Home > 2012, africa, House, video > Picks 11/25/2012

Picks 11/25/2012

Music, man. It’s been a good week for records. Next week is looking to be even better.

Pulled from an order from Chemical Records.

Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love, 2012)

Things are really picking up for Andy Stott. His incredible Passed Me By and We Stay Together EPs regularly work themselves onto my turntables and itunes a year after their release, while his new album has captivated everyone from Pitchfork to Spin, Resident Advisor to Vogue (above). On last year’s EPs, his syrupy dub-techno/house productions were intriguing and different, but not miles away from the electronic dust of Basic Channel or Actress. What really separated the work was how the dense soundworlds conveyed a visceral impact while retaining a deep sense of groove beneath all the layers of fuzz and bass. To say that Stott’s full length was highly anticipated would be insufficient in describing my budding relationship with the album. If I have yet to make it clear across these pages, I’m pretty opposed to vocals in the music I listen to. I’m not one for melody, and I’m not one for bad lyrics. Thus, I felt a pang in my musical heart when I heard Luxury Problems would prominently feature a vocalist.

Numb” was the first single, and is the first track on the album. Frankly, the track is a fitting introduction to the album; it begins softly, with whispering vocals and dark ambient tones carrying it along. A hihat is introduced and the tension begins to build as the vocals sway and overlap, the tones begin to meld, and then it all clears away for a moment. Stott has a nice way of building tension, but an even stronger talent of releasing that tension through industrial jacking rhythms, through all-encompassing bass, through sunken soundscapes. The track is immediately accessible; it’s grimy, heavy, yet curiously beautiful. It reminds me of hearing Burial’s “Archangel” for the first time – a mesmerizing mash of romance and darkness. Stott cites early 4AD records, especially Cocteau Twins as a major influence over this album and it’s steadily apparent. In the same way Cocteau Twins fused dark, groovy sensibility with forlornly precious vocals, Andy Stott is taking this sound out for a deep warehouse vibe, crafting music that is innately accessible, but yet still dark enough to keep casual listeners away.

Stott explores more explicit pop tendencies on “Hatch the Plan,” capturing a lilting, beautiful melody that seems more fitting for a “chillwave” song, and through the first few enrapturing minutes I wouldn’t blame anyone for confusing this for something from the TriAngle label. The track is buoyant – a restrained, slow, jacking rhythm keeps the listener in forward momentum while Stott manipulates the samples to angelic proportions. This is an easy recommendation for those who normally aren’t invested in this style of music. The marriage of pop, dance and darkness is best heard on “Luxury Problems,” where the seductive rhythm and cooing vocals whisk you away, but short blocks of strange color seem to disrupt everything, yet hold it all together, offering a perspective outside of Stott’s traditionally colorless world.

With last years EPs, if any of the tracks were played at 45rpm, the sludgy too-slow-to-dance track would transform into a prickly, aggressive, eyes-down techno bomb. Due to the vocals and already mid-paced tracks, this simply isn’t possible with Luxury Problems – but a problem it isn’t. These songs groove and jack in their own way, riding along at a comfortable speed, and frankly resemble hip hop tempos. Tracks like “Lost and Found” suggest dancing, but I’m not sure if it would work anywhere else other than a candle-lit late night party where the last blunt is being smoked and the last drop of wine being drunk. The suggestion continues, as on “Up the Box,” where Stott resuscitates the Amen Break, leaving us with a sluggish, pitched-down jungle track that is gone before you can even find the groove.

I’ve had this record since Tuesday, I’ve listened to it over and over, yet I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress. While not as complex and inaccessible as last year’s EPs, Luxury Problems is a lot like peering into a dark room and trying to make sense of it. I’m sure this record will be hanging out near my turntables for the next few months. And again, this is one for quality headphones/speakers. For more Andy Stott, check out his amazing live set on Boiler Room.

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Mickey Pearce – Numb Nut/Socks Off (Swamp81, 2012)

Swamp81 is truly on top of their game, achieving a status that maintains quality over hype – although the label is no stranger to hype. Rising above their peers in regards to curation (Joy Orbison, Falty DL, Addison Groove), design (Ashes57), quality mastering and a devotion to vinyl, its easy to see how I love this label. Mickey Pearce is apparently being pushed forward as the new posterboy for the label, with an album in the works for early next year. His prior singles for Swamp81, Ramp and Ten Thousand Yen have been good, but not entirely there. This latest single really changed my mind about him as it provides two fun, functional, and distinct tracks that are among the best work for both the artist and label. Exploring influences from UK funky to footwork to industrial techno, this 12″ is a bit unique in its sound despite the hyped genre tags.

