Friday, June 30, 2006

Liars - Drum's Not Dead

Liars, "Let's Not Wrestle Mr. Heart Attack"

Liars, "The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack"

With all of this talk about experimenting and outsider takes, I figured it was about time to look at the Liars' latest album, Drum's Not Dead. Yeah, yeah, I know that this has been out for months, blah blah blah. I just got the CD recently, so blame the people at Mute Records for not hooking your bol up with a free copy. C'mon record companies, I'm here to be bought.

Anyway, Liars might be the most interesting band to emerge out of the whole Brooklyn dance-punk whatever you wanna call it scene from a few years ago. Their first album was considered one of the finest examples of indie's return to rhythm and the early 80s influences like Gang of Four and ESG. I know that everyone thinks this shit is played out and all, but I can't stress enough how much life these new influences gave to indie and rock music, imo. Anyway, what makes Liars so fucking interesting is the fact that they refuse to stand still or be labeled. Just when everyone was crowning them disco-punk champions, they went and released a change-up called They Were Wrong So We Drowned.

Now, the boys have confounded expectations again. First, they moved from Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Berlin, Germany. Next, they dropped this album which takes them even further away from their dance-oriented beginnings to their own little twisted place in music. I've been having a hard time describing this album, which means it's really good. This is an album, a seamless, wonderful piece of music that doesn't need a standout single. There is some sort of theme here, based on two characters called Drum and Mt. Heart Attack, I think. This may have helped the band put it all together, but doesn't really make too impact on the listener.

Don't believe the talk about these guys being pretentious or difficult, as that is bullshit. This ain't toe-tapping music, but it isn't some art school project either. The first thing you will notice is that the band has clearly left behind the post-punk influences for even darker territory. In terms of current bands, this music wouldn't sound out of place with fans of Black Dice, Animal Collective, No Neck Blues Band, dark, heavy music that revels in heavy drums, feedback and drones. Most reviewers seem to throw out Krautrock (Can, Faust, etc.) as the main influence on this one, but I don't have enough knowledge of that music to agree or disagree. For me, Sonic Youth has been the most apt comparison. Not just in the music, but also in the fact that they're both relatively popular but unafraid to offend their fans. They both have one foot in indie, song based music and another in the deepest recesses of avant garde music. And no, I'm not saying this because I'm gonna finally get my Sonic Youth concert review up this weekend.

I cannot recommend album more highly; if you have not gotten a copy, go here and buy it now. You even get a bonus disc of videos based on the music, a damn good deal for the price. Pitchfork raved about this one months ago, and I couldn't agree more.

-New Yorkers, the monthly edition of Fixed is tonight, maybe the best event in this city for staying up and enjoying the new disco/electro/house goodness we have been featuring lately. As an added bonus, Pixeltan of DFA fame are playing a live set, hopefully foreshadowing some new material. As an added bonus (I think), Ramesh of Voxtrot will take a turn as guest DJ tonight, which makes sense since this is the official Voxtrot afterparty. Dave P and JDH spinning, I would be there if I wasn't such a lame tonight.

-Good news finally in the world of politics, as the Supreme Court ruled that military tribunals are not authorized by federal statute. The Washington Post details how this decision strikes at the heart of the Bush philosophy of presidential power and no oversight. The Times editorial page declares this "A Victory for the Rule of Law." Firedoglake has a nice roundup of reaction to the Hamdan decision on the web.

-Shout out to my Delancey St. Burger King people for keeping me fueled with Diet Cokes, which are the main reason I have the energy to make all these posts. I'm in NYC for the weekend, with little to do but hang out with my beautiful daughter, Jezebel. That means it's a good weekend for me, hope everyone has a great holiday weekend as well and gets to spend it with loved ones.

Disco not Disco 1 Part 2

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Material, "Over and Over"

Was (Not Was), "Wheel Me Out"

Dinosaur, "Kiss Me Again (original edit)"

We're gonna a little deeper into Disco not Disco Volume 1, where we get a real sense of what this compilation is all about with possibly my three favorite tracks. The middle of the CD is like the Bronx Bombers, the 3-4-5 hitters that strike fear in the heart of pitchers everywhere. Some of these names might sound familiar, especially Was (Not Was) who had a hit with "Walk the Dinosaur" around this time. Material is Bill Laswell's earliest project, while Arthur Baker is the man behind Dinosaur (I will devote one post to his work on these two volumes, as he might be the pivotal figure in all of this).

What all of these names have in common is that they were not a part of the disco scene in any way, nor were the interlopers just trying to cash in on a fad (as many notable stars like Dolly Parton and Paul McCartney did). They were outsiders to the music, which more than likely gave them this strange and new take on the music. From the outside, they didn't have to worry about offending or losing their fans, they could just try to make what they wanted to make. This compilation is described by Sean P. and Joey Negro as "leftfield disco," which does a nice job of describing the music. It's off-the-wall, non-traditional, but it is a part of disco and treats the music with respect. This is not parody or exploitation, it's just a new take on the genre.

The thing that stands out to me on these tracks was the central role of the live bass in these songs. The bass sounds so warm and big on all 3 of these songs, serving as the focal point of the music in a way that enables all of the other odd touches to happen without making this dancefloor-unfriendly. Note the trumpet solo on "Wheel Me Out," which seems more suited for a downtown loft concert with guys in berets and cigarettes (that's how I envision jazz concerts). It works though, as that bass keeps us grounded as we head into outer space. However, this is not futuristic music or machine-centric, like Chicago/acid house, it's much more inviting and soft. Perhaps that is the main divide between the late 70s and 80s?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Blues Explosion's "Crunchy"

Blues Explosion, "Crunchy (original version)"

Blues Explosion, "Crunchy (Solex remix)"

Blues Explosion, "Crunchy (!!! remix)"

Some more single/remix action for your ass in the '06. What does that any of that mean? Not sure, think I heard somebody say that on The OC once. Anyway, here is one of my absolute all-time favorite bands, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, in their most recent incarnation as Blues Explosion. They've dropped Jon Spencer from the band's name and have upped the percussion and lowered the gutter punk/blues sound. It's taken some getting used to me for me, as those early Matador records (Orange, What Is Worry, etc.) are Pound for Pound classics.

"Crunchy" comes off the band's 2005 release, Damage. It's not gonna sound completely alien to fans of the band, but they've definitely turned down the punk blues for something a little more melodic and rock. I actually like it, a nice example of what makes this band special. They get tagged for a specific sound, but I think that it ignores how open to new sounds the band has always been. You know what? I love these guys too much to try to cram all my thoughts into one post. We'll come back and do this band right in a bit. For now, make sure to check out the !!! remix, which turns the guitars down and turns this into a percussive dancefloor track. Really nice, possibly better than the original. Solex fucks with lotsa reverb and bass, making this punk dub or something.

-I've been meaning to give a shout to a wonderful blog that just came to my attention. This is the perfect time to mention Tiger Stripe, as it specializes in the dance music, remix world that we've been getting into the last few weeks. It's got a great mix of artists you know and shit you ain't never heard of. I'mma add this one to the permanent links list, which was guaranteed by this Peaches appreciation post. Great stuff, look forward to her

-Great draft last night, lots of trade announcements, some truly bewildering picks and a chance to think about basketball before this long summer really gets started. I liked the 76ers pick, Memphis' Rodney Carney, especially considering their draft position and the level of talent in this year's draft. I probably would've preferred they take Marcus Williams, as I'd love to see them have a traditional point guard to distribute the ball. But, it never hurts to draft an athletic guy who can play defense. Dick Jerardi liked the pick and has a nice look at the draft. The Knicks' first pick, Renaldo Balkman, was completely inexplicable. The Knicks fans interview before the pick were the absolute epitome of douchebags. Stephen A. Smith is worse than fingernails on the blackboard. Kyle Lowry will be the steal of the draft. Two Israelis were drafted in the second round, the first two ever drafted.

-Disco D in Philly! Sign up for the guest list for this week's edition of Sunday Is The New Black at Walnut Room. Another PaperStreet jawn, this one is real next level. There is nothing more American than ghetto tech, so celebrate the 4th of July the right way.

Disco not Disco 1 Part 1

Yoko Ono, "Walking On Thin Ice [1981 re-edit]"

Liquid Liquid, "Cavern"

Loose Joints, "Tell You (Today) [Vocal]"

Ian Dury & The Seven Seas Players, "Spasticus Autisticus (Version)"

I wanted to take up a theme from the Can You Jack? compilation, as Tim Lawrence discussed the experimental sounds of acid house. I couldn't think of a better lead-in to our next focus, Disco not Disco Volume 1. This compilation came out in 2000 on Strut Records and was put together by Joey Negro and Sean P.

The theme of the music here is disco tunes that expand the notion of what disco was, as I'm sure the Disco not Disco title made clear. These tunes do not sound like shit you imagine hearing at Studio 54, but it was just as much a part of disco as Donna Summer's classic jawns were. Despite rock snobbery's atttempts to diminish people's respect for the actual music, disco can't be dismissed as some chessy music for coked up dancers.

These songs above come from that magical period in the early 80s when disco had grown soft and traditional and punk had lost much of its original energy. In downtown NYC, these two would bust through their respective genre walls and come out to play together. Initially, it went more in the direction of punk in the form of the no wave movement (so much to get to on that front, yummy!), geared more towards the punk club than the dance floor. I will discuss the music a lot more in the coming days, just wanted to get this started. Oh, and yes, the first song is by that Yoko Ono, Mrs. John Lennon, the woman who saved the Beatles, etc. It's actually quite good, and a nice reminder that Ono is responsible for some amazing experimental music.

For the record, I'm gonna spend the next week or so posting all of the tracks from both volumes of this series. Both CDs are out of print, and have been so for quite a few years (although the second volume seemed to come out in a larger pressing, as you could find it in Spaceboy in Philly for awhile). I normally would never consider this, but I don't think that people should have to pay $50 or more dollars to hear a CD. Plus, Strut Records has gone the way of the Phillies playoff chances and American democracy, i.e. in the shitter. This shit ain't comin' back, so I'm gonna spread the music. If anyone has a problem with this or wants me to take the music down, holler and it will be done. Otherwise, enjoy all the music and leave comments!

Yeah yeah yeah!!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Annie, "Heartbeat (Röyksopp's Mindre Tilgjengelige Remix)"

Annie, "Heartbeat (Maurice Fulton Remix)"

Annie, "Heartbeat (Phones Maximo Remix)"

Annie, "Heartbeat (Alan Braxe Remix)"

Today has been a real shitty day in Pound for Pound world, so I felt like I had to put up some nice, fun, airy, beautiful music to take me away. I figured what better song than "Heartbeat" off of Annie's album Anniemal from last year. But, since we are in the blog game, I ain't gonna give you no album track. Hell naw, I'm upping the four remixes from the single for your enjoyment. Okay, okay, I'm sure everyone has heard these and has already deemed them passe. But, give it another listen, as this is just great music, perfect for the summer.

Pay special attention to the Alan Braxe remix, love those drum thwacks and organ (?) buildup in the beginning. The Phones slow the original down to nice effect, making it more of a headphones jawn than a floor filler. All four are really great, doing a little something different to the original.

-If you're in Philly, two great concerts going down on opposite ends of the city. Radio 4, dance-punkers, are playing the North Star with . Down on South Street, We Are Scientists and The Double are at the TLA. Unfortunately, I won't be attending either show, but would probably go with the WAS one if I had to choose. The Double are a great band out of Brooklyn, WAS played a nice show at the North Star months ago and the TLA is a nice play to see a show.

-More importantly, tonight is the greatest day of the sports year, the night when the NBA Draft takes place in New York City. There is no better TV in my opinion, that excitement of seeing the future of basketball and the future busts all in one night. How great is it when David Stern announces that there's been a trade? As always, Bill Simmons is the guy to read for this glorious event. Phil Jasner has a look at the Sixers heading into the Draft.

-Finally, one quick story I heard about my grandfather recently. He was married to my grandmother for 60 years this past October. Someone asked him what the secret was to such a long, happy marriage. He responded: "I just love her so much."

Can You Jack? Part 3

Phuture (DJ Pierre/Spanky), "Acid Tracks"

Lil' Louis, "Video Clash"

Tyree, "Acid Over"

In this final installment, I wanted to talk a little more about the actual music that this Soul Jazz compilation features. I've always been a little afraid of dance/electronic music simply because of the inexhaustible number of genres and microgenres that exist. It's difficult to jump into the music when you don't know if you would be more into techno, drum 'n' bass, jungle, house, microhouse, broken beat and on and on and on. While it might not make for a easy terrain, it's a sign of the creativity of the field. Whereas rock and jazz seem calcified, rarely challenging the dominant sound, dance music can barely contain its desire to move on. I hope that I can help make all of these names and genres a little less foreboding, as it's the most fertile music I know of today.

Can You Jack?: Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1985-1995 makes quite clear what music it is talking about. Acid house, as far as I can tell, is the original house music, a reaction against the disco sound that had ruled from the early 70s on. Disco was a soulful, lush sound that was oftentimes created in a studio by musicians. It was dominated by superstar DJs like Larry Levan, heard in extravagant, hedonistic spots like the Paradise Garage and Studio 54. It's important to understand all of that to understand acid house or Chicago house, as they are very different but similar in ways.

The main difference, according to Tim Lawrence, is the machines. As disco lost steam, a few new pieces of technology came on the market and forever altered dance music (and laid the seeds for this blog). First, Robert Moog's experiments with the synthesizer got the ball rolling, with Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder advancing the ball down the field, creating sounds of the future from advanced technology. Next up was the Roland 808 drum machine that didn't really sound like drums. This instrument would be the tool of choice for Afrika Bambaataa and Arthur Baker on "Planet Rock" and would be essential for electro in general. These tools helped to create the mechanical, pulsing, futuristic songs that you can hear above and have heard these past few days.

I've been trying to think why this music (and so many other related like electro, booty house, ghetto tech, Miami bass, new wave) sound so perfect to me. I don't have anything profound yet, but I will throw out a few ideas. Maybe it's the idea of man struggling to humanize these machines and technologies? Or it is the fact that they are so reliant on machines, thereby making it cold and distant? Or is it simply that the bass is so important? I don't know, I guess that this blog is a search for the answer to that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

NY Excuse

Soulwax, "NY Excuse (Justice remix)"

I'm gonna try to spend a few weeks upping all kinds of shit like this, the stuff coming out of Ed Banger Records, Erol Alkan, MYLO, Tiga, etc. Right now, this is the stuff that has my ear, as it's got roots in the musics that I love like Miami bass, electro, disco, Chicago house, etc., but it doesn't sound derivative. This Justice remix of the Soulwax single "NY Excuse" (from Any Minute Now) is absolutely killing me right now, it makes you wanna get up and dance with that hugggggeeee distorted bassline, the computer chords on top and the scream-y vocals. Simply awesome. Much more to come on Justice, Soulwax and the remix racket. I know I'm a bit late, but I'll try to play catch up with the fury of a thousand suns.

-For those in NYC tonight, get yourself to the Lady Sovereign after-party at The Plumm. My bol Project Matt is spinning, along with the Syrup Girls and Alex English (the Nugget great? I sure hope so). This should be an amazing party, a great way to follow up the Lady Sov show at Webster Hall (if you got tickets, it's sold out). Best of all, The Plumm is at 14th Street, so you don't have to cross that street and venture into that creepy, strange place known as uptown.

Get stoopid, go dumb.

-Speaking of stupid and dumb, you have got to see this video of our President, George W. Bush, making fun of blind reporter at news conference. He thinks that he is being real funny, but he isn't smart enough or aware enough to think that maybe, just maybe the guy is wearing sunglasses because of blindness/eye problems. It's Bush in all his frat boy, asshole glory. [Via Think Progress]

-Finally, a request for my dear readers. If you are currently living in Brooklyn and looking for a roomate or know someone who is or know anything and can help me on my search, it would be greatly appreciated. Girls with bangs and big boobs preferred roomate, but willing to take what I can get. August 1st or sooner. No more NY Excuse for me (eh eh, see what I did there).

Can You Jack? Part 2

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A picture of the Music Box taken in 2001

Sleezy D (Marshall Jefferson), "I've Lost Control"

Roy Davis Jnr., "Acid Bass"

Two Of A Kind, "Like This"

I wanted to pick up on a part of the alternate history that Can You Jack?: Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1985-1995 discussed. House music lore claims the Warehouse as the club where it all began, which isn't surprising since 'house' music was an abbreviated version of Warehouse music. This was Frankie Knuckles' place, a stalwart in an anti-disco city, a keeper of the flame if you will.

It is that precise connection to disco that allows Tim Lawrence to argue for an alternate history, one which locates its epicenter at the Music Box at 1632 South Venues Avenue on the city's South Side. The most interesting aspect of this shift is that it takes the music to a mainly black, straight crowd, a poor and working class group, who suddenly became the artistic driving force behind the music. Even better, it helps the listener distinguish what was coming out of Chicago during this period and why it was different than music in other cities. This was not disco, this was something unique and different, something that Chicago created and they should be credited for that. It shouldn't be underestimated how brilliant and radical this Chicago house music was, and it surely shouldn't be disrespected by lazy or narrow histories.

The man who was the catalyst for all of this was Ron Hardy, the unheralded adso DJ who spun at the Music Box and existed under the shadow of Frankie Knuckles then and now. Hardy was not as skilled a DJ as Knuckles, nor did he have the built-in fanbase that Knuckles brought with him from the Warehouse. All of this is reflected in the history of house, as Hardy is a bit player compared to Knuckles starring role. However, this lesser fame meant a smaller ego and less distance between him and the audience. Quite literally, in fact, as the DJ booth was within reach of people, so that they could say hi or hand over their new tape. This was also a reflection of the fact that Hardy never felt too important or above the music. He would oftentimes take tapes from people and play them that night, sometimes a multiple times.

Tomorrow, we'll wrap all of this up with a look at the actual music and how it developed. The tracks above should give a clear idea of what this music sounded like coming out of Chicago during the mid 80s, as the acid sound forced its way to center stage. I'll get to talk about the 808 and basslines tomorrow, so you know I'mma be real happy.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Scott Walker - Tilt

Scott Walker, "Farmer In The City"

Scott Walker, "Tilt"

A little more Scott Walker, as this dark music seems perfect for this dark time. This was the first CD I ever heard from the man, which is quite an introduction. This one is in the same vein as The Drift, which I discussed yesterday. In fact, I can't really add a whole lot to the discussion, as Tilt is also a difficult, odd-sounding, exacerbating, rewarding album. I will warn everyone to be prepared for Walker's voice, as it does not sound like your normal singing style. For me, it reminds me of an operatic voice, loud, harsh, a little show-offy. However, once you get past the intial shock and dislike, you are in for a treat. The music and vocals create such a frightening landscape, kinda like Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Like that album, it's hit or miss. You'll either love or hate, and for some reason I think that suits Walker just fine. He's doing shit his way and you've got to respect thatl. Give it a chance and see if you want to follow where he's taking you. Grab the album here and see what you think.

-I caught this story last week, and I think it perfectly encapsulates how fucked up things are with our nation's government and the people running it. Talking Points Memo pointed us to an excerpt from Ron Suskind's new book, The One Percent Doctrine, in Bart Gellman's review in the Washington Post. It tells the story of Abu Zubaydah, a 'terrorist mastermind', whose capture was highlighted by the Bush administration a few years ago. Read the story and be sad and ashamed.

-Since I'm discussing embarrassments, the Phillies can't be far from one's mind. They got swept today in Boston, losing on another David Ortiz walk-off home run. I've caught a fair share of games the past few weeks and am shocked at how easily this team collapsed. I hate the Philadelphia fan passionately, the one who boos on day one and calls talk radio and thinks they are owed a championship. But, they appear to have had this team pegged correctly, as they're almost out of the playoff race before July begins. They have no clutch hitting or starting pitching, essential for a playoff team, how could anyone kid themselves that this team should be kept together any longer? I hope that this rumor of Bobby Abreu going to the Tigers is the start of a complete overhaul of this underachieving team. I also can't wait for the Eagles to start again.

-Finally, my thoughts and prayers are with TA and her family for their loss this past weekend.

Can You Jack? Part 1

Fresh, "Dum Dum Part 2"

Let's take an even deeper look at Chicago house music with this amazing 2CD compilation on Soul Jazz Records, Can You Jack?: Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1985-95. As I'm sure everyone knows, Soul Jazz is one of the most amazing labels going today, releasing older, harder to find music in wonderful, focused compilations. They have done a wonderful job archiving different scenes and genres that have come and gone in musical history, from early No Wave to Philly Soul to disco to reggae. It's not hard to imagine that I was awfully excited to see that they were putting out their look at the music coming out of Chicago in the mid 80s into the next decade.

Boy, did they live up to my expectations! Can You Jack? is fucking amazing, both as music and a history lesson. I mean, the Trax Records one was great, had a ton of music, gave me a chance to catch up on the foundation of the music through one label. Here, though, you get a longer vision of the music, the balance of having different labels and a better sense of how things developed over the course of the 10 years compiled here. It also presents the music in a new light, challenging preconceived notions and laying claim to a Chicago house that stands on its own. Perhaps most importantly for my inner geek, Soul Jazz has included amazing liner notes that profile the main artists, the music and the history.

Tim Lawrence's liner notes provide the best history I've read yet on Chicago house and its origin, arguing against the common tropes for an alternative history of the genre. Most appealing to me, he attempts to write a history from the perspective of Chicago, not New York City or Europe's take on the music. He makes a special point to highlight the influence of sounds other than disco and DJs other than Frankie Knuckles. Hell, he even relocates its epicenter from The Warehouse and Power Plant to Music Box, a straight, black club. In all of this, he helps distinguish Chicago house as a music, shedding it of the post-disco sound that dominates alot of the Trax Records aesthetic.

For real, there is so much to say about all of this that I may break it into three posts. The songs above are my favorites, not necessarily the best-known or most important. Listen for the much more futuristic, mechanical sound that dominates here. You can clearly hear the shift away from the studio-produced, live instrumentation of disco to this music created by drum machines, synths and bass. It is that shift that might be the main aesthetic of Pound for Pound. Wait, don't hold me to that, just thinking out loud. Go here and buy the album, which is as expensive as all Soul Jazz imports. Much more to come on all of this, lots of great stuff. Yeah!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Kaddish (For Pop)

For my grandfather (1927-2006):

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Scott Walker - The Drift

Scott Walker, "Clara"

Scott Walker, "Hand Me Ups"

A little change of pace here, as I haven't done a good job of staying up on new releases lately. Here's an album that may not have come across your radar screen, Scott Walker's The Drift. It's understandable that people weren't sleeping in front of Tower for a midnight purchase, as Walker sits on the periphery. His music is avant-garde in all the senses that you imagine, from the dark lyrics about death and genocide to free jazz and classical sounds to limited coverage in magazines like Wire. Despite the difficult tag, I hope that everyone gives this a chance, as it's bound to sound like nothing you've heard before and let you know that difficult is not a dirty word.

Scott Walker is an immensely interesting figure in his own right, far more interesting than my boring intro would imply. Walker actually was quite famous in the early 60s as a Sinatra-type figure, a crooner and ladies man, a teen idol if you will. He was initally discovered in the late 50s by Eddie Fisher, Philly boy and one of Liz Taylor's many husbands. He did the teen heartthrob schtick for awhile, then formed The Walker Brothers in the 60s. They did pop ballads for the most part, singing many Bacharach-David compositions (that's the clearest connection to this blog). Once they broke up, Walker went solo and allowed a darker side to come out. He maintained a high level of popularity, even having his own show on British TV. However, the further he got from his pop origins and deeper into art-house cinema and new music, the smaller his audience got. Since the late 70s, Walker has intermittently returned with a new album, done on his own terms.

The Drift is the latest CD to appear from the man, only his third since 1979, his first on the legendary label 4AD. It's nearly an overwhelming work to deal with, the work of a man uninterested in appealing to any particular group or satisfying the market. It's got that Modernist, art for art's sake feel, which rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Could it be described as pretentious? Maybe, although I would think that's an attempt to negate him before ever hearing the man out. His songs are bleak and dark, conjuring up images of bleeding bodies, viruses and facsism. For me, this fits pretty well with the mood of the world today, for these fucked-up times. Best of all, he doesn't try to make you believe anything, teach you any easy lessons or force-feed the listener his politics. I like that, that interests in a way that Radio 4 or Mr. Lif never could. The uncertainty and lack of answers seem so much more real and human than what passes for political music.

The music plays right along with the dark lyrics, ranging from noise (a la Merzbow or Ground Zero) to modern classical (say, Webern). There are moments when you feel like you are in a European cabaret, with Walker's distinct, overwrought voice. Most of all, the abrupt change in sounds sticks out the most. From the quietest, most gentle part, suddenly you find yourself in a drums and guitar storm. It's shocking and disconcerting, but it works.

I recommend buying this album and giving it a chance. It's probably unlike anything you've heard so far this year or will hear all year. It might not make onto your system in your candy-painted car, but that don't mean you should avoid it. Buy a copy here and take a chance. For those who want to listen a little more, check out 7and7is and La Blogoth que mp3blog (French blog, yeah!) for more mp3s and thoughts. Or check out this review of the album by Dominique Leone at Pitchfork.

-Missed a ton of great events this past weekend, will slowly ratchet the events section back up this week. Tonight, R5 is putting on a great show at the Church, as Espers are back in their hometown headlining. I will get to these guys in a future, but this is a great chance to hear one of the city's finest. Opener Brightblack Morning Light have been getting a ton of buzz lately, making this a great free-folk bill.

-For my DC people, check out Philly's own and Pound for Pound favorite The Yah Mos Def opening for Limp Wrist at Warehouse Next Door (please say that's not the name of the club) tonight. Place is 1017 7th Street NW, starts at 8:30, I know that there ain't much goin' on in DC, so get your asses out.

-Forgive me for the lack of Dylan or Dead today, but I'm getting my shit together and didn't want to rush one of those posts. I also want to take the time to apologize to MC, her friends, her family who read my initial hiatus post. I never intended to worry anyone or invade anyone's privacy with that, or scare anyone about myself. It was a post put up in haste that I wish I could take back. Just wanted to take a break from the blog, didn't say that well. Sorry, I truly did not mean to offend or upset anyone.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Yung Joc - It's Goin' Down

Yung Joc, "It's Goin' Down"

Yung Joc feat. Trae, "It's Goin' Down" (remix)

It's indeed goin' down here at Pound for Pound, so it makes sense to throw up the song of the same name that's getting all kinds of silly airplay right now. I gotta say that I love the song, love that Nitty beat, love the whole fucking thing. It's got that Southern drawl that turns any lyric into gold at this blog, a great refrain that's short and simply ("Meet me in the trap/It's goin' down"). But, the real reason to tune in is the Nitty beat, which is absolutely disgusting, a minimalist, snap music soundtrack to a horror movie. Shit's really sinister sounding, that synth making me feel like someone's about to die. Couple that with the mechanical drums, the drum dropouts during the refrain, the snaps, well, you hdave yourself a great song. What makes this a real contender is the fazct that I could see this doing well in the club and on the iPod, it's much more versatile than most hip hop tunes today. It's a club banger (with dance and all) and a street corner anthem all at once. Impressive.

The remix is pretty good too, as Houston gets a say in the matter. Trae, Houston star and Guerilla Maab member, takes the first verse and slows it a down a little. It's not much, but always nice to have Trae getting more exposure. The original's what you want, though.

-Watch Tom Cruise do the "It's Goin' Down" dance on a BET awards show.

-I gotta give a shout out to Boyd's Philadelphia, the premiere men's store in this city and one of the best in the country. I cannot recommend it more highly, as they take care of you every step of the way and give you good advice on all that shit like colors and cuts that intimidates you. I copped a charcoal grey Trussini suit, light blue shirt and purple tie, real boss. It's time to step my fashion game up. Fuck sneakers and t-shirts, the new thing is suits and Gucci shoes. wHowever, if you have a pair of deadstock Kid Robot or Tier 0 Air Max 1s, please holler.

-You know what's really goin' down today? A wedding. Two good friends, SR and AH, are finally tying the knot and yours truly will be there to celebrate this wonderful day. I wish them the very best, as they are perfect together. I'm telling myself not to cry, but I make no promises.

-As a thank you to everyone who checked in here and over email this past week, I am going to go back and upload every song that we've talked about since the beginning of the year. I'm gonna move to a host as soon as July begins, but figured that this would be a nice gesture to make up for my brief freakout earlier this week. Give it a few days, as there is a lot of songs to go up, y'know? Enjoy.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Trax Records - The 20th Anniversary Collection Part 3

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Adonis, "No Way Back" [Vocal mix]

Frankie Knuckles, "Baby Wants To Ride"

Frankie Knuckles, "You Got The Love" [long version with Rebe Jones vocals]

Z Factor feat. Screamin' Rachael, "Fantasy"

What better way to get back to business than to pick right up where we left off. This is gonna be the final installment of this look at the legendary Chicago house label, Trax Records. I wanted to take a closer look at the birth of the scene and its music, as it's such a cool story and provokes thoughts on music and clubs today. But, most of all, I think that this post should be seen as a reaffirmation of the thoughts and ideas behind this blog, a statement of purpose if you will.

