Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Allure | Little Dragon x Absolut Vodka

The Allure | Little Dragon x Absolut Vodka

As far as Swedish musical groups go, how much more do we love Little Dragon than we do Swedish House Mafia?  So much so, it bothers us to name the two in the same sentence. While it was cool of Absolut Vodka to use the electro-house megastars in its recent campaign to make the Greyhound cocktail cool again, we're much happier to see its latest promotion—this time for Absolut Punch—featuring one of our favorite indie dance outfits, Little Dragon.

The Scandinavian spirit may not be first to market with turning a music video into a three and a half minute commercial, but in our humble opinion, its the first to do so with this much style. Our distaste for SHM aside, the video for "Greyhound" was clearly expensive, elaborate and well done. And the fact that the song dropped afterward, charting and getting airplay in and of itself is yet another campaign home run. One I'm sure Absolut hopes to repeat with "Sunshine," a one-off single from Little Dragon that buzzed yesterday with a behind-the-scenes viral video, debuted on The Daily Show last night and hit the Web in full music-video-meets-ad form this morning.

Given the bright nature of its title and the summery allure of the product its helping launch, "Sunshine" is a tighter, poppier turn for Little Dragon, who has been meandering into increasingly psychedelic territory of late. Still laced with the band's signature bouncy rhythm and Yukimi Nagano's effortless soul, there's little doubt that the song will gain traction on its own—maybe even featuring during the outfits string of summer festival appearances, including Lollapalooza here in Chicago—a boon for the ever-stylish (but not our favorite) Vodka brand.

— Joshua P. Ferguson

Check the behind the scenes and finished videos below:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Article | Soul Clap | Ode to Chicago

Soul to Take

Soul Clap shares the Chicago dance classics that stole its heart(s).

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 05.03.12

The music of Boston’s Soul Clap could be called blue-eyed future-funk, as if two white-boy George Clintons jumped into the studio and set the Parliament sound to a house beat. But, as much as Eli Goldstein and Charles Levine’s debut album, EFUNK—which dropped recently on the trend-bucking Wolf + Lamb label—is a mothership connection, it’s also heavily influenced by house music’s early days, which means looking and listening to Chicago.

We asked Goldstein, 29, and Levine, 30, to focus on the legendary Windy City days of the Warehouse, the Muzic Box, the Bismarck Hotel and Medusa’s, and tell us about the Chicago soundtrack that helped make their music what it is. Here’s what they picked.

Lil’ Louis
“Nyce and Slo (The Luv Bug)”—FFRR (1990)“This YouTube comment says it all: ‘I am a female Little and I slammed with the best of them. Even at Medusa’s but I was a Box-head!! Love this for real!!!!’ Makes us feel like we’re right there during Chicago’s underground history.”

Lil’ Louis
“Nyce and Slo (R-Rated)”—FFRR (1990)
“Same name, but this mix is completely different. While “The Luv Bug” is a slowed-down jack out, the “R-Rated” is pure R&B sex. “The Luv Bug” has caused hysteria at many an after-hours, but the “R-Rated” has always been a staple of our smooth out sets, from our days playing department stores to massive beach parties today.”

Master C and J 
“Face It” (Dub It)—State Street (1987)
“Our favorite deep house jam of all time. The original is an anthem, but the dub is deeper than the ocean.”

Jungle Wonz
“The Jungle”—Trax (1986)
“909 drum work at its best and, ooooo, that bassline makes this one really stand out as one of our ’80s Chicago house favorites.”

The It
“Donnie”—DJ International (1986)
“This is all about the lyrics and the darkness. It’s so emo, but still jacks with the best of ’em.”

Derrick L. Carter
“A Hope (Over U)”—Classic (1999)
“This list wouldn’t be complete without a D.C. jam, and this one sums up our late ’90s raving perfectly. It’s that funky boompity jack we just can’t get enough of.”

Roy Davis Jr.
“Gabrielle”—Large (1996)
“This one still brings out the goosebumps every time we drop it (which is at least once a month). No vocal can capture that universal feeling of dancing together quite like this.”

