Saturday, February 27, 2010

DJ Mix | Space is the Place

To infinity and beyond

60 minutes of new dance cuts that blast from the past and into the future.

By Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 02.25.10

TOC | Winter Music Round-up

Download mix | Here

Electronic music has always held an allure of being on the cusp of sonic trends. But even acts like Richie Hawtin—who perpetually looks as if he’s just descended from the mother ship—would be lost without the music that inspired him. We’ve handpicked 16 deep-house tunes recently released from artists or labels that are fueled by classic disco, acid and Italo, building on what’s come before to take underground sounds to celestial new heights.

The xx, “VCR,” Matthew Dear remix (Young Turk) Our 21st-century mix-tape begins with an indie-rock ode to an all-but-extinct technology. Here, it’s twisted for the dance floor by Ann Arbor’s foremost techno connoisseur.

Kasper Bjørke, “Young Again” (HFN Music) Scandinavia retains its status as world leader in innovative disco with this cinematic lead single from Standing on Top of Utopia, by Copenhagen’s Bjørke.

Manolo, “Lose Myself” (Delusions of Grandeur) The alter ego of house producer Roberto Rodriguez, Manolo sheds his four-on-the-floor trappings for the chugging bass bounce of this slo-mo disco stomper.

Lindstrøm & Christabelle, “Let It Happen” (Smalltown Supersound) Oslo’s Lindstrøm pays homage to Blade Runner soundtrack composer Vangelis with this Italo-cized cover from Real Life Is No Cool.

Jan Turkenburg, “In My Spaceship,” Pilooski remix (Sister Phunk) Turkenburg enlists a pack of preteen vocalists to help him imagine interstellar trips to the zoo with Dr. Who on this folksy space jam, beefed up by Parisian edit king Pilooski.

I:Cube, “Falling” (Versatile) French electronic innovator Nicolas Chaix treats us to an airy, deep nudisco number that doesn’t convey falling so much as floating.

Tony Underground, “Connie N’ Frank” (Nang) Eighties synths meet a space-age acid bass line and a hazy rasta vocal sample on the latest 12" from Nang, experimental Gotham City disco label Tirk’s dancier little sister.

Ilya Santana, “Time to Come” (Eskimo) Belgium’s Eskimo label continues to channel the spirit of pioneering cosmic DJ Daniele Baldelli with soaring Italo from Spanish multi-instrumentalist Santana.

Fromage Disco, “Acidic Strings” (Lightspeed Recordings) This Aussie duo goes equal parts Alexander Robotnick and Prins Thomas with its debut original production.

Tensnake, “Coma Cat” (Permanent Vacation) Bouncing with tropical steel drums and an infectious boogie beat, “Coma Cat” from Hamburg, Germany’s Tensnake proves why he’s one to watch in 2010.

Nick Chacona, “The Fear,” Beg to Differ remix (Mood Music) A white label 12" promoting Chacona’s debut LP, Love in the Middle, this remix ups the tempo, giving vocalist Kathy Diamond a forum that befits Fabric as much as Studio 54.

Lusine, “Twilight,” Jeff Samuel remix (Ghostly International) Splitting his time between Seattle and Berlin, Samuel takes Lusine’s ambient downtempo techno original and gives it a slick, rainy-day house sheen.

Âme, Dixon & Schwarz, “Berlin-Karlsruhe-Express” (Innervisions) Undisputed leaders in German deep house, the Innervisions brain trust joins forces for a mellow techno workout inspired by mysterious Detroit electro band Drexciya.

Pilooski, “AAA” (Rvng Intl) The limited-edition Rvng of the Nrds series sees a triumphant tenth and final entry with a tribal edit from Pilooski. This time, he lends his dance-floor embellishments to the tropical exotica of Nora Dean’s “Angie La La (Ay Ay Ay).”

Nicolas Jaar, “Mi Mujer” (Wolf + Lamb) Another island-inflected cut, this time with a heartier house twist. Wolf + Lamb is hotly tipped as one of the leading new dance-music voices in the U.S., and we can hear why.

