Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dialogue Inc | Radio Show #14 | July/August

Flaming Lips @ Pitchfork 2009 | Chicago, IL

Dialogue Incorporated July/August Newsletter
Dialogue Incorporated Radio #14

Compiled, mixed and hosted by Mister Joshua

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Hiya folks! We’re seriously overdue for a catch up and even more overdue for a new dialogue mix. But never fear, if you’re reading this it means that both problems will be solved imminently. As is usually the case here at the offices, the days in June through August get inundated with parties, festivals, vacations and more hours spent in front of a growing pile of high lifes than in front of a computer.

As was the case last summer, we’ve seen our fair share of adventures over the past few months. We’ve helped launch two new parties:

All Systems Go!
A new monthly in the comfortably cavernous confines of Smart Bar. Partnering with the wonderfully forward thinking Chicago Workgroup, which includes local indie dance and nudisco selectors Scotty Brandon, Onefifytone, SR-71, Ross Kelly and Dialogue Inc’s Mister Joshua, we’ve built momentum across our first three parties and are gearing up for a special edition next month with Rio de Janeiro’s the Twelves. Also just announced for the imminent future is a guest spot from Kid Color in October and for our November edition we’re the official after-party for Simian Mobile Disco, post its performance in the Metro alongside the Phenomenal Hand Clap Band. Whoot!


Café Come Leite
We also helped kicked off a new party at the ultra swank Sushisamba Rio here in Chicago. Conceived of by savvy world traveling jock and global Sushisamba musical curator Jonathon Chaoul, Café Come Leite is an all-encompassing sensory experience. Wine and dine in the main dining room while DJ Madrid Perry and a rotating cast of local percussionists and Carnaval dancers keep you entertained. Then head upstairs to the Sugar Cane Lounge where our very own Mister Joshua and DJ Sadie Woods will be keeping the soundtrack breezy and Balearic while sipping the finest mojitos in town.


Beyond these new parties, we’ve also had the pleasure of deejaying alongside LCD Soundsystem’s Pat Mahoney – a real treat! We also did some serious basking in the sun at this years edition of Pitchfork here in the Windy City and, more significantly, at the Big Chill to the north of London. Amazing times. Read all about it here: Big Chillin’ and then listen to a perfect musical highlight reel from our good friend Nadav of Polar Pair and Botanika music fame: listen here.

But more importantly as you read our latest newsletter, we’ve spent the summer compiling more music than we could fit into this latest show and have conducted some serious interviews with a lot of those featured. So check the latest tracklisting and follow our hyperlinks to view additional content on some of our featured artists. With that…

Let the conversation begin.

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While we’ll probably still be playing shimmery Balearic goodness in the dead of winter, it is, of course, only proper to be featuring it during the beautifully temperate August days we’re having. Before the beat even drops on Bogdan Irkuk’s remix of Al Usher, we knew it had to be the lead track for our last show of summer.

We’ve come down with a serious Horse Meat Disco bug—could be worse—so we featured some leftfield boogie from Fleetwood Mac, Indeep and then, direct from HMD’s latest mix for Strut Records we’ve included Gino Soccio’s “It’s Alright”.

Speaking of boogie, our good friends from the Shoes Crew—remember that wicked Bohannon edit? Yeah. We’re still playing that—have launched a new label called Plimsoul and “Guardian Angel” from the Automats will be there debut release. Another stunner. Take note. Other bits of amazingness to take note of: Hailing from A Mountain of One, Leo Zero’s remix of Florence and the Machine has caused us to go weak in the knees and will be reappearing in our end of the year round-up. Radioclit side project, the Very Best, has been a significant part of our soundtrack for the last few months. From the quirky tongue-in-cheek afro-pop vibes of its mix tape last year to its latest album, it’s an out-and-out winner.

Rounding out the first hour, we’re also incredibly enamored with the Roots’ new single as well as the latest from stunning L.A. duo Classixx, who we had the pleasure of meeting and hearing DJ last month. Also stay tuned for more from Lusine. Its album drops next week on Ghostly International and we’re already cooking up a glowing review.

