Thursday, September 30, 2010

Video Review: Darkstar | Gold

Maybe it's the virtual circles we travel in, but it seems like the past month (possibly more) has produced an endless stream of buzz for the Hyperdub trio Darkstar. Thankfully, versus some of the praise that gets sung of less than deserving "break out" acts, Darkstar, and it's debut North which is out early next month, deserves a good deal of the accolades being thrown at it. For starters, last year's "Aidy's Girl is a Computer" proved that Hypderdub was about much more than dubstep—although many writing on Darkstar seem to feel a need to afix the genre to the group somehow, most recently describing the sound as "post-dubstep"—and the track landed itself in the coveted spot of being one of Gilles Peterson's "Worldwide Winners" of 2009. 

As you can probably tell, we're not really convinced of the associations made between Darkstar and dubstep (however much we're ultimately appreciating the record). The closest relative is "Aidy's Girl," or other early productions—like "Need You"— when the band was just the production duo of James Young and Aiden Whalley. The addition of vocalist James Buttery has clearly pushed them in new, less definable directions.  Listening to the LP, it feels unwilling to stick to any one framework as it glides from one track to the next on a bed of glitchy vocals, stuttering synths and rhythms that share as much with trip-hop, pitched down house and indie rock as they do with dubstep's syncopated shuffle. The newest single, "Gold," a cover of the Human League B-Side, there's really no comparing. Of the song, the band had this to say (excerpted from an interview with Hyperdub label boss Kode9):

"The Human League track was given to me by a friend. He used to play the dub at 33rpm instead of 45 so the break would be real slow and crunchy. He lent me the tune and I put the flip on at 33rpm too. The vocal line was how you hear it in the single, the original is much quicker and it's a pretty obscure one from the "Mirror Man" EP. The Human League are great. We paid more attention to them after making the track, throughout the album we listened to four or five albums regularly and Travelogue was one of them. I'm not sure if we were real fans, to be honest, I listen to some of it and think that it's brave but sometimes they get it so right. They've obviously got a strong vision to create a sound so uncompromising. Even though they were consistently in the charts, it's a very particular way of writing, mixing and arranging. I don't think I've heard anything like it before or since. I don't necessarily enjoy listening to it a lot of the time; it interests me though."

As meandering as that sound bite is, it says a great deal about the personality behind the melancholy confections that make up the band's debut. The crew is thinking about its influences, letting them sink in, but not too deeply. In a lot of ways the most apt comparison we can come up with is to the xx, another band that channels new wave, indie rock and electronica without being overwhelmingly any of those things.  Obviously not spitting images of each other, they do seem to share a low-key pop feel (dare we say chillwave? Ok, we won't go there). Regardless it demonstrates a permeability that will allow them to be something more accessible than most of dubstep will ever be, especially for American audiences. 

— Joshua P. Ferguson

Today they let go of their video for "Gold" and we want to share it with you so you can get a taste of things to come: 

Darkstar: Gold from Evan Boehm on Vimeo.

If you'd like to read more about how the video was made, check out this cool break down from Sembler, the company behind the animation etc:

Sembler | Project "Gold"

Darkstar's North is out on October 19. In the U.K. anyway...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Article: Chemical Brothers | Perfect Chemistry

Perfect Chemistry

After all these years, the Chemical Brothers 
still have a winning formula.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 09.02.10

(One of the higher profile interviews I've done, I'm truly grateful to have interviewed Tom Rowlands of the Chemical Borthers before the duo appeared here in Chicago over Labor Day weekend, read my review of the show here: Live Review | Chemical Brothers. Below is an excerpt from the article borne out of our Sunday morning chat back in August. — JPF)

Tom Rowlands laughs at the suggestion that a Chemical Brothers live show is more akin to stadium clubbing than any underground alternative. But when he’s kicking back, pre-gig, on Pag Island—“the Ibiza of Croatia” he calls it—surrounded by a shimmering sea and a balmy clime, it’s difficult to deny that his stature has taken him well beyond the nightclub circuit. The perks of his success are so acute the ocean breeze practically wafts through the phone along with his mild British accent.

Creature comforts aside, the Chemical Brothers—which Rowlands formed with production partner Ed Simons in 1992—have drawn audiences in the thousands to their live shows for almost their entire career. The attendance wasn't far off when the duo headlined North Coast Music Festival at Union Park on Friday September 3.

Pioneers of the first big wave of rave sounds exported from Europe and the U.K. in the ’90s, the Chemical Brothers were one of that period’s biggest success stories, rivaled only by Daft Punk and the Prodigy. Overseas, the Chem craze was even greater. Of their six albums prior to June’s Further, five have reached No. 1 in the U.K.

Grouped with Fatboy Slim and the Crystal Method as part of the big-beat movement, the Chemical Brothers’ sound is a blend of hip-hop, acid house, techno, pop and psychedelia—the product of a youth spent listening to Kraftwerk, Public Enemy and early club sounds emerging from Chicago and Detroit. It’s a formula that gives them the freedom to vary tempo, style and intensity at will, something many electronic acts lack. The malleable formula has also helped them maintain their 15-year career.

Continue Reading

The Chemical Brothers - Swoon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fujiya & Miyagi | Ventriloquizzing + MP3

It was at the behest of a good friend that I paid Fujiya & Miyagi the time it deserves. Sometime last year the band was headlining after School of Seven Bells, a trio that can be credited with getting me back into rock music, something that, up until 2008, I hadn't really paid any mind since high school (and those of you that recall the kind of rock you were listening to in high school know this hardly counts).

I vaguely new of the group from my time working as a buyer at Groove Distribution. The quartet occupied this odd space as a rock band—albeit one with heavy dance tendencies—on the cosmic and deep house label Tirk.  Hearing them live for the first time, I was immediately a convert. Understated but potent, driving without being abrasive and musically tight as hell, these dudes have chops for days. And, it's been a minute since we've seen or heard them flexing. Thankfully, this morning that all changed.

The group has wrapped up a new album, Ventriloquizzing, which—at least in the U.K.—will be out early next year on Full Time Hobby, a label they now share with SVIIB overseas. The label has let go of the debut single, "Sixteen Shades of Black and Blue," a bit of a morose song, but one that you can't help but tap your foot to, especially once the horns and synths start harmonizing together. 

When Tirk was releasing limited edition 10"s of F&M's mellow dance rock, it was definitely a step in a new direction. Now, there's no shortage of bands mixing and mingling freely in both worlds. Guitars are backed by drum machines with the same frequency that obscure samples are looped over live drums. "Sixteen Shades" even plays with the same tom drum swing prominently featured on Cut Copy's new single "Where I'm Going" and WhoMadeWho's "The Plot," both of which can be heard on our latest edition of Dialogue Incorporated Radio. Yet, while F&M may find the current musical landscape has a lot of similar sounding acts—imitators and innovators in their own right—we're not any less welcoming to their new material.

But enough chatting about it, let's let the music speak for itself.

— Joshua P. Ferguson

Friday, September 24, 2010

Article: Caribou | Real Big Fish + mp3

Real big fish

Caribou makes a sizeable splash with Swim.

By Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 07.08.10

When I reach Dan Snaith—the man behind indie-folk-tronic project Caribou—on his cell phone, he’s in Europe, traveling with his band. They’ve just crossed the border from the Czech Republic after a show in Prague and are heading to Austria to perform in Vienna. “We’ve just been to Russia and Poland, and we’re going to the former Yugoslavia in the next couple days,” Snaith says. “Before coming to [Chicago], we’re going to China, Korea and Japan.”

Waist deep in a world tour for his new album, Swim, Snaith—who records solo but tours with a band—headlined Millennium Park back in July and is now back again to headline Metro on Sunday, September 26. The LP, Snaith’s fifth, sees him broadening his sonic palette from the ’60s pop, psychedelia and krautrock that were clear reference points on 2007’s critically adored Andorra and reining in the post-electronic indie sounds of his earlier records.

“It collects everything I’ve thought about or done before and then adds something new,” says the 31-year-old multi-instrumentalist. The newness Snaith refers to comes from the record’s heavier dance vibe. Though it’s not a club record by any means, the techno and breaks rhythms that Snaith pairs with his intricate song structures and moody pop melodies lend it increased appeal. The crowds at his shows have taken note; he says attendance is better than ever.

Given Swim’s shift in sound, it still represents Caribou well. “The liquidity concept was a big part of that,” Snaith explains. “The expectation of dance music is that it is very rigid, metallic sounding and crisp. I like the idea of everything floating around in an ethereal way but still with rhythmic elements referencing dance music.” Feeling as if he’d done all there was to do with his rock influences, but still wanting to keep his songwriting aesthetic, Snaith turned to the challenge of giving dance music the emotional resonance that makes his previous work so memorable.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Album Review : Marcel Dettmann | Dettmann

To cap off Sónar Chicago’s weekend of heady electronic music, Smart Bar hosted Berlin techno icon Marcel Dettmann for a peak time Saturday night set. To put it succinctly, he demolished it. Or, more appropriately, tore the club down speaker by speaker and drug-addled onlooker by drug-addled onlooker (I too found myself lost somewhere in the rubble of the aftermath). A master of his art, Dettmann displayed a connection to the genre as classic as the Detroit greats and as boundary-pushing as those yet to be discovered. This type of experience is a rare one in the Midwest, so for those that couldn't attend, dive into his debut full-length for the Ostgut Ton label, and get a taste for what this man has to offer.

Marcel Dettmann
Ostgut Ton

house \haus \ n + tech•no \tek-nõ\ n

Originally published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 09.09.10

Maybe it was Kraftwerk’s German efficiency or possibly Juan Atkins’s love of sci-fi. Whatever the root, techno has a profound fondness of the future and the sleek philosophy of less is more. Still, amid all those cold ones and zeroes, there’s a ghost in the machine, a soul giving the genre its digital warmth, and Marcel Dettmann has the paranormal ability of a ghost whisperer.

Dettmann is a founding resident at Berlin’s Berghain club, a modern equivalent to the Warehouse or the Paradise Garage in terms of its influence on dance culture. This means he can be likened to a minimal-tech version of Frankie Knuckles. Such laurels are not easy to earn considering the divisive factions of techno purists. Fortunately, Dettmann’s precision as a DJ and his consummate love of techno garner considerable respect.

His debut for Berghain’s in-house label exudes this same meticulousness and appreciation. Early tracks are stark and industrial. Opener “Argon” clicks along like an army of mechanized ants in a cavernous hallway. “Screen” displays techno’s telltale futurism, recalling 2001: A Space Odyssey, only in this version, HAL’s programming initiative is to make us dance.

Later, the record evolves into deeper tones. “Drawing” is introspective and sprawling and “Irritant” sounds as if humongous bouncing balls were recorded in an echo chamber and then synced with the cackle of a hi-hat. Often I wonder if the pervasive, understated thump is enough to get a club moving, but the man’s DJ sets are the stuff of legend and his productions are pristine enough to make masters like Richie Hawtin squirm with envy.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

If the LP isn't enough to quench your techno thirst, peep this DJ mix he did for Fact Magazine:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

DJ Mix | Roy Shay "Big Chill 2010"

Alas, I was not able to make the trek to Hertfordshire, England, for the chillest of Big Chill festivals, something I've been quite vocal about here at Dialogue Incorporated. Last year was one of the most magical musical experiences I've ever had, and who wouldn't be dying for a repeat, even if, in our heart of hearts, we knew the first go around would be tough to top... Thankfully our LDN counterpart, the delightfully jovial tastemaker Roy Shay carried on in our stead. He offered up a great review of his experience, complete with photos—Review | Big Chill 2010—and now he's backing that up with the live recordings from an extended set he did on Big Chill Radio, broadcast live from the grounds of the festival.

Without further ado, we invite you to take a listen as Mr. Shay takes you on a whirlwind trip from slo-mo disco to house to hip-hop to abstract beats to dubstep and back.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Roy Shay @ Big Chill Part 1

Hot Toddy Vs Ron Benjamin "I Need Love" (Morgan Geist’S Love Dub)
Aeroplane "We Can’T Fly"
Yelawolf "Stage Lights" (Remix)
Paul White "Alien Nature"
Penguin Prison "Something I'm Not"
Tokimonsta "Death By Disco"
Johnny Edgar "Tell It To The Heart" (Original Mix)
Breakbot "Baby I'm Yours" (Feat. Irfane)
Caribou "Odessa"
Chemical Brothers "Swoon" (Lindstorm And Prins Thomas Remix)
Major Laser And La Roux "Quicksand" (Mad Decent 2010 Remix) Ft Amanda Blank
Code Breaker "Follow Me"
Music Go Music “Warm In The Shadow” (Villa Remix)
Caribou "Sun"
Mount Kimbie "Would Know"

Roy Shay @ Big Chill Part 2

Joy Orbison "So Derobe"
Pangea "Why"
Joy Orbison Vs Young Money "Hyph Mngo To Go" (Dj Dial's Vocal Mix)
Block 16 "Elektocution"
Kanye West Ft. Lil' Wayne "1993 Barry Bonds"
Jay-Z Ft Lil Wayne "Summer In Brooklyn" (Quincy Jones Cookin Soul Remix)
Com Truise "Sundriped"
Gucci Man Ft. Piles "Wasted Love"
J Dilla "Safety Dance"
Big Boi "Tangerine" (Ft Ti And Khujo)
Wu Tang Clan Vs Aloe Blacc "Cream" (Theory's I Need A Dollar Edit)
Erykah Badu "Turn Me Away" (Get Munny)
Tiger And Woods "Gin Nation"
Begin "Optical Holiday" (Part 2)
Pollyn "Cant Get Into It" (Bootin Mix)
The xx "Crystalised" (Locarn Mak Remix)
Tom Staar "Console"
Kelis "Acapella" (David Guetta Mix)
Jose James "Blackmagic" (Joy Orbison’S Recreation)
MJ Cole "Sincere"

Monday, September 20, 2010

album Review: Various | Sixteen F**king Years of G-Stone Recordings



G-Stone Recordings

chillout \ chil-aût \ vb + dub \ dub \ n + house \haus \ n

Sixteen fucking years indeed. Some of my first college memories involve a smoke-filled dorm room, a few close friends, Snuggles—our bong—and the K + D Sessions, that game-changing double disc of dubby chill-out that would go on to be synonymous with downtempo and usher in a new phase of electronic music here in the U.S. I can honestly say that without that release I may not be sitting here typing this. No joke.

Now, a decade on, I’m finally hearing new material from Kruder and Dorfmeister. It’s been so long, I almost forgot I cared. But 20 seconds into “Aikon,” the opening track on Sixteen F**king Years, and I’m whisked right back to those carefree, hazy days and I immediately remember what it was about K&D and their G-Stone label that so captured my attention and made me want to become a DJ. The two haven’t lost their touch, not in the slightest. There’s a house music backbone to the song once you’re done stripping away the ominous keys, plucked strings and bubbling bassline. And when the pair wasn’t giving a house beat their stoner twist, they were doing it to drum ‘n’ bass. Few would really categorize their music as either, but that was their stepping-stone. It still is. And in my own round about way, it’s how I was introduced to both genres.

The great part about hearing Kruder and Dorfmeister together after all these years, is that you can draw it back against what each has done since they split and went solo around the beginning of the new millennium. Dorfmeister joined forces with Peter Huber to create Tosca, while Kruder decided to go it alone, becoming Peace Orchestra. The former was more accessible, bouncey and likeable; the latter, dark, moody and polyrhythmic. But combined K&D are all of those things, a sum greater than any one of its parts. That said, each of these secondary acts’ contributions to Sixteen F**king Years are the next best material on the compilation. Tosca’s “John Lee” grooves with the same bass-led groove and array of disparate samples that made Opera such a fantastic record way back in 1997. Set closer “Sional,” by Peace Orchestra, fittingly doesn’t even get a drumbeat until two and a half minutes in, and from there it’s the same darkly delightful mindfuck that I used to listen to over and over. Whether separate or together, these boys from Vienna score serious points for consistency.

Unfortunately, one thing this consistency means is that their label has basically been recycling the same formula all these years. Kruder gets a bit of a pass for his recent solo work under his own name as well as his collaborations with DJ Hell and the International DJ Gigolo label, but each Tosca record has sounded like more of the same, until last year’s No Hassle which succeeded in being both new and familiar.