Gui Boratto, “Azzurra” (Kompakt) Yet again, the architect-turned-producer from São Paulo, Brazil, impresses with his New Order–inspired indie techno. Built on strummed bass and soft techno pulse, “Azzurra” will leave you with all the warmth of the sun rays soaked up through a porthole on the space station in your head.

Download mix | Here

Interview: Dani Deahl on blogs | Playing by the Rules?

Good blogs gone bad

Dani Deahl and the author dish it on DJ-oriented blogging.

By Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 02.18.10

TOC | DJ Blogs

Earlier this month, local DJ Dani Deahl, who co-owns Calamity Jane Recordings and runs the DSquared blog, told us that songs from her artist Pilotpriest were leaked to numerous blogs worldwide, including kanyeuniversecity.com, run by Kanye West (our request for comment from Mr. West went unanswered). Just as Google began a wholesale deletion of MP3 blogs over copyright-infringement complaints, we met with Deahl to discuss the issue.

Do artists who give away others’ music for free via their blogs have a greater responsibility than an average joe? 
Their power of impact is so much greater. Established acts are in a position where people look up to them. Some, like Kanye, are more than artists; they’re cultural brands.

Does that type of action devalue music as a commodity in general? 
It could actually work in your favor. A lot of electronic artists are making very little from sales. So while I want to be clear that people should not give away music for free [without permission], there are instances where we’d probably make more money off someone’s actions—however wrong—than if we tried to do the PR ourselves.

Wouldn’t it make sense to designate certain tracks that officially go to blogs? Then they wouldn’t be stealing and the PR could make money in the long run. 
It does breed a different kind of business model. We have the label, but we also have a booking agency. We’re giving some music away for free [i.e., approved singles], but it improves our artists’ profiles so we make more money on the back end. But theft still happens. I just had to send a cease and desist to a blog in Brazil that had ripped tracks from Pilotpriest’s MySpace page.

Blogging has become great freestyle journalism, but it’s clear that many aren’t following a professional code of conduct. 
The majority of bloggers have no formal journalistic background. They review songs based on their personal experience, which doesn’t necessarily devalue it, but there’s something to be said for a professional opinion from someone who knows what they’re listening for and came about it through the proper channels.

Everybody’s a critic. 
People are so quick to put their mark of approval on whatever they like that a lot of artists are putting out subpar tracks. They don’t work as hard or master their tracks properly. I think that’s why people like my blog. If there’s something I don’t like about a song, I’ll write that.

A comment on DSquared referred to blogs as the new record store. But it’s not a store when you’re grabbing something for free. 
On the plus side, people come up to me at gigs and request new Wale or new MSTRKRFT. These people would never know where to go in a physical store to get underground music. They’re getting turned on to these artists from blogs. It’s a whole new way for people to be turned on to underground music.

Article: Ron Trent | Sunday Love

Whole lotta love

Ron Trent’s passion for classic dance cuts livens up Sundays.

By Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 02.11.10

TOC | Ron Trent

Most Sundays, we’re lucky to make it out of our PJs, let alone to a party. But veteran DJ Ron Trent’s new event at the Shrine, Love Hangover, has us gunning for an early Saturday night so we can spend our Sunday afternoon cutting it up to his mix of classic house and underground disco.

The gruff-voiced, 36-year-old record slinger has been synonymous with the Chicago scene since he started deejaying high-school parties in ’87. At 19, Trent released “Altered States,” still one of house and techno’s most lauded anthems, solidifying his place in the dance-music lexicon. Now he brings his 20-plus years of nightclub experience to South Side dance venue the Shrine as its new musical director. His first order of business: Love Hangover, his monthly party where the needle drops Sundays at 3pm and the records spin for a solid six hours. The party’s first edition happened on Valentine’s Day and continues every second Sunday.

“The Shrine can be a breeding ground, a garden, if you will, for some very enriching things,” Trent says. Yet he admits he has a challenge in programming the music there. “It’s obviously been deemed an urban club,” he says. “And nowadays, when I think of urban, man, it doesn’t ring real nice in my ears.”

Despite a weekend-warrior crowd inclined to want the latest Auto-Tuned rap singles, Trent remains resolute in his desire to push boundaries at the Shrine. “Chicago went from being a hub of culture in the Midwest to falling into the status quo,” he says. To cultivate the Shrine’s “garden,” Trent plans an expansive music program that will give the warriors the mainstream vibe they crave while still offering outlets for the city’s more discerning club-going public.

