Monday, February 27, 2012

Allure | The Martinez Brothers

Allure | The Martinez Brothers

I had a 'worlds collide' moment last night while watching Walking Dead. Lodged somewhere in the middle of the show's one-too-many commercial breaks I saw brothers Chris and Steve, of next-gen New York house duo the Martinez Brothers, talking up a cell phone while cueing loops on a CD-J. 

I've seen the Blackberry ads with Diplo, so I'm aware that this is the positioning the ailing company is taking to get its Bold phone to compete with iPhones and its myriad imitators. But Diplo has landed magazine covers and runs an internationally-praised record label. I guess if we're really keeping score, he's also produced a hit for Chris Brown—with a surefire follow up in "Climax" for Usher. The younger Martinez is only just 21.

This isn't a knock. It's more just to illustrate my surprise that Blackberry would be so Bold—see what I did there?—as to pick such an underground dance act to represent their product. I actually thought it was pretty cool. I interviewed Steve Martinez back in January of '10, when Spy Bar here in Chicago mustered the courage to book the two, even though they'd be letting Chris in  as a then under-age 19-year-old. It was around this time that they really started getting talked up outside their native New York, where they'd been taken under the tutelage of Objektivity's Dennis Ferrer and sent out on to the scene when Chris was barely 15.

Now they tour the world and land Blackberry spots. Good on these two. Couldn't happen to a pair of nicer, more ready-to-party youths who stand poised to carry house music's legacy on to a generation that's more familiar with Skrillex's head-banging bass barrages than the mastery of legends like Kenny Dope. And for all the haters that don't like that they use CD-Js, a laptop or show up on Blackberry commercials in the first place, I'd like you to keep that in mind. This pair is helping champion music you love.

Will it help sell Blackberrys? Who knows. I respect the move on the company's part, but I feel like kids are smarter than that these days. Associating with cool is important, but only after the phone does what you want it to do. Can a Blackberry compete with an iPhone or an Android in an app-led future? I'd rather put my money on the Martinez Brothers ensuring that house music remains relevant for another 20 years.

Joshua P. Ferguson

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Interview | Steve Aoki

Adventures in Wonderland

Party rocker Steve Aoki talks about his new record, Wonderland, 
and almost breaking his neck.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published, in part, in Time Out Chicago magazine | 11.23.11

L.A. DJ, producer and label owner Steve Aoki is one of the hardest working men on the electro circuit. The 33-year-old started modestly, promoting punk shows on a shoestring budget some 15 years ago. Since then, he’s founded Dim Mak records—where Bloc Party, Bloody Beetroots, the Kills and MSTRKRFT all got their start—and grown into an international DJ superstar with a touring schedule that hovers around 200 gigs a year. With his debut album, Wonderland, out last month and a headlining set at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom on Friday 24, a.k.a. tomorrow, we wante to share this recent chat with Aoki on Skype in Monaco to try to make sense of this wild ride. 

Life sounds hectic these days.
I’ve been managing multiple really time consuming things like the label and the clothing line—those are things that are just constants in my life. The production game, it’s definitely in the last three to four years been a major priority. Before I was just fucking around, messing around with tracks and remixes here and there. Now it’s fine tuning the sound and trying to write tracks that mean something, not just throw any tracks out there on the market.

So you’re honing the Steve Aoki sound.

Yeah, I’m in two worlds. I write records for the club, and this album that’s coming out, Wonderland, is an album where I was really just focusing on writing good songs. That was a completely different take on my production. I’ve learned so much just in the past year by fine-tuning these records, just so they fit with each different vocalist. It’s kinda been stressful, but incredibly satisfying.

Are there any guests that you’re particularly proud of?

It’s always really easy to work with He knows what he loves and he’s an incredible songwriter. Working in the studio with [Red]foo from LMFAO was also a huge learning experience. We sat there and discussed ideas of cracking the code of radio for, like, six hours. ‘Foo is really an incredibly intelligent person. He’s his own puppet master. He’s smart as shit. We crushed this track together and I think if there’s a radio record on this album, for America, it’s that one.

You’ve been deejaying and producing for a number of years, why the wait to tackle your album?

From start to finish this has probably taken me over three years. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just writing songs and trying to get vocalists on them. Last year I thought I was going to release my album. I thought I was there and then I wasn’t. It was just like me finishing school. I could have been done in four years but then I was like, fuck it, I’ll do five years and get a double major. I used this year to readapt the songs so they became songs of this time. Women’s studies and sociology couldn’t be further from dance music. 

Was there ever a chance of going a different route? 

I got accepted to graduate school and I was at a crossroads. At that time, I was not a DJ. And being in a band, especially a hardcore band, you make fucking zero money whatsoever. It was either, let’s do this label Dim Mak or go to graduate school for Asian-American empowerment, become a professor, grow my hair really long, live under a lightbulb and write books. 