Moving into the second hour we’ve got a few of the featured songs from our summer music preview for Time Out Chicago, namely Trentemoller’s remix of Visti and Mayland. Oh man. Delicious and then later, Jamie Jones' "Summertime". Following is Peter Kruder’s latest, a refreshing return to form that is simultaneously new and wonderfully Peace Orchestra-esque. Pushing on we up the tempo and have some straight up housey house fun with tracks from Robah Wruhme and Bassment Jaxx.

Some great indie dance tunes have jammed our radars these last few months as well. Fred Falke does a beautiful dance rework for Grizzley Bear and Hatchamatik gives Animal Collective a turn for the clubs. Then there’s Simian Mobile Disco’s new single. Yeah, there’s that. “Audacity of Huge” will easily be in our top five for the year. It’s too good on all levels. Hilarious lyrics, eardrum shattering production precision, just listen – it’s a game changer.

We’re also happy to include more from Miike Snow, who’s become a prominent fixture in the headphones. We can’t get enough! We had a few good laughs in our recent Thunderheist interview and are happy to include this juke your booty remix here. Then, rounding out this last hour, we’ve got the best dubstep tune since Skream’s La Roux remix, namely Mark Pritchard’s “Wind It Up” which is followed by a jaw dropping Herve remix of our new favorite band: the Temper Trap. Reviews to come, keep it locked!

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1st Hour
Al Usher “Lullaby for Robert” Bogdan Irkuk remix – Internasjonal
Fleetwood Mac “Keep On Going” Cosmo VItelli remix – CD-R
Indeep “Record Keeps Spinning” – Sound of New York
The Very Best “Warm Heart of Africa” – Green Owl
The Brothers Johnson “You Make Me Wanna Jiggle” (Mike B edit) – CD-R
Automats “Guardian Angel” – Plimsouls
Florence & the Machine “Rabbit Heart” (Leo Zero remix) – CD-R
The Beach Boys “God Only Knows” (Aeroplane remix) – CD-R
The Revenge & Craig Smith “The Soul Pt II” – Delusions of Grandeur
Gino Soccio “It’s Alright” – Atlantic
Toby Tobias “In Your Eyes” (Tensnake remix) – Rekids
DJ Kaos “Love the Nite Away” (Tiedye mix) – DFA
Lusine “Two Dots” – Ghostly International
The Roots “How I Got Over” - Def Jam
Classixx “I’ll Get You” – Kitsune
Precious System “The Voice from Planet Love” – Running Back
Nelson “Slow Falling” (Still Going remix) – Ctrl-Alt-Del
2nd Hour
Visti & Mayland “Yes Maam (All Nite Long)” Trentemoller remix – Eskimo
Peter Kruder “After the Dawn” – Compost Black Label
Robag Wruhme “Hodgkin Mopp” – Vakant
Jamie Jones “Summertime” – Crosstown Rebels
Basement Jaxx “Raindrops” – XL
Grizzly Bear “Two Weeks” Fred Falke remix – Warp
Animal Collective “My Girls” Hatchmatik remix – CD-R
Simian Mobile Disco “Audacity of Huge” – Wichita
Moderat “Rusty Nails” – Bpitch Control
Miike Snow “Animal” (Peter, Bjorn and John remix) – Downtown
Thunderheist “Jerk It” (Nacho Lovers remix) – CD-R
Mark Pritchard & Ommas Keith “Wind It Up” – Hyperdub
The Temper Trap “Science of Fear” (Herve remix) – CD-R
Phoenix “1901” – V2

Album Review: Horse Meat Disco

Originally published in Time Out Chicago: TOC | Horse Meat Disco

Various Artists

HORSE MEAT DISCO

Strut•Records

Ital•o \ i-tal-õ\ adj + dis•co \dis-ko \ n

“Some need a ship / To take a trip,” Karen Young sings on “Deetour.” The opening track of Horse Meat Disco’s DJ mix, dedicated to the gone-but-not-forgotten Studio 54 days, makes for an appropriate kickoff to 15 disco, Italo and boogie cuts that’ll have you shimmying in your seat—or out of it for an impromptu get-down session on your morning El ride.

In 2003, Horse Meat Disco was founded by U.K. scenesters James Hillard, of now-defunct Nuphonic records, and Jim Stanton, of Jockey Slut magazine. The two quickly established a loyal following thanks to their sweaty basement parties that catered to a diverse cross section of merrymakers: At Horse Meat Disco events, gay, straight, sober, off-yer-arse and just curious partygoers could dance themselves into a frenzy till the sun came up.

To capture the essence of its parties, the team compiled and mixed this collection. A hilariously drug-addled answering-machine message about riding a glass unicorn to a party deejayed by the ghost of iconic Chicago disco-jock Ron Hardy sets the tone before Young takes over. The seamless mix rolls out 70 minutes of classics and rarities, laden with effects, echoes and loops that recall the best of Larry Levan’s legendary sets at the Paradise Garage. Songs fade in and out, with sing-along choruses dubbed out before reemerging over instrumental disco funk, keeping a layered groove that transcends a track-by-track DJ mix.

The duo leaves few stones unturned. It moves from tongue-in-cheek Saturday Night Fevercheese to the “Thriller”-mimicking “And I Don’t Love You” by Smokey Robinson—a refreshing change of pace from the MJ onslaught. Then it shifts gears, moving into the moodier, arpeggiated world of Gino Soccio’s Italo anthem “It’s Alright,” a cut that’s all the rage with the European nu-disco school. The album then heads into the diva-driven mirror-ball funk of the Two Tons’ “I Depend on You” and the ’80s flash dance of Sheryl Lee Ralph’s “In the Evening.” If ever a song deserved a montage sequence, “Evening” is it.

True, there’s a lot of disco here. But Horse Meat Disco still offers a respectable introduction to the underground sounds of the ’70s and ’80s and its resurgence, here and abroad, in the last five years. The only thing missing from the equation is the dance floor.


- Joshua P. Ferguson

Album Review: Amanda Blank | I Love You

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine: TOC | Amanda Blank

AmandaBlank

I LOVE YOU

DowntownRecords

ghetto \ get-õ \ n+ boo ty \büt-ê\n

Booty music isn’t usually serious. In fact, it’s best when it leaves earnestness by the wayside, letting its fuck-all attitude shine. So from the jump, something’s slightly askew in Amanda Blank’s debut album, I Love You. A ghetto-flow love song seems inherently at odds with itself.

The saucy Philly MC can count raw-edged MCs and producers such as Diplo, M.I.A. and Spank Rock among her confidantes and promisingly locked down XXXChange, Eli Escobar, Switch and Diplo to produce her tracks. With these heavyweights behind her, she comes out strong with the Ting Tings–esque garage-punk of “Make It Take It,” where she spells out, “I know you want it / Just because I own it.” Backed up by XXXChange’s retro bounce, this is the sort of bombast we’d expect. Similarly, on the lead single, “Might Like You Better,” Blank spits, “Don’t waste my time / Just take me home.” Again, no bull there. It’s minimal electro, hilariously sexed up, and it kills in the club.

The problem here is that Blank—who fronts as if she couldn’t care less—includes generic commentary on the trials of being a modern woman, presumably to show her more somber side. From “Make-Up,” where she derides the idea of having to look good for her man, to the “Don’t remind me / I need love” chorus of “A Love Song,” Blank seems to invoke these subjects because they’re typical pop-song fodder, not because she genuinely feels the need to look good and become a wifey. She should’ve just stuck to getting laid. With this expertly produced yet cookie-cutter album, “blank” may be the most telling signifier.

- Joshua P. Ferguson


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Album Review: Little Dragon | Machine Dreams

LittleDragon

MACHINE DREAMS

PeacefrogRecords

Cosmic \ käz-mik \ adj + folk \fõk\n

Little Dragon likes to work in contrasts. It’s based in Gothenburg, Sweden, which is not the first place that comes to mind as a musical Mecca. Yet, with the Knife, Jose Gonzalez and Swell Session there, it has a bubbling underground electronic scene. It’s also in close proximity to Oslo (Lindstrom and Prins Thomas), Stockholm (Lykke Li), and Berlin (too many greats to name here) put it at the center of many wonderful movements in electronic music. Then there’s its name. Ahem. There’s nothing little about dragons. There’s the fact that this act, that’s relatively unknown here in the U.S. spent a good portion of 2009 touring with TV on the Radio. And, most recently, there’s the name of its sophomore release for Peacefrog, Machine Dreams, which, channeling the alternate reality of Philip K. Dick, starts playing with artificial intelligence and the juxtaposition of man and machine.

With a solitary, modulating tone, the slumbering robot that is Machine Dream slowly stirs on its opening track, “A New.” Undulating bass and marching band snare follow to bring things fully to life. But when lead singer Yukimi Nagano enters the track, what had seemed to be our mechanically-led near-future, takes an organic turn. Nagano’s honey sweet song has wowed fans since her debut on Koop’s “Summer Sun” in 2001. Now, at the helm of Little Dragon, she’s found the perfect vehicle for her light-as-a-lullaby, gold-dust-inflected, jazz-folk incantations. So delicate is Nagano’s purr that it’s impossible to construe anything mechanical from it. All the more compelling then, when it’s found floating atop Little Dragon’s stuttering bass, piston-fire drumming and the electrical flow of its synth work.

Where the band’s self-titled first album sounded like experimentations in a mixed bag of styles that included forays into in soul, folk, electronic and downbeat indie rock, Machine Dream has harnessed these influences into one, molding an analog-meets-digital sound that is beefier, more mature and indelibly its own. On the lead single “Feather” swatches of ambient noise hang about like fluffy clouds as a bouncy drumbeat repeats like a rotating cogwheel, propelling Nagano through a sound-scape laced with a breathy robotic chorus of “ohs” and “aaahs.” Elsewhere productions make no disguise of their electronic roots, as on the abstractly ‘80s “Looking Glass,” which fuses Kraftwerkian computer chatter, big New Order-style snare hits and twinkling atmospherics.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what the inner thoughts and insecurities of a replicant from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? would look like if it were to be communicated to you as sublime jazz-infused electronic folk, then look no further than Machine Dreams. If you’ve never found yourself wondering about such A.I. abstractness, then now may be the time to start, because Little Dragon’s Machine Dreams presents a convincing argument that man and machine may not be as stark a contrast as you’d think.

- Joshua P. Ferguson


Friday, August 14, 2009

Live Review: Big Chill UK | Best Served Chilled


The Lore of Big Chill '09
by Joshua P. Ferguson | Photos by Roy Shay

Yearly, our fair windy city transforms, as one of the biggest festival events to take place stateside descends upon Chicago. The musical tornado that is Lollapalooza attracts bands, DJs and flocks of loyal fans—some 250,000—for a larger-than-life weekend of indie-rocking, five-dollar Budweiser swilling, and after-partying like your hipster life depended on it. Little do these hordes of ray-banned devotees and industry slackies know that, a mere continent away, across the pond and up the Great British countryside, a scant three-hour train ride north of London, in a valley (a dedicated deer park), surrounding a castle (Eastnor Castle), in Herdfordshire (a shire, of all places! it's all so very British), a whole other world of music, with a lifestyle and following all its own, is growing out of a quiet English province. Welcome to the Big Chill.


Far side of the valley | photo: Roy Shay

"By the time we got to Big Chill, we were half a million strong"

After a quick bite to eat, a near miss of our evening train and an obnoxiously unnecessary scuffle with two disgruntled commuters for our seats, we settled in for the journey with four cans of "bitter" and ox-tail "flavoured crisps". Stop by stop the suburbanites shed away, leaving a train full of hippies, most of whom looked as if they'd already spent the weekend partying, and here it was only Thursday. In the U.S., the saying goes that we have two seasons: winter and construction season. Given that the English, Irish and Scottish spend three quarters of their lives basking in an overcast grey haze, their seasonal anecdote is something more to the tune of winter and festival season. Many of the revelers encountered had already been to and were fully intending to conquer at least one more festival weekend post the Big Chill. These people dedicated summer after summer to stringing together one musical bacchanalia after another. Brilliant. I, on the other hand, gazed out at the sun setting over the quaint English towns whizzing by, not yet aware of the magnitude of what was to come.