Continue reading

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Album Review: Scuba vs Martyn | Dubstep Showdown


Scuba vs Martyn

Within weeks of one another, Hotflush Recordings’ Scuba and 3024’s Martyn recently released mix-CDs sponsored by prominent dance clubs overseas. Each took a unique stance on the best tunes dubstep currently has to offer, so we pitted the two against each other. Together, they stand testament to dubstep’s endless permutations.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

In this corner:

Various Artists

SUB:STANCE MIXED BY SCUBA

Ostgut-TonRecords

Dubstep \ dub-step \ n + tech•no \tek-nõ\ n

Like his marathon Sub:Stance sets at Berghain, the Berlin techno club that gave rise to the Ostgut Ton label, Scuba begins with a pre-peak-time-hours feel; a muffled bass ambience and a distorted mélange of broken glass and hand-clap samples greet us at the outset. This tapestry of eerie bar sounds slowly morphs into the potent dubstep rhythms that preside over the remainder of the mix.

It’s in large part thanks to London expat Scuba, a.k.a. Paul Rose, that dubstep has seen an integration into Germany’s techno-dominated club scene. While many of the songs featured here come from London-based artists, dubstep’s increased prominence on the international stage is taking the genre in complex and exciting new directions. Producers like Joy Orbison, Pangaea and Untold—who all make contributions here—marry the genre’s U.K. roots with German minimal and the downtempo sounds of Vienna, Austria.

In one three-song stretch, our ears are massaged by the floor-creak beat of “Anlan 7” by Israeli dub experimentalist Badawi. That gives way to the cinematic two-step funk of Joy Orbison’s “Hyph Mngo,” one of the acclaimed dubstep cuts of 2009. From there, the fuzz and click of the James Blake remix of Mount Kimbie’s “Maybes” overtakes Orbison’s brightness, bringing the mix closer to Rhythm and Sound territory.

Scuba’s deft hand at the mixer often leaves us wondering when one track ends and another begins. His fluid mix maintains a minimal aesthetic throughout, yet manages to veer from airy chill-out to the stark, urban productions that first inspired the genre. He even heads into left-field beats, the latest uncharted territory of grimy underground sounds that has tastemakers like Mary Anne Hobbs in a frenzy. As a snapshot of dubstep now, this mix serves as a fairly impeccable document of all that is cool with the dubstep.


And In this corner:

Various Artists

FABRIC 50 MIXED BY MARTYN

FabricRecords

Dubstep \ dub-step \ n + jazz \ jas \ n

A Dutchman living in D.C., Martyn begins his contribution to the Fabric mix series with the circus cyberfunk of HudMo’s “Joy Fantastic.” From there on, it’s clear the two DJs are on divergent paths. Martyn’s is a much more tribal affair, filled with rigidly thumping drums, laserlike synths and the air of an island dancehall.

The rhythms that start this mix more obviously nod to the “dub” in dubstep than those in Scuba’s. The Brazilian shuffle of “Bossa Boogie” by broken-beat producer Nubian Mindz is met with the Caribbean techno of Maddslinky’s “Lost on Tenori Street.” Shouts of “bad boy” and air-horn blasts join the mix on Zomby’s “Little Miss Naughty,” which gives off even more of the bashment vibe.

Not that Martyn is without his techno influences. Ben Klock’s remix of “The Clock” by Deepgroove is more or less a straight techno track with a driving 4/4 bump. Martyn’s own remix of the Detachments’ “Circles” even combines British indie-punk, Clash-style guitar skank and a U.K. funky beat for a clear high point.

Also a precision DJ, Martyn shares Scuba’s subtle mixing touch, but in Martyn’s case it might almost be to a fault. After three listens, we still had a hard time pulling out highlights, losing track of whole sections of the monotonous mix as our mind moved on to other things. Despite the high caliber of the artists, on-point track selection and close-to-flawless mixing, we didn’t stir in anticipation of the next track. Another great portrayal of some of dubstep’s leading voices and movements, Martyn’s mix puts up a good fight but ultimately succumbs to the digital butterfly stings of Scuba’s superior mix.


http://www.myspace.com/substanceclub

http://www.fabriclondon.com/

http://3024world.blogspot.com/

http://www.myspace.com/paulhotflush

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dialogue Inc | Radio Show #17 | February



Dialogue Incorporated | February

Dialogue Incorporated Radio #17

Compiled, mixed and hosted by Mister Joshua

Special guest mix from DJ Popstatic

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Letter from the Editor

WINNING FORMULAS

by Joshua P. Ferguson

The first months of the year are always notorious for lacking in good new music, but that hasn't stopped a flood of boundary pushing new tunes from sloshing around in our itunes. Not all are new and not all were discovered by our own devices; after all, that's what friends are for. In particular, our guest DJ this month, Popstatic—who contributes a brilliant and appropriately winterized mix—introduced us to a few of the tracks featured, from Pilooski's understated disco treatment of Jarvis Cocker to the epic dubstep stylings of Lung.

The midtempo acid workout of Oslo's Diskjokke leads the charge of our February edition. A contemporary of Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas, he walks the same path of brilliant left-field dance gold without following so closely in their footsteps as to seem a needless rehash. With Pitchfork calling his productions "music for the nighttime that retains the warmth of an afternoon on the beach," this dude is one to watch.

Versatile also makes a noteworthy contribution to the opening minutes of the mix with "Falling," I:Cube's latest solo work for the label. Stomping yet dreamy, it's got all that cosmic disco goodness without seeming wimpy.

Simian Mobile Disco is back yet again. Considering the heights in popularity that it reached with its first album, SMD really captured our attention with the latest batch of singles. "Cruel Intentions" with vocals from Gossip's Beth Ditto didn't initially impress, but Maurice Fulton's recent remix proves that anything he touches can turn to gold.

Aeroplane makes a return appearance this month as well (no surprises there). It's slow burning treatment of Das Pop's "Fool for Love" was just what we needed to keep us excited about this fast rising Belgian duo. Then we received confirmation that Aeroplane will be joining us for the Chicago Workgroup's April edition of All Systems Go! at Chicago dance music institution Smart Bar. Not bad if we do say so ourselves. Check our profile on its music director, Nate Manic, here: Brain Trust.

Further proof that the electronic world is stepping up its first quarter game is Real Life is No Cool, the latest album from future disco king Lindstrøm. Infinitely more accessible than his solo debut last year, Lindstrøm teams with vocalist Christabelle to show off his poppier side and the results couldn't be better. Check our full review here: Viva Italo!

The indie world hasn't been quiet either. While My Tiger My Timing's "I Am the Sound" appeared on last year's Kitsune Vol 8 compilation, this cut has yet to be deleted from office heavy rotation. Sugary without being over sweet, the London-based quintet's unpretentious indie-dance vibe maintains a redemptive melancholy, giving it a more authentic air; there's nothing manufactured here. If the fact that My Tiger My Timing's name comes from an Arthur Russell song isn't proof enough, the fact that it's forthcoming album is produced by New Young Pony Club's Andy Spence clearly shows that the band is coming from a place where indie and dance music are quite comfortable with each other.

It would seem, then, that Hot Chip comes from this same sonic land because "Hand Me Down Your Love," with it's '60s rock drumming, folk crooning, orchestral strings, electro bass and house thump, was born out of more than a mere casual relationship between rock and electronic. Hot Chip has worked at this marriage with such precision that we hope they remain a happy couple for years to come.

From here we dive further into the deep. An act that helped win us over to this techier side of things is young gun NYC house duo the Martinez Brothers. We had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with the older of the two, Steven, and his enthusiasm for the music was the most refreshing thing we've encountered in ages. The only thing more refreshing was actually seeing them deejay, a rare thing here in Chicago because many promoters are afraid to book them because of their age. Read all about it here: Youth Movement.

In anticipation of our big Chicago Workgroup event this week: All Systems Go with Holy Ghost! at Smart Bar, we were also sure to include something from them and found this cheeky but surprisingly pleasing-on-the-ears rework of Van She's cover of "Don't Fear the Reaper." We never saw Blue Oyster Cult making it into the Dialogue playlists, but it just goes to show, if it's done well, nothing can be counted out. Read our interview with HG!'s Nicholas Millhiser here: Scene the Light.

