Various Artists: Brownswood Recordings
Brownswood One Hundred Remixed
There’s an alternate universe where Gilles Peterson and his shiny Swiss face took a few too many pills in the late 1980s, spent all his time and money on an extended Ashram retreat in India, and ended up being that trilby-wearing frizzled jazz fusion fan at the corner of every trendy micro-brewery bar.
Luckily, the guy kept his shit together long enough to have reached 100 releases on his Brownswood record label, a feat that is being marked this month with a “straight-up retrospective of our favourite reworks from 2006 to 2013.” The Peterson and “Worldwide” brand that comes with it has an unusual sonic tenacity; essentially a clever collation of jazz, contemporary African, Latin American dance music, and the musical, soulfully crooning ground that house and techno share.
Listening to Brownswood One Hundred Remixed, it becomes clear how Peterson has kept that coherence despite the willful and constant appeals to eclecticism, the remixes providing a far neater, perhaps even musically flattened out chronology of Brownswood’s output. It’s this skill for collation that means that it’s not uncommon for DJs in Britain to describe themselves as “you know… a bit Gilles Peterson” by way of common understanding, and it’s also this skill for avoiding the oceans of really quite terrible “world”- and “fusion” (is there a worse word?)-styled bands that lets old Gilles stand out.
Moral of the story? Not sobriety, per se — plenty of us would rather spend an hour with the Frizzled evil Gilles drinking bloody marys and talking about Miroslav Vitouš’ — but moments that concede the limitations of vague “eclecticism” when it comes to compiling and releasing music. That, and making sure you are mates with Theo Parrish.
“Cathedrals De La Rue 737”
Pushing off with your right foot’s set of toes, your left foot slides backward, flat on the ground, and then you repeat the processes left-to-right. Right-to-left. Now you dancing. Surrounded by palm trees and mech-style outfits, you find yourself at night, stranded/dancing/lit on an island somewhere, smiling at bikini tops, pecks, electric-red eyes, and hydraulic legs. One of the artificials flashes you a wink, and nothing else matters but the art of dance. Moonwalking your way over, you impress by yelling, “Is that purple?” The artificial flings its hair, glowing fuchsia in the face, and blinks furiously with clicks louder than the music playing. Eh, it’s because y’all are close. Yet, you can’t hear anything and begin to think its mouth and voice are not syncing up. Maybe it’s defunct. Maybe it’s magic.
Nahh, this artificial is where the music has been bumping from all night. “Mmmdamn, you must got a kickin’ kit, doll!” you exclaim, still dancing, not missing a beat. Then, across the bot’s back reads “Cathedrals De La Rue 737.” You ask, “Is that where we are now? Where am I?” The artificial turns to you and flicks/clicks its eyes again and again, and you turn, bearing witness to the Love Boat in all its mystic majesty. “On that?” pointing with your thumb over your shoulder, still dancing, and follow up with, “Naaaasty, yes!” The artificial smiles, and you see people continuing to fill the dance floor as the ship’s horn blares. “Where are we going?” you ask the loop-nodding artificial, and it projects a hologram into the sky that reads in letters more fantastic than fireworks: PARADISE.
• 20013: https://soundcloud.com/2oo13
Good news. The former net-only label Astro Nautico fulfilled its $7,000 Kickstarter goal with money to spare from the generous support of listeners like you. Thanks! So, moving forward, beginning with an EP from Chits, some of the more complete Astro Nautico releases will be given the vinyl treatment. Unfortunately, Silicon Basilica from Minneapolis-based Comanche might just miss that vinyl mark, seeing its release just before the Kickstarter campaign began. And it’s a damn shame. The attention to environment and pace on the album are unlike any previous Astro Nautico release. It’s like a statement for the entire label: unceasingly pushing boundaries and experimenting in new territory both backward and forward. Funny how these Astro Nautico-related write-ups always end up sounding like I could just as easily be writing the introduction for a new article in some science journal. Musicians or scientists? With the permeation of our hyper-paced technology filling in the gaps, I’m not sure it makes any difference anymore.
You’re welcome to stream Silicon Basilica below, but the label has been offering free downloads of everything they’ve released since the beginning, so feel free to just go take them up on that instead. And keep an ear out for Astro Nautico, because creative youngsters making electronic music is one thing, but include thousands of dollars in public-based funding, and its a whole different ball game.
M. Geddes Gengras
Synths. People have them. As a matter of fact, lots of different people have them, and in most circumstances, there’s a marked difference between the folks who know how to expressively control their equipment and the folks who don’t. M. Geddes Gengras is one of those musicians who knows a thing or two or five-thousand about synths. In fact, Gengras is such a master of his equipment/sound that he’s become an in-demand sideman and collaborator, having worked with everyone from Sun Araw and Pocahaunted to Akron/Family and Warm Climate — and it’s easy to see why when listening to Gengras’ solo work.
As made apparent by Collected Works Vol. 1, The Moog Years, Umor Rex’s forthcoming compilation of his early work, not only has Gengras always displayed a knack for wringing a number of sounds out of even the most minimal of setups, but he also always knew how to craft beautifully varied soundscapes in the process. In many ways, “Magical Writing” might be one of the best distillations of Gengras’ craft on the record. It pits a subtly shifting sustained harmony against various electronic glitches & whirs that slowly give way to more drones, before the atonal sounds eventually bring back more abstract timbres. On this track and others — check out “Resistor” and “10.17.2009 (for ccg)” via the label’s SoundCloud — Gengras clearly realized the massive potential that synths had to create completely modern sounds, and it was his ability to actualize this potential that put him high among the synth gods of his time.
Collected Works Vol. 1, The Moog Years is out on vinyl and digitally August 20 via Umor Rex. Stream “Magical Writing” here:
In anticipation of her new LP Aerotropolis, Ikonika is taking us all to gamers’ paradise. With its strippers, sports cars, and subtropics, “Mr Cake” screams Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, except with one major difference: GRRRL POWER. Instead of skulking around in a Hawaiian shirt like Tommy Vercetti, our leading lady is off flipping emojis and taking names. Watch as she slips on some shades, cruises down the mean streets of Generic City That Is Not Named Miami (For Legal Reasons), USA, pickpockets a rich dude at the strip club, and steals his jet, all the while racking up a killer high score. Of course, if you’d rather just take in all of the uncanny-valley-girl visuals, that’s all well and good too. But don’t blame me if you get creeped out by the overeager — and underanimated — club patrons at the 2:40 mark. Between this and “Black Skinhead”, I think it’s safe to call this the “Second Life Summer” as far as music videos are concerned.
Aerotropolis comes out July 29 on Hyperdub.
Kevin Greenspon / Former Selves
Betrayed by the Angels / Apropos of Golden Dreams
You flip a split LP from heads to tails, and you prepare yourself for what could very well be an Acute Shift in Zones: different instruments, divergent ideas, a whole new world. Some splits hit hard with juxtaposition and attempt to fit a Yin and a Yang onto one vinyl slab (last year’s OPN / Rene Hell split on NNA comes to mind). The flip from Kevin Greenspon’s Betrayed by the Angels side over to Former Selves’ Apropos of Golden Dreams, though, comes out just the opposite. The former’s iridescent ambient miniatures segue into the latter’s layered synth compositions so seamlessly that I imagine fresh ears couldn’t tell them apart in some kind of blind Pepsi Drone Challenge. Both artists stand out among the “drift” crowd by covering plenty of harmonic and dynamic ground within their relatively short structures, interweaving hypnotic chord progressions and delay-drenched, upper-register leads as each session builds to a climax. For Greenspon, that climax manifests as a passage of detailed noise hiss on “Truth and Falling,” while Former Selves (Paul Skomsvold) shakes up his “Golden Dreams” halfway through with an arpeggiated melody that animates the track into an even lovelier arrangement.
This split LP marks the 100th release on Greenspon’s consistently killer label Bridgetown Records — no stranger to TMT’s love and affection. If you pre-order it now, he’ll ship it on or around July 30 when he gets home from the West Coast leg of his eternal 100+ date US tour schedule (!!), which is bound to bring him to a continental US city near you sometime soon.