Monday, 30 January 2012


I hate the term "Deadmonton". I like to think that despite our city's small population and geographical isolation from any sort of relevant cultural hub, that we can still be a force when it comes to music. I feel as though there are enough people here with enough knowledge and awareness to create a thriving scene where inspired bookings, lesser-known acts and underground shows can flourish amidst mid-sized, but utterly enthusiastic and grateful crowds of partygoers. I felt that perhaps a paradigm shift was underway within the city. I know that I have matured not only as a person, but as a consumer of music as well. I have also met many more who share my sentiments of late, for which I am thankful for.

It's difficult however, to remain faithful after what I saw on Saturday night. Or rather, what I didn't see: people. I didn't see people on Saturday night. Normally this is not uncommon, for one side effect of getting older seems to be a "pickiness" when it comes to most things. Music is certainly one of those things to which I have become overly picky. Some may call it "jaded", others may say "bitter"... and perhaps those are accurate descriptors for what I have become. In any means, as a result, I am more selective in what I would constitute as "a fun night out". So needless to say, this has resulted in less and less excursions into the clubs I used to frequent on Saturday nights. Therefore, I do not often see many "people" on Saturdays.

Last Saturday however, was different. A very talented young producer/ DJ who goes by the name of J Phlip, was in town. Unfortunately, I have somewhat neglected to mention her in depth in this blog. Two of her tracks, "Sleazy Pancakes" and "Fever" were on my radar for the top 100 tracks list, but came up just short. She also released a very good mix for DJ Mag which I enjoyed quite a bit. However, by most accounts, it was a quiet 2011 for the dirtybird DJ. Most of her best work came in the previous two years, from a productions standpoint. The only thing that I can refer to, was that I had her at number 42 on my top 50 DJs/ Producers list. Hardly a very positive story, and one that I wish I had a chance to rectify.

Upon hearing the announcement of her appearance at Level 2 however, I immediately jumped into action. I had not heard a live set, or even a youtube video of her DJing live, but I knew that this would be a show to see. I posted all the information I could on this blog a few weeks ago. Yet despite my best efforts, it was hard to find decent footage from her shows. There was one common theme however amongst the poor-quality and overly distorted camera and cell phone uploads that sparsely littered youtube: all the comments pointed to the fact that she was an AMAZING DJ. Everyone who had seen her, had nothing but very, very positive things to say about her shows.

Taking that into account, I knew I had to catch her. The whole reason behind the "Deadmonton" title however, was the fact that there was literally no more than 20 people at the venue. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. Here is one of dirtybird's most prominent and established stars, and twenty people show up? No, check that, twenty people show up, then some of them leave ten minutes into her set. That would be very disappointing to any performer. I can only imagine coming from cities like Chicago, San Francisco and Berlin (all cities she either has, or currently lives in) to Edmonton, only to find that nobody showed up for your show. Most DJs would probably be noticeably perturbed, many might play shortened sets, some might not even play at all. Fortunately J Phlip showed a lot of class throughout the entire night. She not only socialized extensively with the crowd before the show, she actually played for two and half hours!

Despite the limited numbers, everyone who was present understood how fortunate that we were to be seeing one of dance music's best kept secrets. The set itself was nothing short of masterful. She eased into the empty dance floor, and mostly lethargic crowd with a few deep house cuts, then upped the intensity (and the tempo) quickly, until three or four tracks in, she had completely won the crowd. Soon into the set she played the dance floor destroyer "Booty Clap" by Kill Frenzy, which naturally went down well with the sparse but energetic (and highly motivated) crowd.

From there she continued to throttle the tempo with an effortless transition into banging 808 techno/ electro. The energy reached a fevered pitch as each track either built upon, or sustained the momentum that she crafted seemingly out of no where. After about 30 minutes of straight jump/ dancing, as elicited by the rave-beat techno, people began to sit, or exit for some air. The set then changed it's direction to a slower pace. Less intense jackin' house became the order for the next twenty minutes or so, while people regained their energy and ventured back in from the outside. Despite the quality music expertly being played, it was still very apparent that there was as few as seven people on the dance floor at one particular time. For a little while it seemed as though no matter how good J Phlip was, there was just too few people to make a good show. The set seemed as though it had already reached it's brilliant and fleeting peak less than a half hour in. Despite the good tunes, there was a struggle between DJ and crowd to find a common ground.

With that said, props to both her and the crowd for giving absolutely everything they had. Once everyone mustered the energy back up, she was only all too happy do the same. From that point, we were treated to a feast of bass. For the next hour and a bit, she put us through a gauntlet of bass infused house like Justin Martin and Ardalan's "Lezgo", while seamlessly transitioning into old school west coast breaks and break-beat techno. She took full advantage of each track, using extremely long blends to create new tracks, and careful EQing tricks to create accapella's and mash-ups. The crowd was all too appreciative, shouting and exclaiming with every drop.

From there she played a very crowd pleasing stretch of "big room" "anthemic" cuts. Despite the propensity for music of this style to be "uninspired" or "generic", everything she played was very original and intelligent sounding, without ever degrading into cheezy territory. But it was the last half hour-forty minutes that were truly the best. At this point the tempo had dropped, but the beats took on a hypnotic nature. The crowd at this point was completely invested in the set and responding appropriately to her enthusiasm. She was also masterfully sustaining the atmosphere with slower, deeper grooves, which she actually seemed most comfortable playing. Though the presence of bass never dropped.

The tracks varied from Chicago inspired tech house, to classic mid 2000's inspired German techno; yet they all existed brilliantly together within the context of the set. Despite the scorching, up tempo sections that came earlier in her set, this was by far my favorite portion of the night. No track stood out, yet every track was essential in creating the mood that persisted until finally it was time to close. She received the word, and played her last song. Everyone there could have likely kept going for at least another hour, I know I could have. She looked as though she would have been game to play until the last person on the floor had their fill, however, the venue had to close.

Despite the poor turnout, those who there on Saturday got a real treat. It isn't often that a producer of J Phlip's caliber makes it out to Edmonton. It is even less often that you find great producers, who are also incredibly gifted DJs. Her mixing skills were not only precise, but the flow of her set was second-to-none. She was able to push the small, initially apprehensive crowd into a frenzy, adapt to the momentary loss of numbers, then take everyone back into another frenzy, before finally dipping into a completely euphoric stretch of deep and bass-riddled main-room house. However, what really impressed me was the fact that I knew only three of the tracks that she played. Five if you include remixes of tracks that I knew.

This is pretty special, considering how much time I dedicate to finding tracks that fall into that specific dirtybird sound. Granted, very little of what she played sounded like the label to which she contributes, but that unexpected aspect was what made it so special. It makes for an incredibly interesting and unique show, when the audience feels as though these tracks are somehow out of reach, and mysterious. With Justin Martin, I knew probably 40% of what he played, which was cool, don't get me wrong. I loved hearing all those tracks on a good sound system and with a receptive crowd. But J Phlip left me saying my favorite thing to say after a really good set: "Where does she find this stuff?"  

Friday, 27 January 2012

ASC, Doc Danneka, John Talabot and Azari & III

Alright, I have been kind of slacking off a bit lately, so here is a massive post to make up for it. I have a lot to get through so I will spare everyone from reading the long-winded intros that I have become prone to. Here we go...

First things first, I got around to listening to the Azari & III Essential mix and I have to say it was really good. I wasn't a fan of their album from last year, but their take on the vintage electro sound is definitely well executed. I just feel like their productions don't hit hard enough for me. This mix on the other hand, has quite beefy. The only thing that bothers me is the lack of tracklist. I don't know when the BBC started okaying the absence of tracklists, but Azari & III have followed suit and decided to forego a list of the bangers they dropped. Of course with the collective force of the internet, most of the list has been unearthed. However, the best songs are still unknown on every site I checked, including an absolute banging remix of "Reckless (With Your Love)". I advise you to check it out here.

Azari & III Essential Mix

Second up, is it just me or is it suddenly the "cool thing to do" for drum and bass producers to make electro/ techno? Instra:mental did a full length of it last year, Commix have hinted at a similar direction for this year's album, and now ASC has fallen onto the techno track as well. He released an EP for Perc Trax entitled "Boundary Scan". The three track EP features two tracks that could very well be Instra:mental cuts. There are pseudo break-beats, 808s and sparse hints of brooding and squelchy synths; basically the Detroit via UK sound that is trending right now. The most interesting, as well as the best track on here is the third, "Capsule". This features a more steady rhythm and intricate melody, although not to be considered "catchy". The beat while simplistic at first, offers up enough subtle variation throughout to hold the attention of a home listener. On a dance floor however, it will certainly evoke sweaty riots.

ASC - Boundary Scan EP (Perc Trax)

Next order of business, the first serious heavy hitter of the year was released today. John Talabot's "Fin" came out on permanent vacation, and just from the samples I quickly scanned on beatport, it sounds good. Really good. The first track "Depak Ine" will certainly be one of the best tracks of the year, however I could not find it. Instead, he has another gem up on his soundcloud, in full I might add. Take a listen to this.

John Talabot - So Will Be Now feat. Pional (Permanent Vacation)

Last, but certainly not least, another beauty of a full length came out on Modeselektor's 50 Weapons imprint. Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka teamed up last year to deliver an epic track (it just barely didn't make my top 100 cut) called "Creeper". Though don't expect to hear a whole album of similarly styled maximal-bass-&-grime-infused-techno. The first third of the album is surprisingly sparse. "No One" is a deep house/ techno tune, while "Battleships" borrows aesthetics from future-garage while still sounding original at the same time. "Deaf Siren" however, is pure classic jackin' house. Indeed, this is the most compelling section on the LP.

There is also an album edit of "Creeper", which is a good inclusion, as it is not so old and so played out to have worn out it's welcome. "Charlottenburg" and "Juggernaut" are variations upon the Creeper theme, while "Halo" is a surprisingly mellow footwork track. Here are some samples for your ears.

Doc Daneeka & Benjamin Damage - They!Live Album Preview (50 Weapons)

Monday, 23 January 2012

Synthetic Evolution

It is always interesting when artists are able to initiate sonic journeys. Not so much the journey that they take the listener on with their creations, but rather the journeys that they embark on themselves throughout their creative lifespan. Change is most often paramount when it comes to creativity. The greatest bands/ producers are the ones that never stay in one place for too long, yet demonstrate mastery in whichever field that they choose to tackle.

Artists such as Matthew Dear, Scuba, Martyn, Joy O and Instra:mental have all undergone radical shifts in their sound and approach within in the last few years. Yet for the most part, all have retained their critical appeal. These artists have had the luxury of being able to change sounds, despite the fact that the sound they were previously championing was still very much alive. However, it is not always a sure thing that you can still be respected as an artist when you make the switch. Sometimes it comes out of pure necessity that you simply have to change your sound. Ask any "breaks" producer from the early-mid 2000's. The question then becomes, how successfully are you able to navigate your new sound? And how receptive will your fan base be?

There are several examples of producers who have unsuccessfully tried to expand their sound. Skream, Booka Shade, Apparat and Tiefschwartz are all examples of producers who have fallen out of favor with most of their fans after their latest, disappointing, production efforts. Then there are the countless other examples of producers who seem to be willing to completely abandon their credibility and jump ship to sounds that all but eliminate their names from creative relevance. I won't name any names here, but I think we can all come up with a few ourselves.

So whether because you are simply bored with the music you are making and want to change it up, or because the scene in which you were associated with is dying, there are many reasons for sonic diversity and "journeys". None exemplify this better than Holland's best kept secret Exoplanet.

Exoplanet began life as a progressive peddler. Although the term "progressive" can have many negative connotations, think James Holden and Max Cooper, and not Armin Van Buuren and Swedish House Mafia. He really got his start in 2009, his early productions more than hinted at his talents. His productions were mostly light psy and world-influenced trance. He also proved to be very prolific, releasing more than 30 tracks within a calender year.

Since his early productions he has explored pretty much every sound that the whole "world beat" ideal can lend itself to. He has made techno, house and down tempo, all with a very beautiful, yet slightly predictable sound of middle eastern influence. It is mid 2010 that we find him really beginning to find his form. He explores intelligent yet straight-forward trance and techno, but with an emphasis on melody.

Fast forward to 2011 and the release of his debut album, "Nothing Divides Us Here". This is where the creative unrest is reaching a tipping point. Now he begins to leave his comfort zone and experiment with different beat structures, and entire different genres altogether, he even includes an irrefutable drum & bass track. Indeed, "Nothing" was some extremely gorgeous and provocative music. It sounded as though despite the fact that Exoplanet was creatively restless, he had left his mark in Electronic full length album lore.

However, his latest EP "Synthetic Evolution" is truly the crown jewel of his production credits, thus far. It is a five track EP, but with the shortest track lengths running at just over six, to nine-and-half minutes, it is as long as most full length albums. Here we find Exoplanet mastering the skittery and nervous percussion of alt-d n b, post-dubstep and UK techno. Normally it was always the melody that interested me in Exoplanet. He is always able to infuse everything that he makes with a sense of grandiose and scale. This EP let's the melody take a slight break (although it is still very prominent) and let the rhythm set the stage.

Tracks such as the opener "Emerging Architecture" and "Circuit and Organism Coalesce" display tension and unease with the frantic percussion and wonky-psy synth work. They almost sound as if Sphongle were attempting to make dubstep. Then "Living Oscillating Lines" takes things back a notch with a more subdued beat and harmoniously drawn out melodies. The best track however, is the last one "Symbiosis Over Time". Take the best parts of Kowton, Monolake and early Booka Shade and slow them down, that is what this track is like. Absolutely wonderful.

I recommend checking out his entire catalogue, as he is a very, very talented producer. Here is a youtube link to my favorite track. There are a lot of other tracks up there to listen to as well. Do it!!!

Exoplanet - Symbiosis Over Time (Particles)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Composer is Dead!

Just thought I would do a small post about a track that has come out recently and awesome!

The first supreme cut comes to us courtesy of Poker Flat, Steve Bugs label. Martin Landsky is probably best known for his remixes. He has crafted an Oxia-esque remix of Robert Owens and Mark Romboy's "I Need", a typical 2005 "minimal tech house" take on Booka Shade and Mark Romboy's "Everyday of My Life", and recently an absolute smasher of a remix of John Tejada's "Sweat (On The Walls)".

Much of his output has been for Poker Flat, so it is no surprise that his new track "The Composer" is the second release of the new year for the prominent label. The track itself is sure to be a first quarter hit on dance floors around the world. It has all the necessary ingredients: a catchy yet slightly dissonant filtered synth melody with just the slightest hint of acid, a simple spoken vocal line proclaiming ostentatiously that "The Composer is Dead". But above all else, it has a simple yet hypnotically effective groove that is guaranteed to get people out of their chairs and onto the floor. Also included is a chunkier Sasse remix, as well as a dub version.

Martin Landsky - The Composer (Poker Flat)

Monday, 16 January 2012

A New er... Old Epoch

Dubstep, love it or hate it, has undergone a fascinating journey since its inception. In many ways it has followed the path more commonly associated with characters in epic works of fiction. Dubstep is a perfect example of a tragic hero. It rose from humble beginnings in south London; born in dank, dark and murky underground clubs and basements amidst the urban sprawl known as Croyden, it experienced a rocket-powered-ascension to pop culture. While the genre percolated locally, and flirted with UK Garage producing offspring that were still pretty indistinguishable as a separate a genre, since the early 2000's, (pretty much ruling out the possibility that anyone here in North America is as "old school" as they say they are) it wasn't until about 2003 that it started getting any attention at all.

By this point it was very much a "dubplate" game, with very few tracks getting major release. It was still finding its feet, still sorting out what parameters actually made it "dubstep" until 2005/ 2006. That was things started to get serious. Artists such as Distance, Scuba, Burial, Kode9 and The Bug were all serving to diversify and push the boundaries beyond "UK Garage with a half time feel". More emphasis on Jamaican influence was applied. Sub bass was beginning to become a primary factor. Distorted and "grimey" synth-lines were being utilized. Things were happening. Dubstep was going places.

You could probably state, and not be corrected by even the biggest "heads", that everything really started to change when Skream's debut album dropped in 2006. It seemed like 2006/ 2007 were watershed years for dubstep, and ultimately would prove to be its brief but exhilarating peak. Plenty of new and young (emphasis on young) producers were now making dubstep. It was exploding out of London and into the rest of the world. Releases were becoming more readily available, more DJs started experimenting with dubstep, perhaps incorporating a few tracks into their sets/ mixes. Dubstep labels were popping up everywhere, and established labels were all vying to get into the game. It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the fledgling genre.

And why wouldn't they? From 06-08 Skream, Burial, Kode9, 2562, Boxcutter, Distance, Benga, The Bug, and Scuba all released memorable full-lengths. Meanwhile producers like Zomby, Joker, Darkstar and Rustie were championing completely different takes on the dubstep blueprint. A new "maximal" movement was taking place. Rather than utilize sub-frequencies, midrange was becoming increasingly popular. Producers like Caspa and Rusko were making a heavier brand of dubstep, while North American producers were also entering the fold with entirely different takes on the sound. Seemingly overnight, dubstep had become everybody's favorite thing.

Then, in 2009 it happened. Everything just became too much. Every night, it was dubstep. Every stage, it was dubstep. Every room, it was dubstep. With so many boundaries that already been pushed so far, where else could the genre, to which you really can't even dance to, go with such a rigid set of rules and formulae? The answer was already here, we just hadn't all heard it yet. Although chances were, that if you had spent any time in the western United States or western Canada, you probably had already heard this coming. What if, instead of trying to even remotely follow the carefully laid blueprints of the genre's founding fathers, producers instead kept only the tempo, and the rhythms (kind of), and scrapped everything else completely?

Well, that's exactly what happened. I can honestly say that never in my life, with anything, not music, not film, not politics, not even religion, have I seen a more polarizing topic than dubstep. Gone are the semblances to UK Garage. Gone is the Jamaican dub influences from which it got its name. Gone is the sub-bass and low end frequencies that dominated towards the middle of the decade. The new surge of producers and sounds has sustained the genre from a commercial stand-point, while those who were listening to/ producing it before 2008, have all moved on to the more generalized "bass music".

Chances are, if you like what is being called dubstep now, you don't like the forward-thinking bass music being churned out, and vice versa. So where does that leave the "old dubstep sound"? Is there room for a pure dubstep record in 2012? One that pays its dues and draws on the right influences? Goth Trad certainly thinks there is. He is a member of one of the last remaining populations of producers who just make dubstep. They don't make brostep, and they don't make bass music. Ironically, these producers have become very rare. With the seemingly limitless potential that bass music has afforded producers and listeners, coupled with the increasingly revitalized house and techno scene, people are probably just getting sick of dubstep, no matter what it sounds like.

Enter "New Epoch", the fourth album from Japanese producer Goth Trad. Goth Trad has put out several releases for Deep Medi Muzik, one of the last pure dubstep labels going right now. This however is his first album for the label. "New Epoch" largely feels like a dark album. I use the term "feels like" rather than "sounds like" since the album tries to go beyond simply being an aural experience. You get the sense that this is meant to be an immersive experience for the listener, much in the way that older dubstep records were.

The first track "Man in a Maze" is a perfect example of this. Using a variety of instruments, as well as taking time to build atmosphere, all contribute to an immersive experience. Once the beat does kick in, the track dynamically changes. The strings vanish and are replaced with a sad and dissonant piano melody. It creates a mood and an atmosphere so dark and foreboding, it almost transcends the ears and puts the listener in another world; much in the same way that "Night Vision" by Distance does.

Comparisons to Distance can certainly be made, however, Goth Trad approaches production from a "more with less" standpoint, most of the time. Tracks such as "Departure", "Cosmos" and "Anti Grid" are a bare-bones example of dubstep, almost working within the confines of proper minimal techno. That isn't to say the "New Epoch" doesn't have moments of maximalism. The distortion heavy "Airbreaker" takes the "riff" that Distance usually incorporates into his tracks, only it is given a does of lasers to accompany it. "Mirage" is another mid-range heavy track that sounds like it could have been produced by Joker.

The album's highlight is probably the only vocal track. "Babylon Fall", apparently influenced by the earthquake that rocked Japan last year, is a by-the-book track. Syncopated and hallowed percussion, 142bpm, low end yet filthy sounding bass, and most importantly: reggae vocals. It creates a depressing and dark vibe that harkens back to 2005. Overall, "New Epoch" serves to showcase what a talented producer that Goth Trad is. It also takes the listener on a hypnotic journey through the course of an hour, one that isn't just listened to, but also experienced.        

Friday, 13 January 2012

Hatch a plan!

I feel like I talk about the same stuff over and over again on this blog. All of my posts in the new year thus far have been pretty much about the same things. I love dirtybird, its so cool; I love Pets Recordings, blah blah blah; I love Scuba, he's my favorite! It doesn't help when those same things were also heavily focused on in my year end lists. So today I must have something different to talk about right? Nope, it's a new compilation from dirtybird. Yes I am just that pathetic. Well it is January, which as we all know is historically shite for new releases. There will be new things to pick up on eventually, but for now its all about the bird.

So what is this new compilation you ask? Well it's called Hatched, keeping in line with the bird theme that Claude Vonstroke has worked so hard to maintain. Ultimately, Hatched will consist of 12 tracks featuring 12 different artists, each previously unreleased. Prior to the final installment's release, which is at the end of February, there will be a series of three 4 track eps. The first of those eps dropped last Tuesday.

One of the great things about dirtybird is the consistency with which they release these compilations. There has been an exclusive, previously unreleased, double-digit-track release every year for three years now. Another thing that the label is known and respected for is its consistent quality. A very specific sound and style has always been maintained throughout dirtybird's existence. Through the incorporation of like-minded producers Claude Vonstroke has managed to create not only one of the most marketable and successful underground dance labels, but also one of the most easily recognizable. I think a label has done its job when people hear a track at a club and say "Wow, that must be on dirtybird. And if it isn't, it should be."

Many of the aforementioned like-minded producers have appeared on other compilations throughout the years. The "Five Years of Dirtybird" compilation featured the likes of The Martin Brothers, J. Phlip, Worthy, Sascha Braemar and Riva Starr. Hatched seems to represent a slight changing of the guard perhaps. Most notably absent is co-boss Justin Martin, and everyone's favorite party-girl J. Phlip. Some regulars do make appearances such as fellow San Franciscan Worthy, Justin Martin's brother Christian, Polish stalwarts Catz n' Dogz, as well as rising star Tom Flynn.

The list of newcomers include the very obvious Eats Everything, as well as one-time dirtybird contributor A1 Bassline, and the brand new DJ Cra$y and Breach. Certainly the most interesting new acquisition has to be Kingdom. The Nightslugs regular has two tracks both entitled SFX that will appear on hatch. This, coupled with CVS's devastating remix of Wut, could be the sign of more collaborations to come from these two seemingly-unrelated-yet-shockingly-very-related labels in the future.

As for the tracks on Hatched Pt. 1 themselves, included in the first volume is one of Kingdom's SFX tracks, the A1 Bassline track, a track from the relatively unknown Sascha Robotti, and a collaboration from Claude Vonstroke and Eats Everything. The Sascha Robotti track, entitled "The Major" is probably the most safe of all the tracks included on volume 1. A moderately catchy vocal hook dances around a typical-yet-punchy low-end bassline, while sparse and distorted horns serve as melody. The track will certainly move a dance floor, but it isn't the best that either the label, or Robotti himself has offered.

The A1 Bassline track "Why Do You" is another track that feels like it never quite gets to where it wants to go. The title is the only thing that serves for vocals throughout the track, and I do mean throughout. The percussion and repetitive vocal create a hypnotic groove that is further enforced by the addition of dub-sytnths half way through the song. The inclusion of the signature dirtybird-bass almost seems out of place with the rest of the track, which itself is certainly a transitional track from start-of-the-night to peak hours.

The Kingdom track on paper was definitely the most exciting. What would a Kingdom track on dirtybird sound like? The answer: pretty much exactly like a Kingdom track. He once again makes full use of the whole vogue sound with plenty of fancy string samples and sirens. The drum beat is interesting because it sounds both exactly like almost every other Kingdom track that has been produced at house tempo, yet at the same time it sounds surprisingly like it could be from CVS himself. It is interesting that two ideals that were thought to be vastly different, and thus the combination of which should serve to be intriguing, turn out to be hardly surprising at all. This isn't to say that it is a bad track, it is however just not Kingdom's best, which I contend is never at house tempo in the first place.

So that leaves us with "Ignorance is Bliss" by Claude Vonstroke and Eats Everything. And interesting situation exists between the collaborators of this track. While close to the same age, CVS is leagues ahead of Eats Everything in terms of exposure and experience. Eats Everything idolized CVS and dirtybird as a whole for many years, but he was never able to crack the roster until recently. CVS is frustratingly un-prolific, while Eats Everything seems to be able to churn out hit after hit. As I said earlier, a changing of the guard may well be underway.

Anyway, the track itself is easily the best of the bunch, not surprising considering the talent level of the two producers behind it. It uses vocals, but only a ghostly "Ohhhhohhhhohhhh" and a indiscernible line that pops up at the end of the break-downs. The bass, while heavy, definitely maintains the listeners attention and keeps things sufficiently interesting throughout the 6:45 duration of the track. And trust me, they use all 6:45 to full effect. The first third of the song sounds like could have come off of Beware the Bird. The bass rolls and the drums almost create a break-beat, while the sketchy "Who's Afraid of Detroit"-esque synths punctuate with melody. But things really get interesting after the tastefully big second breakdown. Things get a little heavier and a little squelchy, but it never overpowers the careful groove that has been laid in place. It is a great track and it would work just as well early on in the night, or right at prime-time.

Overall, this isn't the best set of tracks that has come from the dirtybird camp, although they definitely will serve as some serious dance floor weapons, especially for early on in a set. I have always felt like the eps and singles have been the label's strong-suit. But once you get past the fact that these tracks, like pretty much all of dirtybird's catalogue, are aimed at the dance floor and not for your headphones, then you can really get an appreciation for them.

Claude Vonstroke & Eats Everything - Ignorance is Bliss (Radio Rip) (dirtybird)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Local Content!!! Finally.

So one of the reasons that I wanted to do this blog in the first place was to try and represent, as well as bring together, some like-minded individuals from the city of Edmonton. Contrary to popular belief, this is not Deadmonton; there is actually a pretty decent scene here, it just needs more exposure. This post marks the first "local content" of this blog. Now if you, or anyone you know either produces or mixes and lives in Edmonton, or anywhere really, but especially Edmonton, please let them know about Alternative Selections. I will rep them, give them exposure, etc. I know that this site might not be much now, but I am working to grow it and eventually increase it's traffic/ reputation.

Alright, so I have been blessed with a brilliant first-track to share for you all. This track, entitled "Fundamental Textures" comes courtesy of Defective. Defective, real name Carl Trautman, is a local Edmonton producer, and that is all the information that is available on him. From a brief discussion with him via Facebook, I got the impression that he wants to let his tracks do the talking, and talk they do.

"Fundamental Textures" doesn't so much talk, however, as growl and snarl. It starts off with sparse percussion which might deceive you into thinking that it might lead into a syncopation-heavy, bass-inspired techno tune. However, it definitively kicks into 4/4 and quickly develops a nasty and atonal melody, almost an anti-melody. The synths are angry and consistently create tension. The percussion, along with the main synth line take their time to build until they eventually drop off and leave the listener at the break-down, which arrives much later than most dance tracks. The break-down itself, is brilliant as well. It serves to build more tension and more anxiety with robotic, indiscernible vocals and a build up that eventually leads to the most stable, and best part of the track in the last 1:40.

Over all, "Fundamental Textures" is a wonderfully produced track. It has professionalism written all over it. It builds, it is nasty, but above all else it is dynamic. Defective is definitely going to be a producer to watch in the new year. Below is a link to his Soundcloud. I certainly recommend listening to the other two tracks that he has up as well, as they are equally well produced. My many thanks to Carl for allowing me to share his wonderful productions. They have certainly started the "local content" off with a bang, and have certainly set the bar high.

Defective Soundcloud

The next bit of Edmonton related news involves an upcoming show. If I could have a great producer, and a decent show to talk about, even just once a week, I would be soooo incredibly happy. I feel privileged that I get to talk about both of those things on the same day. Anyway, the show to which I am referring is J. Phlip at Level 2 on Jan. 28th. You may remember that Level 2 brought Justin Martin to Edmonton for Halloween. I can personally attest to awesome that show was, and there is no reason to think that this won't be equally awesome.

So for those who don't know, J. Phlip is another of dirtybird's signature producer/ DJs. She has a healthy amount of releases, most of which for dirtybird, but also a real gem for Pets as well. As a producer, she is top-notch. She definitely epitomizes the dirtybird sound. So you can expect lots of bass, and general booty-shaking-ness.

As a DJ, I admit that I have never heard one of her mixes before, or even really sought out any live sets. To remedy that, I have been scouring the internet for mixes and live vids. During my travels I have come to realize that she is a very eclectic DJ, at least when it comes to recorded mixes. I found two good ones on Soundcloud. One was for DJ Mag, which isn't a bad publication when the readers aren't giving their feedback, and another for Pets Record's Petcast series.

The Petcast seemed to be more of a home listening experience. It featured a lot of hip hop, R n' B and down-tempo. The DJ Mag mix seems to be aimed more for the dance floor, as it features everything from R n' B inspired deep house, to proper jackin' Chicago house, to 808 infused UK house. So in order to get a better idea of what a show with J. Phlip might be like, I decided to turn to youtube. There wasn't a lot of great quality videos uploaded, but when she was playing at "fun" venues, it looked like she was definitely able to rock the crowd. I think that this looks like a definite show to attend.

J. Phlip DJ Mag Podcast
J. Phlip - Fever (Pets)

Monday, 9 January 2012

L-Vis 1990 and Pets

So we're still making things happen in this new year of 2012. First order of the day, the first Essential Mix of the year is upon now. Radio 1 seems to be keeping the "underground" theme that they established in 2011. This past week's selection came courtesy of Night Slugs boss L-Vis 1990. I was a little apprehensive at first, as he has proven himself to be an inconsistent producer, but after a glance at the tracklist this seems to be a real strong start to the year. There is plenty of older, classic cuts, but there are a few unreleased and upcoming Night Slugs tracks as well. Link and tracklist come via Discobelle.

L-Vis 1990 Essential Mix

Now, a little rant for you, then some goodies, some stuff, some brass tacks. But first, while I am on the subject of Essential Mixes, I would like to acknowledge BBC and Radio 1 for the absolute top-shelf selection of DJs throughout the course of the year. I don't know if there was a conscious paradigm shift to go the route of RA as oppose to DJ Mag, or if there has just been a genuine global maturation when it comes to dance music... I am probably going to go with the former.

Case in point, when it came time to crown an EM of the year, Radio 1 listeners were presented with a shortlist of choices that included Maya Jane Coles, Julio Bashmore, SBTRKT, Jamie XX, Eats Everything and my personal favorite, Seth Troxler. Which did the listeners choose when presented with these options... Above & Beyond. Now, I guess I can't really say anything since I haven't personally listened to the Above & Beyond mix, but I think it proves that the recent curation decisions made by Radio 1 are being met with some turbulence amongst their "traditional" audience. Anyway, I only hope that this new direction is maintained and we see more EMs from more forward thinkers.

Alright, now for the goodness that I promised. Pets Records have wasted no time in the new year and released three new tracks from Pol_On. Pol_On are a Polish duo and friends of label bosses Catz N' Dogz. The Transsistor EP finds itself right in line with the American House-via-Europe/ UK-trend that picked up so much steam last year.

The title track is a slow and bassy number that cuts with a slight tinge of acid. It starts off simply, but eventually builds until it reaches a maximalist climax. "Miss You" punches just as hard with rave stabs and a sexy vocal loop. The real treat on here though is "Sorrow". With it's synth-drenched melody, pitched vocals, and Maceo Plex-approved-sleaze, it is set to be a huge anthem in the first quarter of the year.

Pol_On Transsistor EP (Pets)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Personality disorder

So now that 2011 has been sufficiently wrapped up and 2012 is upon us, it is time to start looking forward. That is after all, what this blog is designed to be about: forward thinking. We haven't had to wait long to get some very, very exciting album announcements. Shed as well as Addison Groove are among some of the big names that have already confirmed new full-lengths for 2012. Although in my opinion, the biggest and most exciting announcement came yesterday via RA.

Even though this blog is barely a month old, my preferences are probably well documented. It should be no shock to anyone who has read even one article on this site that Paul Rose, aka Scuba, is a musical hero of mine. Rather than gush about how his productions are both innovative yet timeless, and how his DJ skills are bafflingly phenomenal, I will just say that he has my utmost respect and is probably the best producer/ DJ that is going today. Needless to say, when I found out that he was releasing a new LP, I was quite pleased.

"Personality" will be the title of this, his third album. Apparently the tracks "Loss" and "Adrenalin" were tracks that didn't make the cut. Considering both the style, and overall awesomeness of those two tracks, I think we can assume that this album will not disappoint. According to the RA interview, the album's vibe is supposed to reference club sounds of the late 80's and early 90's. This of course marks a huge departure from "Triangulation", one of the best albums of 2010.

However, I don't see this as a desperate ploy from someone who is witnessing his previous platform slowly yet inevitably sinking into the mire that is pop culture. I instead see this as a bold move from a very capable producer who can craft expert sounds in any genre that he chooses to. Scuba has never been a follower. He has never been content to repeat the sounds that he himself ushered in, no matter how recently. This is what will certainly make "Personality" both an exciting, and compelling listen.

Monday, 2 January 2012

2011 In Review - Part 7: Top 100 Tracks of 2011

The final list of the year is at hand, after this it will be 2012 content. Also, I realize that I am late with this list. Oh well, I was sick. So here are (were) my favorite tunes from 2011.

25. Black Diamond Bay - I Dreamt We Were Bankrobbers (Exceptional)
While not characteristic of dubstep that I usually prefer, this track uses distortion and aggression to juxtapose the almost ethereal vocals. The end product is very emotional, and also very intellectual.

24. Martyn - We Are You in the Future (Brainfeeder)
A common motif in 2011 was incorporating elements of trance into your productions. We Are You in the Future was not only the best example of this, it was also the brightest spot on Martyn's "Ghost People" album.

23. Joe Gaddard - Gabriel (Greco Roman/ DFA)
The main man from Hot Chip offers a stellar little UK House number with female vocals.

22. Modeselektor - Pretentious Friends (Monkeytown)
Modeselektor really do glitch-hop better than anything else, production wise. They are also the only decent popular glitch-hop producers left, and they don't even make it all the time. Honestly, it they made an album of nothing but Prenentious Friends, I think it would be awesome.

21. Blue Daisy - Fallin' (Black Acre)
Drenched in angst and riddled with despair, Fallin' is the most bleak and depressing track on the very bleak and depressing debut album from Blue Daisy.

20. Paul Woolford & Psycatron - Stolen (Hotflush)
A wonderful and expansive techno/ house/ bass track from one legend teaming up with a new comer.

19. Mosca - Bax (Numbers)
Infectious. This track was everywhere this year. This could single handedly bring back UK speed garage.

18. Waifs & Strays - Yeah yeah (Leftroom)
Bristol had a pretty big year. Julio Bashmore and Eats Everything both enjoyed massive years. Not to be neglected are Waifs & Strays. Yeah yeah was a weapon for many DJs this year. With a slow yet undeniable groove, it wasn't hard to see why.

17. Addison Groove - This is It (Tectonic)
Another huge track that took bass music to a new level. With percussion and acid synths all blaring at once, you don't so much want to dance to it, as freak out.

16. Boddika & Joy O - Swims (Swamp 81)
While it is been "forthcoming" for well over six months now, and it may never actually get released, it still found it's way into DJ sets everywhere. Featured on SBTRKT's Essential mix, Ben UFO's Rinse and countless podcasts.

15. Blue Daisy - Psyche Inquiry (Black Acre)
A guitar driven, aggression fueled hip hop cut from the legendary Sunday Gift. This track exudes 90's.

14. Jamie xx - Far Nearer (Numbers)
Nice use of steel drums and vocal pitching to create one of the years most accessible dance tracks. This had a lot of attention from a lot of critics, but it was well deserved.

13. Consequence - Lovershell (Exit)
I am shocked that I couldn't find this anywhere. It is on the Instra:metnal and Dbridge FabricLive, so you can listen to it there.

12. Solar Fields - Night Traffic City (Ultimae)
Simply wonderful. A true epic that reaches unbridled ecstasy about half way through.

11. Burial - Street Halo (Hyperdub)
One of Burial's best tracks ever. So good and so heavy. Supposedly another album in 2012?

10. Lucid - Based (Cosimic Revenge Remix) (Pelican Fly)
Computer speakers will not suffice, so don't even bother. This is another track that defies classification. There are 808s, and pseudo doo-wop vocal harmonies throughout. So catchy, yet so heavy at the same time.

9. Scuba - Adrenalin (Hot Flush)
Scuba may have changed his style dramatically over the past year, but it doesn't make his music any less interesting or compelling.

8. Paul Kalkbrenner - Jestrüpp (Rough Trade/ Paul Kalkbrenner Music)
A good song until the main guitar melody kicks in... then it becomes a great song.

7. SBTRKT - Wildfire (Objekt Remix) (Young Turks)
Biggest techno banger of 2011. Look out for Objekt in 2012. This tune was so big, even SBTRKT played it over the original in his DJ sets.

6. Girl Unit - Wut (Claude Vonstroke Undressed Mix) (Night Slugs)
Take one of the freshest and biggest tunes from 2010, and get one of the best producers going right now to give it a completely new face, and you get a monster that in many ways, defined 2012. Bass music and house can not only co exist, but feed off each other.

5. Kingdom - Hood By Air Theme (Night Slugs)
Why is everything that this guy puts out the freshest, dopest shit I have ever heard? This track is so far ahead it isn't even funny. And samples it's source material to absolute perfection.

4. Eats Everything - Entrance Song (Pets)
Monster track. Everyone has heard it by now, everyone had heard who made it. I just can't believe it took a year to get this track picked up. A lot of labels must be kicking themselves right now.

3. Benoit & Sergio - Everybody (DFA)
A catchy and fun little tune from a duo that had a pretty solid 2011. It is poppy, but it has enough kick to rock pretty much any dance floor.

2. Julio Bashmore - Battle For Middle You (PMR)
A track like this comes along maybe every ten years. This is something that our kids will be dancing to.

1. Blanck Mass - Sundowner (Rock Action)
No club track for the number one slot. Instead I picked the track that I connected to the most this year. Pure bliss.