Home > chicago, detroit, House, soul > Picks 12/30/2012

Picks 12/30/2012

2013 just might be my year. Anything can happen right? My week was pretty good, while I was out with my folks in Phoenix I did a little record shopping which I’ll write about next week. Also came home to a stack of shit I bought at Amoeba before I left plus two packages. Records, man. Excited about the future, excited to share it with y’all.

Pulled from the internet crates of Hyperdub, FXHE, and Discogs.

Burial – Truant b/w Sleeper (Hyperdub, 2012)

I’m really glad Google led me to this particular uploading of Burial’s latest single, Truant, as in the comments section someone remarked that he’d be afraid to walk around London in the dark with this on his headphones. Just last night I was walking home a little chiefed, vibing the cool night air and digging the new Burial, falling into the dense soundscapes, immersed in the subbass, tape dust, rain sounds, and horror synths as a big guy who looked a little sketchy was passing me. A sound half gunshot, half cracking wood rang in the left channel and I jumped and looked back at the guy expecting him to be holding a smoking gun.

Burial has been somewhat active in the last year or so, this being his third single under his name, alongside two with Four Tet (also Thom Yorke on one), plus a thing with Massive Attack. This year’s Kindred was a big surprise, both because it showed Burial using trancey synths to add shades of color behind his usual thick gray fog, but also as the record was structurally challenging – the beat would drop out, and when it returned it was changed, as if the song got tired of being itself.

Burial moves forward and evolves these elements, taking the idea into two side-long tracks. When Hyperdub announced the digital release I decided to spend the $2.48 and buy it, then order the vinyl later (which I did last night). So I’ve had the record for about two weeks now and I have to say I still haven’t quite figured it out. I’ve listened to multiple times a day since then, and it still sounds new to me at every listen – I’m constantly surprised and amazed within a track’s journey. I think that this is not only the best record of the year, but also Burial’s most inspired and generally impressive work to date. Despite the non-linear, start-stop movement of the music, this is Burial at his most intimate, most human, and most accessible. This is music you turn on loud and just listen to, this is music to take you out of your head as you sit on the bus, music for the sake of being what music should be. I view the release as a more personal approach than just crafting two long, difficult tracks, but rather a discourse in the form of a mix or performance; in that, perhaps the bulk of these tracks were recorded live in the studio, or maybe the pieces were intricately built then put together like a DJ set captured on a worn C30 cassette off a pirate radio show – signal interruptions, grainy tape hiss and all.

Truant” begins slowly, wandering in gracefully through the thick gray mist that surrounds Burial’s work. The song stutters and stumbles, picks up again slightly changed each time, as if in an ongoing dream during a restless night’s sleep. A ghostly voice makes an attempt to speak and finally is able to utter the haunting line “I fell in love with you” twice, before slipping back into the darkness. At about five minutes the groove finally makes its way to the forefront and begins to stick in, the percussion gaining momentum and the gentle suggestion of swing becoming enhanced by a mesmerizing synth melody so fragile it hardly feels present at all. About 8:30 the song abruptly halts and what sounds like an alarm buzzes, waking the listener from this dream. Dropping into darker territory, the atmosphere thickens with a downpour of black rain, and in the last minute a bass melody is suggested, but quickly disappears with just the vaguest recollection of it ever being there.

“Rough Sleeper” (above) is the one, the better track on the record, but also the track that could Burial’s defining moment. For all captivating 14 minutes of the track he flexes his ability to craft unique melodies and a sense of pop in such deep, dark music. The track is heavy with vocal samples, washed in silky synth lines and carries forward a gentle groove. It’s a journey that is marvelous and rewarding, but its more than just a statement about duration of time or an experience with synesthesia; when the bells come in halfway through like sunshine in a dark room, it becomes fully apparent that Burial, like Coltrane or DJ Shadow, is pushing the boundaries of “music” in order to fully utilize  the medium as an outlet for his direct voice, vision, and soul. Maybe this isn’t Burial’s A Love Supreme, but he’s found his classic quartet and there can only be greater things to come.

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Fit featuring Gunnar Wendel – Roll Out (FXHE, 2012)

As much as I am addicted to records, I’m addicted to Omar S’ FXHE record label, and the raw otherworldy Detroit Techno institution is easily in my top 3 labels of the year (big ups LIES and Night Slugs). Whenever any new releases suddenly appear the website I send my man in the 313 an e-mail right away. 2012 has been a good year for a lot of music, but Aaron “Fit” Siegal has had a great time moving from record mogul to hit maker, teaming up with Omar S for two defining singles on FXHE in “SEX” and “Tonite” (below), plus alternate mixes of Tonite on his own imprint (this one next week). Meanwhile, Gunnar Wendel is the given name to German house weirdo Kassem Mosse, who provides beats for the productions on the 12″. Of course Omar S has a hand in every single release on the label and he’s credited for doing the mix, which does sound typically excellent.

“Enter the Fog” (above) is really the one for me, this is the sound I have come to know and love from FXHE, melodic deep techno that is a complete delight to listen to. Fit really is skilled on the keys, playing some lines that don’t sound too far from Ahmad Jamal’s work for Impulse, elegant, yet alive and filled with soul. Wendel really holds up on his end of the deal, using a really raw and crunchy drum kit with a suggestive bounce to it, but it’s the fine details like the light fingersnaps, the oscillating feedback, and the pitched down hit hats, that take this so far apart from a lot of other projects out there today. A wonderful, epic listen.

The A-side, “Roll Out” is the stomper here, opening with a twinkly melody, a crunchy kick and a sluggish hi hat. Once the bassline comes in, however, you realize there is no hope of turning back. This sounds really fucking good loud – the bass really rumbles and jacks, whereas Fit’s work on the Prophet is completely mesmerizing and quietly ecstatic, but more interestingly is how the lightweight synths just seem to float in the air as your feet are drawn to that obscene kick drum. Excellent 12″, thanks again FXHE!

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Chez Damier – Close (Substance, 1997)

How could I not love this? Jazzy, soulful, deep-slung house that makes anytime feel like late nights and burning incense. While the remixes from JT offer more functional takes, the Chez original is the one. His singing is really excellent, sounding soulful and slyly seductive in a Luther Vandross sort of way. I’m really not typically one to enjoy vocal house,  especially male vocals, but Chez really kills it here. Coming into it, the groove is impossible to avoid; the bassline slinking along, the strong kick keeping you bobbing, and the airy keys adding a soft atmosphere to the track. This is midnight music, 5:15am music – satin sheets, champagne and smoke in the air. This one is going to be in my crates for a while.

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Moodymann – Dem Young Sconies b/w The Third Track (Decks Classix, 1996, 1997, 2010)

Oh KDJ, how much I love you man. I’m so stoked that he’s playing the Lift 3rd Birthday Party next month. I was a little disappointed when I saw Moody at Rhonda earlier this year, the sound at the club was  pretty awful, although he did play a great set. I think things will be a bit better this time around.

“The Third Track” (above) is another one of my favorite Moodymann moments, and it was on a lazy stoned afternoon listening to Silent Introduction I realized that I needed to immediately acquire this soulful disco slammer. This is classic Moody here – masterfully used soul samples, clanging keys and some fuzzed out strings all lying on top of a bouncy kick. I don’t get tired of this one ever, I had a day at work recently where I played it about 10-15 times in a row.

“Dem Young Sconies” is a totally different vibe here, trading soul for funk and moving into grimy Detroit electro. The rhythm is eerie and hard jacking – it bounces, starts and stops as like a piston, as a sonar blip and high pitched synth tone waver ominously in the air. A dark track befitting a dark image of Detroit.

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Omar S Presents Aaron “Fit” Siegel ft L’Renee – Tonite (FXHE, 2012)

I slept on this one when it came out earlier this year and I really feel like I did wait too long before picking it up. This is aforementioned AOL at work here, and I really hope this unit continues to make more of their soulful timeless music. Fortunately, when Omar S is in the world, anything seems possible.

I have to start with the “Detroit Mix” (above) because really this track is just so huge, but it also plays an interesting role in the resurgence of classic house music. While most producers are busy aping Kerri Chandler, MK or (more interestingly) Dance Mania tropes, the remix stays true to the gritty machinefunk tradition of the 313. The sawtooth harmonica melody is completely out of this world, reminiscent of early Underground Resistance and Derrick May, balanced by uplifting ivories and L’Renee’s gentle coos and suggestions of what may lay in store “tonite.” It’s an interesting approach to take, and the product is really stunning. This classic sounding homage to a tradition almost thirty years old now is fresh and much needed in a time when too many records just sound the same – and trust, there’s no way you’d miss this record if you heard it in a set.

Interestingly enough, I just did a little snooping around and on the “Original Mix” of this track, Mike Banks is credited as 038, for playing Rhodes. How small the world seems to be in the D. The original mix is a laidback affair, a gently bubbling house track, equipped with an excellent Omar S bassline and an impressive delivery from L’Renee. It’s a good track, but the clear winner is the stomper on the flip.

Categories: chicago, detroit, House, soul
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