First, though, a word about the music. The songs above come off of the third disc, an unmixed one of stone-cold classics and underappreciated gems. "No Way Back" is one such classic, a notch below Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body," the definitive house track. It's got a huge bassline, drum machine and almost-eerie male vocals. One of my personal favorites, topped only by the second track, the filthy, explicit "Baby Wants To Ride," Frankie Knuckles' fuck song. You have to listen to this one, an immediate Pound for Pound classic. The voice kinda reminds me of Prince, the lyrics are crazy, dirty as hell at times, other parts shouting out South Africans, it's all over the place. The other two are more in the post-disco vein, classic stuff that shows just how far this label's sound stretched.

Frankie Knuckles figures prominently in these tracks and the beginnings of the Chicago house sound and scene. He was the first DJ at The Warehouse, the epicenter of house. I wanted to discuss the beginnings finally, as it was the thing that has stuck with me since reading the liner notes.

Screamin' Rachael recounts the early days: "Our new wave party at Space Place got busted, and on the night of our closing, a black kid happened to be there who said" 'The party doesn't have to end. Go down the block, Frankie Knuckles has been mixing your song down at the Warehouse.' Disco was un-cool in Chicago; remember, we had blown up those records in the ballpark. When I wanted black bands at the Space Place, skinheads picketed. Suddenly I walked into a different scene, very seperate from my own, but once I heard and saw the crowd, it was an epiphany." As Brian Chin writes in the liner notes, "It [house music] was the alliance of punk/new wave influences with every variety of hardcore dance that created this off-the-wall fusion. Bare-boned, stripped-down, and raw""suggesting the far-flung influences of everyone from Prince to Madonna, Bobby Orlando, Arthur Baker and Newcleus."

I think that house music (and dance music) in general has lost this. Go to any club today and it's as homogenous and closed a scene as possible. I also think that music today has lost this openness to all people and all sounds. For real, can you think of the last time you were out in a mixed crowd of blacks and whites, gays and straights, hipsters and thugs and preppies and yuppies? Hell, the place that should have the most inclusive nightlife, New York City, might be the worst offender of all, with 2o places for each scene with little mixing. Besides The Rub in Brooklyn, I'm at a loss for a party that appeals across so many groups.

There's just something so quintissentailly urban about this story, throwing a party in an abandoned warehouse, allowing everyone and anyone in to have fun, mixing people and scenes. I'm not really trying to go anywhere specific with this, I just worry that we have lost this openness and willingness to experiment today. I fear that cities maybe gaining people, but that these people don't have an urban mindset. I worry that music suffers from the same closemindedness, stuck with influences from 20 years ago, acting like it's a revolutionary step to find a new influence from the past. I mean, can you imagine this sort of scene and music developing today? Is it still possible? Am I being too nostalgic or blind to the present?

I am going to go more into this in the near future, as I plan to stay with the late 70s/early 80s music scene- no wave, the downtown shit, disco-not-disco, more house, electro, early hip hop, hip house. I will also try to look at the present and what's going down that reflects the openness that I value so much. Please shout and let me know what you think about all of this and what you think of today, what's good and what's bad.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Down, But Not Out

Cypress Hill, "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That"

Pound for Pound will return, stay tuned for further developments, music, links and general awesomeness.

Update: I shit you not, but Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins is sitting like 10 feet from me in the cafe I am writing at. I eavesdropped on his phone call, while ordering an iced tea. I also began banging on my table and whopping, a la Kramer in Dinky Donuts with Joe Dimaggio. I will work up the courage to speak to him next time, if there is a next time. What does all of this mean? It means that Pound for Pound is definitely back, and with a fucking vengeance. It is dedicated to one of the greatest middleweights of all-time, Philly fighter, my hero, Mr. Hopkins. Hell, to all the Philly fighters who got knocked down and got back up.

As Samuel Beckett wrote in The Unnameable, "you must go on. I can't go on. I go on."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Black Jak - Ride and Swerve

Blak Jak feat. Project Pat, "Ride and Swerve"

I just got this one, and couldn't think of a better track to head into the weekend with. I know that I've been pathetic with hip hop here lately. I hope that people don't take this silence as a sign of changing taste or a growing dislike for hip hop. Far from it, just haven't been doing a good job of getting up what I have. I'mma try to remedy that as we go forward, although I may just wait until we get back into Miami bass to make this happen. Holler if you want more hip hop now, as I'd be glad to oblige.

Anyway, this track is a nice one to get back into the swing of things, hiphopwise. Blak Jak is a newcomer to the scene, another bol from the ATL doing big things. But, this one isn't a snap anthem or T.I. clone. In fact, it's got a sorta general Southern feel, no specific region sticks out to my ears. Project Pat is on here (so good to hear him), but it doesn't have the typical Memphis sound, the drums aren't as brutal, piano loop gives it a different sound entirely. He references Soulja Slim, but there's no Cash Money or No Limit feel either. It's a song about cars and ridin', which is why it works as a Southern song in general. Lyrically, it's a good showing, although Pat kinda outshines him here, for me. The only thing preventing this from being a summer jam is the beats, it just doesn't have that catchiness to take it to that next level. It's grown on me, actually, with each listen. Oh, best of all, it's 4 minutes and 20 seconds long exactly. DANK!

Look for the full length album, Place Your Bets, later this summer. In the meantime, you can check out the official website or Blak Jak's myspace page.

-Cable and Tweed have an amazing post about one of my favorite bands ever, The Velvet Underground. I've been listening a ton to White Light/White Heat this month, so this is timely. Anyway, go there and grab a two disc set of VU covers from the likes of Jim O'Rourke, Of Montreal and unknown Japanese bands. Even better, there's a few extra covers from Cat Power, Rilo Kiley, The Decembrists, Iron & Wine and Calexico and Strawberry Switchblade. An amazing and generous post, as these CDs are long out of print. To the tie the post together, Cable and Tweed is out of Blak Jak's hometown of Atlanta. A great blog, I'm sure I'll be referencing it a lot more.

-For those in Philly tonight, Baltimore club maestro Aaron Lacrate is spinning at Shouk. You should be there, as it's a chance to hear a great DJ at a great spot. Smoke a hookah, relax, put your leg up, watch out for the big girl, you know the deal.

-Let's hope this great weather holds out for another day, as Philebrity Beach House is supposed to go off tomorrow. It was cancelled a few weeks ago because of inclement weather, so I think that G-d owes it to Northern Liberties. Anyway, this is gonna be so much fun, block party style. That means lots of beer, kid's pools, girls, food and music, music, music. The Lilys are playing, along with a few lesser-known Philly bands (schedule at the bottom.) Philebrity gives you 10 more reasons to go, as if you need them after my endorsement.

Hot Chip - Coming On Strong

Hot Chip, "Keep Fallin'"

Hot Chip, "Down With Prince"

I figured that I would talk a little bit about the first Hot Chip album, Coming On Strong, especially as we're gonna be putting up lots more stuff in a similar vein in the coming weeks. DFA remixes, Hot Chip remixes, Tiga, Erol Alkan, Ricardo Villalobos' new album, Tiefschwarz, electroclash (you heard me, I'm bringing that shit back), MYLO, lots more. In other words, this is the place to be.

In listening to this one again, after playing the new one, The Warning, lots, I must say that their debut hasn't held up as well as I thought it would. It's not so much that the music isn't good, it's that the new album sounds so much better. In particular, the "funny" lyrics and hip hop parody just doesn't work for me. There's some funny lines, especially the opening to "Down With Prince," where singer Alexis Taylor bitches, "I'm sick of motherfuckers tryna tell me that they're down with Prince." But, it's too cute for its own good, too cheeky as the British might say, or at least the stereotypical Brit I have in mind. As on "Playboy," where the refrain talks about ridin' on 22s in a Peugeot and bumpin' Yo La Tengo, it's just annoying. It comes off smug and condescending, laughing at the hip hoppers with their silly bling-bling and Cristal. I think they're trying to be self-deprecating, but it doesn't come off that way. Instead, it comes as the worst imaginable combo, backpackers and college indie kids.

It's ashame, as it takes away from the music that lays behind the lyrics. I think that the songs above show how much potential the band had musically, a great electro/soul thing that was as in tune with the latest hip hop production as dance music stuff. It's catchy, fun and interesting, but pales in comparison to the new one. No song really grabs me, makes me come back to it all the time. It's also much more laid-back than the new one, which doesn't sound as good to me.

My Old Kentucky Blog and shoes are for work have other tracks from the album, which should give you a good idea of what to expect. Go here and buy the album, see if you agree with my assessment.

-A movie about the life of Missy Elliott, starring Missy? Has Hollywood completely run out of ideas? Can I suggest a Pound for Pound story with Scarlett Johansson as the stylish, grogeous MC, me as myself (or possibly played by Paul Rudd), Jezebel as herself in the adorable, fabulous cat role, set in Philly, with pivotal scenes at 700 Club and Kibitz in the City? Producers, holler at my people.

-I've been listening to Radiohead's Kid A quite a bit lately, an amazing album that I like better than the more highly regard OK Computer and The Bends. Check out the recent Radiohead show in Boston over at musicisart, which sounds phenomenal. Kinda sad that I didn't catch either of the two Philly shows, but my bank account is happy.

-I'll have my Sonic Youth review up later, but in the meantime, grab tickets to their shows in Brooklyn, August 11th and 12th, with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a dream show of sorts. Pound for Pound favorite Blood on the Wall opens on the first night, which is better known as my birthday. It all goes down in an abandoned pool, making this one of the must shows of the summer. Brooklyn Vegan has more on this new venue in Greenpoint.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Trax Records - The 20th Anniversary Collection Part 2

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Screamin' Rachael, "Fun With Bad Boys"

Jungle Wonz, "The Jungle " [full A-side version]

Kool Rock Steady, "I'll Make You Dance" [full version]

We're gonna keep looking at the Trax Records label, and this amazing 20th Anniversary compilation. I do hope that people are enjoying this, as I really believe it is some of the best music I have heard in a minute. These tracks come off of Disc 2, which is also mixed by Maurice Joshua and Paul Johnson. My only disappointment with the compilation is that they don't give a better accounting for why these tracks were chosen, or what significance they have. My guess is that Joshua and Johnson were given access to the vaults, and chose songs that would make for the best mix. However, is there a chronological aspect? Is there an attempt to show the way the music developed, from its more disco origins to its later acid period?

The songs here are simply awesome, probably not classic tracks from the label or period. But, these cuts have a more mechanical, drum machine sound, house stripped down and raw. In fact, "The Jungle" really sounds like a hip-house song, as the rap has that wordy, monotous feel of so many classic early rap tracks. Damn, you need these in your life. Grab the full 3CD set here, just in time for your summer parties and late-night dancing. Oh, and remind me to discuss Screamin' Rachael, as she is a pivotal figure in Chicago house and Trax Records, one of those names that gets lost over time.

For real, this shit really does fit in so perfectly with Pound for Pound's interests, that period from the late 70s to the late 80s, when house, post-punk, electro, new-wave, Miami bass, no-wave, all sorts of shit bubbled up in that period in all of the great cities. I'm trying to figure out if there is a common thread to these genres, at least something that doesn't sound forced. I was thinking that they all were open to any sound, whether disco, rap, punk, pop. Or that they were comfortable with the dance floor, sex, filthiness. Or that they all turned away from the human to the more mechanical drum machines, computers and angular chords. (Yes, the last two are probably mutually exclusive, just brainstorming here.) Or is that the scenes were open and diverse for the first time, building on the house disco built with gay and straight, black and white. I think that this one will be destroyed by smart minds, as I know that this is a very idealistic view of the times.

What do you guys and girls think?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hot Chip - The Warning

Hot Chip, "Boys From School"

Hot Chip, "The Warning"

Maaaang, I've been waiting to talk about this one for awhile, another early contender for album of the year. I've been talking a lot about DFA lately, but perhaps the most impressive of that entire scene is Hot Chip. I caught them a few months back at Making Time and was blown away, stunned at how danceable this live band was, how perfect they fit in with the electro, new wave, new-disco sounds that were being spun. Now, their second album, The Warning, has dropped and the boys have taken things to the next level.

The Warning doesn't see the South London boys taking any huge chances, it's more perfecting and choosing a direction with their music. The hip-hop elements are toned down a bit, as the boys have let their love for synths and handclaps and microsounds to dominate this time. At the same time, there is less delicacy to the sounds here than on their debut, Coming On Strong, as things seem more driven, propulsive and energetic this time around. To me, it's a damn near perfect album, a great electronic pop album that never dumbs down its sound. The band writes songs that stick in your head, anthems almost, but each song dives off into different parts. The entire album has a nice mix of the upbeat, energetic songs, the ballad-y types and the experimental ones.

Sean Fennessy has a great review of the album in Pitchfork, cementing himself as one of the most reliable, intelligent critics writing today. The Daily Growl, Neiles Life, Can you see the sunset from the southside?, Silence Is A Rhythm Too, headphone sex, Blog pop and funfunfun all have more on the album. Buy it here, as it is another Top 1o candidate for me and a must-hear.

-I tried to catch the French game yesterday vs. Switzerland, but the Time Warner TIVO jawn wacked out. It looks like I didn't miss much, with no goal scores by either team in 90 minutes. This has been a bad start for teams that I am pulling for, although the France is still in good shape since Switzerland was the other favorite in their group.

-To help me forget about a boring French game with no goals, here is a compilation of Zinedine Zidane's greatest goals for France and Real Madrid. Or this longer and more strangely sountracked one. Oh hell, this one too, with a great French song and nice replays of each goal. One of my all-time favorite players, "Zizzou" puts the beautiful in the beautiful game, his passes are brilliant, his moves as creative as anyone ever, and he scores goals that matter (cf the two versus Brazil in the '98 World Cup Final).

-There's a great jazz show in Philly tonight, focusing on the avant jazz scene of Europe. Tonight, Day and Taxi and the Veryan Weston Quartet perform at the Rose Recital Hall [Room 418] at UPenn. That's in Bennett Hall at the corner of 34th and Walnut, shout out to all my fellow UPenn English majors. City Paper has a preview, in case you don't trust my recommendation. It's another Ars Nova production, for the record.

-I will not be there, as I am going to the sold-out Sonic Youth show at the Starlight Ballroom, which I have been waiting weeks for. I cannot wait to the see the band in as intimate a venue as I probably ever will, with new material and a packed house. I'll report back tomorrow on all of that goes down, hang loose til then.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Trax Records - The 20th Anniversary Collection Part 1

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Mr. Fingers feat. Robert Owens, "Can You Feel It [alternate mix]"

Mr. Lee, "House This House"

Farley "Jackmaster" Funk, "Jack The Bass"

Maurice, "This Is Acid (radio mix)"

The Housemaster Boyz, "House Nation"

Deeper into Chicago house we go, this time taking a look at one of, if not the, most important label of the music, Trax Records. The label was begun in 1983/4, when Larry Sherman bought the only Chicago vinyl record pressing plant in the city. He soon was attracting some of the most creative people in the city, who were putting together a new sound influenced by disco, new wave and the avant garde. This meeting created a label and the music finally had its source of vinyl and legitimacy.

I'm going to get more into the Chicago house scene in the next post or two, but just wanted to give the background of Trax Records that I know. This is the starting point for recorded house music, giving it its start and some of its most famous hits, like Adonis' "No Way Back" and Larry Heard's "Can You Feel It." It helped take the music out of Chicago and bring it to a worldwide stage.

The songs above come from Disc 1, which is mixed by Trax Records' Maurice Joshua and Paul Johnson. I decided to give you a little taste of the mix, a few songs right in a row. While it doesn't make for the best uploading, this mix sequence is perfect listening. It helps replicate the club feel, that continuous vibe that keeps you moving and engaged. I think that these might be my favorite songs that we've looked at so far, ones that have clearly stepped further from the disco model than anything else. First off, the vocals start to become more robotic and masculine, less diva-centric and uplifting. The beats become more mechanical, losing the strings and Broadway/Philly Soul influences, in favor of European synth/new wave. They stripped disco down, let more darkness in and created something more removed and interesting to my ears. Much more to come on this compilation, beliedat.

Cat Power at Townhall Saturday 6-10-06

Cat Power, "I Don't Blame You"

Cat Power, "I Found A Reason"

Cat Power, "He Was A Friend of Mine"

I had the good fortune of attending the Cat Power show this past Saturday at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan. I try not to engage in hyperbole, so that when I say something was one of the best concerts I've ever seen, people know this is a big deal. I've been trying to think of the perfect words to convey how great this night was, but I haven't felt up to the challenge. I'm probably still not up to it, but there is something to be said for relevance.

Let's see, first off, it was my first show at Town Hall, a beautiful, old theater that seems best suited for plays and musicals. I've always been of the school that music should be heard standing up in a dingy, hot, sweaty club. Perhaps reflecting my increasing age, I found this seated show in a beautiful building amazing, a great change of pace, perfect for quieter music. We got there around 8:30. Our seats were up front, thanks to the speedy Internet finger of MC, four rows back, stage left. This is the closest I've been for anything, at least since I saw Rent in the second row at the Merriam Theater. What's that? Yes, that's a musical, popular with teen girls. Men who can admit that? The new black.

Anyway, things got started around 9:30, as the backing band, The Memphis Rhythm Band, took their places on stage. They preceded to play two songs, including what sounded like an instrumental version of the Grateful Dead's "Sugaree." The band was bigger than expected, with two backup singers, a keyboardist, two horns, three violins, one guitar, one bass and drums. The music was a bluesy, R&B sound, louder and more rocking than the music on The Greatest.

Chan Marshall soon came on stage, opening with "The Greatest." I'm not good at remembering sequence of songs, as I never remember to bring a pen and paper to jot that info down. So, all I'll say is that this was one of the best shows I've ever seen, cementing Cat Power's place in my heart forever. I'm sure that everyone has heard the stories of her erratic behavior at shows, her stage fright, her eccentricites. What we got Saturday was a talented, brilliant woman, one who gets nervous and is unable to hide those nerves, playing with her hair, doing weird dances, waving to friends in the audience. Her nervous tics were endearing, what I imagine I would do to take my mind off of the large crowd hanging on my every word. Then, when it was her turn to sing, she would completely stun me, her voice leaving me spellbound the entire night.

The concert can be broken up into three parts, starting with the full band doing material from The Greatest. Then, in what seemed like the encore, Chan did a solo set on the piano, doing covers of Nina Simone's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes," "House of Rising Sun" and others. Unbelievably, the whole band came back out for a few more songs, before Chan did one last song on the piano to thank the audience, making this a nearly two hour show with the too many encores to count. The crowd gave more than one standing ovation, so I know that I was not the only one blown away.

I won't keep going on and on here, as you know my love for Cat Power already. I do want to add one little story to the mix, as I think it shows that Chan shares these feelings and might even read Pound for Pound. After the band came back out for the second set of encores and played, they all lined up at the front of the stage for a bow. The show was over, the band was leaving the stage. Suddenly, Marshall walked to the piano to play one last song to thank everyone. What did she play? That's right, my favorite song, "I Don't Blame You." Coincidence? I don't think so either. I mean, the show is over, she plays one quick number that's from an older album that just so happens to be my favorite song.

She has a few more dates left in June and July, including tomorrow night in D.C. Go buy her new album, which is definitely gonna be on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. Chan, holler at your bol, as I've set up June as your month in the calendar and I'd like to generally establish Pound for Pound as a safe place for you to come. More to come on her.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Herbert - Scale

Herbert, "Something Isn't Right"

Herbert, "Down"

Continuing our look at those working in the disco/house vein currently, I would be remiss to not mention Herbert's new album, Scale. Herbert came to my attention a few years back as someone bringing the avant garde to house music, an anomaly in the increasingly commercial, club-oriented music. The main technique that brought him this attention was his use of the sounds of everyday life and the real world. Known as musique concrete, its practitioners use the sounds of the real world to create their music. In Herbert's case, his sound sources could be anything. He has made an entire album from the sounds of the kitchen, he's created dance tracks from the sound of styrofoam crumpling. I tend to find this style to be more impressive in theory, as it usually doesn't make much impact if the song doesn't work.

Herbert has put together a decent album, which nicely acknowledges the strings and horns roots of disco, unafraid of sounding full, lush and sincere. However, it tends to be too pretty, too perfect throughout. It's odd because Herbert has become more political over the past few years, more willing to put in his music his feelings of despair and disgust at the state of the world. On the second track, "Movers and Shakers," one gets this line, "I just don't know how to bring about your downfall/ Damn fool/ Go figure out/ How those Christian bones/ Can orchestrate/ Shock and awe." Yet, there is no sense of upheaval or static, no anger in the music on the album.

What does stand out is singer Dani Siciliano, who stars on this album. She has a wonderful voice, and really can adapt to any type of song or mood, the next woman in line fore greater attention this year, I hope. The strings and horns are great to hear, as it's nice to hear that minimal isn't the only thing people are playing today. However, as much as it harkens back to the days of disco, it doesn't seem to have the same ecstatic quality, the music never really lets loose. I think that gets to the heart of my problem with this album; it suffers from too much thinking, too much thinking is needed to enjoy this. I know that this may sound like anti-intellectual sentiment, and maybe it is. But, there is something to be said for the immediacy, the abandon that great music has, especially the best of dance music. My favorite track on the album, "Down," achieves this, bringing a dirty sexuality to the mix. "Something Isn't Right" is quite good, as catchy and hypnotic as a political song could ever hope to be.

Jess Harvell of Pitchfork has the complete opposite opinion, praising it as one of the best albums of the year. Silence Is A Rhythm Too, Analog Giant, Macktronic, marathonpacks, scissorkicks and Green Pea-ness all have spoken and uploaded about this album. Go here and buy the album and see which side you come down on.

-I wasted a few hours watching the U.S. get their asses handed to them by the Czech Republic, 3-0. Playing in the "Group of Death," this is a devastating start and means it will take a miracle to advance to the second round. The team played awfully, as no one showed up or even looked like they gave a shit. To erase the memories of this game, watch this video of Holland coach Marco Van Basten's greatest goals. Special attention has to be paid to this goal in the '88 European Championships, arguably the greatest goal of all-time. I might put my vote in for this one he scored with Ajax.

-It's been a good time lately for Pee Wee Herman fans. First, as we mentioned last week, Adult Swim will be re-running Pee Wee's Playhouse nightly, starting next month. Now, we learn that the man behind Pee Wee, the brilliant Paul Reubens, will be starring in the new Raconteurs video for their song "Steady, As She Goes."

-Remember that song that was playing during Marissa's death scene in The OC? It was a new version of "Hallelujah," sung by Imogen Heap. m3 online has that version, along with the original by Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley's version. Add to that a few extra Heap tracks, and you've got yourself a great post. Also, make sure to head over to My Old Kentucky Home and grab the various cover versions of "Hallelujah" Dodge compiled. You'd be amazed at how many versions there are of one of the greatest songs of all-time. I don't know if anyone could top Cohen or Buckley, though.

Bob Dylan Sunday - Blood On The Tracks New York Sessions

Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks New York Session (unlimited downloads)

I've been listening to Blood On The Tracks for the past few days, so it seemed like the perfect time to shine some light on one of the greatest albums ever, bar none. Amazingly, I don't know if I'd say that it's Bob Dylan's greatest album, which should indicate the level of esteem I have for the man and the heights that he has reached in his career. Blood On The Tracks is an amazing collection of songs that deal with the pain and anguish caused by the breakup of his first marriage, or so it is said. It's dark, angry, nostalgic, sad, all of that over the course of 51 minutes, a work that still sounds amazing and overwhelming 30 years later.

What we have here is the original version of Blood On The Tracks, the tracks recorded in New York City that were scheduled to be released as the album. However, Dylan decided to re-do the album, heading to Minneapolis to record with a band of local musicians. He came up with 5 new versions of 10 of the tracks, and that would give us the album that we all know and love. This CD comes from the original test pressing of the New York sessions, giving us a chance to hear the album that Dylan and Columbia Records originally expected to release.

For me, "Idiot Wind" most clearly distinguishes the two sessions, as this NYC version is somber, more sad than bitter. The official release, which was cut in Minneapolis, is angry, bitter, acidic. I cannot choose the better version, they both seem perfect and fitting, the different feelings mirroring the tumult of a failed relationship. Then, there is the changed line in "If You See Her, Say Hello", as he originally says to the new man, "If you're making love to her/Kiss her for the kid." This becomes "If you get close to her, kiss her once for me" in the official version, a subtle, but telling, difference. The original line seems so much more human, unable to not ponder the worst possibilities for the woman he once loved no matter how painful. G-d, what a song, for real.

Make sure to listen to the opening of "Shelter from the Storm", as you can hear the buttons from Dylan's jacket hitting the guitar strings. Ellen Bernstein says of the recording of this album, "There were certain ones where you can hear the sound of his fingernails on the guitar. That didn't matter to him. None of that stuff was important to him. What was important was the overall weight of the song." I always come back to this with Dylan, that sense of imperfection, whether its his voice or the sound or the lyrics, his music revelled in the ugly, the dirt, the ignored. It's something that I fear we've lost in this digital age of music, where imperfections are taken out, are abhorred.

I don't think that I am knowledgeable enough to discuss the differences between the two recording sessions. If you do not own the official release, you have to go and buy it ASAP. There is no excuse not to have this album in your life. You can get more info on the recording at Bob's Boots. Read this amazing essay by Pete Hamill that was on the back of the original LP. After that, read this Wikipedia entry on the making of the album. I hope that a knowledgeable Dylan fan can correct any errors in that entry, or tell us more about the whole story behind the music.

I don't know if any other artist has ever hit me as hard as Dylan, Blood On The Tracks being one of his most devastating blows. I hope that everyone gives this a listen, leave your thoughts if you want.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Move Your Body Part 2

Marshall Jefferson, "Move Your Body"

Ralph Rosario, "You Used to Hold Me"

Hercules, "7 Ways To Jack"

Farley Jackmaster Funk, "Love Can't Turn Around"

As promised, here is the look at the second disc of Move Your Body: The Evolution of Chicago House. It's another great mix, although I'm not sure that here the same evolution on this disc, as most of the music sounds similar throughout. Whatever, that doesn't take away from how good some of these songs are. It's only fitting that the song the compilation is named for, made by the man who put together the compilation, "Move Your Body" by Marshall Jefferson, is a standout.

It's a really amazing compilation, but I must say that it doesn't seem to be as representative of the Chicago house sound as I thought. There seems to be much more of a post-disco sound than anything, as a lot of the tracks have that lush, ecstatic sound that one associates with disco. While that was a huge part of the early house sound, the European influences like Kraftwerk are not evident on these 2 CDs, and that was one of the big additions that guys like Frankie Knuckles brought to the disco. In fact, it's one of the parts that most appeals to me, as house began to become more mechanical and robotic, away from the humanity of disco. It sits right between disco and techno, simultaneously human and machine, emotional and distant, I think the next compilation, Trax Records: The 20th Anniversary Collection, will show a little more of that side, and give us a chance to discuss the history of the music and scene more.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Gorillaz - Dare and the Remixes

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Gorillaz, "Dare"

Gorillaz, "Dare (Soulwax remix)"

Gorillaz, "Dare (DFA remix)"

Okay, I'm gonna try to make up for the light posting recently, and stick it to that blogger asshole, by doubling up each with posts dedicated to both classic dance music and the newer shit that the kids love. First up, this nice track off the most recent Gorillaz album, Demon Days. "Dare" was one of the better singles, as I can't say that I thought this album was chock full of them like the first one. No fear, as Soulwax and DFA boys come to the rescue to give us triple the pleasure.

The original is dancefloor-ready, with a nice big farting bass line, soaring vocals from and synths galore. It's a great track, I don't know if either of the two remixes top it, to be honest. Soulwax, a.k.a. the guys behind the infamous 2 Many DJs series, strip the original down, replacing that huge bass with something more subdued. They also bring out the percussion, with a dubbier feel. DFA really make the song their own, stretching it out as they are wont to do, yet never sacrificing the groove. They take the synth out, as far as I can tell, make the vocals more imprtant, and that all really makes a difference. It's a toss-up, as this remix gets better with each listen. Let me know what you think.

-Huge event this weekend in Philly, as Making Time celebrates its 6th anniversary. For the occasion, they have !!! (chik-chik-chik) performing, along with Lansing Dreiden. The usual line-up of DJs are gonna be there, which is more than enough. For those who have been enjoying the music at Pound for Pound this week, make sure to hit up the basement where Beats in Space's Tim Sweeney, Julian S. Process and Adam Sparkles will be spinning the house, electro, new disco shit that we've been looking at.

-Speaking of Tim Sweeney, he has a new 12" release on RVNG under the pseudonym The Flying Squad. It's limited to 1000 copies, so act fast. It also appears to be the first in a new series called RVNG of the NRDS, and you gotta support anyone willing to reference the classic 1984 comedy. Go there and grab a copy as soon as possible, as you need this stuff in your life.

-Philly is bananas this weekend, so much to do. Hip-hop BBQ, cycling race, Cat Power Sunday night, Reagan Disko Headache. Let's hope the rain holds off, as these events deserve some beautiful weather.