Items and things
Hello, and happy 2007. I intend, at some point, to grind out parts 2 and 3 of the End of Year Review begun below, but for now, content yourself with some '06 nuggets still hitting home....
...We've been pretty tight on our mp3 postage in the last few months, mainly to try to lead by example and promote a bit of respect for the artists (often claimed, but all too rarely displayed) whose long-term prospects we boost, but short-term profits are frequently liable to extinguish. Remember, you don't have to spend £7.99 on a 12" to hear a tune, mp3 shops like Kompakt-mp3 are totally on it and will supply you with upfront gear for mere pocket change. We more than anyone understand the value of mp3 blogs and the tunes they supply, but none of us should really be taking the piss as we (or certainly I) did in '06.
That said, I will have a great deal of fresh bits 'n pieces for you in the coming months; I'm going to continue to use YSI because, despite being unreliable, it puts an automatic limit on downloads and its sheer awkwardness means that only a few beardy cats will be patient enough to download the mp3s. Not a logical strategy, I grant you. Anyway, you'll have to be nerd-early to get hold of tracks, so bookmark us in your browser and in your mind.
For now, let's look to the (recent) past for inspiration.
First up, a clicky bomb from Steve Barnes, aka Cosmic Sandwich. I'm lazy above all things, so by way of annotation/explication here's the review I wrote of the 12" for RA:
Ever since his 2004 tech-disco smash ‘Cosmic Sandwich’, which conquered dancefloors in both its original and remixed form (courtesy of Dominik Eulberg), Steve Barnes has taken that track’s title as his primary production moniker (releases still appear under his own name, and his Process guise). It’s been a reasonably quiet year for Barnes so far, despite having remixed Hot Chip to, well, uninspiring effect, and having commissioned versions of his own 2005 belter ‘Man in A Box’ from the talented likes of Patrick Chardronnet and Andre Kraml, so this new 12” on Cologne’s My Best Friend arrives to a real rustle of underground anticipation.
Well, the first thing to say is that neither track on this excellent record lives up to the mighty ‘Cosmic Sandwich’, and nor should they be expected to. That track emerged at the right time, and at the right place, fashioning something perfectly discerning and original out of familiar components, while Eulberg’s epic reimagining upped the warp factor to the point of darkest ecstasy and remains, arguably, the German’s finest moment. Both those versions have been, if not copied, then absorbed into the language of modern 4x4 production, a curse and an accolade that is unlikely to be repeated.
The eponymous A-side to ‘Battle Twig’ is, nonetheless, an entirely satisfying affair – dubby but sharp minimal house that, rhythmically-speaking, favours disco snap over techno thud, but is full of the kind of hyperactive edits and gritty, squiggling computer melodies that make it a worthy tool to have in your box. It’s not, however, one of those tunes that’ll have people coming up to you and asking, “What’s this?”
There’s a concerted shift in style for ‘Scatter Realm’ on the flip; while ‘Battle Twig’ is a deliberately sparse, uncompromising groove (no bad thing), the B-side recalls DJ T’s finest moments – tasteful electro-house with plenty of melody and beef, and a high-pitched synth motif appearing two minutes in that’ll put smiles on faces any time of day or night.In short, a top-notch 12” which fails to eclipse Barnes’ finest work, but blows a fair few of his so-called contemporaries out of the water. If you dug ‘Man in a Box’, get your mitts on this.
Cosmic Sandwich - Battle Twig // MBF
Ok, next up one of my favourite floor-rocking producers, Mr Axel Bartsch. Axel's label Sportclub put out some not-too-shabby 12"s last year (his own 'Raubertochter' is a belter of a track), but it's various issues on Kompakt and its sublabels that have most intrigued and satisfied. 'Shifting' is the B-side to Speicher 41 (the A-side belongs to Bartsch as well), and it's a moody cruiser you shouldn't be without.
Axel Bartsch - Shifting // Kompakt Extra
And for dessert, the fourth and probably finest track off Minus Allstars' Spaceships & Pings EP. Again, I'm a lazy fuck, so here's the RA review I did (though admittedly only one or two sentences deal with the tune in question):
The M_nus Allstars – that is, M_nus regulars/Run Stop Restore trio Troy Pierce (pictured left), Magda and Marc Houle, along with Wagon Repair main man Konrad Black – inaugurate their new label Items & Things with a stunning EP, ‘Spaceships & Pings’. Black, who scored a massive underground hit last year with his gothic electro-houser ‘Medusa Smile (Don’t Look Back)’, kicks off this 12” with the appropriately named ‘Coma Couch Surfing’. A real departure both from his usual bolshier fare and the rigorously minimal M_nus sound, the track is a cosmic disco cruiser that you might more readily attribute to Lindstrom or Kirk DeGiorgio – with an addictive bass melody and dreamy, swirling synth sounds, this will surely go down well at your more discerning afterparties. So while Konrad Black provides the ‘spaceships’ of the title, the mighty Marc Houle takes it upon himself to deal with the ‘pings’ – his ‘Kicker’ is a tough, insidiously funky tech-houser that sounds at times like a malfunctioning arcade game (in a good way) and has bass drops and scuzzy acid lines to die for. Magda too takes a break from her usual trackier productions, providing a masterful, minimalist take on electro with ‘Black Leather Wonder’ that isn’t a million miles away from classic Autechre. But it’s the closing effort from Troy Pierce that makes this package essential – ‘The Day After Yesterday’ is a plaintive, bare bones house workout, with a strung-out soul vocal and an ascending, almost trancey melody that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Get Physical or Innervisions release. It’s extremely unusual but extremely effective.
Troy Pierce - The Day After Yesterday // Items & Things