“Socks Off” (above) is the track that sold me. When I first heard the track I feel in love immediately – the detuned tom melody, the deep bass hits, the endless tense organic percussion, the cheesy samples – it’s all absolutely perfect. The vibe on this track is strong and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. It has a very functional and accessible bounce to it, with a tongue-in-cheek darkness that propels the intensity. Focusing on primarily fantastic sounding percussion (rubbery toms, bright blocks, inverted claps) the track excels in being funky without being overtly “tribal.” That being said, it does land in an area where UK Funky is seen through the eyes of Night Slugs or Fade to Mind, which makes it dark and tense, but in a way that has a brilliant larger-than-life quality to it. It’s this relationship of anxiety, playfulness and excitement that have me playing this track over and over. It is going to work great mixed with more raucous house cuts (here), or slipped into an En La Noche set @ MOLAA. Huge thumbs up on this one.

The flip “Numb Nut (Soft Brain)” also strikes the funky influence with lots of bright percussion and jeering vocal samples. Deep bass rubs ground the track and really add a tough intensity that would be unbelievably satisfying if heard out on a good system. The rhythm is a half-time juke banger with both rhythms being very easy to follow, adding to the linear carnival tradition of the funky style. With each listen I become more attracted to the song as it is, again, a fairly linear percussive track that plays little attention to much else other than functionality. But that’s not to say it is simple, as it is plain to see that Mickey put a lot of focus on his tones and timbres, crafting a thick dark sound palette that is mindful of the current attention towards Berghain techno or the work of Joy Orbison/Boddika, yet remains unique in implementation. The vocal samples are really tools that add a sense of melody and excitement to the track while remaining vague and unintelligible, as if cut in from old tape or worn vinyl – perhaps a nod to soundsystem culture from the days of street dub. This tune has only one aim, and that’s to make people dance.

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Trackman Lafonte & Bonquiqui – Trackman Lafonte & Bonquiqui (Creme, 2012)

This is the first 12″ of surfer house by the dastardly duo of Legowelt and Xosar. These two really crack me up in their whole persona/relationship/whatever, but their collaborative musical output has been really strong. I find Legowelt to be fairly cheesy at times, while Xosar isn’t always as propulsive as she could be, but their surfer house exploits have been great. This is tongue-in cheek music made on cheap, outdated synths, probably recorded to tape and mixed to sound flat and hazy. It’s functional in some contexts, but I rather enjoy it as a nice listen, as it has lots of cheery tones with a slick groove underneath.

The Feeling, The Force” is featured on my latest mix, and if I had to pick a favorite track from all the records I picked up this last week – this would be it. The groove is very tight, jacking, yet with a bouncy swing, madd hi-hats and deep MK-style raise-your-hands chords. I love how vibrant and colorful the track is, I want to be playing on the beach or skating or at a party getting wild. On this track or on “Fortunes of the Lord” (above) it becomes obvious that this is real deal, fun, party music. No bullshit, just jams. These tracks are engineered to get you grooving, get you out and help you get down.

The pair get a little deeper on “Fascinating Facts,” reaching for a space where mythical forest dreams and techno correlate – the mood is a bit more serious, the vibe is eyes-down, but the execution is no less formidable. Overall, we have four essential tracks from one of 2012’s most interesting and consistent partnerships.

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V/A – Autonomous Africa (Autonomous Africa, 2012)

This is a REALLY great compilation record curated by the esteemed JD Twitch of the Glasgow based, Optimo parties. All proceeds are being donated to charity, and thus the music is difficult to find streaming online. No matter, I will do my best to convince you to buy the damn thing regardless.

Of the four tracks, only one is available for full stream and that’s Auntie Flo’s edit of Atakoru Manu’s “Bebo Ne Komo” (above). The track begins with some bubbling bass, and the dread begins to swell as the percussion fills the air, keeping the rhythm fully focused and in front. A twinkling synth tone sneaks in, like the sun rising over a mountain, the rhythm takes a breath and all at once the mood has changed. Once the vocals come in there is no looking back, the simple sing-chant is captivating, while the synths continue to bubble and float, letting the rhythm now feel weightless – all leaving the dancer caught up in a trance. Unlike a lot of other edits out there, this one is extremely cohesive and it’s difficult to tell exactly where the Auntie Flo/Atakoru Manu divide is. Not exactly a banger, but without a doubt this track will find itself in my sets.

The high point of this compilation is the opening track, JD Twitch’s edit of Sofrito’s edit of “Tabou for the People” (it’s the last track on my newest mix). The vibe is a rough African-Disco with beautifully dusty hi hats and very deep lowend. Wah guitar quickly opens up the hatch, ushering in a definite sense of party. Boasting vocal samples persuade: “I know you like Tabou No. 2, man” while the precise woodblock ensures a frenzy. From start to finish, this is a wonderfully executed edit that should be able to make anyone dance anywhere anytime. It’s one of those tracks that’s too good for words, and just may be the best edit I’ve heard yet. I mean, listen to the timbales/trumpet  solo and tell me that this isn’t your groove. Tabou for the people, man.

Categories: 2012, africa, House, video
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