Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shuffle | CREEP + Digitalism

Shuffle | New Music From Our Inbox

Digitalism "2 Hearts" - V2/Downtown
It's been true since Digitalism's beginning, but the fact that the German duo is headlining this summer's HARD tour brings it back into focus. Of all the indie-electronic acts out there, Digitalism is the most finely tuned to bring dance music into the comfort zone of the rocker set. I spoke with HARD organizer Gary Richards last summer before his festival tour hit Chicago, and he emphasized that supporting electronic music that appealed to rock ears was a central tenet of his party. With the release of Digitalism's new record I Love You, Dude, it's only fitting that the pair would find themselves atop this year's line-up. 

For more evidence of Digitalism's indie-electro tendencies, look no further than "2 Hearts," the new single which you can watch (via the freshly dropped new video) and download:

Download: Digitalism "2 Hearts" (320 kbps)

Video (it's goofy, but watch it anyway):

CREEP "Days" (Azari and iii remix)
There are two buzz-genres floating around that I can't quite wrap my head around: chillwave and witch house. I totally dig the xx and get that the band is supremely mellow, hence chillwave. I've also listened to my fair share of oOoOO, having done an interview with him recently. He makes haunting chill out - so sure witch house, although the 'house' part makes no sense. Really this stuff is dark indie R and B or the second coming of trip-hop, a genre tag that also met with resistance when it was first coined. No matter, NYC duo CREEP could be described with any or all of these terms. Eerie, melancholy, slow burning and infectious, CREEP is a new favorite discovery and this Azari and iii remix positions "Days" (which actually features the xx's Romey Madly-Croft) for the dance floor. Download below, and watch the video for CREEP's newest single, "You" featuring pop twins Nina Sky.

If you're in Chicago, catch CREEP perform live tonight at Berlin's Stardust party. Click here to enter to win guest list passes to the show.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Allure | Fred Perry for Summer 2011

The Allure | Fred Perry Summer 2011 Lookbook

A glimpse into iconic British clothier Fred Perry  for summer.
(courtesy of

We're not generally ones to mirror content, but is a wicked source for new trends, styles and looks for every season and the site often has more than ten updates a day, ranging from watches to spectacles to lookbooks for the likes of Fred Perry, which happened to run across about an hour ago.

For men, Fred Perry sticks to what it does best: its polos and its sweaters. But it does throw some new patterns into the works, breaking up the way it's done plaids in the past. The girls stuff we haven't followed as closely, but from the looks of things, it's just a fresh faced approach to the modern retro that the iconic brand has been doing since day one.

—Joshua P. Ferguson


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Article | Steampunk Chicago | Time Bandits

photo by Max Herman

Time Bandits

Steampunk re-imagines how we live, dress and party.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 02.16.11

It sounds like a dream. Airships rule the skies. Inventions the likes of which H.G. Wells imagined assist you daily. Men are Lords and women are Ladies. Corsets, gowns, frocks and pilot’s goggles are all the rage. It’s like a blast from a Victorian-era past, and yet it’s 2011. Welcome to the fantastical and endlessly intriguing world of steampunk.

An offshoot of Goth subculture, steampunk builds on the romantic notion that technology has never progressed to the use of petroleum-based fuels. It has adopted much of the look of that period in industrial history, specifically in Britain, with sci-fi embellishments. Emerging in the ’80s, today it draws healthy crowds to conventions—cons—all over the country to discuss their fashion, technology, literature and entertainment.

While places as close as Madison, Wisconsin, and Detroit have had thriving communities for some time, steampunk has only taken root in Chicago in the past year. This is in large part thanks to Steampunk Chicago, and its principal founders Joseph Rovner, a.k.a. the Lord Baron JCR Vourteque IV, and Sam Perkins-Harbin, a.k.a. the Reverend Captain Sam Flint.

Back in February, I shared a couple of drinks with Rovner, 30, and his girlfriend K.L. Kenzie, 32, at the Charleston, where the couple also hosts the Gaslight Sessions, a monthly steampunk soiree. The next installment goes down this Saturday 21. Dubbed the Steampunk Spring Spectacular, it features live  storytelling from the Absinthe Minded Professor, sword swallowing by San Jula and DJ sets from Dr. Xander Garrymander and the Steampunk Chicago DJs (a.k.a. Rovner and Mr. Automatic).

