Sonntag, 23. August 2009

Miscellany Vol.3: Kraftwerk, Dynamix II, John Robie

Kraftwerk announce 8 cd box set

Kraftwerk have announced the release of an 8 cd box set comprising their works from 1974 - 2003. The release was already planned for 2004, however it was postponed at the last minute. The new date is set for October 5th. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Included will be (digitally remastered, expanded artwork and whatnot):
Autobahn (1974)
Radio-Activity (1975)
Trans-Europe Express (1977)
The Man-Machine (1978)
Computer World (1981)
Electric Café (1986)
The Mix (1991)
Tour de France Soundtracks (2003)

Apparently there is also going to be a vinyl release of this.

And speaking of Kraftwerk, here's a completely unrelated video by Chicago rapper GLC. It's easily forgettable if it weren't for the first 35 seconds where Bun B of UGK makes a short introduction - check out the shirt he is wearing. Not too bad ...

Scratch D of Dynamix II vs. John Robie - They're coming

Electro bass pioneers Dynamix II (or rather, one half of Dynamix II) have teamed up with electro funk legend John Robie to create 3 mixes of a new tune "They're coming". Dynamix II are probably most known for their seminal "Just give the DJ a break" and can be credited as being one of the first groups to transform the traditional rap-based Miami bass sound into the new school: creating a dark and sparse version of electro bass, with extra low end, copious amounts of vocoderized vocals and even a hint of breaks influence.

I've always thought it's ironic that this tune which so perfectly embodies their heavy and sinister style is based on an early 80s New Wave song: The main break was sampled from Visage's "Pleasure Boys":

Keyboard wizard John Robie was the mastermind behind the earliest electro records. Together with producer Arthur Baker he created Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock", "Looking for the Perfect Beat", Planet Patrol's "Play at your own risk" and was also responsible for some of the earliest Freestyle records. It's no overstatement to say that he was the main force that defined the music and the sound of electro, and by that created a blueprint that artists are still copying today.

What really set him and those early electro tracks apart was the fact that he was a musician. That was a rare occasion in early 80s hip hop where the focus was usually on the beat, and the compositions were crude and raw (not that there was anything wrong with that). A similar constellation can be found in contemporary electro. My biggest qualm with a lot of new school electro is its lack of musicianship. Most artists are beatmakers - and it shows: Sometimes you're left wondering if they are going for that reduced and minimal sound on purpose or if it's due to their limited abilites. So it's a welcome surprise to hear some artistry in electro music again.

UPDATE 08/24: I just got the news that this is not even supposed to be released yet. Please check back - I will write a more detailed review as soon as the final versions hit the stores.

Mittwoch, 19. August 2009

Going ExperiMANTAL

[ ] Yes.

[ ] No.

Sonntag, 16. August 2009

Miscellany Vol.2

An interesting article from Slate magazine on the rise of the "no homo" tag in hip hop and how it involuntarily serves to make everything a lot gayer after all:
Slate on the rise of no homo

Someone should tell Byron Crawford ...

New York magazine picked up the story but the entire point was lost somewhere along the way:
No Homo: Cause for Hope in Hip-Hop?

And on a lighter note: Harry Allen of Public Enemy (and nowadays: Media Assassin) fame likes the Russell Brothers!
Gettin' My "Russell Rush" On

I can only agree with him. This is a pretty rare records, so chances are you haven't heard it before .. and if so, it was probably on the "NY vs. LA beats" compilation from the Street Sounds series, perhaps my personal favorite of the whole series: The tracklist is incredible and the mixing is just perfect.

Afrika Bambaataa - Planet Rock
Hashim - Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)
Captain Rock - The Return of Captain Rock
Aleem - Release Yourself
Man Parrish - Hip Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop)
Pumpkin - King of the Beat
B-Boys - Two, Three Break
Russell Brothers - The Party Scene
Fresh 3 MC's - Fresh
Whodini - Freaks Come Out At Night
UTFO - Roxanne, Roxanne

L.A. Dream Team - Rockberry Jam
Unknown DJ - 808 Beats
D.E.F. feat. DJ Three D - D.E.F. Momentum
World Class Wreckin' Crew - Surgery
Egyptian Lover - Egypt, Egypt
World Class Wreckin' Crew - Juice
Unknown DJ - Let's Jam
Egyptian Lover - Girls
Uncle Jamm's Army - Naughty Boy
Knights Of The Turntables - Techno Scratch
Knights Of The Turntables - We Are The Knights
Chris "The Glove" Taylor - Itchiban Scratch

DOWNLOAD it here (really, do!).
(via DEF Momentum)

Mittwoch, 12. August 2009

Changes ... Vol.3: The Jungle Drum

Emiliana Torrini - Jungle Drum (2009)

When I saw this^ (#1 in the German pop charts for some weeks now), I had to think of that:

The Cool Kids - What Up Man (2008)

A long time ago, there was this:

Kraftwerk - Boing Boom Tschak (1986)

But even before that, there had been this:

George Kranz - Din Daa Daa (1983)

Honorable mentions: Italo Poppers Scotch with their Disco Band and MC Shy-D with the intro to "Gotta Be Tough". And "La Di Da Di" of course, but that's a whole different story.

Did I miss anything?

Dienstag, 4. August 2009

Wolfgang Riechmann - Wunderbar

"If there is anyone today to whom we can pass on the responsibilities of the message, we bequeath it ... to the imaginary witness - lest it perish with us." (Theodor W. Adorno & Max Horkheimer)

(Our way today: from Düsseldorf (left) to Cologne (right))

Last week a precious message in a bottle finally found its way to the shore: Wolfgang Riechmann's 1979 album "Wunderbar" was re-released. Riechmann was a contemporary of Kraftwerk and part of the Düsseldorf electronic scene. His only album is one of the most slept on gems from this time, eclipsed by the artist's untimely demise and by the success of Kraftwerk's Man-Machine which was released around the same time. Unlike other kraut and electronic music of that time, "Wunderbar" has aged very well and still sounds exciting today.

Riechmann composed meandering, repetitive and ambient pieces of music that bear some resemblance to Kraftwerk and their contemporaries such as Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. His music had an inherent beauty; it wasn't as erratic and abstract as Schulze's, had more soul than Kraftwerk's and less kitsch than Tangerine Dream's. He showed proof that electronic music can possess warmth and humanity. A strong undercurrent of palpable nostalgia and haunting romanticism pervades every song, and this content produces a beautiful dialectic when it rivals the electronic form.

Check out the first song off the album; a wonderful song with a slight spaghetti western feel that always reminds me of the For A Few Dollars More theme (as used in Babe Ruth's "The Mexican" ... as used in Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock"). It's almost an instrumental piece - the only vocals are some onomatopoietic syllables and fragments that evoke a primordial language, a longing for lost security and happiness: (you might want to listen to the audio without watching the annoying video)

There is a sadness to it that becomes almost unbearable if you are aware of Riechmann's tragic fate. Only 2 weeks before the release of his album, he was brutally stabbed to death by two complete strangers while taking a walk with his girlfriend in the picturesque and peaceful old town of Düsseldorf. It was an act of utter senselessness, there was no motive and Riechmann was a random target.

DOWNLOAD "Wunderbar" from the web or order the re-released cd.

Talking about stabbings and knife attacks, this just in: Last week Bero Bass of Cologne gangsta rap group La Honda cut up a rival pretty bad. He is now incarcerated and facing charges of attempted manslaughter ... finally living the life he fantasized about in his lyrics. Here's my favorite La Honda tune. Fierce and aggressive, with simple yet effective raps over a 808/retro-flavored beat topped by a G-funk hook. You won't be able to understand the German lyrics, but the whole tune is basically just an extended chorus - incredibly catchy.

Samstag, 1. August 2009

Raise it up

2 great artists R.I.P.
Left: J Dilla (1974-2006)
Right: Baatin, who just passed away today.

J Dilla aka Jaydee and Baatin were two thirds of Slum Village. Here's the beautiful video to Slum Village's beautiful tune "Raise it up":

Fun fact: The quirky sample is lifted off a house tune, Thomas Bangalter's "Extra Dry". It starts off with the sample - a bit reminiscent of 8-bit/chiptune music - but gets increasingly noisy, distorted and abstract along the way:

Thomas Bangalter of course was one half of the influential French house duo Daft Punk. Their body of work was raw and innovative ... but at the same time incredibly club/mainstream friendly. It makes you wonder why they haven't been sampled more often. Sure, there's Kanye West's "Stronger" which is probably the obvious choice cause the original was a huge hit and has that nice memorable talk box chorus. Since it's Kanye it comes as no surprise though that his version is quite wack and pales in comparison to Mickey Factz' take on "Robot Rock". Good decision on Mickey's part to keep it simple and NOT to throw it in the neo (read: watered down r&b) hip hop blender, but straight loop the original and rap over it cause it ROCKS. Reminds you of the old days when hip hop was not afraid of appropriating contemporary dance and disco songs.

Check out his hyper-eclectic heaven's fallout mixtape where he samples everything and everyone from Bjork to The Prodigy to a Wes Anderson movie soundtrack back to Uffie to The Smiths to Daft Punk and Jamiroquai etc. etc. Hit and miss mostly but when it hits, it hits hard.

(What's up with Mickey Factz though? All that good stuff was from 07/08. This year so far: disappointing.)