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.