Although fashion plays a large part, it was the musical side of steampunk that truly wowed Rovner and Perkins-Harbin. After adapting their wardrobes and building a few props—elaborate modifications to everyday items that steampunks call “mods”—the two started attending cons in 2009. “The thing that really struck me was the dance party,” Rovner says of his first impressions. “The DJ played this crazy mix of industrial, neo-cabaret, vaudeville, soundtrack—things like Moulin Rouge—and it worked. I came back and am immediately thinking, we need to bring that to Chicago.” With a degree in film and screenwriting from NYU and a history of promoting raves and DJ events, Rovner was instantly drawn to the idea of combining the two.

Continue reading

Clockwork Vaudeville Spring Spectacular transforms the Charleston on Saturday 21: More info

Want to know more about the bizarre world of steampunk? Here’s a primer.

Mixing sharp angles, asymmetrical silhouettes, industrial chic and a touch of the old world Victorian style that a steampunk craves, look no further than Bonnie and Clyde’s (1751 W Division St, 773-235-2680.

As K.L. Kenzie put it, “Tom Waits is to steampunk what Ozzie Osborne is to metal.” But if you’re after something more adventurous than that, check out quintessential steampunk band Abney Park ( or locally, magic circus band Environmental Encroachment (

  A Night at the Clockwork Vaudeville : A Steampunk DJ Mix by Steampunk Chicago DJs

Steampunk mods are some of the most fascinating things to come out of the scene. From Joseph Vourteque’s Fusion-O-Scope DJ rig to analog computers, you can find an assortment of inventions at Jake Von Slatt’s Steampunk Workshop (

Before the trend took off, Jules Vern, H.G. Wells and K.W. Jeter, who coined the term steampunk, were creating the world of this subculture. For a more recent example, turn to Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (although I don’t necessarily recommend seeing the movie).


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Live Review | James Blake + Active Child at Lincoln Hall

James Blake + Active Child live

Lincoln Hall | Chicago

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published on the Time Out Chicago blog

There's a conversation that needs to be put to bed; let's get this out in the open: the music on James Blake's self-titled debut is not dubstep. Anyone still debating this fact has either never been to a dubstep show, or has never been to a James Blake show (or both). This past Sunday, the 22-year-old London singer/songwriter prodigy—who, for the record, does have a deep love of bass music—visited Chicago and gave us a taste of each, pulling double duty and performing live at Lincoln Hall with his recently constructed trio and then jumping into the DJ booth at Beauty Bar for a lively after-party DJ set.

At the Lincoln Hall show, Blake and opening act Active Child were greeted by a sold-out crowd, one eager to take in the lush, ethereal and relatively subdued sounds of both acts. Last time I was at a dubstep night, kids were spraying beer and moshing, and the music was booming out with such low-end gusto that I felt as if I had cotton balls in my ears the next day. This was certainly not the scene on Sunday.

Active Child, fronted by ex-Philadelphia choirboy Pat Grossi, was a perfect opening act. Its music is equal parts electro, chill-out and sweeping, baroque pop that instantly draws comparison to Florence and the Machine, Kate Bush, Joy Division and New Order. Grossi, who sings in a powerful falsetto, also spends a good amount of time behind a harp, which adds to the angelic quality of the trio's sound. Certain songs, like "When Your Love is Safe," have a dance floor thump that created the most upbeat moments of the entire evening, but even Active Child kept it pretty mellow before Blake took the stage.

Hearing Blake's music, especially live, it's obvious that he has spent a good deal of time with U.K. bass sounds. The rumble that came from the unassuming trio once it hit the stage may have been the biggest that has ever throbbed through Lincoln Hall. The bass was so intense at points it almost washed out the delicate keys, strummed guitar and drum taps. Still, not dubstep. The work of this classically trained musician sits more comfortably in between singer-songwriter folk and vintage African-American music. Songs like set opener "Unluck" hint at his electronic upbringing with bursts of bass static and dubstep's halftime meter, but his organ-like keyboard work and bluesy vocals make it so much more. On "Give Me My Month," the band sat out altogether, leaving the focus on Blake and his brilliant work on the keys. It was at this point, while looking down at the audience from Lincoln Hall's balcony, that I noticed how stoic the crowd was. You could hear a pin drop. Speaking with Blake after the show, he even commented, noting that the crowd was eerily quiet. It wasn't for lack of enjoyment; we were mesmerized.

Other highlights include the utterly hypnotic pairing "Lindisfarne I" and "Lindisfarne II," which along with crowd favorites "The Wilhelm Scream," "I Never Learnt to Share" and Feist cover "Limit (To Your Love)," represented the night's most folksy moments, brought even more to life with the live guitar that seems all the more prevalent in the songs when heard live. Dubstep fans who know Blake's earlier singles for labels like Hemlock and R&S still got a taste on "Klavierwerke," a song from one of his EPs that errs heavily on the dub side of dubstep but offered up a taste of that side of this multi-talented artist nonetheless.


In other news, James Blake just released a new video today. It's a cultish, odd friendship pact and it's set to "Lindisfarne I and II":

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mayer Hawthorne | Impressions - The Covers EP + MP3s

Mayer Hawthorne | Impresssions EP

Detroit soul crooner releases EP of free covers 

Have you ever played that game where you get together with a group of friends and go around a circle saying, "if you hadn't been born in the decade you were, which would you prefer to be born in?" Well, I have. And while the knee jerk is to say the '60s, it would really be the '50s. Doo Wop and soul were just taking off. The nation still retained some sense of innocence. And the style of the times is something that I wish I could emulate. And if I were to take someone with me? The answer would be Mayer Hawthorne. (Sorry family and friends.)

But really, I don't have to. This man and his band—steeped in Motown soul and possessing an uncanny ability to 1) write a love song and 2) recreate the sound of this bygone era from which I wish I hailed—are bringing the music to 2011. Case in point: Hawthorne's Impressions EP, a free package of six songs covering everything from true to the original vintage Isley Brothers to a syrupy slow-mo retread of Chromeo. Hawthorne and I even share a fondness for this particular Chromeo track, "Don't Turn the Lights On," which I have previously referred to by saying, "This song makes a dimmer switch seem like a party favor." Of Hawthorne—who I have no shyness in praising—I've called his "give-in-to-the-night soul" musical mistleltoe. 

Nuff said.

With the exception of his cover of ELO which I could live without, this EP is a perfect holdover until Stone's Throw drops its next batch of Hawthorne originals.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Download here: Mayer Hawthorne | Impressions (320 mp3s)

And here is Hawthorne breaking down how the EP came about.


1. Work To Do- Isley Bros
This one features my live band, The County: Quentin Joseph on drums, Topher Mohr on guitar, Quincy McCrary on piano, and Joe Abrams on bass. It was recorded live in a radio station studio somewhere during our Winter 2010 US tour. The tapes recently surfaced, but nobody can remember exactly where we were. The song is originally by The Isley Brothers, and that's the only version I was familiar with until we started playing it in our live shows and people would come up to us and say "hey, loved your cover of Average White Band!".

2. Don't Turn The Lights On- Chromeo
My favorite track from Chromeo's latest LP. On the surface it's an electro-funk, dance floor filler, but underneath is a brilliant love ballad with lyrics that reminded me of something from Tyrone Davis. Dave1 (of Chromeo) told me the song is about a guy who falls in love with a ghost, so I wanted my version to have an eerie, ghostly feel to it. Quincy McCrary played the creepy piano solo at the end.

3. You've Got The Makings Of A Lover- The Festivals
Textbook Northern Soul from a little known Dallas, Texas group called The Festivals. I was digging for records in NY with my homey DJ Kurse, and the shopkeeper played the 45 in the store. Both of us immediately ran up to the counter and said "yo! what is THAT?!". The original version was recorded in the late 60s, and the mix isn't very good. I wanted a version that I could bump. Quentin Joseph played the drums and we recorded them at Sam Beaubien's studio in Detroit. That's Sam playing the trumpet as well.

4. Fantasy Girl - Steve Salazar
This song was written and composed by an amazing man from Pasadena named Steve Salazar. He was born with a heart condition and passed away at the young age of 27. Before he died he recorded one incredible album of demos in the mid-70s with a band called Shorty's Portion. Peanut Butter Wolf found a copy of the album and I loved it so much that he gave it to me (thanks Wolf!). The vinyl had a handwritten note tucked in the sleeve that was addressed to anyone who could help the band with management, a record deal, radio airplay, etc. I'd estimate there were less than 300 copies pressed. That's my Dad playing pedal steel guitar on my version.

5. Little Person- Jon Brion
Jon Brion is not from this planet. He penned this song for the soundtrack to Charlie Kaufman's film "Synecdoche, NY". I didn't get the film at all, but I really got the soundtrack. The original has only female vocal and piano, but I always heard a larger arrangement. Hubert Alexander played some of the piano and I did everything else.

6. Mr. Blue Sky- ELO
This one also features my band, The County, and was recorded live, in one take, in a tiny makeshift tent, at a festival in Dour, Belgium.

You can also read our interview with Mayer Hawthorne here: Dialogue Inc | Mayer Hawthorne 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Article | Kid Color | the Spectrum of Color + MP3s

The Spectrum of Color

Kid Color paints the town with his patented disco sounds.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 03.30.11

Kyle “Kid Color” Woods is seriously into disco. He’s barely sat down for our interview about the one-year anniversary of his Dollar Disco party on Sunday 3, and he’s already telling me about The Disco Files 1973–1978, Vince Aletti’s definitive chronicle of the genre’s rise in the Big Apple. “It’s so exciting to see the growth of it, and it’s basically as it’s happening. It’s not like somebody looking back on it.” Woods, 22, is doing his homework to understand the nuances of that scene and how he can apply the best parts of it to what he does as a DJ today.

The bespectacled young gun can be heard around town on an almost nightly basis, but his main outlet is Dollar Disco, a weekly Sunday soiree at Smart Bar. Alongside fellow residents Michael Serafini, owner of Gramaphone Records, and Garrett “Adulture” Shrigley—as well as regular guests—Woods effectively spans three generations of dance music with his party, stretching from disco’s heyday to current riffs on the genre.

“I think going in to claim that you’re throwing a disco night, you need some history and knowledge of where it all came from,” Woods says. Where he’s still learning, Serafini, whose career as a Chicago DJ stretches more than 15 years, can fill in the gaps. But don’t expect all Saturday Night Fever all the time. “I for one see disco as a certain kind of feeling that matches up with certain elements that are taken from the older stuff.” For the Dollar Disco crew, house music, indie dance and other styles all get equal weight, so long as the right spirit is there.

Now for the good part: FREE MUSIC!

As part of this article, Kyle was good enough to pass of a recently—and finely—crafted DJ mix of his, part of his Palette Mix series. Behold, Volume 3:


And, as of today, we're also able to offer up Kyle's first edition of hand-snipped disco edits. The Edits Vol. 1, covers a killer spectrum of classics from Chic to Loose Change to a personal Dialogue Favorite, Punkin' Machine's "I Need You Tonight." Each one has been tweaked every so lovingly, and made all the more dance-floor-ready (he's even gone so far as to BPM and key them for you, that's how good this guy is).

Download all 11 tracks right here: Kid Color | The Edits Vol 1

Monday, May 9, 2011

Album Review | 6th Borough Project | One Night in the Borough

6th Borough Project
Delusions of Grandeur

house \haus \ n + chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb

In the opening seconds of One Night in the Borough (out today on Delusions of Grandeur), you’d be tempted to assume that the 6th borough in question was some long lost neighborhood buried somewhere in Queens or the Bronx, not situated across the pond in Scotland. But it’s Edinborough that Craig Smith and Graeme Clark (a.k.a. the Revenge) call home base, and it’s there that the duo gave birth to the sample-heavy, low-slung house of the 6th Borough Project. These two don’t make hip-hop, but they share an affinity for its roots in funk, soul and disco and their best work samples from these sources with as deft a hand as any of the production greats coming out of the 5 Boroughs during rap’s heyday.

Of the two minds behind One Night, Clark is the one who’s seen the most notoriety as a solo act. As the Revenge, he’s been doling out slick, meditative disco edits since 2004. But it’s his work for labels like Jisco Music beginning in ’08 that became instant must-haves for any DJ operating in the nudisco sphere. Like Mark E, he’s a producer who isn’t afraid to drop the tempo, and that mantra has shone through on this record as well. Early on, tracks like “If the Feeling’s Right”—with its looped jazz piano, disco and soul-sampled sprinkles and steppers tempo—that define what makes this pair unique. They make house music without urgency. It’s in no hurry to get anywhere and we can come along without having to break a sweat. 

