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  • Long Players: New Electronica from Soulful Dub to Rave Rock

    Tue, 04 Dec 2007 10:53:34

    Long Players: New Electronica from Soulful Dub to Rave Rock - Stellar new releases from Booka Shade, James Murphy, Daft Punk and Supermayer

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    Let's face it, unless electronic beats and melodies are barbed with punchy, punk guitar riffs or adorned with pop-friendly vocals, most dance music gets a bad rap. Nevermind that mainstream producers like Timbaland have adopted house's 4/4 thump and won legions of fans in the process—to the layman, anything under the generic "techno" umbrella belongs strictly in the club.

    Which is a shame, because by branching out into an array of styles, many of today's top producers and DJs are crafting and mixing some of the most electrifying (and accessible) sounds gracing the modern musical landscape. From forgotten disco and heady, free-form jazz to subtly soulful dub step and stadium-ready rave-rock, there's something for everybody to love, and below are some of this fall's must have releases.

    James Murphy & Pat Mahoney - Fabriclive.36
    LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and former Les Savy Fav-er Pat Mahoney team up to curate and mix the latest installment in London club Fabric's esteemed DJ series. Tag-teaming behind the decks and using an old Bozak mixer to ensure a warm, organic transfer between records, the New York-based rockers mine their adopted town's disco legacy, stringing together the soulful uptown jazz of Donald Byrd with the dirty downtown dreams of Daniel Wang for a ride that's pure, unabashed fun.

    Booka Shade - DJ-Kicks
    Berlin's resident electro-house, booty-shaking duo Booka Shade helm the most recent DJ-Kicks mix. Over the years German label !K7 has carved an interesting niche for itself in the DJ compilation world, encouraging artists to eschew dancefloor-filling sets in favor of compiling intimate mixes more suited for home stereos and headphones. Booka Shade gladly run with that torch, weaving the quirky fun of Yazoo and the pulsing Detroit techno of Carl Craig with the baroque grace of Aphex Twin and the warm, synthesized melancholy of Hot Chip for what might well be the mixtape of the year.

    Daft Punk - Alive 2007
    Robo-disco-bots Daft Punk emphatically revitalized their stalling career in 2007 with a massive, mind-blowing, sci-fi-inspired tour that fans described as nothing short of revelatory. While their live disc—recorded at the duo's hometown gig in Paris—might not prove as transcendental as actually being there, mashups of hits like "Around the World" and "One More Time" coupled with the screams of a revved-up crowd are sure to get listeners' hearts racing.

    Ewan Pearson - Piecework
    While techno's resident intellectual has kept busy producing bands like The Rapture, putting together class DJ mixes for Fabric and injecting dance music with an equal measure of eloquence and enthusiasm on his insightful blog, England's Ewan Pearson is most adept at remixing other artists. The remix has always been a suspect art form: Why does a perfectly good track need a facelift? But from subtly reworking Closer Music's dreamy "1,2,3, No Gravity" to overhauling The Chemical Brother's "The Golden Path," Pearson knows just how to eek even more magic from other artists' music.

    Supermayer - Save the World
    Kompakt stalwarts Michael Mayer and Aksel Schaufler (aka Superpitcher) team up to produce one of the minimal techno label's most fun-filled releases. Though Save the World is neither as poppy nor as lovelorn as the twosome's respective sensibilities might suggest, its quirky tracks reflect a new sound departure for Kompakt, while singles like the dancefloor-destined "Two of Us" (replete with rave siren and glockenspiel) and the goofy, bass-driven "The Art of Letting Go" are worth the LP price alone.

    Burial - Untrue
    Already praised with electronic record of the year accolades, British dub-step producer Burial's sophomore album, Untrue, unfolds like a dark, midnight journey—a lonely walk through grimy, rain-soaked backstreets. But it's not all doom and gloom; Burial's aural tones suggest that he finds redemption in the downcast and the dismissed. Prodding his grainy tracks along with stuttering beats, Burial adds warm melodies and distorted but tender vocals to the bleak atmosphere, as if plumbing the music's murky depths for a human soul.

    Cobblestone Jazz - 23 Seconds
    Born out of a love for improvisation and performing live, Canadian minimal mastermind Mathew Johnson recruited friends Danuel Tate and Tyger Dhula to form Cobblestone Jazz, a collective focused on hypnotic, jazz-influenced techno. Though trippy, percussive favorites like "Wagon Repair" might not seduce newbie listeners, 23 Seconds contains enough acid-jazz moments to get feet tapping, while the double LP's second disc captures the spirit of the trio's experimental, dance-inducing live sets.

    Chateau Flight - Body Language, Vol. 5
    Rather than jump on Daft Punk's stadium-rocking bandwagon (as many of their compatriots have), French house vets Château Flight go the headier route, mixing the fifth installment in Berlin-based label Get Physical's excellent Body Language series. The duo of Gilb'r and I:Cube have always been on the experimental side (heck, they re-imagined a soundtrack for a 1916 silent movie titled Les Vampires), but this mix belies their eclectic taste—Nordic disco cozies up to '80s-inspired house, while jacking techno goes hand in hand with mind-trip melodies. While it might not stun on a cursory listen, this subtly crafted DJ mix gets better and better with each spin.

    —James Jung

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    Tags: Château Flight, Cobblestone Jazz, Booka Shade, Burial

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