The bottom line is that when the top dog talent is at the wheel, we’re golden, otherwise, not so much. And this compilation is mostly material from second-tier acts. Marsmobil’s spin around ‘60s psychedelia on “Patience” offers a glimpse at something different, but it’s followed by mostly mediocre productions from Makossa & Megablast, Sugar B, Urbs, DJ DSL and Rodney Hunter (who I’ve never cared for). It would have been nice to see Stereotyp rip into the dubstep formula and give us something new, or better yet, just leave the work to Kruder, Dorfmeister and their closest confidantes Christian Prommer and Roland Appel, who form Voom:Voom alongside Peter Kruder, and whose recent work under their own names has done the most to keep the G-Stone sound modern.

The second disc doesn’t offer any more insights than the first. In fact, there’re a few classic gems on there (“Fuck Dub 1 & 2” from Tosca, “Happy Bear” from DJ DSL) but most of the disc is easily skipped through and quickly forgotten.

As producers Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister have lost none of the luster that made their music great all those years ago, and it’s a truly exciting thing to see them back together, producing and touring again. But beyond that, much of G-Stone’s label stable didn’t sound that great in the nineties and early aughties and it’s not terribly exciting in retrospect either.

— Joshua P. Ferguson

Click below to watch a slo-mo video recap of the shoot that became the album's cover—in all of it's black suit and tie-meets-cake-and-pie glory:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mux Mool | Wax Rose Saturday EP + MP3

I remember my burgeoning DJ days, scouring the local record shop and discovering Ghostly International for the first time with its Pac Man ghost, wide-eyed little boy and pink bird mascots. It was probably the packaging more than anyone one name that drew me in. None of us knew of the phenomenon Matt Dear would become yet, but the first 12" I bought was "Dog Days," so I guess I was well on my way to discovering all that Dear had in store.

Fast forward more than a decade—which makes me feel mighty old as I sit here typing—and Ghostly has grown into much more than a Michigan techno label. It's become one of the U.S.'s best independent dance labels, putting out everything from house to techno to folk to folktronic. Minnesota's Mux Mool a.k.a. Brian Lindgren finds himself somewhere in the midst of this swirling confection of disparate genres; a sound tinkerer with a penchant for synthesizers, Star Trek and sampling. So I guess we should include Dilla and Donuts to that list (even though neither allow me to continue my "s" alliteration—"d" will have to do.) On his label's site he explains his name thusly: "'Mux is short for 'multiplexing,' which is the streaming of many types of information through one channel," he explains. "Chac-Mool is an ancient Meso-American statue of a reclining man." A technologically complex breed of synthesis and a timeless piece of indigenous art. Sounds about right.'" I'm not really sure what all that means, but it sounds cool and somehow does encompass what his frantically beat-heavy bedroom concoctions sound like.

If you want to find out more for yourself, he's actually playing a show at Kinetic Playground here in Chicago tonight. Or, because I got an e-mail from the label with a bunch of free download MP3's, you can check a few of the remixes from his recently released Wax Rose Saturday EP. Alex B of hippie-electronic act keeps the glitch-hop feel in tact, while Daso gives things a housier bounce. Both are good for repeat listens.

— Joshua P. Ferguson

And, for shits and giggles, we have this fan-made youtube video of the original track, a cut n' paste tapestry of Brue Lee-fueled fight scenes, sequenced perfectly on beat:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Album Review: Skream | Outside the Box

Outside the Box packaging photos courtesy of




Dubstep \ dub-step \ n + drum & bass \drum-bas \ n

Four years ago, when Croydon’s Oliver Jones released his self-titled debut and bass heads the world over, well, lost their heads for “Midnight Request Line” I too was impressed. But not that impressed. If I were a betting man, I would have lost my ass on the wager of whether or not dubstep would have grown to the worldwide phenomenon that it is currently. Similarly, I would have lost a second handsome sum had I put money down on whether or not Skream would release a sophomore record as confident, uncatergorizable and as listenable as Outside The Box.

Earlier this week, Skream’s partner in the epic dubstep act Magnetic Man, Artwork, contributed a ‘brief history of dubstep’ for the U.K. Guardian. New styles of music rarely fall from the heavens, and Artwork traced dubstep lineage from the U.K.’s vibrant bass music scene. It’s equal parts garage, grime and even a bit of drum ‘n’ bass, just with half as many drum hits. And Outside The Box is merely a progression of this. It’s comprised of all these same genres, but for this outing Skream has twisted them in new and even more forward thinking ways.

Following him on Twitter (@I_Skream) and seeing him respond to feedback about the record in real time, I got a sense that many in his legion of fans were none-to-impressed by how far “outside” of the dubstep box this latest record went; to them I say simply, grow up. Recognize that an artist will never be satisfied standing still. Once you come to terms with this, you’ll realize it’s a good thing when your favorite artist’s new record doesn’t sound like the last. And in Skream’s case specifically, this is a really—I repeat, really—good thing.

If you were still unsure after the two and a half minute ambient opening “Perforated,” the half-time stomp of “8-Bit Baby” with American emcee Murs proves that Outside The Box is a decidedly more mature affair than Skream’s 2006 debut. But that sound isn’t altogether absent, “CPU” is a haunting dubstep affair. If you thought the rogue man versus machine themes of films like Alien, 2001:A Space Odyssey or I:Robot were pure fantasy, you’ll think again after giving this cut the once over.

Often, though, it seems that Outside is showing off Skream’s lighter side. “How Real” deviates from his traditional formula, preferring a 21st century take on the garage and 2-step framework: all ominous bass, rave-y synths and soulful vocals. It’s his own swirling-hybrid interpretation on the most forward thinking sounds bubbling up in the U.K. The track signals a new phase in Skream’s interests as a producer and one that prevails over the next few tracks.

The Inner Life-sampling “I Love the Way” makes for one of the strongest moments on the record, He flexes the dubstep-turn-drum ‘n’ bass trickery that we first saw on his remix of La Roux’s “In For the Kill” and it sounds as potent now as it did then. Then we plow straight into the uplifting slo-mo d&b roller “Listening to Records on My Wall” which has already seen strong praise in the digi-pages of this blog.

The record continues on this path almost uninterrupted. He hearkens back to his earlier self on cuts like “Metamorphosis” and “Wibbler” but really he’s more interested in exploring his interests in the new paths being carved in drum ‘n’ bass (see his collabo with dBridge and Instra:Mental “Reflections," his brooding pairing with La Roux "Finally" and the storming finale “The Epic Last Song.”)

Over the past two years as I’ve watch the dubstep scene explode in the Midwest I’ve been very vocal about my disdain for kids who show up to hear these prolific Eueopean and British acts only to deride them for “not playing dubstep.” Sadly they’re a solid decade behind, as the scene continues to develop in its homeland, it’s already morphed into something completely know, in large part thanks to originators like Skream, who persist with thinking Outside the Box.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Clothing Preview | Men's Fashion Fall 2010

Fall Fashion 2010 | Home Sweet Home
by Joshua P. Ferguson

It's a funny thing, doing a comparison between men's and women's fashion coverage. Last month, I professed my adoration for the New York Times Style Magazine in Coming Round The Curve, my recap of their women's fall fashion preview. That issue was chock full of commentary about this and that runway show and the trends to emerge: curves, skirts, prints and the like. That's all conspicuously absent from the mens issue, which dropped this past weekend. Sure it outlines looks for fall (the chic adventurer, the versatile banker three-piece) but for me, more telling than any editorial—save one, which I'll get to—are the ads. Therein lie the signs that point to an even greater fall foray into Americana, be it preppy, workman, or pre-prohibition; of the gingham, ties and layering; of the return of the one-button suit (finally! Mad Men has been on three years now and it's only now getting an overdue resurgence).

But whether scrutinizing the adverts or dissecting the issue's actual content, the biggest thing to take away and go out and shop for is the classy and American. Tommy Hilfiger has always had an engrained sense of America in his brand, but he's readapted this theme in recent seasons. First he did a series of collections based around cities, D.C., Miami and the like. Now, he's introducing The Hilfigers, his Ultimate Tailgate Fall 2010 ad campaign. Made up of a (slightly) multi-culti family of beautiful prepsters decked in scarfs, cardigans, polos, ties, plaid blazers and all the other Ivy League style trappings one could ask for for as the days grow colder. And for the first time I find myself compelled by his clothing and his styling.

Then there's J.Crew, which in my eyes, has officially supplanted Banana Republic as the most stylish of name brand (and readily available) American outfitters. In fact, in the last year it's made major strides to become a sort of modern day haberdashery. Recent ads promote it's partnerships with other brands, which span shoes, bags, scarves, watches, books... You name it. J.Crew is taking a stab at outlining an entire lifestyle that expands from your closet to your entire home, and if I didn't know better I might just let the company have at me. If you need convincing check out more from the Liquor Store, J.Crew's first ever exclusively mens shop in NYC: J.Crew | The Liquor Store. Also be sure to check the NYTimes profile with Frank Muytjens, the company's head menswear designer: NYTimes | Manly Things.

About three weeks ago, J.Crew also opened up another menswear store on 79th and Broadway in a former bank. You can get the visual tour here (courtesy of A Continuous Lean):

J.Crew Upper East Side Mens Shop from Michael Williams on Vimeo.

Of course, there's also the most quintessential American brand of them all: Levi's. Levi's too has seen a grand resurgence in its market presence of late. If there's one overarching theme that connects all three of these brands, it's that they've reconnected with their core archetype. No longer are they trying to be all things to all people, or are they trying to chase trends. They are embracing what gave them their start and realizing that, until the end of days, this is always how their customer base will most recognize them.

Levi's is about as American a brand as Coca-Cola or Ford. It has a history that stretches back over 150 years. In that time it has come to signify a few key things as a brand, many of which it shares with core American values. It is a blue-collar clothing item, a garment for the every man. It stands for basic, rugged, no frills and being willing to get your hands dirty. It is tough and reliable. It is America. The Go Forth Ad Campaign, which it's been flexing for the past couple of years, has realigned itself with these core values, and as a result, the brand may be the strongest it's ever been.

The one editorial piece that I enjoyed the most from this weekends Men's Fashion issue was a story about Jay Carroll of and Mordechai Rubinstein of The two West Coasties spend their days traveling around in a beat-up pick up truck raiding flea markets and resale shops in search of Inspiration Americana, and in turn use their finds to help Levi's "regain some of its frontier mystique" as the article puts. I want to dedicate an entire Allure column to Levi's tomorrow, so without going further into things, I invite you to read the article for yourself: NYTimes | Highway Stars.

Until tomorrow my fashion forward friends.

— Joshua P. Ferguson

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UNKLE | The Runaway + MP3 & Movie

Given UNKLE's pedigree, a lot of time and space could probably be dedicated to outlining the entity, its various members, its contribtuion to electronic music, etc etc. Suffice it to say that UNKLE and the Mo' Wax label played a large part in electronic music and it's ability to cross pollinate with other genres. As far as single acts go, few have the scope and vision of central member James Lavelle. And while UNKLE's profile is no longer what it was at the height of trip-hop, DJ Shadow and the like, its artistic value is as priceless as ever.

Its latest album, Where Did Night Fall, marks a new chapter in evolution of the forever permutating band. With it, Lavelle also llaunched Surrender All. More than a label, it's a creative house of sorts for Lavelle and his cohorts to humor multifaceted endeavors that include art, design, music, fashion, travel and "interests." The release of Where Did Night Fall (which we reviewed for its release earlier this year: UNKLE | Where Did Night Fall) was a high concept one, if nothing else. It included the elaborate "Follow Me Down" video, behind the scenes footage and interviews, and, most recently, a short film entitled Saviours & Angels by British director Paul Andre Williams that acts as a three-part music video for the songs "Caged Bird," "The Runaway" and "Another Night Out."

A twisted visual treat, Saviours & Angels follows a Romanian couple as they attempt to reunite in London and settle down. Beyond that the rest is up for interpretation. There's no shortage of violence, ooze, undulating bodies, tits, tempers and last but not least, a baby with a multi foot-long neck and the head of a toddler. It's definitely NSFW and totally worth the 17 minute run time.

Also worth its run time is the new UNKLE EP, "The Runaway" which includes a refix of the original song with new verses from Chicago's own Lupe Fiasco, sounding at the top of his game. Also worth checking are the new remixes of the record's first single, done by one-time UNKLE member and DFA founder Tim Goldsworthy and Golden Filter.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Take advantage and download the Lupe mix here:

And after all this talk of demented video, the movie: