Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Article | Guy Gerber | Gerber, Baby

Gerber, baby 

Under the L.A. sun, Guy Gerber reconnects with his roots. 

By Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 06.28.12

 Guy Gerber is a popular guy. It’s Memorial Day weekend and we’re in Detroit’s Hart Plaza for the annual electronic-music bacchanalia, Movement, seated side-by-side in the artist area with Chicago’s own DJ Sneak jacking a house beat on the main stage within earshot. A parade of dance music’s elite is stopping by to say hi. First I’m introduced to Steve Bug, then Claude VonStroke, then techno legend Carl Craig’s wife—who lets Gerber know about a barbecue they’re having. 

It’s all part of a busy year for Gerber. In addition to a headlining set at Movement—and subsequent after-party sponsored by Spy Bar—he’s just moved to L.A., released a stellar single on Detroit-Berlin label Visionquest and mixed the latest installment of the esteemed Fabric DJ series, plus he’s performing at the inaugural Montrose Beach dance party, Wavefront Music Festival, this weekend. This bustle points to a new phase for the deep-inclined tech-house producer. 

“Dance music has to be functional. It means you have to do an intro and an outro that will be good within a mix. For an artist, this can be a little bit boring,” he tells me. “You know, in this art form the reaction is very immediate: If they don’t dance, it doesn’t work. But even if they do, it’s important for the music to be interesting…” A tall, tan woman walks by, taking his attention with her. Gerber—slim, with loose black curls, perpetual five o’clock shadow and an accent that hints at his Israeli upbringing—seems to be a troublemaker with the ladies.

Either that or they’re trouble for him, something he alludes to when discussing the moodiness of his Fabric mix, which consists entirely of his own productions, most exclusive to the release. He was getting someone out of his system, he tells me. “For me, sometimes, I feel really exposed,” he says. “It’s very emotional music, very melodramatic, like me. It was missing some anger, maybe some more hard parts, but it really describes my ups and downs.”

Guy Gerber's Fabric 64 DJ mix is out now | 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Movie Review | Shut Up and Play the Hits

Review | Shut Up and Play the Hits

Say goodbye to LCD Soundsystem in style

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published by Time Out Chicago 

Reading the New York Times this morning, I came across an essay discussing the dry, academic dissection of rap lyrics on the Internet and how this trend tends to suck the life and fun out of the music. "We can turn something that ought to be enjoyed into something that owes us an explanation for its existence, into something that must reveal its underlying worth," the author, Willy Staley, points out. Having just seen the LCD Soundsystem documentary-concert-film Shut Up and Play the Hits last night, I couldn't help but hear the echo of band frontman James Murphy in this sentiment. 

Isn't this what "Losing My Edge" is all about? "I'm losing my edge to the Internet seekers who can tell me every good member of every good group from 1968 to 1972," Murphy sings. No, the fact that I just quoted a lyric I pulled off the 'Net is not lost on me. This is the world we live in, and it was this specific corner of our world that launched LCD Soundsystem in 2002, when Murphy was already in his thirties. He's gone on to become a poetic voice for a generation who grew up on, and grew out of, the rave scene, but still praised partying over pretentiousness. He's like dance music's Bob Dylan, articulating feelings on hipsters, authenticity, pretension and living life right. 

And then he decided to call it quits. As LCD Soundsystem anyway. Citing that, among other things, the band had gotten as popular as he cared for it to be. This is the story that Shut Up and Play the Hits tells, interspersing live footage from the band's final show at Madison Square Garden last April with segments of Murphy's life in the 48 hours that followed, with an interview between Murphy and cultural thinker/writer Chuck Klosterman providing insight into the thoughts that precipitated the band's dissolution and whether Murphy ultimately thinks it's a good idea. 

Beautifully shot, the film is a must-see for diehard fans. Even if you're late to the LCD party, watching it will probably turn you into a believer. Better late than never, right? The scenes of the band's final set, which includes clips from hit songs like "Dance Yrself Clean," "All My Friends," "Losing My Edge" and grand finale "New York, I Love You," are enough to get you out of your seat and into the aisles. With the crowd freaking, the disco ball spinning and Murphy and his crew revealing unspoken communication between them as they revel in the moment, many in the sold-out crowd clapped at each song's end, forgetting that the band wasn't actually performing right in front of them. Such is the intimacy with which the film is composed. 

When you aren't watching the band's last waltz, you're left alone with Murphy and his thoughts—sometimes uncomfortably close. One scene that sees him on the phone with a loved one while fixing coffee in the offices of his label, DFA, shows him tearing up at the thought of all the loose ends left to tie up even though the show's over. Later, while sitting alone in the storage unit holding all of the previous night's instruments and equipment, we're a fly on the wall for a scene with full-blown tears. Some of these moments, mostly the initial ones with him sitting idly in his pj's playing with his French bulldog, are cute but seemed forced—"aw" moments for us to gush over but hard to stomach with complete sincerity. Mostly though, you get a pristine sense of the overwhelming finality of Murphy's choice to close this chapter on his career, and how it weighs on him in the initial aftermath. 

At the onset of Klosterman's interview, he asks Murphy if a musician actually considers a band's end when he or she is just getting it started. While this wasn't precisely the case with LCD Soundsystem, you'll be hard pressed to find another band whose final days are so meticulously calculated. Later, Murphy and Klosterman contemplate what LCD's lasting legacy will be. Will Murphy, given all he's done for both rock and dance music, be remembered solely for having pulled the plug on such a wondrous thing before its time? Given 200-plus people I saw snaking around the block, waiting to get into the midnight showing after mine let out, somehow I doubt it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Heavy Rotation | Kevin McPhee + Wavefront + araabMUZIK + more

Kevin McPhee (courtesy of XLR8R)

Heavy Rotation

Corralling our latest commentary from around the web.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Our insane summer continues, here's what we've been working on:

Wavefront Music Fest | Montrose Beach, Chicago

Just a couple of weeks back, Chicago experienced its first two-day beach rave with appearances from Art Department, Boys Noize, Duck Sauce, Guy Gerber, Matthew Dear, Visionquest and more. Here is the gist of wet n' wild party and links to my coverage for Time Out Chicago:

"While the outdoor mega-concert experience is something that really resonates with people, Wavefront's formula is deceivingly simple and impossible to argue with: DJs + sun + booze + beach = a hell of a good time. Said one person heading through the gates at the same time as me, 'it's a dance party on the beach, who cares who the DJs are.' Or another summation offered by a friend, 'it's like Ibiza in Chicago.'" 
— Coverage of the Wavefront crowd for Time Out Chicago (pictures after the jump)

"Seeing just how far the crowd was willing to go, Ghostly International poster boy Matthew Dear pushed the envelope, dubbing out sound effects and weaving his quirky brand of Kraftwerkian techno-pop into the mix. He tossed out some challenging tunes for his prominent time slot, but it served as a great indication of the festival organizers' willingness to introduce revelers to a side of dance music that goes beyond the glitz of David Guetta and Afrojack."
Coverage of the early DJ sets for Time Out Chicago 

"With Morillo's set overplaying the dramatic breakdown card, Boys Noize could often be heard cracking the euphoric ambience with his beat-driven onslaught. Speaking with a local DJ, we both marveled at how well he managed to take many of the sounds that are fueling this EDM mania and repackage them in a way that appeals to people who have been in the scene for some time. We shared the sentiment that his set was utter mayhem, but tasteful mayhem—if there can be such a thing." 
Coverage of headliners Erick Morillo and Boys Noize for Time Out Chicago 

Album, single reviews + Interviews | XLR8R

"Playful, fine tuned, and funky in all the right ways, it's like a snapshot of hearing the Hamburg-based DJ spin live over the course of a night. Some DJs excel at nailing down a potent sound and staying the course for 60 minutes, but Solomun takes a slightly more eclectic approach, beginning with grooves that recall an old-school mixtape rather than a slick techno mix."
— Review of Luke Solomun's Watergate 11 mix for XLR8R 

"The finished product is a tasteful spoken-word dance meditation, something fine-tuned for late-night dancefloors and fit to be counted alongside tracks like DJ Le Roi and Roland Clark's "I Get Deep"—a classic that Get Physical just re-released with a new batch of remixes (none of which rival the original). Granted, "Aus" may not quite be on that level, but it is a faithful recreation of an earlier era in house music."
— Review of Nina Kravis's "Aus" single for XLR8R 

"Surprisingly, as much as he gets compared to post-dubstep originator Burial, McPhee doesn't include him in his list of favorite discoveries. "I own one Burial record," he clarifies. "I moreso listened to it and then, as a result, got into the stuff that influenced [him]. That's had a bigger impact on me than him." He's even gone so far as to make conscious decisions in the studio to avoid undue comparisons. "I had a feeling, you know. Pitched vocals, swingy drums, apparently that's Burial and that's all it is. It's influential in the sense that it's gotten me into other stuff, but his sound, if anything, I'm trying to push away from that now."
Interview with Kevin McPhee for XLR8R

Pitchfork Music Festival | Union Park, Chicago

Pitchfork set up its festival shop in Chicago for yet another three-day session this past weekend. More electronic than year's past, here are just two of the many highlights:

"A focused technician, he barely looked up to acknowledge the crowd, so engrossed was he in the task at hand. It was one of the single coolest feats of electronic-music athleticism I've seen, the equivalent of witnessing a b-boy or DJ battle—two things that have all but died out from hip-hop culture. Even though, strictly speaking, his music isn't house, techno or even dubstep, araabMUZIK still represented the closest the fest got to the current EDM hype all weekend."
Coverage of araabMUZIK for Time Out Chicago 

"If U.K. dubstep artist Joker can christen his music "purple," Jaar could easily brand his mellow dance sound "blue." Echoing guitar often took a melodic lead while dub treatments and a distant sax line added additional texture to the dominant midtempo groove. Where Jaar's own processed vocals didn't work, gospel soul samples often provided the needed vibe. And this is very much vibe music."
Coverage of Nicolas Jaar for Time Out Chicago