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Friday, August 27, 2004

Currently listening to John Kong, bringing the heat again on the (semi)regular at Milk, the most noteworthy development in the world of internet for some time. Apparently Google have gone public, but wire services are leading with the John Kong story.

As well as the requisite amazing old disco and that new Sunburst Band everyone's hammering right now, the heat is really brought by his Canadian people, who seem to be the folks doing their best to keep the brukbeat flame alive right now.
Not even a year ago each week saw a handful of nujazz releases I had to own, but until today I don't think I've brought a record you could really describe as broken beat for months, maybe even since the Quantic album. And it's not for want of trying. Too much of it now seems either too polite and nice to leave any lasting impression (much less move a dancefloor), being the sort of thing that makes one wrinkle their nose at both the 'nu' and the 'jazz' in 'nujazz', or, like much of what's coming out on Bitasweet and Goya at present, too sonically heavy at the expense of everything else in the tune. I'm all for heaving basslines and gigantic rushing snares, but not if they're on a record that doesn't appear to have anything to say other than "look how well programmed and fantastically engineered I am."

Having left a pile of records in Tamas' studio while making our mix, he presented me with a CDR titled 'What Your Records Do When You're Not There' before I flew up to Brisbane the other week. On it were the fruits of an hour-odd's trawl through the clickier, glitchier end of one of my record bags - a mix of records he in the main hadn't previously listened to and I in the main had stopped playing. Listening to old Akufen, SCSI-9 and Perlon records reminded me how much I really like that music and how much fun they are to play, and prompted by that and the increasing interest (borderline fever-pitch, at least on blogs) in Michael Mayer and his lot, I went and bought Mayer's Fabric mix. It's great (really great) but what surprised me about it was how much micro-house there isn't. Or maybe how much micro-house has changed in the year or so since I've stopped obsessively keeping up with it. Vocals and melodies on the other hand - a surprising surfiet of. Although as Michaelangelo Matos pointed out (in response to another piece linked to below), it's not surprising if you know Kompakt as while they're subtle, they're also pop. It's a straight up great house mix, although a thousandfold more rewarding than, say the Derrick Carter/Mark Farina live mix on Om.
Listening to Mayer's latest effort on Kompakt, a remix for Supercollider with the most fabulously bulbous kickdrum (almost prompting me to buy the record for that alone), I couldn't avoid being reminded of a claim by (I think it was) Simon Reynolds about the similarities between Mayer and progressive house. A good point.
It's interesting to read folks talk about how subtle he is live (yes, this is Old News, but I don't spend every waking second trying to get up on all this, so it's news to me), and then stand in a record shop and have such bombast demand your attention. That Supercollider mix unfolds in an undoubted 'progressive' manner, its trajectory and climax moving in a way that brings to mind the unpleasantness of something on a label like Platypus - but where progressive house tracks conspire to help their DJ on his grim and unrelenting march towards arms-raised no-shades-of-gray euphoria, this Mayer remix is saved by it's neat subversion of the breakdown you'd expect (the kick slowing, then disappearing, then coming back, only backwards) and some things on it that just sound really cool and different.

Kevin Moonstarr's recent record for SK is epic in all the right ways. Light on for bombast, long on for properly devastating. Devastating. You can imagine Carl Craig smiling bemusedly as another young buck with the right synth and idea about how to make it sound like everything you love and nothing you've heard before out Carl Craig's him. Detroit is a killer house track, maybe the killerest I've heard this year, but interestingly even tho' it's been out a month (ie. forever) I've yet to hear any DJ outside of broken-beat circles play it. Has nujazz/broken beat been written off so outright, or is the gulf between it and, say, tech-house so un-leapable that a record on Jazzanova's label is ignored by every house DJ who thinks they're tougher than that?
Or is everyone really up on Detroit like they should be and I'm not going out enough?

While you're at the SK site, how fckn good does this night look?