Sunset from the train | photo: Roy Shay

While the Big Chill attracts less than a quarter of the people Lollapalooza does, in every other aspect it far out does anything that finds itself in Grant Park the first full weekend in August. I'll be the first to brag of the beauty of Chicago's skyline. There are few better spots in the city to take in its magnificence than from Buckingham fountain. I'm also a firm believer in the spectacle that is Lollapalooza and the weekend of enjoyment that is to be found there. But, when there's a 300-year-old castle looming on the hillside beside a sprawling valley—complete with a stream running through it—and aged trees scattered intermittently, reaching for a starry sky and full moon, well, the city life fades quickly from memory.

Eastnor Castle | photo: Roy Shay

Lanterns in the distance | photo: Roy Shay

Under cover of an overcast night we slowly navigated the site, making our way to what became home base for the weekend, the radio station, and the world of Big Chill slowly unraveled around me. I had been forewarned that "wellies" were at the heart of a proper UK festival survival kit. "You mean galoshes?" I asked. "Isn't that a Hungarian stew?" was the only response I got. "Wellies"—short for Wellingtons—it turns out, are indeed galoshes and thanks to an incessant rain throughout the evening, they proved to be incredibly handy.

Through the accumulating mud we passed two large stages and row upon row of vendors, food stalls and bars before coming upon a handful of carnival rides and a "caravan" with no less than 10 speaker cones fastened to the roof. Big Chill Radio indeed. Manchester's finest, Mr. Scruff—who's had a signature role at Big Chill for years, playing both the opening and closing sets of the festival annually—was grooving out of the system, well into his set. The lawn in front of the station was crammed with early arrivers, who, upon closer look, bared a striking resemblance to a pale-face-painted pack of zombie wasteoids. I quickly found out that that's exactly what they were. Earlier in the day, a movie—I Spit on Your Rave, as it's so aptly titled—was being filmed and hundreds of zombie extras could be seen eating human sacrifices from the main stage before they dragged their dead legs over to the radio to have one last dance.

Carnival lights | photo: Roy Shay

Big Chill Radio, sometime around 5am | photo: Roy Shay

All told, Big Chill has more than four music stages with five additional stages exclusively for DJs and countless vendors offering up everything from slow cooked Mackerel curry to ladies-only holistic healing to cheap—and increasingly necessary—"wellies." There was also no shortage of libation. DJ tents were often sponsored by a rum, vodka or... rolling paper, something that would never fly stateside. While there, you could take in a 2 a.m. screening of The Fog, get out of the sun the next afternoon with a 2 p.m. comedy routine, then skin up a batch of spliffs and head out to see Friendly Fires sunset set.

Rizla stage | photo: Roy Shay

Friendly Fires | photo: Roy Shay

On Saturday night, hundreds of hot air lanterns were set adrift in the night sky during Orbital's headlining performance. If you stuck around until Sunday night, you caught the annual burning of the silver-tinted effegy while David Byrne and his white-clad dance troupe were "Burning Down the House". With attractions like these, it's no wonder Big Chill attracts repeat business year after year.

A different sort of friendly fire | photo: Roy Shay

Truly "Once in a Lifetime" | photo: Roy Shay

Irish Fairy Godmothers, Hogwarts Rejects and Mud Honeys


Bubbles are a big deal at Big Chill. So is alliteration | photo: Roy Shay

With a few drinks had to help numb painful thoughts of the impending camp set-up, we caught a "buggy" ride—evidently golf carts are strictly American constructs; to the English they're distant cousins of the horse drawn carriage—to the camp site. While I'm sure this was not the case, it seemed as if, the moment we stepped off the "buggy", it started raining. Hard. I know for sure that by the time Sunday arrived, we were telling people that we pitched our tent during a torrential down pour. Not true. But we were definitely wet.

Considering, things were going smoothly enough. Tent was up. The first of the air mattresses was inflated. Doh. The second air mattress has no plug? Hmm. Wait? Where's the other sleeping bag? Shit. Uhm...

"Hiya."

As if on cue, this cute Irish girl, decked in a black rain coat and muddy cowboy boots, materialized from the ether to grant us three wishes (and free beer). She accompanied us across the way to her tent, an oversize two-bedroom-plus-a-common-area job which she was sharing with two girlfriends. It somehow comfortably sat five. Our hosts: Louise, Sara and Rowena. Our wonderful, Irish fairy godmothers. Post introduction tall boys were passed around, ipods were fired up. Kiwi dub. Turns out they love Fat Freddy's Drop too, crazy. We shared the stories that led us to this gigantic tent sitting in the middle of Great Britain. This, in turn, brought us back to our sleeping bag/air mattress dilemma and our three wishes, which I think we used quite wisely.

1) Can you spare an air mattress? "Of course, we have two that we're not using."
2) Can you spare a sleeping bag? "Shouldn't be a problem. We have a spare."
3) Wanna be friends? "Totally."

Awesome.

What sort of magical, no-strings-attached problem solving is that?! And sure enough, we emerged each morning from our tent and were greated from across the lawn with offers of breakfast: "Oh have some, its gonna go bad if we don't eat it," water: "You probably drank a lot last night, have some, there's a drinking fountain on the way in" and more beer: "We brought too much and would prefer not to carry it back to the car, here, have another one." I praise these ladies for their charity but, in all honesty, more than anything else, they were three of the coolest people we met all weekend. We talked music, travel, work, food, books and spirituality with the greatest of ease and a genuine sincerity. If ever there were kindred spirits to stumble upon, our Irish fairy godmothers were they. And somehow we'd set-up camp right next to each other. Cosmic.


Diamonds in the rough | photo: Roy Shay

The collection of people, spirits and energy at the Big Chill are unlike anything I've seen in any of its American festival counterparts. Subversiveness takes on a whole different meaning. Alternative culture really exists in the U.K., it hasn't been dictated from the latest MTV ad campaign. Parents with neon green streaks in their hair embrace their inner freak, kids in tow. There were more men on the grounds wearing tutu skirts than there were women. I have no doubts about this. Groups would coordinate around themes, sporting nurse uniforms, banana suits and sasquatch costumes for three days straight. A group of dudes wearing tie-dyed felt dunce-cap-looking hats stretching 3 feet off their heads walked by and I overheard an on-looker comment "look, more Hogwarts rejects." The Brits really do love their Harry Potter.

As entertaining as it is throwing around an abundance of verbage to describe the spectrum of spectacle on display over the weekend, pictures really do best to speak a thousand words.

Cops totally love a man in nurse's uniform | photo: Roy Shay

Hogwarts flunkies love the dubstep | photo: Roy Shay

You wouldn't know it without seeing it first hand, but girls are sexy in wellies | photo: Roy Shay

Computer Love | photo: Roy Shay

He Can Get Down | photo: Roy Shay

Really? | photo: Roy Shay

Really. | photo: Roy Shay

Was This the Wrong Pill to Take?
or
How Deep Does the Rabbit Hole Go?

I assumed it was called the Big Chill for a reason. An obvious one. You float around by day, listening to reggae and deep house vibes wafting from the DJ stages. If live music tickles your fancy, the afternoons offer spiritual jazz from Pharoah Sanders and stripped down acoustic sets from Fink. As day gives way to evening, you hit up the Argentinian steak sandwich stall for a bite, grab another round of Tuborgs—there's a never ending supply of these green-canned 16oz lagers everywhere, I probably had 10 a day—and then head back to the stages for the night's main events. Nice and relaxing right? Well... let's just say it was only our first night in and things were about to get interesting.


