Thursday, January 29, 2009

Used buys @ Gramaphone, 1/28/09

Trips to Gramaphone Records are a much needed respite from the painful existence that is my life (jk). But, no, really. I go to the record store, and this one in particular, to "unwind." To set aside a few hours just to hang out, hear new sounds, and chat with the very friendly staff. It's a real treat and I wonder how I ever went without it.

Tonight I stopped by because a friend (Tyrel Williams, a truly great DJ, if you ever have a chance to check him out, do) was working and I had no other real plans. The intent of the trip was just to check out the new arrivals and build up a new hold stack. Unfortunately, I have a way of convincing myself that if I buy used, I'll leave the store happy with a cheap haul of gems. This leads to even more time spent hanging out (past close, usually) and tonight was no exception. Here's what I picked up:

Todd Sines, "Awake"
(2008, Morris Audio City Sport) - Knew the City Sport imprint of Morris/Audio wasn't that old, but had no idea this record had come out so recently (April of 2008). It's got a really clunky (in a good way, think Melchior Productions or STL) deep house groove on the A side with an interesting vocal by Natacha Labelle (an apparent Sines co-conspirator) over the top. Pitched-down synths and wonky percussion make this a clear example of the whole "mnml deep house" thing, suppose, but it's a lot more subtle than certain offerings by certain labels that have come out over the past eighteen months or so. Overall, digging both sides (B is a little more straight forward) and can't wait to play this out.

Various, "New York Anthem"
(2004, Next Moov Traxx) Don't really know much about any of this other than Quentin Harris is apparently involved. I picked it up for the Jovonn "Sub Beats" track, which is pretty much a tracky drum workout. The A side has a nice little Latin thing going on but not enough to hold my attention forthe whole side.

Solomun, "Sambada" (2007, Dessous)
Another example of a record I didn't know was so recent. Judging by the overall sound I'd have placed it even earlier in Solomun's discography. Speaking of, I'm not entirely sure I'm sold on Solomun. I think what initially struck me about this record was the label, Dessous, whose output I really enjoy checking out, and the title, which reminded me of the recent Mara Trax record, "Sambad." I thought it would be worth giving a shot but listening now, at home, everything about Solomun's tracks that I'm not really feeling is apparent here. I understand it might be right for others (the guy has put out a LOT of singles over the past year or so) and respect what he's doing, but it just doesn't have enough cojones for me, which is probably more a fault of mine than of Solomun's, anyway. That said, there's not really much to discuss on this record - it's a nice night-tripper, but it's beyond me to explain what's going on with all the synths. Halfway through the A things do pick up when a more definite bass track drops in, but it's still a little too proggy + synth-laden for me to really dig in on.

Jaz, "Show Me On The Doll" (2008, Sixty Five)
DISCO EDITS! This is where it might get weird/embarrassing for anyone who expects me to just be "techno / house" guy. I hope that's not the case. Anyway, funny thing is I didn't even listen to this - I picked this record out at closing time and wanted to get moving along so I wouldn't be shouted at. The label art + track titles were enough to sell me on it (at $2.99, the price was nice, too!). So far, so good. A1 is a slow burn with a driving groove and a weird vocal. I'm definitely into this (and can't wait for another "rock bar" night where I can freak out the crusty regulars with this record).
(NB: If you live in Chicago and like disco of the out-sound / "cosmic" variety, Gramaphone's "Choice" night @ Sonotheque a week from tonight will feature the guys from Disco-Nap. Just sayin'!)
The other track on the A is kind of a tool more than a track, but B1 is just as, if not even more, out there and great compared to A1. Starts off with a pitched down vocal proclaiming "I'm the Joker" that leads into some gritty, guitar-based funk, and then... a brilliant rocker vocal. "Watch out, Mister Joker, cause you're jokin' my way." I wish the original artists were listed here cause I'd be on them so damn fast.

Mateo Murphy, "The Contact EP" (Uppercut, 2002) Hard techno, but not excruciatingly hard. More like Detroit in the mid-90's than Sweden in the early naughties, if you catch my drift. 909s, handclaps, and a rolling (this is just one reason why I don't write about electronic dance music) synth that can be best described with numbers (i.e. an area code) rather than words. This is a white label, "EXTREMELY LIMITED EDITION" promo of the release linked above. I'm into the A so far, and kinda wonder when this hit the used bin, as this is the sort of thing that seems very much "in" these days. It'll be fun to slot the A in with a variety of different sounds. B1 has a little more shuffle and a harder edge, but it still sounds like something Jeff Mills would play. A very HRO type thing to ask here would be if one day, in the future, will Jeff Mills be known more as a genre than as a person?