Green Velvet
“Answering Machine”—Cajual (1997)
“Just like this list wouldn’t be complete without Derrick, Cajmere symbolizes Chicago the same way for us Boston boys. First time we heard this at rave we lost our minds (and still haven’t really found ’em).”

Frankie Knuckles
“Baby Wants To Ride”—Trax (1987)
“Sounds as fresh today as we’re sure it sounded the day it was written. A masterpiece from the godfather that may never be topped.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Preview | Simian Mobile Disco + mp3

Preview | Simian Mobile Disco

The U.K. duo's latest is easily on par with its best.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Upon making my committed one giant leap into doing music journalism full time, Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford was my first interview. That was three years and two albums ago now. Well, the U.K. melodic techno duo is back, having returned to the crisp and potent dance sound that's been its trademark since 2009's Temporary Pleasure shifted SMD's sound ever so slightly away from the hipster electro displayed on Ford and James Shaw's initial releases for Kitsuné.

Now a formidable dance act in its own right, Simian Mobile Disco isn't even looking to the spotlight vocalists that it has featured in so many past hits. For Unpattern, which came out earlier this month, the powerhouse production pair has instead chosen deeply soulful samples to flesh out the steely productions that have become its forte. 

First there was the slo-mo acid chug of lead single "Seraphim" which features a vocal refrain of "Why can't you be what I want you to be?" fleshing out its synth stabs and 303 squelch. Now, on the upbeat tech-house of "Your Love Ain't Fair"—are we sensing an unrequited romance theme here?—an equally heartfelt snippet gives extra weight to jittery chords, bass drum stomp and taut rim shots. 

The straight-ahead analog tech that these two prefer is on display as well. The flip of digi-single "Your Love Ain't Fair" goes for a sound more faithful to SMD's winding live show. "Witches of Agnesi" is more of a spellbound, hypnotic affair, with low-end bellows juxtaposing the mechanical twitter floating through its higher registers. This is pristine Simian Mobile Disco, in the groove and with nothing left to prove.

— Joshua P. Ferguson

STREAM | Simian Mobile Disco "Your Love Ain't Fair" 


DOWNLOAD | Simian Mobile Disco "Seraphim" | 320 mp3 (via Soundcloud)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Heavy Rotation | Spring Awakening + Skrillex + Art Department + More

Heavy Rotation

Corralling our latest commentary from around the web.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Every year we deny its existence, turning a blind eye and refuting to acknowledge what has clearly become a trend across our three years on the web. Dialogue Inc. has officially hit the 2012 summer slump. Running around to festivals, fulfilling other obligations, slacking off, it's kept us off our game here. In an attempt at a make-up, here's a rundown of some of the things that have been keeping us busy.

Spring Awakening Music Fest | Soldier Field, Chicago 

"L.A. electro chums Designer Drugs drew the peak-time afternoon slot, battling the heat to pound out its gritty beats. A sweltering day, the temperature might have made for some seriously lethargic dancing if not for the firehouse that came out to shower revelers in what quickly began to look like a scene from Car Wash gone raver." 
— Coverage of the early DJ stages for Time Out Chicago

"If neon was the base coat, there was a lot more to the color mix than that. Many girls went the flower power route, looking like young Janis Joplins, if Joplin had been a cast member on Saved By the Bell. The '90s are back in a big way, but in a strange sort of hippie-preppie pastiche, attaching itself to evertyhing from extreme rave to typical college threads."
Coverage of the people for Time Out Chicago

"Frat boys ran to and fro, did backflips and butted chests. Girls giggled, twirled glowsticks and raved out on the shoulders of their mostly shirtless co-eds. The whole experience was only intensified by the swirling wind and rain that overtook the second half of his set. Tweeting about the experience, I couldn't help but note that I felt like I was witnessing the end of civilization, but at least everyone was having a good time."
—Review of Skrillex's headlining set for Time Out Chicago

Album and single reviews | XLR8R

"In place of the fairy-tale harp, he's opted for washes of Jackie Gleason-style strings, adding just the slightest ray of sunshine to an otherwise stripped-down affair of warped bass, the snipped rattle of a shaker, and a padded kick. Clearly, the move from England to techno's current capital is having an effect."
Review of Red Rack'em's "Chirpsin" single on RAMP for XLR8R

"the deepness of "Graveyard Tan" is more akin to dancing your way out of a k-hole than it is boogying to bubbly bass and jazzy riffs. These dudes are cut from the asymmetrical black cloth of Damian Lazarus. On the surface, pairing with Black, a consummate technoist, may not seem like an obvious match, but the result makes it clear that these two musical entities were meant for one another."
— Review of Art Department and Konrad Black's "Graveyard Tan" for XLR8R

"Congas and the twinkling of a piano provide the track's initial organic chemistry before its techno pulse kicks in; some atmospheric chatter and vocal chants add a sense of late-night hypnotism that surely appealed to Ryan Crosson and the Visionquest boys. A mid-song bass drop marks the entry of layer upon layer of live synth work, and the point when Uner's ode to our closest star really begins to shine. It's a slow-burning number that wears its inspiration well."
Review of Uner's Universe EP on Visionquest for XLR8R

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Live Review | Movement 2012

Review | Movement 2012

(an ode to the Wizard)

by Joshua P. Ferguson

This past weekend marked the third consecutive year that I've traveled north to Detroit to navigate the sea of ravers and soak up the myriad dance beats that comprise Movement, Motor City's premier electronic music festival. This year, I had two fellow music journalists in tow and at some point we had a discussion about how best to angle our coverage. The first year I was quite diligent, waking each morning to pound out a blog post and upload a few of my own amateur photographs. The second year I think I managed one mid-fest post and a full post-fest recap. This year, as we each threw around ideas, I was still clueless. 

I've written about the spectacle that is the people, all blast-from-the-mid-90s candy kids with rainbow-colored dreads, bare mid-riffs, ripped fishnets and Pikachu backpacks (believe it or not, I'm describing guys and gals). I've done the DJ play-by-play, trainspotting tunes and tipping readers off to the scene stealers who can back up their hit records with live sets as worthy of praise. I just didn't feel either approach, or a combination, was going to bring anything new to the blogosphere at large. 

So I said fuck it. I drank too much the first day, was hung over the second (but manage to rally) and drank too much again the third day. Each night, save the last, I was up with the sun. I talked a lot of shop with a lot of old friends and made a few new ones in the process. I danced more than I have in ages.

And I saw Jeff Mills for the first time.

Here is a man with the ability to alter people's perceptions of this culture and what it can be, and also teach you most of what you need to know about its past. For those who don't know Jeff Mills as the Wizard—when I say Mills, do you think Wizard? Or do you think Axis, or just techno?—it was his radio guise back in the '80s, when he would actually cut, sctratch and juggle tracks into the mix on the air live. That's what he was doing here and it was as amazing as it was informative. His set was history lesson on the roots of Detroit music for the last 30 years, it made you understand why it is the way it is and how it came to be that way—from Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force to Kraftwerk and from Steve "Silk" Hurley to Cybotron. It was an early timeline of essentials that brought both A Number of Names' "Sharevari" and Mills's own "The Bells" to new light.

That would have been enough. But then he came down from his perch to the very front of the main stage and gave us sweat-soaked mind-numbed masses a live 909 freestyle that sent Detroit's Hart Plaza into an absolute frenzy—that is, if you weren't standing dumbfounded at the sheer spectacle of it all.

More than one person that night told me they were swearing off deejaying after seeing Mills at work. Unfortunately, these protectors of the art aren't the ones we should be worried about. Electronic music is going in a lot of directions these days—bass heavy, ravey, druggy, progressive, deep—but are the artists behind the music doing so with the open-minded, passionate craving that this musical magician has displayed for his enviable career? Who knows. Some yes, some sorta, a lot no. Jeff Mills in his hometown, retracing the steps that gave us him and many other acts—and their hits—made me realize that now, more than ever, we need more yeses.