Instead you DJ around the world and ride inflatable rafts over crowds. Why the raft?
I brought it out in Coachella in 2009. It was a success. I got into Rolling Stone—they had a huge picture of me riding my raft. A friend of mine coined it “white raver rafting,” after that it stuck, and now I literally do it at every show. 

Any brushes with death?
No brushes with death. Yet. The only serious issue is that I’ve increased the height of my stage dives. So I’ve done a few balcony dives that have gotten pretty high. There was one where the raft wasn’t held properly and I went through it. I almost broke my neck. Now, I definitely have to make sure people are holding the raft properly.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dancing on Film | RE:GENERATION

RE:GENERATION | Film Preview

Legends young and old collide on new documentary.

It's only natural that a film documenting a studio session between Skrillex and the remaining members of the Doors, which is funded by Hyundai's atrociously named Veloster, be met with some level of trepidation. This is exactly what RE:GENERATION, a new music documentary that also sees collaborations between Pretty Lights and LeAnn Rimes, DJ Premier and the Berklee Symphony Orchestra, and Mark Ronson and a veritable all-star cast of MCs and New Orleans jazz musicians sets out to do. And the results, while not always perfect, are much less of a musical cacophony than you might think. 

The film, which debuted on select screens throughout Chicago last week and continues its screening this Thursday 23, sets out to have "5 DJs turn the table of the history of music" and gets it right more often than not. The studio session in which British production whiz Mark Ronson, Erykah Badu, Mos Def and members of the Daptones get down with the Preservational Hall Jazz Band is nothing short of legendary. You can also tell something magical is happening when hip-hop production guru DJ Premier gets a lesson in classical compostion and turns it into an epic cut complete with verses from Nas. 

While dubstep megastar Skrillex's work with the Doors (sans Jim Morrison) on "Breakn' A Sweat" is the quickest to garner knee-jerk reactions of foul play, the results are surprisingly masterful, melodic, properly psychedelic and primmed for a dance floor. Even the honky-tonk blues of Pretty Lights, LeAnn Rimes and Dr. Ralph Stanley inspires repeat listens. 

Taking viewers through the artists' experiences working together, lessons learned and performances, the film strikes me as a pretty awesome undertaking (I've only seen clips) even if it was dreamed up on Madison Avenue. It's something many of these artists would otherwise never have gotten the opportunity to do and a pretty fascinating study of some great musical minds, new and old. Plus, the Veloster, as far as I can tell, is nowhere to be seen.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Visit for participating theaters and showtimes.

Download the soundtrack:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Allure | Mad Men Season 5

Allure | Mad Men

Given the show's subject matter, Mad Men had best come correct in the promotional department. From the looks of these pictures, which were gathered on a recent blog post on AMC's blog, they're getting off on the good foot. Full disclosure, the entire Dialogue Incorporated office is obsessed with the show, so there's little wrong it can do in our eyes. 

That said, a bit of the language—"Adultery is back," "Envy is back"—do smack of being a tad heavy-handed. In the past, the show has been nothing if not subtle, even if these boasts to hit the mark. The one we like best is "Secrets are back," at least that still gives a sense of intrigue. 

As much as words are our forte, the placements that truly have the most impact are the ones without headlines, showing Don, the leader of the Mad Men, tumbling from on high as he does in the show's opening credits. We don't know what this says about the trajectory of this season's plot, but we're anxious to find out. The new season premieres Sunday March 25.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Here are some of the other photos:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

V-Day Shuffle | Chromatics

Shuffle | Chromatics

Just a quickie for today. We love this band and our very own Mister Joshua had the opportunity to open up for them last month, so when we saw this pop up this morning we had to share. It's Johnny Jewel and his Chromatics covering Neil Young's classic "Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)," the second single from the Chromatics LP Kill For Love, which should be dropping any day now. They put a dark twist on the usual Valentine's proceedings, which we like. Enjoy.

DOWNLOAD: Chromatics "Into the Black" - Italians Do It Better | WAV (big file...)


And here's the gorgeous '70s satin video:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Article | Nadastrom | Muy Caliente

Muy Caliente

Genre creators Nadastrom break down moombahton.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 01.11.12

Long before the “mash-up,” electronic music was combining varied influences in the name of getting a reaction on the dance floor. From tech-house, which is now commonplace, to moombahton, the latest concoction heating up clubs, cross-pollination is one of dance music’s central tenets—the thing that keeps it forever hovering on the cutting edge. 

It was Dave Nada, one half of D.C. production duo Nadastrom with partner Matt Nordstrom, who presided over moombahton’s moment of creation. Back in 2009, as a favor to his younger cousin, he played a high-school “skipping” party, a midafternoon basement session populated with predominantly Latino teens playing hooky and getting down to an exclusively reggaeton soundtrack. 

“It started off just me throwing down a couple of records, trying to match the tempo of the reggaeton that was being played, and lo and behold, that shit sounded amazing,” Nada says on the phone in between sound checking at Orlando’s House of Blues, where Nadastrom is playing alongside dubstep star Skrillex (a testament to moombahton’s popularity). 

As suggested by the situation that led to its birth, moombahton is a mixture of the Dutch house made popular by artists like Afrojack and DJ Chuckie slowed down to be mixable with the urban Puerto Rican sounds of reggaeton. At the fateful basement bash, the specific track Nada used was Afrojack’s remix of Silvio Ecomo and Chuckie’s “Moombah!” Voilà: moombahton. 

“I always felt like a lot of the Dutch house reminded me of reggaeton—except sped up—because it has the dembow rhythm in it,” the 33-year-old continues, referring to reggaeton’s signature chugging beat (which was in turn borrowed from Jamaican dancehall anthem “Dem Bow” by Shabba Ranks, yet another example of the musical food chain). “Hearing how well it was received, I decided to make a bunch of edits, dig up a bunch of records I felt could sound good and add a couple of new elements—percussion, drums and a cappellas from reggaeton.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dialogue Incorporated | Radio Show #25 | 2011 in Review

Dialogue Incorporated | Cult of New

Dialogue Incorporated radio #25

Compiled and mixed by Mister Joshua

Letter from the editor


An electronic music response to cultural stagnation 

Bobo \ bõ-bõ \ n 

- a member of a social class of well-to-do professionals who espouse bohemian values and lead bourgeois lives. 

Raver \ rãver \ n 

- a person who talks wildly or incoherently. 
- a person who goes to a gathering centered on listening to and dancing to electronic music, as played by a set of live DJs. 

Another 12 months have passed. The war in Iraq came to a close. Osama Bin Laden was killed. So was Lord Valdemort. And, according to a number of articles that came out toward 2011’s end, our culture did relatively few things to propel itself forward, break ground or otherwise innovate. It makes me think of Lady Gaga’s riffing on the Madonna formula, of which Q-Tip’s immortal words echo in my brain: “The way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael.” 

In the January 2012 issue of Vanity Fair—with the Gagz gracing its cover—the author and journalist Kurt Anderson laid out the concise argument that never before has artistic culture gone so long without reinventing itself. In his article “You Say You Want a Devolution,” Anderson asks readers to look back on the feathery flair of the hippie-dippie ‘60s and compare it to the bubbly Technicolor pop of the ‘80s. And then compare that with the relatively stagnant two decades that followed. 

Indeed, today’s style isn’t defined so much by anything new as it is by its mild (if any) updates on styles past—Ray Bans, Chucks and Heritage Collections rule. Cars look pretty much the same, architecture hasn’t done anything revelatory and music, he argues, hasn’t either. 

Another article, this one in the New York Times, tackles a slightly different issue, but makes some points that go a long way to explain this phenomenon (if you can even call it that). Wiliam Deresiewicz writes in “Generation Sell” that the post Gen X generation has ruled for longer than is customary. Pointing to the political and culture environment of decades past, each had its own distinct generation, be it the beatniks the hippies or the punks. But the hipsters, who are the closest approximation of the current cultural movement, what stance do they have with respect to the world? 

In Deresiewicz’s view it’s to market themselves. We’re a generation of marketers and with that comes the desire to please broad constituencies. We can’t be shaking up our art, our culture and our music too much if that means it’s going to alienate potential customers now can we? These days hipsters aren’t even fringe. You can buy the look and the attitude from your nearest Urban Outfitters or American Apparel. Don’t worry, they’re often found within a block of each other. To borrow another cultural buzzword, the hipsters of a decade ago are just today’s bobos. They had to grow up and get a job but they’ve held onto and their status as liberals, their skinny jeans and their tattoos (not much of a choice there). 

So, moving back to Anderson’s argument, instead of trying to get the hipster cool kids to adopt something new, our cultural creators look backward to harness a sense of nostalgia. At least this way we can rest assured that its cool. We aren’t repeating February 2nd, but we’re still living in a cultural Groundhog Day (sadly, that clever tidbit is his, not mine). 

In marinating on this, and thinking, this can’t possibly be 100% true, I’ve found comfort in knowing that it is, in fact, not true with regard to the always fringe underground of electronic music. Even as it ramps up in popularity and the Skrillexs and David Guettas of the world turn on increasingly younger audiences to music that has traditionally been the fodder of drinking age technophiles and ecstasy poppers, they’re turning these kids on to something completely new. 

Sure electronic music has been around for decades; since before this cultural stalemate took hold. But this music has built upon itself over the years in the same manner that those looping bars of drums and bass and synths add to themselves layer by layer on your favorite house track. Electronic music looks back, but in doing so, it propels itself forward, never wanting to be a strict retread of what came before. Disco begot house, house begot techno, the two played side by side until they birthed tech-house. On another track, hip-hop begot breaks, which begot drum ‘n’ bass, which has, years later, brought us full tilt into dubstep. 

Recently I saw a tweet from street-artist-turned-brand-ambassador Shephard Fairey bemoaning the fact that we have no decent emerging artists because they’ve been snatched up by ad firms and their creative departments. If this is true, we can at least take solace that nightly, when the lights go down and the volume on the world’s mixers goes up, a new generation is taking hold and they’re not afraid of something new. In fact, they’re camped out in front of those speaker stacks precisely because they crave it. 

—Joshua P. Ferguson

MUSIC | Dialogue Incorporated #25

Well, if you made it this far, you'll be pleased to know that the ranting is over and it's all just music from here on out. In fact, it's a fairly timely (for us at least) 2012 in Review mix session featuring work from our favorite artists and labels of the year. Since we thoroughly exhausted our year end lists, each track is linked to where it fits in to that wrap-up—with the exception of our favorite rock tracks, which we forgot to chart. Here they are now:

5) Cults Cults – Columbia
4) Austra Feel It Break – Domino
3) Friendly Fires Pala – XL
2) Florence and the Machine Ceremonials – Universal
1) Feist Metals – Polydor

Feist "Bittersweet Melody" – Polydor
Friendly Fires "Hawaiian Air" – XL
Austra "Lose It" – Domino
Florence and the Machine "No Light No Light" (Spector remix) – Universal
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Article | Trends for 2012 | On to the Next One

On to the Next One

Chicago trendsetters look forward to 2012.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 12.28.11

Given what dance music did in 2011, it is with quite a bit of excitement that we turn our eyes and ears to 2012 and what club sounds might have in store for us in the next 12, well 11, months. To help narrow our focus, we gathered three nightlife professionals (including our own) and asked them to tell us what they think the next year might bring.

“It’s kind of the like the modern deeper sound, I don’t know if you can call it deep house, but it’s just deeper music—the Crosstown Rebels stuff, Hot Natured, Visionquest, Maceo Plex—I think it’s going to continue to get even bigger. They are reaching out to a larger audience now and the music is becoming more popular with people that weren’t listening to that music. It’s a little bit more accessible than techno and other genres. Not that I’m saying that techno is going to go anywhere; these guys just blew up. There are a lot of kids that are getting deeper into this genre of music and you’ll be surprised by the number of artists that are going to come out of nowhere."

 — Dino Gardiakos, Music Director for Chicago's Spy Bar 

“2011 was the year that dubstep really broke huge. So for 2012, there’s going to be this rush of pop stars and labels desperately seeking legitimacy with the youth market because the explosion of this music has completely caught them off guard. Because of the mainstream popularity, there’s a big splinter of former dubstep fans that are into a new term called ‘future bass.’ It sort of refers to these strains of say, U.K. funky, or ‘is it dubstep or is it techno,’ and then there’s also the post-dubstep. I’m hoping this is going to fill out some of the gaps with more sophisticated electronic music that we haven’t seen for a while.”

— Chris Widman, host of Abstract Science on WLUW 88.7 fm and one half of Quadratic 

“You can rock out and fist pump to dubstep and electro but for most of that music, I find that it doesn’t speak to your soul. With the way things have gone in our country, I think people are going to get away from that superficiality and look for something with more substance. People are asking for more, and I’m seeing people really coming out and supporting quality. The state of the Chicago club scene is very much where DJs are just jukeboxes with a pulse. In 2012, we’re going to see people having more faith in the DJ and just letting them do their thing. A lot more people DJ-wise taking a stance and trying to educate people.”

Zebo, DJ, producer and label owner 

I DO (a.k.a. our own two cents)
Now that dance music—be it 4/4, bass or out of leftfield—has come into it’s own, more artists are going to be looking to this realm for producers. We’ve already seen chart toppers like Beyonce, Chris Brown and Kanye come calling, sampling electronic producers like dancehall duo Major Lazer and dubstepper Flux Pavillion or, in Dutch house prodigy Afrojack’s case, tapping them directly. This is only going to expand. From the big budget studio dons like araabMUZIK producing for Busta Rhymes to underground sensation Clams Casino making beats for ASAP Rocky, these two worlds are going to settle into a happy marriage in 2012.