With that the gears shift to the dubstep realm, namely Joy Orbison's rolling remix of the new Four Tet single, "Love Cry." Check out our thoughts on Four Tet's full album, There is Love in You, here: Show Me Love. We also mentioned Lung before, but this brilliant debut 12" from a rather unknown musical mind has our heads spinning. The commanding atmospherics maintain all the in-your-face presence of many of dubstep's biggest floor-burners, but somehow it still has the lo-fi moodiness of an artist like Burial. We'll be keeping a close eye on his future endeavors.

Last, but not least, we couldn't let the show slip by without featuring a few of our brightest indie gems of the moment. Manchester's Delphic—despite an unnecessarily pretentious review from Pitchfork—has been a runaway favorite. Channelling all of Manchester's rich electronic history into a completely new (yet undeniably current) sound, we predict big things to come from them in terms of popularity. Also in the mix is a cool mash-up we found featuring La Roux's "I'm Not Your Toy." Elly Jackson was in Chicago last week, her debut performance here, and we were able to speak with her about her thoughts on pop stardom and Lady Gaga. Read all about that here: Killin' Them Softly.

On one last note: We love the forthcoming Yeasayer album, and particular the mix's closing track, "Ambling Alp." Nuff said.

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Other posts you might enjoy since the last update:


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Courtesy of www.popstatic.com we have a few words from one of Chicago's leading DJs and a close personal friend of Dialogue Inc, DJ Popstatic, who compiled and mixed a perfect soundtrack to the frigid wintery days that we're struggling through here in the Windy City:

It's a new year and with it, at least around these parts, comes the freezing rush of winter. With that in mind, I've drawn up a new DJ mix made specifically for the occasion.

It's a head-y and contemplative mix full of some very moody and dramatic moments. I wanted it to represent not only where I am going musically (as evidenced by the inclusion of my original "Nightswim" track), but also to just be a totally unpretentious sequence of songs; a sequence of songs that allows the music to shine and simplifies the transitions so as not to detract from the power of the music itself. About half of the tracks are properly mixed in time and the other half are mixed using a more free-form sort of style, blending synth patches and washes of sound rather than locked grooves. To put it short, this listening experience is not in any way meant to show off my abilities as a DJ; it's meant to be a seamless and thoughtful listen from start to finish... Almost as if the DJs presence isn't even recognizable.

There are vocals at the beginning, around the halfway mark and at the end and although it's mostly instrumental, I think there's a very strong and cohesive, melodic and emotional thread throughout... The spirit of the thing remains consistent. Additionally, every track was painstakingly selected in order to work for its respective moment within the context of the entire thing and hopefully that translates to you, beloved listener that you are.

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Dialogue Inc is part of the Blogosphere! Check us out @: www.dialogueinc.com

Listen now at:

www.samurai.fm/dialogueinc

Direct download available:

HERE

DIALOGUE INCORPORATED NOW AVAILABLE FROM iTUNES!

Click here to subscribe:

http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id= 293774883

(Link should work, but if not you can simply search "dialogue Incorporated" in the itunes store and our podcast will pop up)

also available here:

itpc://www.deepersoulrecs.com/podcasts/podcast.xml orfeed://www.deepersoulrecs.com/podcasts/podcast.xml

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Dialogue Incorporated #17

Hosted by Mister Joshua P. Ferguson

Special guest mix from Popstatic

Tracklisting:

Hour 1:

Diskjokke “Rosenrd” – Moshi Moshi

Jarvis Cocker “You’re in My Eyes (Discosong)” (Pilooski mix) – Rough Trade

I:Cube “Falling” – Versatile

Simian Mobile Disco “Cruel Intentions” (Maurice Fulton remix) – Wichita

Das Pop “Fool for Love” (Aeroplane remix) – Prestel

Lindstrom & Chirstabelle “Looking for What” – Smalltown Supersound

My Tiger My Timing “I Am the Sound” – Kitsune

Hot Chip “Hand Me Down Your Love” – Parlophone

Annie “My Love is Better” (Emperor Machine remix) – Smalltown Supersound

Tokyo Black Star “Caballero” – Innervision

Argy + the Martinez Brothers “Debbie Downer” – Objektive

Van She “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (Holy Ghost! remix) – CD-R

Four Tet “Love Cry” (Joy Orbison remix) – Domino

Lung “Afterlife” – Kokeshi

Guido “Beautiful Complication” – Punch drunk

Hour 2:

Delphic “Counterpoint” – Chimeric

La Roux vs Delphic “I’m Not Your Counterpoint)” (Reborn Identity mix) – CD-R

Yeasayer “Ambling Alp” – Secretly Canadian

Popstatic Winter Mix:

Popstatic 'Nightswim' - Unreleased

Damian Lazarus 'Moment' - Get Physical Music

Murcof 'Memoria' - Leaf

Burial + Four Tet 'Moth' - Text Records

F.U.S.E 'Nightdrive' - Plus 8 Records Ltd.

Pantha Du Prince 'Saturn Strobe' - Dial Records

Lulu Rouge 'Bless You' - Music For Dreams

Joris Delacroix 'Calin Cale' (Rodriguez Jr. Remix) - WOH Lab

Mymy 'Fast Freeze' - Cocoon Recordings

Petter 'Some Polyphony' - Border Community

Extrawelt 'Mit Liese Auf Der Wiese' (Max Cooper's Melt Remix) - Traum

Charlie May 'Midnight' - emFire

Sylvain Chauveau 'Fly Like A Horse' - Kompakt

Sigur Ros 'Samskeyti' - MCA Records

Album Review: Four Tet | There Is Love In You

FourTet

THERE IS LOVE IN YOU

DominoRecords

chillout \ chil-aût \ vb + jazz \ jas \ n

Four Tet recently contributed a DJ mix to Pete Tong’s Essential Mix radio show on BBC 1. Across its 26 tracks, Kieran Hebden—as Four Tet is known to friends and family—floated from up-and-coming dubstep producers Joy Orbison and Floating Points to Weather Report and back without so much as batting an eyelash. A seemingly disparate collection of songs, it maintains a beautiful—if somewhat abstract—cohesiveness throughout.

The same can be said of Hebden’s new album. Drawing from his usual schizophrenic mix of folk, jazz, hip-hop and electronica, There Is Love In You is meticulously constructed from a cacophony of sounds that, in their dissonance are, none-the-less, subtly pleasing to the ears. This is a formula that Hebden has prided himself in since his early days in the post-rock band Fridge and he’s found no reason to deviate. In fact, if forced to classify Hebden’s music, it could be called post-electronic.

On lead single, “Love Cry” a yearning soul sample is set on repeat while dusty jazz drums pulse as if prodded on by Burial doing his best house impression; the track bubbles with a slow burning intensity that would make Carl Craig smile. “Sing” builds around an army of 8-bit video game samples bouncing in unison to swinging drums and airy vocals that add more texture than they do meaning. Again and again, we’d be tempted to ostracize his choice of source materials for their foreignness if they didn’t sound so good in harmony with one another. But, there in lies Hebden’s genius. He’s not trying to adhere to some sort of formula when making his records; he’s simply exercising his love of sound. And he’s clearly poured a lot of that into his latest.

— Joshua P. Ferguson

Here's a link to download Four Tet's Essential Mix: Essential

Tracklisting:

  1. Four Tet — Angel Echoes


  2. Floating Points — Vacuum


  3. Robert Owens — Bring Down The Walls

  4. STL — Jungle Sometimes

  5. Oni Ayhun — Oar003 


  6. Weather Report — Non-Stop Home


  7. DJ Sprinkles — Grand Central Pt1 (Mcde Bassline Dub)


  8. Four Tet — Sing

  9. Benge — 1981 Yamaha Cs70m 

  10. Joy Orbison — So Derobe

  11. Melchior Productions — Different Place 


  12. Dem 2 — Luv’s Hard New York

  13. Seelenluft — Manila (Manitoba Remix) 

  14. William Onyeabor — When The Going Is Smooth And Good 


  15. Pryda — Muranyi 


  16. Moodymann — Det.Riot

  17. Zomby — Digital Fauna 


  18. Joyce — Aldela De Ogum 


  19. Joe Goddard — Apple Bobbing (Four Tet Remix)


  20. Cassy — Soul Saviour

  21. One Little Plane — Lotus Flower (Avus She’s Singing Mix) 


  22. Hard House Banton — Reign Spoilt


  23. Four Tet — Sing (Floating Points Remix) 


  24. Troy Pierce — Oxytocin 


  25. Laurie Spiegel — Patchwork


  26. Eluvium — The Motion M

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Interview | Holy Ghost!

Scene the Light

Interview with Holy Ghost's Nicholas Millhiser

As producers dive into their computers to make new songs from entirely digital resources, it’s fewer and further between that acts incorporate classic analog equipment and recording techniques. Holy Ghost! happens to be one of those acts, eschewing the digital in favor of analog warmth. Born out of a desire to recreate the sounds they were sampling as high schoolers, Nicholas Millhiser and Alexander Frankel—along with their Mentors at DFA, James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy—have slowly crafted a sound that pays deep respects to its disco influences while still forging new paths in dance music. In anticipation of their DJ set at Smart Bar Wed 10, we caught up with Millhiser to talk more about what makes them tick.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

JPF | You and Alex go way back to the playground days right?

NM | Alex and I met in the second grade. We grew up together and went to the same school. We were always really into music and started playing in bands when we were really young. Alex and I started a rap group when we were in high school. That became Automato, a project produced by James [Murphy] and Tim [Goldsworthy]. That’s how we met those guys. The band fell apart after one record, but Alex and I kept working on stuff with James and Tim.

JPF | Was Automato really straight up rap?

NM | It was a live six-person band. At the time, James and Tim were not well known at all and we were having a hard time finding a producer that could make the record sonically sound like samples, even though we were a live band. They were the first people that really got that and through the process of making that record, Alex and I learned about being in the studio and learned the foundation of all the stuff we do now.

JPF | Not a bad duo to have looking over your shoulder as you’re learning things. Was that your first inroads into making music in the style you’re doing now?

NM | It happened quite serendipitously. I was into dance music when I was in high school. Like everyone, when Homework came out, I got really into it. I think I went through an embarrassing drum ‘n’ bass phase like a lot of other people as well. It was around that time that we got our first apartment and there was this really great record store near by. We started buying disco records, looking for samples and drum breaks. Disco records were always the ones in the dollar been and they also had these long drum breaks. Through the process of buying records for samples, you inevitably stumble across you really, actually like. After we met Tim and James we’d be talking about records and Tim would reference some Loose Joints record and I’d be like ‘oh yeah. I have that record. I really kind of like that record.’ And Tim would be like ‘Of course you like that record. It’s an amazing record.’ That’s how we discovered that people liked that stuff.

JPF | Speaking of disco, people are really throwing that term around a lot; attaching it to their parties or their sound. I feel like DFA is trying to let it be known that it’s music is much broader than that. How do you feel about the term and where does it fit into your music?

NM | We definitely get pegged in with that ‘nudisco’ scene. That’s partially our fault because our music certainly references disco and when we deejay, we play a lot of disco. Even though there are a lot of references to disco I wouldn’t say that we’re a pure, 100% disco group. Not that I wouldn’t like to be! I say that with the greatest respect to the disco artists that I like. I don’t think we’ve been able to capture that ‘thing,’ we sort of do our own bastardized version of it. I think James would say the same thing. But at the same time there is a very sincere love of disco. I don’t think that term gets thrown around as much in Europe, which is interesting. In America, because the dance music scene is so much smaller, promoters—especially when we’ve been to L.A. or Vancouver or San Francisco—they’re like ‘yeah, yeah, the opening DJ, he’s a disco DJ.’ Disco has just become a catchall terms for hipster dance music. It could mean that they’re playing nudisco or electro or any of these things that really don’t have anything to do with each other.

JPF | That’s something that’s been trending up in Chicago as well. The term has become a signifier for promoters who want to get people out to their parties.

NM | It’s just a term that’s ubiquitous with general, hip dance music. It’s like electro, ‘electro’ doesn’t’ sound anything like electro. When I first started reading about it getting big, I got really excited thinking people might be making Nucleus records again. Not quite. I like a lot of the new electro, but it’s the same sort of thing, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the term itself.

JPF | You guys have really become big studio heads, working on many of the different DFA projects. Would you consider yourself part of a DFA house band?

NM | I wouldn’t say that. DFA has grown a lot since it’s inception, but when DFA started it really was just a group of friends. There’s James and Tim. Then there’s Juan, who is James’s best friend. Marcus, Shit Robot, worked upstairs and then there was Gavin, the synth repair guy, who does work as Black Meteoric Star. So the original core group at DFA was first and foremost a good group of friends. The way people at DFA work on records is just informal, you work on tracks with your friends. If James was out of town and Tim was working on a remix and needed someone to play drums, he would call me up. If they needed someone to play keys, they would call Alex. It’s the same way now. We were just working on a track and wanted big vocals so I called up Antony and asked if she would come over and yell. We’re no more a part of the DFA house band than anyone else in the group.

JPF | Is this how the cult of analog over there got started?

NM | For sure. For me it started right when Alex and I graduated from high school and we’d signed our first record deal. At that time we were totally obsessed with Radiohead and wanted to know how to sound like that. We spent the majority of our recording budget buying gear. Then we met James and Tim and we walk into their studio. It had everything we could ever dream of, all the stuff we’d only seen in pictures. It was all there, it worked and these guys knew how to use it.

JPF | So these days, where do Tim and James fit into the equation? Like, say on the new album.

NM | Their roles have definitely changed as they’ve become more successful. They are much harder to pin down. I don’t think anyone will ever get another James and Tim produced album like the way we did the Automato record. That was six months in a studio, coming in every day, and James and Tim are there. On our new record, we knew very early on that James was going to be too busy to be involved in any real formal way, so his role was more as an executive producer. We’d play him demos and give him ideas and we’d get his reactions. There involvement was informal, but no less important. Just as friends, over the past two years, I’ve definitely spent an enormous amount of time with them, picking their brains and getting their opinions on it. Some day I’d love to make a full record with them, but their just too busy with that little band, that adorable little LCD Soundsystem.

JPF | And sound tracking movies. I saw that James did the soundtrack to the new Noah Baumbach film Greenberg.

NM | I was with Nancy from the Juan MacLean when I saw that and I was like ‘Holy shit. He’s going to be insufferable now! (laughs)”

JPF | A blessing and a curse. At least the album is done now right?

NM | Yes, now it enters what I like to call record industry purgatory. It just sits there and waits while the label figures out how they want to release it. Which is fine with us, the past year has been really intense for us. Now, we get a little time to breath and figure out how to play live.

JPF | So you want to have a live band when you tour for the album?

NM | That’s always been the goal. It’s just such an enormous undertaking. Alex and I have always wanted to wait till the last possible minute so that when we’re ready to do it we can just block out a huge chunk of time and treat it almost like making a record.

JPF | Was it a conscious effort to wait this long to do your album?

It’s definitely something that worked out in our favor. When we put out “Hold On,” it’s not like there was this plan for what the album was going to be. I think most bands, when they put out a first single, there’s already this idea of what the project is going to be. Alex and I, we had just made this song and James and Tim were stocked about it and wanted to put it out. There wasn’t a second single ready; we were just noodling on a bunch of stuff. So we took a step back to think about what the project is going to be. But at the same time, due to of the success of “Hold On,” we got asked to do all these remixes, which we’d always wanted to do. In the process of doing those, we got a lot more comfortable in the studio and started to develop a clearer aesthetic for our own stuff.

JPF | I would have been really surprised if you’d told me that there was a 15-page marketing plan ready to be put into place upon the release of “Hold On.”

NM | Alex was a personal assistant and I was working in a wine shop. There was no grand plan whatsoever.

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We're pleased to announce that our affiliation with the Chicago Workgroup has afforded us the opportunity to be part of the All Systems Go! with Holy Ghost! event on 02.10.10. Catch all the details below and see you on the dance floor.

Here's two mixes to get you in the mood:

Holy Ghost! - Headphone Highlights: http://redbullmusicacademyradio.com/shows/1434/

Holy Ghost! - Trainwreck Mix: http://redbullmusicacademyradio.com/shows/714/