Friendly Fires had wrapped it up—and rocked it out—so we headed down the way to catch a bit of the Field. Instead we were met with the dark, grinding, techno dub of Shackleton. Evidently scheduling had been bumped up and we had unsuspectingly arrived just in time to get front row seats for Chris Cunningham. A few of us, myself included, needed a quick refresher on who, exactly, Mr. Cunningham is. Remember the delightfully disturbing videos for Aphex Twin's "Window Licker" and Bjork's "All is Full of Love"? Of course of course. Well that's him. Except, for tonight's impending onslaught of audio visual mindfuckery, you can drop the "delightfully" qualifier. Maybe it was because the drugs were starting to kick in, but I'm pretty sure that a completely sober person would have had nightmares for weeks after taking in just ten minutes of the twisted imagery that was about to be thrown at us rapid fire.

After a jovial introduction—even the stage staff kept a straight face till the last minute—the stage went completely black except for a lone green laser beaming into the infinite darkness behind us. A groaning bass sound struggled out of the speakers like a 250-pound man squeezing out of a Mini Cooper. WHOOOMMMFFF. Silence. "Did the laser just flicker?" WHOOOMMMFFF. flicker. Then the screens lit up. Innocuously, or so it seemed at first, images of a birds nest of speaker wires and AV equipment appeared. On a side screen—there were three screens slowly waking to life—a metronome ticked once and vanished. flicker. WHOOOMMMFFF.



Then, again from the ether, two entities—entirely different from our fairy godmothers—emerged. A spotlight, cutting through a sort of liquid space, revealed a couple, naked in a sea of nothing, clutching each other to keep from drifting. Flicker. The laser spread into a fan of kryptonite light that scanned the crowd from bottom to top. "I should have taken the blue pill," I thought to myself. And so it began. The sound system erupted with a machine gun fire of drum hits, undulating bass and off kilter glitch while the onscreen romance dissolved into brutal fisticuffs. It was as if Fight Club, the Matrix and Irreversible had a monstrosity of a deformed offspring together. Those too arsed to fully comprehend the extent of the horror on screen wailed, whistled and waved their glow sticks rave-tastically. A few stood stunned, staring at the stage with dropped jaws. Others were equally frozen in space, with their faces tucked halfway into the collars of their shirts like frying turtles.

The laser show had gone full blown schizophrenic as our sadistic couple persisted with trading punches. One to the gut. One to the face. Drops of blood scattered in slow motion. the twisting metal of the soundtrack screamed and got ever more frantic. And then it stopped. The spotlight from above returned. The violence subsided and the couple was transported back from whence they came, leaving the audience weak and disoriented. And crying out for more!

We were pummeled into complete submission over the course of the next hour. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker attempted to strike each other down in synchronicity with a light-saber-drum-n-bass symphony. Hitler chattered stage right. The metronome ticked. A young girl with eyes eerily far apart spoke in tongues. Breasts bigger than my head bounced to the rhythm. A wheel chair bound mutant child screeched gibberish and fought a laser beam battle using his expert kung fu. Richard D. James' twisted likeness appeared on bikini models dancing in South Beach (the "Window Licker" edit was by far the highlight). It was easily the most disturbing thing that my companions and I had ever seen. And we couldn't take our eyes off it, let alone step away. We stood there, locked in the groove, trying not to blink, awestruck, simultaneously scared for and having the time of our lives.

"After this there's no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." We were Alices. Cunningham was a mad hatter Morpheus. And we were all descending, head first and gaining momentum.


The first rule of Fight Club is... | photo: Roy Shay

My grand, eye-opening, mind-blowing revelation taken from my time at Big Chill isn't even a profound one. Its something I've been well aware of for years, but never ceases to catch me off guard. Here—there—Dance music is genuinely a big deal. Dance music is as significant a part of UK culture as hip-hop is U.S.. Kids from their preteen days are exposed to pirate radio and Pete Tong. So when these people get together to get down, the music is is the magnificent centerpiece of their party. This is not the case in the States. Here dance music culture is a culture of drugs, alcohol and excess first, music second. Maybe. So seeing 1,500 sweaty teens—boy and girl alike—freaking out to Kode9 and Spaceape is a surreal experience. Especially when there's a gigantic disco ball that shoots lasers spinning overhead. It's what all the bedroom dubstep DJs in the Midwest see on the backs of their eyelids while they practice. It may be something that they never witness first hand.

Said laser-blasting disco-ball | photo: Roy Shay

Two styles ruled beyond all others over the weekend: Disco and dubstep. Sure Orbital did its thing to a sea of people. So did Bassment Jaxx (which no one remembers fondly). There were many magical moments over the three-day fest. Friendly Fires killed it. David Byrne, Pharoah Sanders and Mulatu Astatke live were life changing performances. I've been a fan of Alice Russell for over 5 years and not only did I meet her in person, but I finally saw her live. I rang in my birthday under a full moon with a set from David Fouquaert of the Glimmers. Christ, I just dedicated more than 600 words to Chris Cunningham's performance. Yet, somehow all these things seem like icing on the cake next to Horse Meat Disco's 2 a.m. radio slot and the Ramadanman versus Brackles set earlier that afternoon.

Music Takes Me Up. | photo: Roy Shay

Ramadanman was beloved for his dark supersonic dubstep and Brackles for bringing sunshine and soul (and a lot of 2-step) back into the dubstep fold. Their's was the only set that we stayed for the entirety of. Playing to a happy hour crowd that's just starting to get a buzz, with the sun finally mellowing out, everyone was feeling it. Horse Meat Disco then, was like the night cap. The robustly affable duo of Jim Stanton and Severino oozed friendliness and backed it up with two straight hours of feel good disco. Sure, we were all off our rockers in that little caravan but that shit was proper and we were loving it.

Brackles goes Funke | photo: Roy Shay

Up in this club | photo: Roy Shay

If Horse Meat and the dubstep up-and-comers are the cake and all the other highlights are the icing, then Mr. Scruff and Norman Jay's sets on Sunday are the cherries on top. Jay, another Big Chill institution, plays Sunday afternoon every year. Grooving slow through boogie and soul to start, Jay flipped it through house, two-step and beefy, uplifting drum n' bass. After that, he b-lined it to Big Chill Radio for a Motown 50th anniversary set. Sublime. He played just the right amount of Stevie Wonder. Which, for the record, is upwards of six songs. I'm serious. Look it up.

Balloons let loose while Norman Jay stretches out | photo: Roy Shay

Scruff? Well Scruff's weekend close-out set solidified my philosophy about the U.K. and DJ culture. I'd come to the bottom of the rabbit hole, as it were. An impeccable DJ, Scruff was opting to drop whole 7 minute, 11 minute songs; Fela Kuti, (more) Stevie Wonder. His fade outs were met with unanimous applause from a dancefloor over 150 strong. They were the last of the partiers, ranging in age from sweaty teens to middle-aged hippies grinning ear-to-ear.

Scruff transcending the ether | photo: Roy Shay

Scruff left us—cheekily—with "Don't Leave Me This Way" from Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, teasing us back and forth between the original and DJ Language's slow-burning edit, finally dropping into the chorus. "Only your good lovin' can set me free. Baby! Don't leave me this way..." These people freaked. Jumping up and down, hands in the air, screaming at the top of their lungs FREAKED. For Harold Melvin and the motherfucking BLUE NOTES. As I jumped up and down alongside them, fully caught up in the moment, I thought to myself: if this is where I'm at and this is what I'm doing than Harold Melvin's got it all wrong. Leave me this way for as long as you want.

- Joshua P. Ferguson

Reflections of an overly self-indulgent "writer" and his esteemed colleague, the increasingly masterful photographer, in Paul Noble's shades.
photo: Roy Shay

MASSIVE SHOUT-OUTS, BIG-UPS, PEACES AND LOVE

First and foremost to the crew: Roy, Nadav and Itamar. A genuine pleasure. Of course, our Irish fairy godmothers: Louise, Sarah and Rowena. Very especially to Big Chill Radio, Paul Noble, Andy Smillie, Toby Hilder and the rest of the crew, without you all we wouldn't have been there.