’s not as if Poland is some barren, unknown frontier, it’s not the first place any of us look for experimental and groundbreaking dance music -- and if you do, then kudos.  But there’s really no reason for such discrimination, and thankfully the internet is doing its job in knocking down geographical barriers.  Home to the well-respected Unsound Festival and an increasing number of prominent UK and German DJs, the Polish club seem appears as vibrant as ever, at least as much as someone who lives in Vancouver can see and understand.
Taking a survey of the label’s output so far, one begins to realize there’s a vibrant spectrum of music coming out of Berlin’s oft-ignored Eastern neighbour, a localized hub of talent that seems unfairly ignored despite the constant upwelling of talent in a manner that reminds me a lot of my hometown of Vancouver.  While there are some obvious moments of debt to UK originators, each producer puts their own idiosyncratic spin on these sounds -- personally I can’t recommend the work of Sentel or ptr1 more, and their releases on Concrete Cut are 2010 highlights. The overall impression of the label’s output is of a scene that’s arguably more experimental in sectors now ignored by those other, more visible local scenes: just check the way Sentel incorporate UK funky ideas into their music when UK funky arguably lies at its least influential back in its homeland.  It’s that mixture of incorporating trends and discarding the actual trendiness that makes Concrete Cut so inspiring: these artists just sound like they’re doing whatever they want, and they do it consummately well.  Concrete Cut might be a digital-only label relatively green behind the ears, but it suffers from none of (what I call) the SoundCloud syndrome of shitty drums, cheesy pads and bad vocal samples. 
Because I was intrigued by the label’s obviously hefty store of talent, and wanted to learn more about this burgeoning Polish scene (there admittedly isn’t a lot of (English) writing about it on the internet that isn’t by yours truly), I got in touch with label head Dana Dramowicz for an in-depth interview discussing the label and the scene in Warsaw and larger Poland.  If that wasn’t enough, Dramowicz has provided Futureproofing with an exclusive all-Polish mix spanning music both signed to Concrete Cut and other labels, and it’s one hell of a ride showcasing not only the unpredictable grab-bag that is the Polish beat scene but the uniformly high production values and execution.  It doesn’t sound like the work of a bunch of relative unknowns, and with any luck, the lot of them won’t be relative unknowns for much longer.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Deep, Heavy, Soulful: Bristol's Andy Mac

Late last year, this humble little blog debuted with a not-so-humble barnstormer of a mix from Punch Drunk label head Peverelist.  Aside from a boatload of promising new material from Mr. Tom Ford himself, the mix included two other prominent debuts: Kahn's "Like We Used To" and Andy Mac's "Everytime."  In February, Kahn's track was released on the label to great acclaim, a perfect and poppy synthesis of dubstep, garage, and house.  Well, the next Punch Drunk release was the other debut from the mix's other standout, Andy Mac's "Everytime," two slices of dusty garage-inflected house striking the perfect balance between propulsive and catchy and doing it all with a rather on-point sense of age and crackle. I reviewed the single over at FACT, and Andy Mac's subtle and slightly dark tunes remind me a lot of what I love about another one of 2011's brightest new prospects, Kevin McPhee.

But really, who the hell is Andy Mac?  I had certainly never heard of him; I contacted Peverelist to find out more and it turns out he's a DJ ("first and foremost"as Ford puts it).  So who better to to do a Futureproofing post on than a producer with such high potential?  Liking his single so much, and wanting to hear how he would contextualize his sound in a DJ mix, I tapped Andy Mac for a mix and a short interview, and I'm glad I did.  Mac's mix is pretty much exactly what you could expect if you've heard his debut 12-inch, and if you have, then this is worth your time and then some.  Over the course of 90 minutes Mac feels out every tangent and influence that you could possibly pick out of his music: deep, jacking house, garage-leaning tracks, swift and smooth techno, spacey dub, and everything in between.  He doesn't provide a tracklist, but that's just all part of the fun: there are of course familiar tracks, but it's impressive how he manages to make everything sound both timeless and curiously, mysteriously aged, like some old mix unearthed from a decade and a half ago.  Interview and download after the jump.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Brendon Moeller's Midnight Radio (Part 2)

So I would hope by now you've all read the comprehensive and, if I may so myself, fascinating interview with Brendon Moeller posted last week, called Capturing The Spirit.  If not, well... it's long, but it's worth it.  Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or whiskey, sit down, and read the honest and heartfelt thoughts of one of techno's most talented artists.

Of course, it seems like not many electronic music related editorials come without something to hear attached to them, and Moeller's got us covered for that too.  The interview featured the first part of the Midnight Radio podcast, a sprawling exploration of what inspires Moeller or simply tickles his fancy, from late night guitar strumming to explosive shoegaze to dingy post-punk to balearic soundscapes, and beyond from there.  If you can imagine the edges blurring between the tracks -- as they sometimes do in the headier sections -- you can almost see the hazy, undefined lines of Moeller's dubby techno begin to form, and you can certainly see how Moeller isn't your regular "dub techno" producer, but rather a conoisseur of music who manages to mix disparate ingredients into one hell of a seamless whole.  Links to both parts of the podcast below.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Brendon Moeller: Capturing the Spirit

Whether you know him best as Beat Pharmacy, Echologist, Lightness, even more aliases, or simply by his given name, Brendon Moeller is a bit of a veteran in modern techno stakes.  Originally hailing from the permanently smokescreened world of dub techno, Moeller's music has evolved over the years to take what Moeller would probably like to call the "spirit" of the genre into new and exciting places.  While dub techno as a scene arguably begins to stagnate, Moeller moves above and beyond, whether it's anchoring the dub aspect with his Beat Pharmacy project, or making banging dancefloor tunes and heads-down headphones hummers as Echologist, or simply his own mix of sub-styles under his own name, not to mention collaborative projects with Area (Lightness), David Kennedy (Shetland), and Shigeru Tanabu (Manaboo).

Last year, Moeller also launched his own Steadfast record imprint, a label that has seen the release of some of Moeller's finest material thus far as well as promising EPs from associates Area and Billy Shane. But it's his Echologist project that has arguably been the star of the imprint with a stellar run of diverse and unforgettable EPs.  Moeller is just now releasing the second Echologist album, on Steadfast, Subterranean, a stunning journey through the heart of dub ensconced in a techno fever dream (they're separate things; I wouldn't call this 'dub techno'), and I'll refrain from saying much more about it -- that's what my review is for, look out for it on RA -- other than the fact that it's a near masterpiece and one of the most accomplished statements of Moeller's long career.

As a documented fan of Moeller's output, it was a bit of an honour to do such a frankly massive and comprehensive interview leading up to the album's release.  Wanting to make this count, what you'll find below is a painstakingly considered summary of a series of interviews conducted throughout February and March of this year.  Wanting to scratch beyond the surface of press-landslide interview inanity, we talk about the album, aliases, dance music politics, the music industry, boutique labels, dub techno insularity, dubstep, promo culture, information overload, and more.  It's a fascinating insight into an artist who exploits modern technology to the fullest extent -- both in terms of his musical production and his online presence -- a savvy figure who isn't afraid to say how he feels.

In addition to the ten thousand or so words he so generously donated over many, many hours of Skype, Moeller has also contributed two podcasts of what he calls Midnight Radio, beautifully mixed collections of his muses, inspirations and ruminations surrounding the creation of the album and its aftermath.  You can find the first below the interview, and part 2 will be online early next week, just in time for the release of the album.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Canada's Radiant Sounds

When you think of the world’s most vital and interesting “bass music,” certain hotspots are bound to come to mind: London, Bristol, San Francisco, LA, New York, Moscow, and hell, a case could even be made for Poland with its weird UK Funky/garage hybrids.  But does anyone think of Canada? Always in the shadow of its bigger neighbour, it seems almost inevitable that Canada’s contributions would be ignored in favour of America’s, or simply subsumed into one North American post-dubstep-diaspora (to borrow Michaelangelo Matos’ wonderful phrase that I will continue to borrow for many years to come), but given the extreme amount of exciting music that seems to be oozing from the country’s pores (after, arguably, a long incubation period of local infamy), it’s about time Canada got some recognition on its own. (There's a mix inside for you people not so oriented towards words, just to be clear.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Get In With Kevin McPhee

I’m the last person who wants to get overexcited about a new prospect before they’ve even got their first release out, believe me.  Well, too bad, because Toronto’s Kevin McPhee is worth getting exciting about.  To be fair, he’s not really that new, having his first release signed just under a year ago to [nakedlunch] (only now getting released) and producing a remarkable steady trickle of tracks in the process.  But what makes Kevin McPhee so special?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Downliners Sekt: Lorem Ipsum

If you didn't know from my glowingly positive reviews or my lengthy interview feature on FACT, I am a devotee of the Downliners Sekt.  Despite being pretty close with the duo-sometimes-trio-sometimes-conglomerate, I still don't know all that much about them, but I like that.  We all need a bit of mystery in our lives, and who better to explore the "seedy underbelly of the industrial age" than a bunch of hooded spacemen?  They did an amazing 40-odd-minute mix of all originals for Electronic Explorations, which is probably the best way into their sound if you're for whatever reason afraid of diving into their freely-available EPs, and as an outtake from the sessions that produced that material they've given me a free, brand new track to share!  What better way to commemorate over 500 twitter followers?

Lorem Ipsum: Staggered, slamming beats that seem to come together in split seconds like thunderclaps; tense, airless atmosphere; oppressive blackness interrupted only by the reflective qualities of chrome; disorienting polyrhythms; out-of-nowhere bouts of acoustic guitar splintering their way through the metal.  All the hallmarks of what might be considered archetypal Downliners Sekt, which is 2011-speak for really fucking great.  Download now.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The late hours of the city night: [nakedlunch]'s twilight trawls through the bad parts of town

[nakedlunch] is one of the more mysterious and quite frankly fascinating labels to emerge in the post-structural era of 'bass music.'  The Irish imprint sets itself apart not through exclusive signings or big, hyped-up releases but rather through an uncompromising aesthetic that lies dormant in each stunning record.  The sound of [nakedlunch] is definitively nocturnal, somnambulant, bloodshot, and edgy; there's a profound restlessness at the heart of each twelve, where the most aggressive and masculinized moments are treated with crippling paralysis or the prettiest moments are coloured by a sense of cornering, overwhelming dread.  The label's aesthetic and forward-looking ideology is explored in an interview and exclusive mix full of unreleased material from the label's owner, Micky.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Deep Teknologi: The New House Sound of London

I've been big on Deep Teknologi for a while.  After choosing them (a house record, yes) for my short-lived bass music monthly column's inaugural record of the month, I've been following them as closely as possible, and their gradual rise seems to be just that -- perpetually on the rise.  What or who is Deep Teknologi, you ask?  A London-based duo of producers helming a larger label crew who push a tough, clever, and ruffnecked house style with the kind of LDN influences you might expect: garage an' all that.  I called them "UK to the bone" last year, a statement that I have trouble bettering to this day, despite the fact they've now brought a German duo into their fold.  As a collective unit, they push a diverse and multifarious sound that quakes with the experimental potentialism of contemporary UK dance music but nailed down with the cool, assured lope of traditional house music both American and European.  The best way to talk about their sound is to talk about the producers themselves, so read after the jump for a quick breakdown of who they are and why they matter, as well as an exclusive mix from Deep Tek mastermind S.E.F.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Heavenly Ascension

This is a review I wrote last fall for a certain British publication and apparently forgot to submit at all.  Oops.

It's a track that I've been thinking about lately, completely bewitching, beautiful, perfect.  The kind of thing you can't imagine a person making, the kind of thing that must have come into existence on its own.  It's not about to kick off its own scene or tangent within electronic music or anything, but it's a wonderful tune that stands alone, unafraid of generic limitations or fitting into scenes. It's the second release on Raffertie's intriguing Super Records, a label that seems caught somewhere between colourful tech house and the new wave of UK house producers coming out of dubstep, and probably the best thing to come out of the label so far.  Stream and review of the single after the jump.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

R&B Futures #1: Drake

This post is not about dance music.  Avert your eyes if this scares you, and be assured that Futureproofing is not about to become Popjustice.  The rest of you reasonable people, please read on.

It occurs to me that there is a considerable love for modern R&B underlining the tastes of many of my friends, colleagues, and co-conspirators -- myself included -- and there's got to be a reason.  While most would be quick to dismiss the likes of The-Dream, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Ryan Leslie, Cassie, Ciara, what-have-you -- nevermind the stunningly snobby tastes of electronic dance music acolytes -- for those who like melodically rich, verbally playful, and beautifully textured music, there's no reason not to explore.  There is a large discourse surrounding this kind of stuff: whether it's indie rock juggernauts like Pitchfork giving considerable journalistic push and credibility to Drake and Dream, or more 'underground' and dance-focused sectors like FACT Magazine giving prominent press to the same (and more), a considerable dialogue begins to emerge.  While some might cite it as gimmicky bandwagon-jumping or minstrel-show novelty, that sort of attitude is even more close-minded than what it feigns to condemn, because there is actual merit in this music.  This dialogue has been ever expanding in recent months, particularly with the release of a fantastic Cassie remix EP and a post on the Guardian Music Blog about the cult of Cassie that led the head of the Tri Angle Records -- a label that is often attributed the title as a leader in the 'witch house' game, but we're not going to talk about 'witch house' here and suffice to say the man himself insists he doesn't release it -- making contact with the hallowed chanteuse, a virtual meeting that seemed like an impossible task.  As for what it means, that remains to be seen, but it proves that there's something about modern R&B and pop music really tugging at some of the most influential minds in electronic music right now.

One of the largest figures looming over this crossover is Canadian rapper Drake, disciple of the ever-divisive Lil' Wayne, and a figure that seems to only inspire vitriolic hatred or embarrassingly gushy praise.  He's easy to hate: he's Canadian, he's got an awkward flow that's robotic when it's not clumsy, his lyrics are a slower and more deliberate version of Wayne's patented associative rapping style ("this time I'm really going off. fireworks." etc ad nauseum), and he has a heavily introspective, sometimes whiny perspective.  Too bad that the guy has dug his own little completely unique sector of commercial rap and made a masterpiece in it, then.  Drake's debut album Thank Me Later is stunningly visionary, a mainstream hip-hop album that almost never bangs, doesn't really have any party songs, and consists of the most monochromatic, sleepy production heard in a good long while.  It's the sound of cold sweat pooling on a pillow, summer-induced heatstroke haze, complete and utter exhaustion, and the conditioned entitlement of a whole generation of spoiled brats obsessed with "swagger" and self-aggrandizement on a pathetically personal scale.  Yeah, this record has some baggage.