Mittwoch, 24. Februar 2010

R.I.P. Chilly B of Newcleus

I don't intent to resume posting on a regular basis, but I just received these sad and tragic news as of today ... via Cozmo D:
"Chilly B Passes Away At Age 47

Newcleus co-founder, writer, rapper, singer, keyboardist and bass player Chilly B passed away today due to complications from a massive stroke that he suffered days ago. The stroke had left him brain dead and in a coma. Today the decision was made to remove him from life support and he passed on not long after.

He is survived by his wife Valerie and his sons Justin, Jason, Joshua and Isaiah."

Newcleus are probably my favorite hip hop group ... they were the funkiest of them all. And I guess there's noone of you reading this who doesn't remember Chilly B's sonorous rapping voice from classics like Jam on it and Computer Age.

"Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Chilly B ..."

He will be missed ... by friends and family, and by the countless people all over the world who he touched with the exceptional music he created. R.I.P.

Freitag, 25. Dezember 2009

Farewell Transmission

Your dedicated blogger on his suicide mission to entertain his audience

So this is it. A year ago I wrote my first post and this will be the last. What started out as a way of writing about and promoting my own music evolved into an electro/hip hop historiography of sorts, with stories and genealogies about the pivotal year of 1982. And even more surprising, I found myself writing about new releases and artists at least half the time. So what is electro's state of health? Despite the continued popularity of retro-minded 80s electronica (La Roux, Annie, Sally Shapiro, Little Boots, Zoot Woman, Cold Cave, ...), real electro music has still failed to be noticed by the general public this year. And though this is pretty much the only blog covering this kind of music, I'm still just getting a handful of views.

But I don't want to end this on a purely negative note. Despite the lack of mainstream recognition, 2009 has been an excellent year for electro. Here's a very subjective (and incomplete) recap:
- Freestyle made a comeback (the group, that is ... the genre has always been around ... kind of).
- The Egyptian Lover has been active doing some collaborations and releasing his strongest material in years (Freestyle, Debonaire, Jamie Jones).
- Some other pioneering artists that have reared their heads again: Newcleus, Donald D, MC Chill, Debonaire, Scratch D, John Robie, Mele Mel, Mic Murphy ...
- The legendary Street Sounds label is back and has already released 2 volumes of the "Nu Electro" series.
- Randy Barracuda and a bunch of other Scandinavians made a lot of noise (lit. and fig.) and put the sound of Skweee on the map.
- Dâm-Funk took everybody by surprise with his massive Toeachizown release.
- Dominance Electricity's "Global Surveyor III" compilation just came out before christmas.

I'll just leave you with my favorite tune of 2009 - may the funk be with you!

Donnerstag, 10. Dezember 2009

Trendwatch 09: African Music

Well, the case could be made that this was already a trend of 2007 and 2008 with Indie rockers Vampire Weekend's commercial breakthrough and a site like awesometapesfromafrica gaining popularity. This year saw the rise of The Very Best, 2 DJ/producers who teamed up with a Malawi-born singer. And Fool's Gold. And folk singer Karl Blau's new album is supposed to have a lot of african elements in it, but I am not hearing any ... you might want to check it out yourself.

Here's a tune from The Very Best:

The Very Best's music is nothing groundbreaking, but it serves as a nice backdrop to Esau Mwamwaya's beautifully orchestrated vocals. This guy would sound great with ANY backing music. Guest appearances by M.I.A. and Vampire Weekend's singer (who both manage to pretty much ruin those songs) are telling for the discursive context that this music is now placed in. One is left to wonder when Diplo will pick up on the hype and put the final nail into the coffin.

Anyway, I wanted to get to something completely different. One artist that is mentioned in every review as inventor of that kind of Western/African crossover in a big World Music melting pot is Paul Simon. However, his 1986 album "Graceland" was predated a few years by an even bigger collage of styles and sounds: Malcolm McLaren's 1983 "Duck Rock". McLaren could be perceived as a Diplo of the 80s, scouting trends and watering them down for the general public. During a visit in New York he met Afrika Bambaataa and became fascinated by the nascent hip hop culture. He teamed up with New York radio DJs The World's Famous Supreme Team and Trevor Horn/Anne Dudley of Art of Noise fame to produce an electro hip hop album. At times the outcome is just plain awkward ("Double Dutch" which amounts to something like Soulja Boy Tell'em avant la lettre, or "Merengue" which is a failed attempt to throw some latin flavor in the mix), but other times McLaren's annoying persona stays in the background and Horn/Dudley and The Supreme Team rock the show.

Further reading:
- an earlier post about that album

Dienstag, 8. Dezember 2009

Miscellany Vol. 4: Global Surveyor, Dâm-Funk, Egyptian Lover

I've been on kind of a hiatus lately and this is probably going to be permanent. As Cosmic Rock is approaching its one year anniversary, my motivation is getting more and more affected by the lack of response and the general low turnout. So I think I will be shutting the whole thing down in a few weeks. Until then, here's a wrap-up of what happened in the past few weeks:

Dominance Electricity - Global Surveyor Phase III

East German label Dominance Electricity treats us with the third installment of their Global Surveyor series. This one is massive in scope, featuring an impressive number of 21 artists on two cds or three 12" records. The release date is set for December 18th.

I'm very excited about this cause 1) yours truly will be featured with one of his tracks and 2) this is exactly the kind of electro I want to listen to. Remember that Randy Barracuda interview where I complained about a lack of transcendence in modern electro? Well, this is the response. Just look at that marvellous space-kitsch cover art and you have the metaphysical side right before your eyes (and in the music of course). This is not about prosaic machine realities, this is about the big picture. Instead of reflecting a depleted world in depleted and soulless music, these tracks choose to accept the role of lost prophet and take the road less traveled. On their messianic quest for redemption, they recover lost emotional qualities and re-animate the machines. Not afraid of getting close to the edge of kitsch, the reward is great art.


* Weltwirtschaft - Amundsen Journey
* DJE - Defiler
* Global Surveyor feat. K1 & Gab.Gato - Global Surveyor (DBS Remix)
* Geoglyph - Face On Mars (Interlude)
* Middle Men - Space Quest
* LektroiD - Modular
* Keen K - Nozomi
* Gosub - Folding Time
* Kalson - Waiting In The Valley
* Audiogenetics - Cymatix
* Sbassship - Fall
* Evil Hectorr feat. Supreme.ja - Bass Wars (Original Version)
* Cosmic Rockers - The Wandering Of Humanity
* Varia - Night Drive
* Paul Blackford - Quasar (Sol_Dat Remix)
* Direct Control - Stars
* The Exaltics - No Time To Spend
* Dagobert - Fly 2 Night
* Mesak - Hustru
* Phundamental - Wheels Within Wheels
* CPU - Signals from the Dark

You can already order it at the Dominance webshop:

Dâm Funk - Pitchfork review

Finally the hipsters over at pitchfork caught up to the hype and gave his album a very kind review. This echoes what I had written about it:

It's the secret weapon that underscores how seriously he takes this stuff, the catalyst that should provoke listeners to realize this music isn't just a fun update of a classic sound-- it's a work of real transcendence. This isn't a comedic tribute to talkboxes and widebrims; there's no Snoop Dogg descending a foggy staircase through a faded VHS haze here. Toeachizown is a deep, astute collection that feels like a natural resuscitation and progression of funk as it stood just before hip hop usurped it.

Jamie Jones ft. Egyptian Lover - Galactic Space Bar

This already came out a few months ago. At first listen, I wasn't that impressed by its techno/housey vibe, but it is definitely a grower. It has always been the Egyptian Lover's smartest move to openly exhibit his limitations and flaws and that way have them transformed into assets. "Galactic Space Bar" is a textbook example: If anybody else came up with that sketch of a track it would have just sounded crude and simplistic, but the Lover's Midas Touch turns it into a wonderfully stripped-down and abstract tune. And thanks to the warmth of the 808, the Egyptian Lover's version of minimal techno is a lighthearted and funky one - West Coast style.

And let's not forget about the video - it's like they made a list of awesome things and tried to fit as many of them into it:
- the Egyptian Lover sporting shades and kangol hat? Check.
- the Egyptian Lover riding through L.A. in what looks like a 1969 Pontiac firebird convertible? Check.
- the Egyptian Lover singing about a galactic space bar? Check.
- a guy in a business suit and briefcase doing the most outrageous-and-awkward-but-somehow-irresistibly-cool dance since Napoleon Dynamite? Check.
I think I made my point.

And in A***-T*** related news:

Sonntag, 22. November 2009

The Master of the 808

In this video Tadao Kikumoto of Roland music talks about how he wasn't completely satisfied with his invention, the now legendary TR-808 drum machine. Especially the handclap sounded weak to him, like "breaking a bamboo stem". While the interviewer clearly can't hide his ardor, Kikumoto remains humble and keeps up his engineer / man of science habitus, a notion so old school that it seems touchingly nostalgic to us, white lab coat and all.

Here's another odd pop cultural find: a triptych featuring three pioneers of electronic music transformed into icons. Mr. Kikumoto can be found on the left with another invention of his, the TB-303. In the middle it is synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog and on the right we recognize Roger Linn, the man behind the LinnDrum machine and the MPC-60. In another dialectical turn, the triptych has apparently already been appropriated as a skateboard design.

Click for a larger picture

Anyway, back to topic. While Mr. Kikumoto's perfectionism demands our admiration, we are certainly glad that despite his reservations he did release the handclap after all. It became a staple of 80s (and beyond) music and it certainly is one of the most famous and recognizable sounds of electronic music.

When it comes to 808 handclaps there's nobody who pushed it as far as Chris "The Glove" Taylor. He had the trebliest, sharpest and most stinging 808 handclaps of them all. Listen to "Reckless", an early Ice-T song and witness The Glove going completely over the top. Occasional handclaps are duplicated again and again and again, bathed in delay until they become an amorphous cluster of sound hovering in midair like a giant swarm of birds or insects. (Extra geekiness: Another product of The Glove's aesthetics of hyperbole appears around the 1:44 mark - listen how the snare roll disintegrates into an early instance of glitch music, some 10 years before it became a popular genre.)

If you are interested in the triptych you might want to visit the artist's homepage where he is selling posters of it: