Monday, March 25, 2013

Heavy Rotation | Benoit and Sergio + Brandt Brauer Frick + Ost and Kjex + Lockah

Heavy Rotation | XLR8R + Greenlight Music

Corralling our latest commentary from around the Web.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

It's been a dynamic last couple months on the writing front, including a unique thought piece for us that we contributed to music-licensing site Greenlight Music's blog, Kitchen Sync—which you can read here: "The Limits of Pandora" discussing, well, the limits and opportunities of Pandora Radio, as well as our typical stream of interviews and reviews, including highlights from D.C. dance duo Benoit & Sergio and German organic techno maestros Brandt Brauer Frick. Here's the rundown:


"Oh yeah! It was supposed to be with Seth Troxler, that was it. We were supposed to play with Seth because we had just put out the Visionquest record. It was this Visionquest night, but Seth couldn't make it because he'd torn his passport. It was ripped and when he went to get his Russian visa, the Russian embassy said, 'No, we won't let you in the country because you don't treat state property well.'" — Benjamin "Sergio" Myers says of one of Benoit & Sergio's worst performance experiences.

"The album's breezy, Floridian motif manifests itself across "Miami Theme," "Miami Drift," and "Miami Titles," each of which attract comparisons to Cinematic Orchestra's epic jazz drama and Herbert's stuttering style... The fastidiousness that has typically characterized the ensemble's organic techno methodology has relaxed here, and as the sweeping piano melody of "Miami Titles" carries the album towards its final moments, it's clear that Brandt Brauer Frick has found a space where its members can more freely explore, and just as masterfully, they've arrived without forgetting the qualities that got them here."

"Back in 2004, the pair, often clad in clothes of varying shades of mustard and donning Wisconsin cheesehead-like bowlers and top hats, did Herbert one cheekier by crafting the hilariously titled Some, But Not All Cheese, Comes from the Moon entirely out of cheese and cracker samples. This obsession with fromage and other foodie fare carried right on through to 2010's Cajun Lunch for Hamburg's Diynamic imprint. But a quiet two years focused on family and a collective move to the Oslo suburbs has seen Tore "Ost" Gjedrem and Petter "Kjex" Haavik return to Diynamic as a more mature and in-the-pocket duo with the Lulu EP."

"After a brief intro teases out the EP's '80s Italo theme, lead track "Young Neon Countach" asserts Banks' skill at crafting epic synth melodies as well as his fondness for vintage electro and boogie... It is a rollercoaster of fuzzy triplets, padded drum rolls, the chattering teeth of Southern hip-hop beats, and the plucky funk of slap-bass, all led through a series of build-ups and breakdowns by a powerful and poppy lead melodic line. It's this swirling of influences that has reviewers mashing up genres into hashtags like "progstep" and "drum & juke" as they attempt to sum up his synth-heavy and rhythmic work."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shuffle | Bicep vs Ejeca + Space Dimension Controller + Siriusmo

Shuffle | New Sounds from Our Inbox

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Bicep vs Ejeca "You" (Ejeca's Piano Rhythm) — Aus
The original mix of this gem from Irish chums Bicep and Ejeca, which dropped on the esteemed bass-meets-house-meets-garage label Aus Music, has been a staple in our sets since it hit the market late last year. Twisting its way through your consciousness thanks to an infectious and tweaked-out diva vocal, "You" is a perfect segue from the progressive monotony that pumps from the iPod of one of our posh Chicago restaurant residencies. We turn to it time and time again to help enlighten an otherwise bottle-service-focused downtown crowd on the merits of house music not signed to Ultra. On this freebie rerub from Belfast's Ejeca—pronounced with a hard "c"—"You" gains even greater appeal in our eyes and ears thanks to a slower tempo, cascading '90s-house piano, and an overall mellower groove.

DOWNLOAD: Bicep vs Ejeca "You" (Ejeca Piano Rhythm) | WAV file

Space Dimension Controller "Space Party" — R&S
A non-album cut from man-of-the-future Mr. 8040, a.k.a. Space Dimension Controller, "Space Party" exemplifies just what kind of intergalactic deep electro funk the producer (otherwise based in Belfast) has brought back to us from the year 2257AD on Welcome to Mikrosector-50, his debut full length for Belgium's R&S label. Revisiting ultra-retro breakdance-worthy boogie, funk, house, and breakbeats alongside the cosmic deepness he's otherwise known for, SDC's latest is a journey in more ways than one. The album's caramel-y-voiced protagonist turns out a hip-house vocal run on this particular hyperactive throwback.

DOWNLOAD: Space Dimension Controller "Space Party" | 320 mp3

Siriusmo "Itchy" — Monkeytown
Modeselektor bestie and keyboard junkie Sirisumo snuck this album preview out today. A twittering—not in the social media sense—number that lays the plucky glitch of synth strings over chattering hi-hats, slinky bass, and all manner of booms and choks, it has a staccato quality that lands somewhere between Kraftwerk and Brandt Brauer Frick. Part techno, party IDM, all good, it give us something to look forward to in June when his Enthusiast LP drops on Monkeytown.

Download: Sirisumo "Itchy" | 320 mp3

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shuffle | James Blake

Shuffle | James Blake 

by Joshua P. Ferguson

The James Blake hype machine is grinding away at full speed in anticipation of the British bass-crooner's sophomore effort, Overgrown, which is due out on April 8. We've been content to keep "Retrograde" on a continuous loop since it was released as the LP's lead single earlier this month—better that than a 10-hour loop of the recent 15-second Daft Punk snippet, anyway. Then, the mellow-cool crossover titan snuck back out with two new bits from the record, including a collaboration with electronic-music legend Brian Eno. All is enough to send the rest of the indie-music blogosphere racing to their lappies to share the good news, so we took the backseat until  we spotted a 15-min video preview of his entire record, and we thought, what the hell, let's get in on the action. Then we discovered that it was pulled off the Web by Blake's record label about two hours prior to penning this post. Whomp. Here are the other cuts anyway—with our two cents on each included free of charge.

"Digital Lion," Blake's next single, which looks to already be available in the U.K., is sure to satisfy fans of the producer's earlier work. Less a singer-songwriter affair than much of the material on Blake's self-titled debut album, here we see the two sides married as a vocal tapestry of hums and coos gets stitched together with help from ambient pioneer Brian Eno, while tough—for Blake anyway—dubwise beats clamor underneath.

On "Voyeur (dub)," which featured on a recent installment of Benji B's BBC show, Blake continues to push a more rhythmic club interpretation of his otherwise introspective sound, with deep sub-bass, the clang of cowbell, and spiraling synth lines. A drama that ratchets up via an epic dissonant chord crescendo eventually releases us into a barren breakdown and sets the stage for a final third that proves Blake is just as adept at crafting hypnotic, tension-building techno as he is delicate chill-out scapes.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Article | Innerspace Halflife | Loose Gear

Loose Gear

An embrace of improvised electronics fuels Innerspace Halflife.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 12.13.12

“Classic principles, contemporary techniques.” This is how Chicago producer Hakim Murphy describes the music he makes with studio partner Ike “Release” Velez. While it may seem more befitting the way a chef would describe his approach to cuisine, or an architect his constructions, it’s also the way a number of reviews of their work have come to characterize their sound, and it sums up their work as Innerspace Halflife perfectly. 

Sparse, full of vintage handclaps and often given over to the fluid modulation of an acid line, the Innerspace Halflife style of house music could easily be mistaken for that of the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. “I think drums make how it’s perceived,” Murphy, 35, says over coffee with the duo at Filter recently. “606 or 707, that’s Chicago or Detroit.” Referring to vintage Roland brand drum machines from the ‘80s that were an integral component in early house and techno productions—and now in Innerspace Halflife productions—it’s a big factor in their retro sound. 

Their improvised recording style and small number of moving parts is another. “There’s not much going on. Most of the tracks we’ve done together are no more than two or three components,” Velez, 32, says. “That’s where the classicist techniques come from,” Murphy adds, “one synthesizer, one drum machine and maybe an effects unit.” On “Wind,” a well-received recent release for Dutch imprint MOS Deep, teeth chattering hi-hit and a low-slung padded thump are joined by little more than the careening stutter of an acid bass line and a wispy sci-fi synth melody. Each of these components evolves over the course of “Wind,” but nothing more is added to the mix. 

It’s cerebral stuff and yet, it still jacks hard enough for an underground dance floor. And though it recalls the stripped-back nature of an earlier era of dance music, much of it is done with computers; hence the contemporary techniques (although both Murphy and Velez are slowly amassing a large collection of analog gear). This creation process, both say, has been a learning experience. 

Innerspace Halflife began as a pen pal relationship of sorts, with Murphy and Velez e-mailing tracks back and forth for feedback between 2008 and 2011, while Velez was living in Berlin. Returning home to Chicago last year, the two teamed up and the studio time they’ve carved out since has been an improvised navigation through each of their areas of expertise. “Coming from drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep, sound design was always the emphasis,” Velez says. “I was definitely more uptight in the studio. Now, for this particular project, the way we work is more just letting things happen.”

Innerspace Halflife recently dropped its Post Industrial EP for the newly-minted Latency Records, and is currently making its live PA debut across the UK and Europe.