Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
It’s been a decade since Vienna’s Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister released their genre-defining album The K&D Sessions for their label, G-Stone. Since then, downtempo has become so ubiquitous that entire bar concepts and retail outlets, wanting to prove their all-around coolness, have been launched with Sessions as an integral part of the soundtrack. Over those same ten years, Kruder moved into heavier musical territory while Dorfmeister stayed the course, producing alongside another longtime musical collaborator, Rupert Huber, as Tosca.
Thanks to downtempo’s oversaturation, it’d be easy to dismiss Tosca’s latest studio effort, No Hassle, as a rehash of a worn-out sound. But doing so would sell the album short, like dismissing a Shakespeare play as clichéd. The true originator of the sound, Tosca continues to exude the freshness that downtempo so desperately needs. Its rich productions show depth, musicality and a sublime peacefulness that outpace its many impersonators.
From the opening bars of “My First,” we’re reminded what makes Tosca’s sound great: its slo-mo meter and syrupy ambience. On “Mrs. Bongo,” vocal “ah’s” float over a bed of soft drums, while a minimal sample reassuringly repeats “okay.” Tracks like these make any stress seem distant.
That last sentiment is central to the album, Tosca’s fifth studio release. Drawing on the duo’s usual mix of contact-high-inducing dub, muted and swinging jazz rhythms, and überchill melodies, No Hassle marks a return to form, almost on par with its earliest, and best, work. It has the same ability to put listeners in a hypnotic state of ease, where they can mentally skip out on their hardships, even if just for an hour. Man, is it nice.
- Joshua P. Ferguson
At first glance, you might mistake him for a less glittery version of a glam-rock-era David Bowie. With a voluminous shell of slicked-back blond locks and form-fitting, jet-black attire, Berlin’s Helmut Geier, a.k.a. DJ Hell, an electronic-music innovator and the head of acclaimed techno and electro label International DJ Gigolo, may not be rebelling against the flower power of the ’60s, but he’s still no conformist.
Recently, Hell has found himself at odds with electronic music’s prevailing style. Hip-hop dress has pushed Technicolor hoodies and baggy jeans to the fore of DJ fashion. More in stride with the high-fashion world, Hell prefers a sexier, tailored look. As he puts it when we call him during his New York visit, post–Miami’s Winter Music Conference, “I work hard to individualize my concepts and photo shoots. But lately these ideas are not fitting well with the DJ world.” Often commissioned by the likes of Donatella Versace to provide compositions for runway shows, Hell makes style cues that would have a better audience in Karl Lagerfeld than Kanye West.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
TOC: It’s been about 25 years since you guys started. Booka Shade has played Lollapalooza, M.A.N.D.Y. is fresh off a Fabric mix, and the label is more recognized than ever. What’s next?
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Things aren’t so drastically different when it comes to artists and their DJ sets either. Often an afterthought to their production work, they unenthusiastically stand behind the decks and go through the “DJ” motions, loosely stringing together a random hodge-podge of their own tunes. Thankfully this is not the case with everybody and with each step closer to Sonotheque’s intimate dancefloor last night, it was clear this is far from the way with London’s Kode9 operates.
The owner of Hyperdub, which could be considered one of the best dubstep labels around, Kode9 obviously has a trained ear when it comes to A&Ring but his musical persona goes even deeper than that. Early on, talking to his booking agent, I learned that not only is this mysterioso, who often appears masked in his press shots, a versed selector and top-notch dj, he’s also a tenured philosophy professor and generally only fits music in between his more pressing, academic pontifications. He also plays nothing but dubplates: CD-R’s of songs that may never see proper release, small-run white label pressings that only made it to him and maybe a 100 other jocks throughout London. This was a glimpse into a scene the likes of which doesn’t exist in the US, at least not anymore.
Then there was the music. I think my body may still be a little numb from the constant vibrations that spewed forth from the lounge's Funktion One system. I felt like I was in this strange limbo of sounds recalling jungle, dub soundsystems, raves, 2-steps, and broken beats – a melange of styles past being reinvented and compressed through some space-age filter that turned them out the other side as something completely new. Kode9’s set somehow simultaneously took me back to so many UK dance styles I’ve loved in the past while keeping things completely relevant. It was something to behold and all the while the exceptionally dense, Tuesday night crowd rocked their asses off to all the wobbly-bass, rewinds, and… Township Funk. Yes.