Friday, August 31, 2012

80s Dance Classic: Cybotron - Cosmic Raindance

This is from Detroit in 1981. Juan Atkins would go on to become one of the true godfathers of what we now call techno, but a whole decade earlier he was collaborating with one Richard Davis, a spaced out ex-Vietnam vet, under the Cybotron moniker.

While the history books often record that it was Afrika Bambaataa's ‘Planet Rock’ that took the white European electro sounds of Kraftwerk to the black dancefloors of the USA, we can see that Atkins was already exploring a similar path a year or so earlier.

It’s certainly true that Bambaataa took those cold crisp electronic beats to the mainstream clubs of NYC, but Atkins was already cultivating something of an underground scene in Detroit. Once disco started morphing into house just down the road in Chicago a few years later, Atkins was in a prime spot to seize the initiative, upping the bpm factor on his old school electro experiments to change the course, shape, and speed of dance music for years to come.

Here’s some experimental electro/techno from Cybotron, ‘Cosmic Raindance’ from 1981:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

80s Dance Classic: Divine - Native Love (Instrumental Remix)

To celebrate the passing of the first reading of the Marriage Equality Bill – nice to see New Zealand’s parliamentarians exercising something akin to common sense for a change – I thought I’d go for something big, bouncy, and very gay today ... a fat cheesy cross-dressing slice of 80s disco heaven from someone who really knew how to party ... LGBT community icon, Divine (aka Glenn Milstead – RIP).

This is actually a b-side, an instrumental remix that isn’t really an instrumental at all, and a version that is arguably better than the a-side released as a single. So far as lost classics go, ‘Native Love’ is the real deal, with this release for some inexplicable reason being largely overshadowed by Divine’s later output, most notably tracks like ‘Love Reaction’ and ‘Shoot Your Shot’. But I love this track, particularly the percussion, and it rates in my opinion as Divine’s best work.

Again, this one takes us all the way back to 1982 – Divine’s ‘Native Love’ (Instrumental Remix):

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

80s Dance Classic: State of Grace - That's When We'll Be Free

I'm going to post a few lost dance classics from the 80s, rare groove and stuff. Just for the hell of it. Because I can ... and because I'm presently very much absorbed in 'Last Night A DJ Saved My Life', Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton's seminal tome on the history of dance music ... going all the way back to 1982 with this one:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Album Review: The Orb – Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld (1991)

The upcoming release of the album collaboration between The Orb and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (album preview mix below) is a mouth watering prospect to say the very least.

The fairly recent alliance between The Orb and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour was something of a disappointment for me, and it all felt a little too cumbersome and contrived to my ears. But Perry tends to sprinkle a little stardust on everything he’s involved with, and all early indicators are that The Orb’s Alex Paterson may have met his match with Mr Perry. Whisper it, but we may even have a legitimate dub album of the year contender on our hands.

So in anticipation of what should be a very good second half of 2012 for album releases – I eagerly await the new Adrian Sherwood effort every bit as much – I recently went back and had a listen to The Orb’s 1991 double CD set Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld.

Immersing myself in this monster more than two full decades after its initial release reminded me of just how pioneering Paterson and co were at the time. In fact, the album could easily be mistaken for a much more recent work than it actually is – in true Sci Fi fashion, this sounded truly out of this world back in the early Nineties, and little has changed.

Which, I guess, is the whole point, and something very much recognised in the album’s title. It is other worldly – of this planet obviously, yet very much keen to extend its boundaries well beyond life as we know it (Jim).

As such, we get a whole range of sounds and electronic wonderment to digest – insect and animal noises, birds singing, samples from old TV programmes including the odd NASA documentary, and generally a wide variety of other bits and bobs designed to give the album its extra-terrestrial lost-in-space charm and appeal.

The single ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ (which contains an unauthorised excerpt/intro of Rickie Lee Jones ruminating on the state of the Arizona skies when she was young – something that Jones subsequently objected to) is probably the best known Orb track for non-Orb aficionados, and as wonderful as it undoubtedly is, it is by no means the stand-out on the album, and I’d say the album is best consumed as a whole in one sitting.

At a tick under four and a half minutes ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ – the opening track – is by quite some margin the shortest track to be found on Ultraworld. And as daunting as it might sound, even the 18-minute-plus closer – ‘A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld’ (ahem) – tends to race by without any hint of tedium whatsoever. Of course, that rather depends on what else you’re doing at the time, but I’m sure you’ll take my point.

There’s probably some underlying concept or theme here far too obvious for me to have noticed – other than the inter-planetary aspect touched on – but I prefer not to think too hard about it, this is a great album as a pure listening experience alone and I recommend it to all wannabe space cadets ...

Highlights: ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’, ‘Earth (Gaia)’, ‘Outlands’, and the Reggae-infused ‘Perpetual Dawn’.

Download FACT's preview of the upcoming album:

And purely for old times sake: The Orb - Little Fluffy Clouds

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Album Review: Leftfield – Tourism (2012)

Hugely influential electronic act Leftfield arrived to international prominence in the mid Nineties with an album, Leftism, that helped set new standards for not only producers of all types of electronic music, but for progressive techno-orientated dancefloor music as a whole.

The duo of Neil Barnes and Paul Daley would subsequently go on to become one of the genre’s most iconic acts during a decade that also introduced us to the likes of the Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Daft Punk, Orbital, and The Orb. Each of the aforementioned acts came up with at least one genre-defining album of its own during the era, yet Leftfield’s Leftism is surely the one that has best stood the test of time. It still sounds fresh today, some 17 years or so after its release.

Having already struck commercial gold after their collaboration with ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon (on the single ‘Open Up’), the duo’s status as one of the more celebrated acts of the period was practically assured by the time ‘A Final Hit’ was used to soundtrack one of the more memorable scenes in the cult/hit movie Trainspotting.  

Leftism was quite simply a sublime piece of work, and it therefore comes as no great surprise that the album in its (virtual) entirety helps form the core content on Tourism, Leftfield’s rather belated nod to its live performances; a double CD set that seeks to document Leftfield’s Australian tour of 2011. Although technically, it was really just Barnes (and friends) by this stage, with Daley having finally left him to it.

What strikes me about Tourism is just how easily these studio-inspired tracks translate into live gems, with ‘Song of Life’, ‘Original’, ‘Release The Pressure’, and even the spaced-out ambience of ‘Melt’ all proving to be rather compelling as live show highlights. There are a couple of tracks from Leftism’s 1999 follow-up album, Rhythm And Stealth, with the seminal ‘Phat Planet’ being an ideal album closer.

Although there was a compilation of the duo’s earliest material (Backlog, 1992), and a remix version of Rhythm And Stealth issued (as Stealth Remixes, 2000), plus a “Greatest Hits” (A Final Hit, 2005) collection, Leftfield’s discography remains quite lightweight so this live album also works as a genuine overview of Leftfield’s best work. In truth, there’s not a huge difference between the studio and live versions of many of these tracks, and if anything, some of them sound re-energised in a live setting. Capturing the between-track crowd reaction throughout certainly helps add to the sense of occasion.

And it probably rates, at this stage anyway, as one of my best purchases of 2012 so far.

Neil Barnes, Sydney, 2011

Here’s what Barnes himself has to say about Tourism: …“We were in enjoying ourselves in Sydney after a period of extreme flying and mental gigs when the idea of a live album was mentioned in passing. The Australian tour was such a success; it seemed like a waste not to do it. We wanted to try and capture the quality of music, the excitement we were all feeling and the enthusiasm and warmth of the Australian crowd. It’s been a massive project but Tourism feels like a testament to all the hard work and enjoyable graft we have all put in over the last two years.”

Just Browsing: Free stuff on Soundcloud ... Part Four: Adventure Club

Christian Srigley and Leighton James are Adventure Club, a Montreal-based electronic/dubstep production duo clearly intent on making their music as accessible and as widely available as possible by using sites like Soundcloud.
Indeed, Adventure Club’s own Soundcloud page expresses the following philosophy … “sharing is caring. Feel free to download, and share our music if you like it. Pass it on, paying for music is the worst” …

Primarily dubstep in nature, but with a crispy euphoric dancefloor slant, Adventure Club is at its best when recasting the work of other artists, but from all accounts the duo are equally at home producing their own stuff, and several of the freely available files are issued purely under the Adventure Club moniker.

But it is the remix work that appeals most, and highlights of Adventure Club’s relatively prolific output to date include its reworking of fellow Canadian band Metric’s ‘Collect Call’, the slightly bent transformation given to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s otherwise ordinary ‘Wait’ (clip below), and my own personal fave Adventure Club moment – the heavy stepper bottom end added to Irish folkie James Vincent McMorrow’s ‘We Don’t Eat’ (clip below).

Formed in early 2011, Adventure Club already has something fast approaching 200,000 Facebook followers, so they’re hardly an unknown quantity, or even particularly low profile, and they probably don’t really need the likes of me to help give them additional exposure but in years to come Srigley and James are going to be huge, I’m already quite sure of it … make sure you can say you were there right at the start.

Start here: Soundcloud

And find more free downloads on Facebook

Adventure Club - Wait:

James Vincent McMorrow - We Don't Eat (Adventure Club Dubstep Remix):

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Just Browsing: Free stuff on Soundcloud ... Part Three: Dubmatix

It’s fair to say that with a handful of full-length album releases and a large number of other digital releases safely stashed away in his swag bag, Toronto-based producer Dubmatix (aka Jesse King) is no mere novice or low profile newcomer. But he’s worthy of mention here simply because in Soundcloud terms he remains my most reliable “go to” guy whenever I’m looking for a fix of conscious roots or steppa-style dub … which, it’s also fair to say, is quite often these days.

I first stumbled across his work in late 2010 via a remix of Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’ (Dubmatix Re-Visioned) and have subsequently over the past 18 months found myself repeatedly returning to his Soundcloud and/or Bandcamp pages to dig out new gems from the vast back catalogue of free downloads available. Seldom am I disappointed with what I find there.

It isn’t just the work of other artists that King explores; he is a brilliant musician in his own right, a multi-instrumentalist, and many of the releases are exclusively his own work. There are plenty of collaborations to sate the appetite too, with a veritable who’s who of more established artists right across the spectrum – from rocksteady (the late Alton Ellis) to roots (Mighty Diamonds, Michael Rose) to more current flavours (Brother Culture, Easy Stars) – having all benefitted from the gritty down to earth Dubmatix treatment.

On all of his releases, somehow this Canadian white guy manages to conjure up the spirit of a long repressed Jamaican exploring his deepest darkest Ethiopian roots, all albums (look for CD releases as well as digital files) are recommended listening, and I retain personal affection for his 2011 Clash Of The Titans – The System Shakedown Remixes set.

Spoil yourself here:

And have a listen to one from the archives:

And a truly respectful tempo-bending variation on one of Bob Marley’s best loved treasures … great stuff: