Sunday, January 28, 2007

Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future

It’s a good omen for 2007 that the year has been kicked into life by an album more concerned with breakdowns and euphoria than limp ska and meat’n’veg punk. Odd though that it’s a rock album. The Klaxons’ "Myths of the Near Future" is a thunderbolt of indie pop lasting a little under 40 minutes and boasting a clutch of potential singles fit to chase the last stragglers out of the manufactured pop party.

Dubbing themselves 'new rave' in collusion with the NME, Klaxons have pulled off that most spectacular of feats and actually gone boldly against the numb prevailing wind of angular post-punk fashion. The very idea of such a bold identity in such self-conscious times is enough to inspire change and this feels like an important album for that reason alone.

What seems to be puzzling most commentators is quite what they have to do with the last great spontaneous youth revolution of less media-literate times. They don't sound 'rave', in fact they recall nothing quite so much as the melodic Brit indie of the late 80s/early 90s - hardly a hip reference point. True, "Atlantis To Interzone" features air-horns and the album includes their cover of mid-nineties house anthem "It's Not Over Yet" by Grace. But, by-and-large, Klaxons' fundamentally conservative modus operandi manages to remind us just how innovative the Fisher Price anthems of '92 actually were.

If there's rave afoot here, it's in the band's valiant attempt to topple the self-awareness that set in when retrograde old rock'n'roll smugly triumphed over dance music's final bloated emissions at the turn of the century. Klaxons are clearly utopian in their adoption of the literary language of Pynchon and Ballard and its the embrace of futures possible that really aligns them with the spirit of rave. A point missed by some observers, keen to discredit their failure to measure up to rave aesthetics. (There are obvious parallels between this branch of utopianism, arriving as it does whilst we’re counting out the days remaining under Blair, and rave's utopian party in the last days of the Thatcher era).

Away from the stage-focused scrutiny of the indie gig but not quite back to the ego-free immersion into the synchronized whole of the dancefloor, there's an awkwardness to this band lodged between the past and future. You can hear the friction in the music. But that's where the adrenaline in their otherwise fairly formal - and often very good - songwriting has come from. Luckily for them, their more recent creations are arguably even better, stripped of obvious Rave signifiers. Latest single "Golden Skans" - an ode to the hi-tech lights that decorated raves the Klaxons aren't old enough to remember - surges with enough spine-tingling joy to match any amount of piano house.

Consider then that this band only formed a little more than a year ago and you can only hope that the hypermedia of 2007 doesn't burn them out before they get really good.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Some recent highlights

Ultramagnetic MCs – “Nottz” (Fat Beats, New York)
The ’88 LP, “Critical Beatdown”, introduced the world to the unique talents and twisted imagination of former psychiatric patient Kool Keith who you may know better as Dr. Ogtagon or Mr. Gerbik, Rhythm X, Dr. Dooom… It was the first of three LPs the group recorded before splitting in the mid-nineties when Keith’s solo LP, “Dr Octagonecologyst”, was brought to the world’s attention by UK label Mo Wax. “Nottz” is the first release of the reformed Bronx crew with the album “The Best Kept Secret” apparently due soon, although no UK release details have emerged yet. “Knots” finds Kool Keith rhyming with more conviction and focus than on last year’s Dr Octagon follow-up.

Duke Spirit – A House Is Not A Motel (Pure Groove, London)
Released on a limited 7” – all long gone now but still available digitally – Duke Spirit recorded this tribute to the recently departed Arthur Lee, of 60s west coast psychedelic giants Love, as a prelude to their forthcoming second album. Unlike the flipside’s droney, Mazzy Star-esque take on Desmond Dekker’s “007”, “A House Is Not A Motel” is surprisingly deferential and succeeds not by reconfiguring the original but reinvigorating the familiarity with plenty of passion.

Clipse – Wamp Wamp (Reckless, Chicago)
It’s not every day that Chicago indie temple Reckless Records champions hip hop, so when they do you know that the act in question has made that rare leap into US hipster territory. At the end of 2006, Virginia brothers Clipse were the crack rap name on every Pitchfork reader’s lips as they finally unleashed the much-delayed follow up to their excellent 2002 debut, “Lord Willin’”. Once again produced in full by childhood friends The Neptunes, “Hell Hath No Fury” was even better and proved that the super producers hadn’t lost it after all. Or at least, they’d unlocked some vintage beats from their vaults.

Samim – Hardma (Unfinished Sympathy Mix) (Hard Wax, Berlin)
Few people make reduced club music as poised and groove-laden as Swiss-born, Berlin-based producer Samim, known for releases on Tuning Spork and Get Physical. Last year’s remix of Magnetic Base’s “Mad Racket” was a favourite here and this latest selection from Hard Wax hits similar buttons with an irresistible combination of shuffling yet tight programming and an innate understanding of club dynamics.

Dr. Victor Olaiya - Omelebele (Crocodisc, Paris)
Taken from a reissued compilation on the Damon Albarn-backed Honest Jon’s label this track from Nigerian trumpet player, Dr. Victor Olaiya, owes a huge debt to the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti. Best-known for 50s releases in the Nigerian and Ghanaian style of Highlife, the doctor’s take on Afrobeat just keeps on grooving on the spot until the players sound like they’re in danger of wearing a hole in the ground beneath their feet.

A Hawk And A Hacksaw - In The River (Missing Link, Melbourne)
From Albuquerque, AHAAH are the brainchild of Jeremy Barnes – one-time drummer with alt. favourites Neutral Milk Hotel. Taken from the album “The Way The Wind Blows”, released late last year, “In The River”, delivers on Barnes’ increasing immersion in Balkan folk, with “In The River” awash with gypsy elements, accordion and marching drums. As well as mariachi trumpets, thrown in for good measure. If you enjoyed the feted “Gulag Orkestar” album by Beirut which topped so many of last year’s polls, this’ll keep you fixed up… and not simply because Beirut’s Zach Condon plays on the album.

Entrance - Grim Reaper Blues (Missing Link, Melbourne)
From Chicago but fitting in perfectly amongst the glut of electrified psych rock currently flooding from various Californian bands - all operating within six degrees of separation from the peerless Comets On Fire - Guy Blakeslee channels the Blues into seriously wigged-out territory. It all adds up to the closest thing we have to Led Zeppelin in 2007 and for that we’re grateful.

Ray Darwin - People’s Choice (Aquarius, Kingston)
From Aquarius Records in Jamaica, this 7” from Ray Darwin is a huge smash in Kingston’s dancehalls and we love it. A simple, honest roots tune.

Len Faki – Rainbow Delta (Hard Wax, Berlin)
Something from Hard Wax that should appeal to both the techno camp as well as anyone that appreciates the art of beautifully crafted house music. Len Faki is a resident at Berlin’s clubbing temple, Panorama Bar, and this has the sound of dancing in daylight written all over it. “Rainbow Delta” fits easily into the warm, deep sounds mined by Dixon and the Innervision crew, currently introducing deep house to German dancefloors.

Pas/Cal – The Lot We Came Home With (Reckless, Chicago)
An irresistibly melodic blast of US indie to close our pick of January’s highlights, from Detroit’s Pas/Cal. This sounds like Belle & Sebastian playing Beach Boys covers, a bit wet perhaps, but so what?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

We love Jan Jelinek

With some of our favourite record shops - Small Fish in London, Reckless in Chicago and Missing Link in Australia - all avowed fans of Jan Jelinek’s new record, "Tierbeobachtungen" we thought it was time for Tunetourist to doff a cap to the genius Berlin soundman. In fact, no lesser authority than David Bowie recently praised Jelinek’s ‘bewitching’ music in print. For those unfamiliar with these beautifully loping, looping, swirling and pulsing productions, here's a quick bluffer's guide.

A philosophy and sociology student from Berlin who began releasing records straight out of university, Jelinek doesn't exactly conform to the techno dandy stereotype of the average Berlin producer-DJ. In fact, the academic analogy is a useful one as his evolution has tended towards an ever-closer analysis of the properties of sounds - their textures, weight, impact and interrelationships.

But this is anything but rigid academic music. Last year's "Kosmischer Pitch” paid homage to the circulatory patterns and repetition of 70s Krautrock and it saw Jelinek's music drift as far from the cold technical perfections of electronica as any other release in the genre, with the possible exception of Boards of Canada's underrated organic opus, "The Campfire Headphase". Incorporating sampled instruments into gradually shifting loops, he nails the texture of 70s German psychedelia and magnifies its character leaving compositions that sound like the reverb and echo of Can's studio after the band have left for the night.

Jelinek's repetition is hardly propulsive in the manner of the Krautrock motorik, though. In fact, driving your car to this stuff should probably carry the same penalties as after a bottle of scotch. Instead, it is woozy and disorientating, creating a push pull effect that simulates the most elemental human patterns: sleeping, breathing and eating. With beats absent on his most recent release, "Tierbeobachtungen", dynamics and texture alone propel the music, making for a trickier entry point than earlier releases under his Farben moniker. If you’re new to him, try searching for these in your local digital emporium:

"Farben Says So Much Love" from "Textstar" by Farben
"Tendency" from "Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records by Jan Jelinek
"Lithiummelodie 1" from "Kosmischer Pitch" by Jan Jelinek
"Universal Band Silhouette" from "Kosmischer Pitch" by Jan Jelinek
"The Ballad Of Soap Und: Die Gema Nimmt Kontakt Auf" from "Tierbeobachtungen" by Jan Jelinek

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Check this one: Black Milk

A new feature for 2007, each month we'll be selecting at least one artist that we think may just brighten up these dark days. For January we're singling out MC-producer Black Milk, from the Midwest hip hop scene that spawned the late J Dilla.

A Detroit native, he hasn't even celebrated his 25th birthday yet but is already shaping up as the scene's most exciting fresh talent. Known to his mum as Curtis Cross, his beats have graced tracks by Proof, Pharoahe Monch, Slum Village, Lloyd Banks and others. In March he releases a second solo LP, "Popular Demand", and we're guessing it'll be the one to get his name out there.

Those looking for a fix of the sampladelic goodness that oozed from Dilla's "Donuts" LP last year need look no further than the latest releases being pushed by New York-based underground hip hop uber-store, Fat Beats. They put out the "Broken Wax EP" which features the brilliant "Pressure" and are going to be the label behind the forthcoming LP.

Fat Beats
Black Milk on MySpace
Black Milk interview on YouTube