Terrence Dixon, "Minimalism III" (2005, Background) Speaking of Detroit... Anything I say about how brilliant I think Terrence Dixon is will likely come off sounding somehow pejorative (e.g. honest question, is it not fair to try and find a way to compare the man to someone like Philly Joe Jones? Does doing so make me a bad person?), so I'll just leave it at this: I think Terrence Dixon is one of the most brilliant artists in electronic music, currently (or, how's this: if Jeff Mills deserves a genre, then so does Terrence Dixon; if everyone who professes love for the minimalists of the 50's and 60's got into electronic music, they'd all love Terrence Dixon and parties would be a lot more fun; and on and on). That being said, I think Terrence Dixon's genius comes off more on a record like Point of View or the truly amazing 2x12" he did for Yore. I don't have any other of the Minimalism series installments, and so I picked this one up just because it was available. A1 is doing all the things a Terrence Dixon track tends to do, but lacks the spatial dynamics (provided, I assume, by sampling) that make them so interesting. And just as soon as I finish complaining about that, along comes "Grey Area" to blow my bullshit out of the water. A monster of a "bass" sample (it's more like an off-kilter industrial stamping machine on the fritz [again, this is why I don't write about edm]) sets the groundwork for a no-nonsense drum pattern and a loopy synth. The "space" is back and the groove is a killer. B1 sets things off with the kind of haunting mallet-synth line that so many mnml artists strive for, while not oppressing the proceedings with any kind of "dark, creepy" vibe. B2 stumbles along under the weight of its forward progress, but not as effectively as the Train of Thought tracks. B3 is a synth workout that I'm not ashamed to admit I'm looking forward to using as a "tool." Great stuff, but the records mentioned earlier are worth checking out if you're not familiar.

Dietrich Schoenemann, "Shine" (2002, Hidden Agenda) I don't know what to say first. I guess I'll start by saying that I have a few newer Hidden Agenda records that went over extremely well in a set I played for a bunch of people (i.e. my immediate social circle) that aren't necessarily into dance music. They have a harder edge that's also a bit wonky (the one track, off the one record, which I don't recall off hand) has a bass line that wouldn't sound out of place on a, uh, "fidget" house type of record, except that it's supported by a totally banging techno beat. Anyway, yeah. This record has the space + relentless, hypnotic groove of a Radio Slave record, and the percussive loops of an Oslo record. I could probably do without the vocal samples ("Shine") but every other sound makes up for that one kinda lame aspect. Oh, and the B is a killer cut. Another record I can't wait to play out, big room be damned.

Michaelangelo, "Untitled" (2002, Labrynth) Hard techno from a Portugal based label without the cheezy tribal percussion. The Advent remix of "Golomalar" is the clear winner here, but "OM-13" has its moments, and what percussion is present only adds to the groove, rather than take away from it. Loving the understated synth work on both sides.

Heiko Laux, "Dedicated 2 All Believers" (1997, Yoshitoshi Recordings) Don't know what to say about this other than that I am loving it (and that I kind of wish I had the white label Kanzelramt version, which apparently just had the words DEDICATED 2 ALL BELIEVERS stamped on). I guess it betrays my youth / ignorance to say this, but I feel like a record like this kind of speaks to the tumultuous state of electronic dance music back in the year 1997 (when, for those doing the math at home, I was all of 13 years old). I'm hearing the Moonside Playground remix of "To All Believers" as a reaction to the glut of "big-beat" commercial pap (the stuff that went a long way in getting me into edm) coming out that year, as well as the explosion of shitty trance and "rave crackdown" that soon followed. This is as understated, yet weighty, a track as I've ever heard, and I am buying into my non-memories and false nostalgia wholesale. "To All Believers" has a sound that would fit in with the current dub techno revival (that is to say, it sounds like a reaction to mid-90's deep house from a techno artist, which is how I read a lot of the less obvious dub techno going on currently), but it's nowhere near as compelling as the remix.

Maddslinky, "Dark Swing / Future Chicano" (2001, Sirkus) Swinging broken beat on the A. in 2009 this sounds like dubstep with a house vibe. I guess that's context for ya. B is more of the same but with a more interesting combination of beats, muted synths, and vocal samples. I think I'll end up playing the B out at some point, but listening to it again I honestly have no idea why I bought this other than that I liked the housey shuffle of the tracks.

A Man Called Adam, "Duende Dubs #2" (1999, Other Records) A "big deal" was made about this record when I brought it to the counter. The A is the vocal track and might be a little too cheezy (not to be confused with "sincere," though at times they can be one and the same) for my taste. I'm giving it the full listen it apparently deserves, and while I like the groove, I don't know that I have the skill to convincingly fit this into a set. The B, on the other hand... wow. Maybe it's because the vocal/synth/bass kind of reminds me of "Good Love." I don't know. This is the sound that is being jacked real hard right now by a lot of producers, and this record is proof that it's hard to beat the 'genuine article.' This will be in my "hot picks" crate for a long time to come.

Yoshio Maeda, "Flip-Flop / Wa-Splish" (1997, Eukatech) I have a few Eukatech records now, and they seem to specialize in the tracky house sound that I love. This record - the only release credit for Yoshio Maeda on Discogs - follows the trend, but with an insistent, psychedelic synth pattern that is very much up my alley. I guess the difference between this record and the above is that this record totally fits with my sensibilities, where the A Man Called Adam record (above) fits right in with what people seem to be into for the time being (not that I don't like it, it's just that Yoshio Maeda seems to have been coming from a similar place w/r/t his music that I do). It's a balancing act, I guess, between what you're all about and the, uh, zeitgeist. Rather than say much more and stray into hyperbole, I'll just leave it at this: I think this might be my favorite used find in a long, long time.

Lee Jones, "Aria" (2008, Aus Music) Literally grabbed this out of someone's hands (I asked first). Passed on it when it was new, and now almost a year later, I knew I had to have it. The Tiger Stripes remix of "Aria" is one of my favorite tracks of the past year, both a great home listen as well as a fine bookend to a set. I still think I prefer My My's output to Lee Jones solo, but he made a strong case with Electric Frank.

Maurizio, "M7" (re-issue) Can't have enough of these!

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Chicago, IL, United States
Writer, DJ, and a few other things surrounded by scare quotes.