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to the disinterest (possible slight bemusement) of everyone else: the Battle of the Streetpress
anyone in the city on Saturday night could do a whole lot better than watch a bunch of Melbourne music writers square off on the decks. Still, Spacey Space and Honeysmack are representing for the opposition, so it could be worth dropping by Bourgie to check out the fuss.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Came back from a week amongst the canefields and dolphin-rich waters (buggers were everywhere - getting in the way when you're paddling for waves and generally being a nuisance) of the NSW north coast to play a fundraiser for a big charity. Fun as it was to play in a massive venue with such a great sound system (and for a good cause, at that), the crowd seemed almost exclusively young south of the river types, and all attendant south yarra stereotypes were in full effect; the young, rich and beautiful all out and misbehaving predictably. Was a bit of a shock to come straight from one of the last places in the country where hippies can weave beads, twirl fire and not wash with impunity only to be confronted by a thousand-odd well dressed youngsters crowded six deep around the free bars to make sure they got their ticket-price worth of champagne in. But maybe if Byron's free spirits had paid $80 for a glitzy open bar'd night on the tiles, they too would have donned their stilletoes and fake tan and got their elbows out in the queue for drinks.

Recieved the following from a good friend in London and thinking of coming home, which reminds me why I loved/loved to hate that city.

Went to the Jazz Cafe picnic yesterday which was the most middle class
festival ever, in the history of mankind, with Lambchop, Gilles Peterson,
the Matthew Herbert Big Band, and about a 99 / 1 ratio of birkenstocks to all
other footwear.
I guess I'll feel more like leaving come December, but in the middle of the
london summer where everyone is constantly frolicking in a park with a large can
of beer i just keep thinking...the cans aren't that large in Australia.



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Monday, August 16, 2004

I recently added a link to a blog called Kon-tent, after Philip Sherburne didn't get around to, then by all appearances forgot about, publishing his review of this year's Sonar festival. Following a link from Philip's site and reading the Kon-tent review caught me completely unprepared for the immediacy of the memories it brought back. Even the light in the accompanying photos transported me to the two Junes most previous, spent by turns having ridiculous amounts of fun under the auspices of work, and wandering about trying to summon the energy to sort life out.
It's sunny outside as I write and while Winter sun here is nothing to be moaned about, it's not shining on the city I am currently, in another life that exists concurrent to this one in a part of two people's heads in which they spend little time, living in.

Less cryptically, the new Choice compilation that recently graced my rusting letterbox also brought back memories of nights spent in cavernous Spanish hangars with 12000 close friends. I've enjoyed the previous couple of Choice releases more than any other recent commercially released mix CDs for a few reasons; partly because the DJs they've commissioned are people whose idea of what constitutes a 'classic' (the auspice of the series being 'a choice collection of classics') is one I'm actually interested in, but also because said DJs have taken the job seriously. Reverentially, even. I'm sure blokes like Francois K, Tony Humphries et al get asked to helm more compilations than they could be bothered with, but for some reason Choice has struck a chord - maybe Azuli is just paying them more, or has a bigger budget for licensing the tracks they really want to use - who knows.

So anyway; good comps. The new one by Jeff Mills; below-par. Sub-par, if you will.
While on the first CD he sticks to the general genre-blueprint mapped out by Derrick Carter and Louie Vega's excellent efforts - that being disco and proto-house - it just doesn't sit right. Louie's release was a rare example of a DJ delivering the sort of mix you'd always hoped they would - a coherently (at times fantastically) mixed selection that illustrates and encompasses his influences and inspiration. Louie's are amazing tracks that you can feel his enthusiasm for, but Jeff's selection is an odd one, partly because it doesn't gel with the myth that (with his careful guidance) has grown around him. The Jeff Mills of popular legend began DJ life as the Wizard, furiously quick-mixing up to 70 songs in his hour-long hip hop show on Detroit radio before founding Underground Resistance with Mad Mike and going on to worldwide superduperstar techno dj status, writing pompous treatises about the state of the world through his label-notes and having photographic exhibitions devoted to his hands (seriously. This happened). He gets asked to weigh in on the most relevant DJ mix series in current circulation, and what does he choose to represent the foundations of his sound?

Teddy Pendergrass and Chas Jankel.
I know Chasanova cut some funky ass songs and left an indelible imprint on dance music, but Jeff; are these really your roots?
For sure, he includes many great artists - Deodato, Gerardo Frisina - but despite the fact that there are some genuinely funky songs, it makes for a curiously funkless whole. It doesn't help that he choses to fade tracks in and out or just bump them up against one another, which I guess is his way of making some statement or other, but when he does it on the second CD too, which is mostly techno, it just seems odd. Having a review copy with no liner notes I'd be really interested to read the reasons behind including each track, but based purely on aural merits, I'm not sold.
Partly this is because I've never bought the Jeff Mills hype. I don't have an irrational hatred of techno, I like a lot of it, but the sets of his I've heard have never seemed particularly vibrant or surprising, just calculated and even somehow soulless.

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