That doesn’t mean there aren’t cuts her worth breaking a sweat to. “Find a Way” is disco reinterpreted for a post-techno world: deeper and dubbier but still oozing with soul. Funk guitar scratches, strings soar and horns riff, but they all do so with a hypnotism that’s ideal for today’s drug-addled dance floors. As One Night progresses, this quality moves right along with it. The retro cut n’ paste flourishes get toned down and warm keys, rolling drums and thick house beats take over. “The Fool” and “Endless Nights” are a perfect middle ground; still disco but with the four-on-the-floor kicks, gritty basslines and atmospherics needed bring them into the new millennium.

Unfortunately, as the modern twists become more prevalent, personality is sacrificed. The disco glitz of the early half of the record is tarnished by the blandness that deep house can possess. Tracks like “Iznae” and “Changin’” are the sort destined for the inner slot on a 12”s b-side. Yes, those slots need to be filled, but on a full length they just seem like filler. There’s nothing Grandeur about them, that’s for sure. In this first full length outing for Clark and Smith, the 6th Borough Project is best when it sticks to its roots, as it does on the syrupy set closer "Settle," and draws from the 5 Boroughs from which it derives its name. 

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Here's the duo's latest promo mix to help get you in the mood:


And the latest video, for "If the Feeling's Right":

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rusko | Everyday EP + MP3

Mad Decent

Dub•step \ dub-step \ n

Originally published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 04.20.11 (dude)

It’s tough to match Rusko’s star power. The British expat is spending time in the studio with Britney and M.I.A., and his fan base just keeps growing—for evidence just look to any incoming freshman class from here to Santa Cruz. He continues his mainstream dubstep push with this double A-Side EP, for better and for worse. With soaring rave arpeggios, machine gun synths, video-game lasers blasts and booming breaks, “Everyday” boasts “the sun is shining everyday,” and it’s poised to be this summer’s anthem. In contrast, “Lick the Lizard” works an electro-funk rhythm and a tired buzz-saw bass low ned, and adds a context-less vocal snippet about “spanking the monkey” and “licking the lizard.” Beavis and Butt-head would love it; so will aggro brostep fans. They can keep it.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

The dubstep don has released videos of both tracks, of which "Everyday" is again the standout - of it, he had this to say,"I wanted to confound people's expectations of a sun-is-shining-everyday video. I think they're expecting a montage of me being an idiot in clubs. But we do still have the flashing lights, of course. It is a dance music video." 

Appearing on IFC News just today, read the whole interview: IFCNews | Rusko 

Filmed at California's Salton Sea, it presents a stark contrast to the euphoric anthem. Peep the video (and big up my friend Kathryn and her little one on the cameo):

And, if you're in a downloading mood, here's this Netsky remix for ya.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Allure | OBEY

The Allure | OBEY Chicago

Shepard Fairey and Co. invade the 'hood

He's best known for his now historic—and iconic—Barack Obama campaign poster from 2008, but street art lovers and skaters have been familiar with the They Live-channeling Giant for years. That said, now that he's one the most talked about guy on the scene next to Banksy, it's all kinds of exciting when you spot his work on your bus route to the office.

He's in town as part of NEXT and Artropolis at the Merchandise Mart here, where he's got a large installation in the lobby (pictured below). He also put up a large mural as part of Navy Pier Art Walk 2011 (pictured above). But that hasn't stopped him from plastering the city with his own renegade works, many of which appeared on Grand Ave near Dialogue Inc headquarters.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Here are a load of shots for you to check out:

"Peace Goddess" at the Merchandise Mart, courtesy of

"The Giant" corner of Grand, Halsted and Milwaukee

Corner of Ashland and Grand

On Grand near Wood

Downtown Metra Station, advertising the Navy Pier Art Walk

Exclusive mural outside Code of Conduct Tattoo and Clothing | 14 E 11th St

And here's a video I found on Code of Conduct's site, of Fairey installing the mural last week: