Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Robyn can churn out hits, but don’t call her manufactured.
By Joshua P. Ferguson
Originallly published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 07.15.10
Currently one of Sweden’s biggest musical exports, Robyn has been navigating the mainstream music industry for just shy of half her life. She was discovered at age 16 by the Swedish pop star Meja, who recognized her considerable talent while participating in a music workshop at the teenager’s hometown high school in Stockholm. That was 1996. Just a year later, Robyn, born Robin Carlsson, hit it big with “Do You Know What It Takes” and “Show Me Love”—not to be confused with the house anthem of the same name by Robin S. Now, at 31, Carlsson has released five albums internationally; the tour for her latest, Body Talk Pt. 1, sees her performing on the main stage at the Pitchfork Music Festival on Friday 16.
With so many years dedicated to pop music and two actors for parents, you’d think that Carlsson was groomed for stardom at an early age. But, when we reach the silky-voiced chanteuse at her Berlin hotel room, she sets the record straight. “It’s very different from what it might sound like,” she says. “My parents had an independent theater group when I was a kid, but it wasn’t really commercial at all.” Though she dreamed of being a singer as a child, she says her discovery during that fateful workshop was a happy accident.
The meteoric rise Carlsson saw after her debut record, Robyn is Here (1997), proved difficult to maintain. A combination of physical burnout and head butts with her record label, BMG, stunted her popularity here in the States. It took some time, but in 2005 Carlsson broke free of her corporate contracts and launched her Konichiwa label, giving her the creative freedom she’s always craved. “I spent ten years in the industry trying to figure out how to make pop music my own way,” she explains. “I definitely got to a point where I didn’t feel like it was worth it anymore.”
The new label proved to be her saving grace. Carlsson’s first record there, 2005’s Robyn, served as an international comeback. The album received numerous award nominations in the U.K. and at home in Sweden, and her playful rap on “Konichiwa Bitches” garnered healthy hipster cred.
photo by Kate Gardiner
Live Review: Robyn | Pitchfork Festival 2010 Chicago
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published on the Time Out Chicago blog | TOC: Robyn Live Review
Though tempting, it’s a backwards juxtaposition to say Robyn reminds you of La Roux. Really, for all the coiffed hair and electro pop, it should be the other way around. If you made the comparison to her, she’d probably say “Konichiwa bitch. I’ve been at this for fifteen years.” And she has. Her Bambi-legged British counterpart has maybe 24 months under her belt. Seeing Robyn live at Pitchfork tonight, for the first time, you realize how much of a pop star performance veteran she really is.
Sauntering onto the stage to “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do” and bleeding straight into “Fembot,” the debut single on her new album Body Talk Pt 1, Robyn had a strong ’90s air to her, like something out of Back to the Future 2. Her platinum blonde ‘do cut high and tight, she sported a grey mini dress with leather shoulder pads, sections on the back cut out in all the right places. In comparison to when I spoke to her—recently, during a long day of interviews—for our recent feature “Pop machine,” she was all energy. Alongside her band, fresh off the plane from Sweden and dressed all in white, they kicked through maybe twelve songs. A good portion were from the new album, but that didn’t mean there weren’t highlights from further back in her career as well.
The pace of the show stayed upbeat and highly danceable. She covered all the hits including her latest album’s highest highlights, “Dancing on My Own” and 2008’s “With Every Heartbeat.” Flipping things into half time, she even had everyone skanking to the Diplo-produced “Dancehall Queen.”
I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get this hot in Sweden. This afternoon’s temperatures soared into the low nineties. Regardless, her elfin face red from the workout, Robyn and co. killed it tonight, marking a great start to what is sure to be a most memorable weekend.
— Joshua P. Ferguson
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 07.08.10
chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb + tech•no \tek-nõ\ n
In 1999, at 19, British electronic-music prodigy James Holden released “Horizons,” a hyperspeed trance production embedded with a fist-pumping euphoria that’s light years from where his music is currently. As one of the U.K.’s brightest and boldest techno minds, the genre-defying label !k7 has handpicked Holden to contribute the latest DJ-KiCKS, a series of mix-CDs that’s seen installments from many of electronic music’s most talented stars.
Though “Horizons” is more than ten years old and trance no longer holds the appeal it once did, the track is still an indicator of the Oxford graduate’s talent. It encapsulates the nuance and understated intensity that spans Holden’s work. That said, Holden never sits still for long, and on this mix—in a similar style to the output from his indie techno label Border Community—he navigates through 20 of the most challenging and varied digital compositions to be found in one place.
In the first 15 minutes, he swings from field-recording atmospherics (Piano Magic’s “Wintersport/Cross Country”) to blissful Balearica (Music Cargo’s remix of “Disco” by Grackle) to dubby techno breaks (Mordant Music’s “Olde Wobbly”), and it feels completely natural. Then, from Caribou’s “Lemon Yoghourt” on, the selections settle into Holden’s current forte, a mix of emo techno—syncopated tribal rhythms and droning shoegaze melodies—like his exclusive contribution to the mix, “Triangle Folds,” and indie-electronic experimentation, like that of L.A. sound engineers Lucky Dragons. House and techno’s telltale four-on-the-floor thump finds its way into the final quarter of the mix, but in a manner too subtle to inspire the vertical knuckle sandwiches made popular by Jersey Shore, and this is a very good thing in our book.
—Joshua P. Ferguson
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Rock the House
WhoMadeWho rocks, but that doesn't mean you can't dance.
By Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 06.24.10
“We call it German foot,” explains Jeppe Kjellberg, songwriter and guitarist for Copenhagen indie dance trio WhoMadeWho. “In the German scene, they have all these different styles of techno and electro, and the main thing is the foot. You have it under every four notes of the bar, like thmp thmp thmp thmp.”
In 2003, Kjellberg and drummer Tomas Barfod, a longtime friend and bandmate from various other projects, formed WhoMadeWho to give their rock background that German foot, translating the sound for dance clubs. “Barfod, when you translate it, it’s barefoot,” Kjellberg says of his drummer’s last name. “Naturally, he’s also got a very German foot. He feels so comfortable putting those four notes down on the bass drum.”
WhoMadeWho, its name lifted from an AC/DC song, has been an overnight success in Europe. “The whole idea was that we could stand in the middle of a club and just jam and improvise instrumental music, reacting to the crowd with our music and communicating like a DJ.” In the early aughties, that was still a fresh concept. Dance-rock bands like LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip were just emerging, and the formula hadn’t yet crossed into the U.S. rock-music sphere. It would be a few years before MGMT and Passion Pit won acclaim.
Despite its popularity overseas, WhoMadeWho is only now gaining steam stateside. If not for the band’s much-talked-about South by Southwest set this year, it wouldn’t be embarking on its current U.S. tour.
Speaking from his backyard patio in Copenhagen, as birds chirp in the background, the mustachioed 34-year-old tells us about studying music at the Danish Rhythmic Conservatory, also in Copenhagen. While there, he met the band’s vocalist and bass player, Tomas Hoefding. “I played with him in different groups and enjoyed his extremely skillful disco bass playing and his voice. So when [Barfod and I] needed a bass player, it was very natural for me to call him.”
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Dance-rock juggernauts LCD Soundsystem and the Rapture aren’t exactly hurting for fans, but Europe’s live dance-rock bands haven’t yet taken hold here. Copenhagen, Denmark-based dance rock outfit WhoMadeWho is just starting to build up steam in the States. An extremely well-received show at SXSW has garnered the trio its first real attention here and has subsequently led a handful of North American dates, including one in Chicago.
This past Wednesday a respectable little crowd gathered in front of the quaint backroom stage at Schubas to cheer on local indie electro fave Gemini Club through a set that was mostly highs, but had a low point or two as well. Respect must be paid for the enthusiasm and forethought put into the performance but a couple of loose wires and unexpected technical difficulties left the band improvising and cracking jokes about Russian spy sabotage. Jokes that I’m sure frontman Tom Gavin would have preferred not to make, considering the band’s aim was to keep the music flowing. Emulating a DJ set, Gemini Club maintained sound non-stop, letting one track feed into the next. That fun concept that was going without a hitch until Gordon Bramli’s drum machine set-up came unplugged. Oh well, the crowd took it as well as the band did, and the rhythm barely skipped a bit. We can hardly let something like that taint our opinion of a band that’s working overtime to fast track its music career. (Unfortunately we didn't nab any Gemini Club photos, so all those here are of WhoMadeWho).
All was especially forgotten when WhoMadeWho hit the stage. Known for its outlandish stage costumes (baby diapers, angel’s wings anyone?), the trio was especially low key tonight, performing in dress shirts, suspenders and hipster-slim slacks. Loud, tight and seemingly having more fun than the audience—at least until we all realized what was unfolding before us—WhoMadeWho has all the qualities to bump it up to larger venue the next time it makes it to town. The band effortlessly bounced from upbeat post-punk disco like its cover of Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction” and on to midtempo chuggers like “Keep Me In My Plane.” With each passing track the crowd only seemed to grow larger and dance harder. Clearly comfortable with each other band members Jeppe Kjellberg and Tomas Hoefding harmonized and danced together as they played and joked with the crowd during the interludes. There was no shortage of beer swilling either, as Kjellberg used his pint glass for a mean bit of slide guitar at one point. These weren’t the only antics. Hoefding performed one song from atop a ladder and at the end of their first set drummer Tomas Barfod kept the beat going for a full five minutes after his mates left the stage.
People in the audience may not have been familiar with WhoMadeWho at the onset of the gig but it was clear by the end—and from the line of girls waiting to talk to them after the four-song encore—that the trio left with a substantial batch of new fans. Well deserved.
—Joshua P. Ferguson
Stay tuned till tomorrow, we'll be posting up our full interview with WhoMadeWho's Jeppe Kjellberg.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Hood Internet has turned remixing into a full time job.
By Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 06.03.10
In the early Aughties, while still attending college in Madison, Wisconsin, I worked with a guy named Steve Reidell at the college radio station there. On the side, he was emulating Master P in the most tongue-in-cheek way possible. He was gathering his—no doubt sometimes stoned—buddies to sample their favorite rock records, create a rap beat with the samples, and then, well, rap over it. The sessions were then packaged in the most outlandish No Limit-looking covers they could create (Reidell is a whiz with Adobe design). Now, with production partner Aaron Brinx, he is Hood Internet, a full-fledged touring act that’s performed at Lollapalooza and South by Southwest, and it continues to churn out mash-ups weekly, each earning a frenzy of praise from the blogosphere.
Though Brink, 30, works in higher education in Charlotte, North Carolina, Reidell, 31, has remained in Chicago, quitting his day job as Metro’s in house designer last year to focus on Hood Internet. It’s paying off: These guys snare new fans by the hour. They’ve also moved into original productions, with a new 7" featuring Kid Static due out this summer on Whistler Records (yes, from the same Whistler you’ve been drinking at all these nights). We caught up with Reidell recently to discuss how far he's come and how much further he plans on going.
You’ve had a lot of success recently, but your fondness for mash-ups dates back to your University of Wisconsin-Madison days. All of my friends were in bands. We would cook up beats and do stuff that was pretty similar to what the Hood Internet does now, sampling and constructing music beds from songs we like. We would take the shit we were playing or listening to and chop it up. Aaron was doing the same thing in Ann Arbor.
Are you surprised it’s grown into the career it has since then? We had never intended to be live DJs. When we started, Aaron and I didn’t have a ton else going on other than working and hanging. We were hearing tracks by Sammy Bananas and Them Jeans and we were like, dude, we were doing this years ago. Why don’t we pick it back up, and instead of having our friends rap, we’ll mix it with some shit that people want to listen to? Without our history in music, we would have already passed our blip-on-the-radar moment with this.
Continue reading: TOC | Hood Internet
Just over a year ago, Hood Internet did an exclusive DJ mix for us, you can hear that here: Hood Intrnet DJ mix for Dialogue Incorporated
Here's a recent fave of theirs to check out (or download):