Home > 2000, 2001, 2012, detroit, diva, fusion, hip hop, House, LDN > Picks 1/6/2013

Picks 1/6/2013

I feel like I’m lying when I say I’ve been busy, but I guess I have been. I still have a huge stack of records (that will grow this week, I’m sure) to get through, but I have some of the choicest material ready for y’all. To those not in the know, I’m putting together a new monthly underground dance night in Long Beach with my man David Valdez. Our first night is February 8th @ the Que Sera and I just confirmed our special guests! More info late this week…

Pulled from the bins of Amoeba, Fingerprints and Chemical-Records.

Geeeman – Bang’t (Jack For Daze/Clone, 2012)

 The term “DJ tool” just doesn’t apply for this one – this is a straight up DJ weapon. Both sides are heavy bangers in the Dance Mania style, which as I’ve said before, is a nice break from all the MK/Kerri Chandler aping going on. This record made it onto a lot of year end lists, and it reminded me that I had heard it throughout the year, and that it really was a killer. A quick scour of the internet stores resulted with no luck, but I vaguely remembered seeing a copy at Amoeba. As luck would have it, I ended up at Amoeba a few days later with my buddy Sean and sure enough there was one sealed copy hiding for me in the House section.

“Bang’t” (above) hardly needs any explanation. Simple and effective, repetitive and memorable. It’s a deep jackin track that works really well for a multiple reasons: 1) that organ riff is pretty fucking dope, hard to deny that 2) the vocal, “balls are bangin” nuff said 3) the percussion is fairly complex and always 100% primed at making your ass shake. I can not wait to play this out at the kick off party next month…

On the flip, “Fire Extinguisher” is an acid drenched stormer, a real barnburner. The track isn’t as memorable as the flip, but that’s what makes it so appealing – it’s a track that can be molded into your set as a bridge track. Again Geeeman/Gerd is absolutely masterful on the rhythms. He pays a lot of attention to detail when arranging, but also feels like he has a lot of fun doing it. For some reason, all I can think is that I’d love to hear this on a boat.

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V/A – Romeo Must Die (Blackground, 2000)

Well, yeah, you guessed it, I am currently obsessed with Aaliyah. When I think of Aaliyah I remember being 12/13 and discovering MTV and TRL – with “Try Again” being a very clear memory of that time. I didn’t really have older people around me showing me music as I was growing up so I just kinda blindly wandered out into the world. But that particular video and song are very clear, I remember how beautiful Aaliyah looked and just how intense the whole video was with all the dancing and kung fu. I wish I had bought this soundtrack when it came out, but I’m sure I appreciate it more in 2012.

I want to start with the Destiny’s Child track, “Perfect Man.” This is ALL Beyonce on here, and at 19 years old, we only catch a glimpse of the complete force she was beginning to become. Her voice is assertive and confident, riding the beat very well and playing the role of diva as if she were born for it. The beat is really interesting to follow as well, the xylophone tones are particularly memorable and this one has been getting a lot of play in my home.

On the hip hop tip, BG absolutely kills it on “Rollin’ Raw” over a funky Mannie Fresh beat. BG’s flow is syrupy and monotone, the hazy beat being the perfect match. However, looking at Timbaland & Magoo’s “At it Again” we find a much more complicated affair. The video is totally worth watching for the Aaliyah and Missy cameos, but it also magnifies the strange turn that this song takes. In my book, Timbaland is an incredible visionary, a producer unique and unparalleled, but really, homeboy’s track record isn’t exactly clean – his sense of humor doesn’t always translate well through the music. About 3 minutes into “At it Again” the track steps into halftime and the video takes a rap-rock approach. As a stand-alone beat I can definitely see Three 6 Mafia rapping over the dark crunk rhythm, but in the context of Timbaland, it’s just a headscratcher. Another example is Aaliyah’s kinda banger “Are You Feelin’ Me” which Timbaland again drops into halftime and then plays hypeman to himself with a whole bunch of “are you feeling this yo?” and “who is the best at making the beats” chants. Timbaland expected my confusion and cuts the track with the statement, “You never saw this coming.”

As of right now, “I Don’t Wanna” is easily my favorite Aaliyah track, and I’ve been playing it nonstop as I’m working on dance steps in my room. Yep. Peep the live video from TRL on Spring Break or something up top (above), Aaliyah brings so much energy from the start. I  really wish I would have been able to see her live. Over the track her cadence is absolutely incredible, she’s got a natural swing to her voice that if represented visually it would look like her thin hips swaying. “I don’t wanna be… I don’t wanna live… I don’t wanna go… Shit, I don’t wanna be alone.” A track for those cold and lonely winter nights.

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Stanton Davis’ Ghetto/Mysticism – Brighter Days (Outrageous/Cultures of Soul, 1977/2011)

Brighter Days is a mythic album in record nerd circles, it’s whispered about with great hyperbole, descriptions sound like Chick Hearn giving a play-by-play. Oh and to top it off, it’s one of Madlib’s favorite jazz records. All I could ever take away from the different blogs, interviews and conversations, was that I would like it and it was guaranteed to be funky. With mythic records like this, I prefer to just dive in and listen to the whole thing front to back like it was meant to be, so I rarely allow myself the pleasures of Youtube teasers. I’ve had this record for a few weeks now and it’s partially the reason why I’m so backlogged; this record is incredibly confounding, yet it is just as compelling. The range from epic spiritual jams like “Play Sleep” (above) to hard funk like “Things Cannot Stop Forever” is incredible, but it’s worth noting that the band was primarily a club band aimed at getting people to boogie.

To be honest, not all of the tracks on here are winners, or perhaps not all of them are as life-changing as I had hoped for. There’s a lot of cheesy vocals on here, taking on a Lonnie Liston Smith or Gary Bartz kind of vibe, best exemplified in a track like “Brighter Days/Brighter Daze.” The instrumental jam is great, but the vocals are just too damn distracting, or rather they fail to offer anymore than the music.

Unquestionably, it’s the instrumentals that do it for me, whether it’s the languid spiritual vibes of “Play Sleep” (above) or the slightly more CTI sounds of “Nida,” the group works well in a jazz setting. Taking the jazz element and adding elements of funk and fusion, tracks like “Space-a-Nova” and “Space-a-Nova Pt 2” are tracks that could work at a dance, while maintaining plenty to offer for the heads as both tracks are bizarre explorations of a samba rhythm, layered in synth fog and atmosphere. Big record overall.

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Moodymann – KDJ 16 (KDJ, 2004)

This is a somewhat mysterious record. Two untitled tracks on single sided vinyl, apparently a lost record from ’97 or ’98. In the youtube posting above the tracks are cut together when there is actually a definite pause break on the record. The first track is an incredible gospel edit, it’s fiery and funky and probably something I will play out a little too often. The second track is more typical KDJ latenight funk – hazy, heavy bass, and strangely seductive. A guitar sample creeps in towards the backhalf of the track and it’s really familiar sounding, but I can’t place it. Another of many masterful, wonderful releases from one of my favorite people making music. I’m stoked to be seeing him next week at the Lift’s 3rd Birthday party.

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Dabrye – Selections: One/Three (Ghostly, 2001)

Dabrye doesn’t get enough respect, the man has been doing his machinefunk hip hop for quite some time, and has been mining techno and other electronic influences before it was cool to do so. And really, he’s had such a tremendous influence on where avant hip hop is today that he should be so much bigger. I’ve been meaning to pick this one up for some time now and I’m really glad it fell into my hands.

The big track is “Hyped Up Plus Tax” and I guess it was used in some phone commercial. It’s a great track, with beautiful string samples and a swagger that still sounds fresh today. It’s one of those tracks that sounds so dope as an instrumental but is begging for a cat like Danny Brown to add some extra murk to it. “Smoking the Edge” steps it up just a bit and that beat is just so fucking hard. Dabrye handles the rhythm really well, breaking it down on a controller or maybe even in the box, but making it sound like he’s juggling it like a DMC champ. Boy got so much swag.

On the flip, “With a Professional” takes the tone back down and offers a bit of sunlight. It’s a very mellow track, handled very well, but still a little dirty and glitchy. For my money, “So Scientific” (above) is the one. The track is funky and hard, all done with a deep bleep influence. Dabrye handles his percussive elements really well and incorporates dense polyrhythmic structures that are wonderful to breakdown and even better to groove to. It’s a complex track that is thoroughly enjoyable for your head or feet. Another one of my favorites from the D.

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Beneath – Illusions (Keysound, 2012)

Beneath was one of my favorite producers to pop up in 2012 (along with Xosar) and this end of the year release on London’s Keysound label was highly anticipated. He has crafted a unique and well-defined sonic identity where the vibe is equal parts UK Funky, Dark Garage and old school Dubstep; a sound characterized by precise percussion, fat swelling bass, eerie atmosphere, and accentuated by pure primal functionality. I’ve been sneaking Beneath into all sorts of sets throughout 2012 and people always dance.

The record kicks off with the eerie industrial gloom of “Prangin‘” which although is a fully-functioning dance track, it has qualities that make it accessible off the dancefloor. It’s atmospheric with a cinematic quality to it, fully-functional and bass heavy, yet it works best as the soundtrack to my bus ride into work on these cold gray mornings. The sample intoning “It comes from the heart” offers a shade of light, and perhaps a view into the very human artistic expression that Beneath is looking to evoke. On the flip, “Wonz” follows suit with a few horror movie piano samples thrown in for good measure.

Illusions” is on side C, and this track is precisely the reason that made Beneath my favorite producer in 2012. While hard and funky, hes incredible at using space and silence as an instrument in of itself. He feels fully comfortable in dropping all sound for a few bars, before bringing that spartan snare back in, that tribal drum derived from a sampler preset or generic plug-in, but when isolated and placed in a thick web of black gauze, draped by fat globs of bass, and a little music box melody coming out of nowhere – all is perfect.

The big track, and the track that has had me salivating from the start is his remix of “Concrete Jungle” (above) which was by far the highlight of his incredible mixes for FACT and Boiler Room. Which, to sidetrack myself, reminds me that I absolutely love Beneath as a DJ. As in, I’ve got his FACT and Daily Street mixes on my 4GB ipod right now. Anyway, what more can I say about “Concrete Jungle” other than I can’t wait to play this out? Big release, looking forward to Beneath’s output in 2013.

Categories: 2000, 2001, 2012, detroit, diva, fusion, hip hop, House, LDN
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