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Daily Ops @ en-us ℗ & © 2004 onwards by (Scott Reid) (Mark Abraham) Textpattern v4.0.4 Daily Ops @ Specific feed for Daily Ops @, featuring track reviews and blog content. Track Reviews / La Piramide di Sangue: "Io Sono la Tigre" (Stream/Video) Thu, 27 Sep 2012 11:09:35 -0700

When a seven-piece psych-rock band from Turin announce they’ve crossed “middle Eastern melodies, Mediterranean folklore and spiced teas,” you expect the most precious art installation on earth. Luckily La Piramide di Sangue are songwriters first and cultural pioneers second, and keep their ideas light on this four-minute slice of funky voodoo music. Mixing together synths, two guitars, two basses, drums and clarinet, La Piramide sound like a blues orchestra having a group hallucination. It’s hard to know how serious to take them when they say they’ve been inspired by scented streams running under the Egyptian Museum.

Folklore aside, it’s obvious that frontman Gianni Giubelena is having a whale of a time on “Io Sono la Tigre.” Playing a looping guitar riff that only pauses for three quick bashes on the drums, his band combines bongos, tambourines, and the most sinister flute since Moriarty’s greenhouse. “Tigre” has an infectious and simple melody, and with the addition of Giubelena’s wah-wah guitar sounds like Hendrix hypnotizing a cobra. The forthcoming 12” is out on limited red vinyl and if it’s as loco as this you should keep it in storage till you host your next limbo-themed death party.

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Track Reviews / Verdensromet: "Nytt" (Stream/Video) Mon, 24 Sep 2012 01:09:31 -0700

The art of reverse-pickpocketing is a rare one. It was once used to deliver a CD-R demo to Mike Skinner of the Streets; he was so impressed he immediately signed the band (the Mitchell Brothers—sadly ignored) as soon as he checked his pockets. It’s also how Andreas Høvset and Vik Gundersen got their break, slipping a disc to Matias Tellez after they stood near him at a concert. It goes to show you there are still multiple ways into the industry, and you should never leave home without a flashdrive, steady hands, and soft-soled shoes.

One of two tracks produced by Tellez, “Nytt” is a slice of quirky Norwegian pop that goes through an enjoyable identity crisis. Carried on swooning ‘80s keyboards, it uses Norse-accented crooning to imply A-Ha: The Opera Years before switching to guitar and tambourines, reminiscent of Adam Ant—if he’d been raised in Scandinavia. The ambient, otherworldly final bridge adds another side to the confusion, but Verdensromet make it work, as inventive at subverting the guitar pop formula as they are at invading producers’ personal space.

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Track Reviews / Sinner DC: "Endless Valley" (Stream/Video) Mon, 10 Sep 2012 02:09:33 -0700

Swiss electronica duo Sinner DC were last seen making soft, guitar-edged techno with Crystallized (2009): one of the final albums on the seminal AI Records. Perhaps in honor of the label’s shutdown they’ve quietened their EDM ideas and turned up the real instruments, as well as adding vocals recorded themselves. It makes you wonder what they’d sound like if AI had folded a couple of years earlier—they’d probably be the only DJ act to qualify for a shoegaze event.

If guitar-heavy dream pop is the direction new label Mental Groove want them to go, Sinner DC are going gracefully, striking a balance between their old and new sounds with “Endless Valley.” The first taste of the upcoming Future That Never Happened, it’s every bit as dreamy/expressive as you’d expect, built around echoing electric guitar that groans like a blue whale. Company comes in the form of a low, brooding synth line, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Knight Rider was discontinued, or the duo played to a pulsing Geneva nightclub. “She wants to dance alone tonight,” they breathe, looping endlessly in a private soundtrack for the world’s most miserable clubber. Now there’s an untapped market, and one with plenty of shelf space.

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Track Reviews / MYPET: "Pays to Know" (Stream/Video) Tue, 04 Sep 2012 09:09:00 -0700

Though their name paints them as a Sims add-on kitten package, MYPET are anything but: the LA duo play obtuse digital pop, layering female vocals over garish electronica. It’s the sort of music you’d put on to test out your neighbors, and its composers—Amy and Ray, surnames unknown—know how to take an interesting melody and coat it with hi-tech defenses. With her sleepy voice and his thudding synths, the Crystal Castles vibes here are strong. Give it six months and they’ll have battered Madonna t-shirts and an EP that they’ve “re-imagined” from the 8bitpeoples forum.

For now they’re doing something a little more unique, but still commercial enough for indie label Luv Luv Luv to sign them. “Pays to Know” takes UK funky and drops it in a heat wave, the Oriental-sounding flourishes and rolling beats fusing into one very exotic sex track. “I gotcha where I wantcha,” groans Amy, the woozy opposite of her partner’s clean synth stabs which he spices up with dirty bass and hissing cymbals. It’s an odd combination but one with chart potential, just as likely to feature in a future Glee episode as it is to be played over a skin flick money shot. If you think that sounds unlikely then check out the bizarre video, which finds Amy and Ray wandering a dark forest, whistling at bee hives and watching cockroaches fuck.

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Track Reviews / Karen O: "Strange Love" (Stream/Video) Fri, 31 Aug 2012 09:08:45 -0700

“Strange Love,” the new Karen O song from the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s upcoming Frankenweenie (his first semi-original work in ages), definitely sounds as though it’s from a children’s film. But like Burton’s best work, it manages to be whimsical and somewhat innocent without being cutesy. Part of this is due to the sheer Presence of the woman singing. Karen O has proven herself over the years as someone who doesn’t disappear into different personas; she makes things go her way. As her soundtrack to Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are demonstrated, she can move into dangerously twee territory without losing her rock ’n’ roll center. “Strange Love,” then, comes across like simple syrup, with its swooning slide guitar, tinkling piano, and surf-rock shuffle. But Karen O guides it with the lightest of touches, her slightly damaged-sounding alto gliding up into a wispy falsetto and back again.

What makes “Strange Love” so appealing is the same sort of retro strangeness (is that a theremin?) that crops up in Burton’s classic films, which Frankenweenie seems to be at least trying to recapture. It sounds like a 1960s AM radio hit, but actually placed in that context it would seem weird and otherworldly, reminiscent of the way Edward Scissorhands tweaked sun-belt suburbia into a flat, neon cartoon. As enjoyable as “Strange Love” is as a three-minute pop confection, I can’t help but wish it would go to a darker place—it’s easy to imagine it descending, delightfully, into Cramps-eqsue ghoulish campiness. It stays strictly on the straight and narrow, however, presenting its cheerful message without a wink: “Love is strange, oh oh / When there’s beauty on the inside / The outside, there’s nothin’ to ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-change.” While I’m skeptical that Frankenweenie will offer a fresh new side of Burton, Karen O has again demonstrated that she can stretch beyond those categories we’ve placed her in, and it comes so easily it doesn’t feel like stretching at all.

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Admin / What the fuck, CMG? Also, hello there The Damper! (Announcements) Tue, 28 Aug 2012 02:08:28 -0700

Here’s what the fuck, friends: we’re relaunching soon. Yup, the good news here is that we’re not dead again, or growing lazy in the air conditioned, Swans-soundtracked luxury of the CMG staff mansion. We haven’t yet abandoned you to aimlessly wander the internet in search of a new favorite music crit site, one that maybe, just maybe, won’t also eventually break your heart. We’re not going anywhere.

As for the bad news? Well, you’ve likely noticed that we haven’t been updating much lately. Or at all, really, besides the odd DailyOps post. (Some of you have done more than just notice.) This glacial pace will unfortunately continue as we prepare to launch the brand new CMG in September. Which, by the way, happens to be the month we turn 10! Let’s just say that’s on purpose.

What exactly does “brand new” entail? We’ll be discussing our plans through our Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook pages in the next little while. As already announced, though, one of the significant changes—aside from a long overdue redesign, natch—will be the dropping of all ratings. Reviewer, combined, those glib jokey ones: with a huge sigh of relief from the collective CMG lung, gone. Delighted or positively enraged by this news? Please, let us know in the links above, or in the comments below.

In related news, we’re also currently hiring. As always we use the word “hiring” lightly, on account of all positions being unpaid, but: we’re looking for talented music writers who, instead of just doing record/track/video/concert reviews, would be interested in regular columns or features as well. Just email us at—let us know roughly what you’re looking to do, and attach at least two (preferably more) samples of your writing.

Lastly, we have one other huge announcement to make: Dom Sinacola and Mark Abraham, former managing editors of CMG, have launched a new site called The Damper. It will share much of the same staff as CMG, but its focus, rather than just music, will be on feverish and obsessive writing about pretty much anything: sports, movies, JRPGS, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Matt Damon, the nightmare that is mango-flavored beer, ponies, etc. You can follow The Damper on Twitter and Facebook.

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Blog / William Basinski & London Contemporary Orchestra (Concert Weeview) Mon, 27 Aug 2012 04:08:07 -0700

12 August 2012 :: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, UK

August 12th felt like a significant ending for London. On the evening the Olympics, heralded as Britain’s greatest sporting hour, drew to a close, the city’s noise was appropriately replaced by murmurs. Stewards pottered around Waterloo station morosely for the last evening; there was a palpable uncertainty as to whether the closing ceremony should be mourned or celebrated. I bought these tickets to this rendition of Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops (2002-2003) not really thinking of the night it coincided with, and I went with a close friend who is leaving for a year in China in a week or so. That’s a different kind of ending, an open-ended one, the kind that Basinski’s music (and specifically The Disintegration Loops) reflects: impermanent, slow-burning, but difficult to process nonetheless. Because it is not definitive, it is not obvious how best to respond.

The Queen Elizabeth Hall is a part of London’s Southbank Centre, situated right on the Thames, the city’s defining geographical landmark. The London Contemporary Orchestra had been booked to play two suites of The Disintegration Loops as the final night of a series of concerts curated by Antony Hegarty. It was a fitting, if overshadowed choice, and even in the venue a large number of people remained downstairs to watch the closing ceremony on a larger screen. But for a piece of music that is so commonly associated with New York and 9/11, it felt entirely of a place with London on that night.

I had wondered how the original might be transferred to an orchestral setting. The album is famed for its origins as an attempt to digitize Basinski’s older tape loops, and neither format is particularly related to classical instruments. These logistical issues were overcome in curious ways: the crackle of tape hiss was emulated by the steady unwinding of cling-film next to a microphone; the final buzz before silence the simple bows of the double bass. But these were concerns that rarely reared their heads once the performance had begun, such was the ease with which the listener could recognize the pieces.

Right down to the texture of the sound, “dlp 2.2” was unmistakeable. Violinists used pizzicato to recreate the wear of the frayed tape reel, and horns engulfed the entire orchestra at points. But it was “dlp 1.1” that was most affecting, a shortened version of the Disintegration Loops‘ longest track that nonetheless excavated the tortuous ending to perfection—the final wind towards an finite point that is always out of reach. Arranger Maxim Moston captured perfectly the dive and then lift back up once more of the strings, ever quieter, ever slower, despite the bleat of the horns, to the point where you question how much these values really are shifting, and the oppositions between instruments dissolves. Even at the conclusion, it is held for five spectacular minutes of silence, burst open only by nervous coughs and uncomfortable fidgeting on leather chairs. I think the point of the Loops even when they first originated under Basinski is this ending, or lack of it, the absence of finality in the midst of a city and people that think it a necessity. The endings we impose need not be so absolute.

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Track Reviews / Hermetic: "We Ought to Be in Pictures" (Stream/Video) Mon, 27 Aug 2012 01:08:11 -0700

Two Vancouver knuckleheads playing post-punk and naming themselves after a fetish zip: Hermetic are so much like Spinal Tap they should probably be featured in the next DVD. But unlike the Brit rockers who were “too big for small ham,” Hermetic seem in on the joke, having just got round to recording this live favorite that’s been rattling their local beer-and-shot bars since 2010. Rattling them for a few seconds anyway, until the duo reveal their bizarre trump card.

Because while the zig-zag riffs, fuzz pedals, and bashed drums are all indicative of a monster truck anthem, the testosterone stops dead with Bart Newman’s voice, which sounds like Sigur Rós thrown into a biker bar. “I can’t take another Hollywood love song,” he squeals, completely at odds to his stripped-down White Stripe sound and derailing his bid for Grunge Tune to be Included in Feature Film Soundtrack. (If Dashboard Confessional could do it with Spider-Man 2, anything’s possible.) Though only a minute-and-a-half long the song goes round in circles like a drunk wearing out carpet, and while you could possibly picture Andrew Garfield busting spidey skate moves to it, he’d have to be too wasted to ever first develop superpowers, and instead be more into singing falsetto, and falling around like he used to.

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Track Reviews / Jessie Ware: "Wildest Moments" (Stream/Video) Mon, 20 Aug 2012 11:08:41 -0700

Shimmering South Londonder Jessie Ware is tipped for big things this fall: her debut album Devotion balances Sade’s coffee table stories with driving electronic production. Having built up indie points by lending vocals to SBTRKT and turning heads when she appeared on the BBC Wimbledon highlights, Ware comes in on a wave of hype, perfectly poised to to dethrone Florence & the Machine with all the tactical ferocity of Mr. T in Rocky III. It helps that she’s also close pals with Adele—very high currency in the fight for Facebook followers.

Judged on its own merit, Devotion delivers, and reaches an emotional peak on “Wildest Moments,” a tragic/bitter lifeline Ware throws to her man as they finish another violent argument. Mixing sparkling strings around a slow, baggy beat, Ware breathes “You and I / Bloodline / We come together every time,” suggesting a fetish side to their confrontations. In her opinion the relationship works best when passions are high—either in the bedroom or in the kitchen while throwing cutlery at each other—and the song is a beautiful plea before a break-up, thanks more to its atmospheric keyboards than Ware’s uneasy narrative. Essential for fans of cinematic domestic violence, “Wildest Moments” should be brought to John Woo if he ever wants to shoot a couple in a restaurant.

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Track Reviews / Flying Lotus: "Between Friends (f/ Earl Sweatshirt & Captain Murphy)" (MP3 Download + Stream) Tue, 14 Aug 2012 11:08:10 -0700

Only a few weeks after I write a review in which I mention Flying Lotus’ preference to make beats without a rapper over top, he releases “Between Friends.” This includes the unlikely combination of his production and Earl Sweatshirt, and possibly even a guest verse by FlyLo (or Tyler, the Creator, as many have guessed, though that seems to have been debunked on Twitter) on his own track. With that in mind, feel free ignore my assertion that in a quiet year for rap this might be one of the best tracks yet—a strangely perfect blend of styles to form what is described as “the new Wang Feeder.” It might not trip off the tongue like Kimye, but it’s a collab that proves a more enticing prospect than the promised “Perfect Bitch.”

I feel somewhat validated by the fact that the beat for this track sounds incredible even standalone, but then what else would you expect? Once FlyLo sets in motion this dusty beat it twinkles like an orb would in the kind of ballroom this was made for, a grand occasion through the prism of memory, perhaps. The track is interrupted by a coda that acts as a digestif: syrupy, swirling, while you think about what you’ve just heard, slowly nodding your head as it draws to a close.

And what you’ve just heard, of course, is the bit most people are talking about. “Between Friends” features a couple of impressive verses from Earl Sweatshirt that thankfully resist the temptation to make juvenile rape jokes, instead giving a nod to FlyLo’s “aliens be going hard” production and a shout-out to Frank Ocean’s favorite wristwatch. Guest spots like these rekindle belief in the potential of Earl, who is markedly ahead of his Odd Future peers when it comes to rapping, and sounds better for his extended absence from the group during its maximum hype period. Whether Captain Murphy is actually FlyLo or a pitched-down Earl or someone else entirely seems almost extraneous; if you weren’t sure that the pseudonym was a ruse to have people clutching at straws, look no further than “(Ha ha ha) they can’t get past the deep voice” for evidence that the joke is on the listener—one between friends, as it were. I think I’m happy to bear the brunt while the jokes come packaged like this.

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Track Reviews / Bob Mould: "The Descent" (Stream/Video) Mon, 13 Aug 2012 04:08:23 -0700

After years of experimentation with different genres (electronica, among others), on “The Descent” Bob Mould is returning to the more rock ’n’ roll, hook-heavy sound that he hasn’t really immersed himself in since Sugar in the mid-‘90s. Perhaps the recent reissue of Sugar’s catalog kickstarted a renaissance. Or perhaps “The Descent” is just a crumb tossed to fans, and the rest of Silver Age will be all drum machines, strings, and vocoders. Either way, this track kicks ass.

“The Descent” begins on an odd note, as Mould sings in his unchanging, nasally staccato way, “I started out so starry-eyed / So full of hope and wonder.” Really, Bob? That… doesn’t seem right. “The Descent” does possess an indefatigable upbeatness, despite ostensibly being about “going down,” hitting bottom, and all things much more comfortably Mould-ian than “hope and wonder.” The song takes flight immediately at the beginning and, contrary to its title, actually seems to reach greater heights as it progresses. This is Hüsker Dü caliber melodic rock, full of soaring hooks and that familiar waltz of a chorus: slow, slow, fast, fast. There’s a hint of desperation, as Mould begs, “Can I try to make it up to you somehow?” and closes out with the refrain, “My world / It is descending,” but a brooding track this is not, really—it’s too much fun.

No matter what tack Mould takes on Silver Age, “The Descent” is one of the best singles of the year. So it’s time, for now, to kick back and rock out like it’s 1985, or at least 1994.

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Track Reviews / Bonnie "Prince" Billy: "I See a Darkness" (Stream/Video) Fri, 10 Aug 2012 11:08:21 -0700

Though the entirety of Now Here’s My Plan confirms Will Oldham’s restlessness as his sincerest strength, the re-purposed “I See a Darkness” is the EP’s highlight for demonstrating how versatile of a songwriter this guy is. Or—not simply that: how effortlessly he can churn out these melodies with just such fucking amazing legs. Like, gams for days. The song’s over ten years old, on an album I’d consider one of my favorites ever, which means I probably have every derelict and crepuscular corner of it memorized, and yet how could I have never imagined it like this? It’s not like he stripped the original to its roots and rebuilt it for far less stressful consumption; he just sped it up, brightened it a smidgen, alighted with a riskier positivity. Asked women to sing on it. And in dampening the dread that so compelled Johnny Cash, that still knuckles a lump in my throat—I mean, picture it: drinking in a poorly lit bar on a poorly lit day, talking with the fella on an adjacent stool about drinking in a poorly lit bar, trying to somehow spit out the right words to confide in him the rising, uninteresting tide of anxiety and agony you’ve discovered within yourself recently because there’s no one else to confide in, but only able to call it something as mundane as “darkness,” which of course we all bear day to day, some better than others, and in this failure to communicate you realize this “darkness” has already phagocytically consumed the way in which you relate to this other human in this poorly lit bar, leaving no way out and nothing to console you but the clarity of a yet-unanswered pain and the slim “hope that someday buddy, we have peace in our lives,” which only stalls the realization that “someday” is yet another shade of the darkness—Bonnie “Prince” Billy has done something amazing. Something magical. He’s transubstantiated the loneliest song I’ve ever heard into a celebratory clarion call, a little communal anthem of optimism and warmth. “Well, you’re my friend,” he’s said in every version; where once he sounded as if he was convincing a stranger, today he’s fist-bumping his best buddy.

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Track Reviews / Nachtmystium: "Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams" (Stream/Video) Tue, 07 Aug 2012 03:08:43 -0700

Say what you will of the band’s credibility as modern heralds of American black metal’s horizons, but there’s one thing I’m pretty sure can be agreed: Nachtmystium’s Blake Judd should be giving singing lessons. Absurd as it may sound, all we really need to do is put a pointy sign out by the pachysandra that says something like “Throathell School of Auditory Destruction,” and no one will be able to argue that dude deserves tenure. There’s something really surprising, and at first a little suspicious, about how well Judd enunciates his lyrics while still able to maintain a thoroughly brutal glass-on-asphalt tone on “Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams,” but somehow the extra alloy required to cover both sides of that coin doesn’t deplete the thoroughly well-equipped Nachtmystium foundry. It’s a pretty fantastic performance that somehow seems to be two places at once really well.

On this cut from the band’s new LP, Silencing Machine, Judd and his cohorts have made it clear that not only do they get to have it both ways, they’re gunning for a few more surprises to squeeze in for good measure while they’re at it. Some noise was certainly made over the genre-twisting experiments of the band’s previous releases, but “Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams” paints Nachtmystium as a band getting back to basics while still effectively conjuring an effort to move forward in more personal, immaterial ways. With it’s relative clarity, punk-ish riffing, and driving rock ‘n’ roll rhythm, the track seems to build strongly on a particular of-the-moment trend, that of great heavy bands making some very hard-earned, and surprisingly agreeable, headway into paradigm-wrecking accessibility.

If only in that sense, I can’t help but compare the dynamic direction on display here to Baroness’ recent conversation-starter Yellow & Green, which has made a lot of waves with some similar sensibilities, but in comparison leaves a lot more behind in search of fertile ground. Instead, Nachtmystium claim a relatively unique victory in finding new ethereal planes to tread without actually taking up any new residence in the physical. Where Yellow & Green took me at least a few spins to wholly accept, and a few more to enjoy quite a bit as I do now, “Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams” confers that entire experience in the length of a single song. “I have escaped,” Judd growls as the band’s carbon-crusted engine revs into full gear, but it’s no question that he’s not talking about a physical enclosure. Nachtmystium may have just finally loosed themselves from the nagging expectations of this bleak, shallow mortal realm.

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Track Reviews / Isnaj Dui: "Nature of Light" (Stream/Video) Fri, 03 Aug 2012 11:08:58 -0700

There’s a flash site called Solar Beat where you can hear the music of the spheres: a model of the galaxy shows the nine planets in orbit, each one chiming as it passes the sun. A slide button allows you to control the speed, turning the sound from bursts of blips to an overlapping, ambient blur. It’s possible this is how Katie English organized her studio when she was preparing this track for Abstract on Solitude, her first album for art label Hibernate, and one that sounds like Solar Beat with a few extra moons.

While her signature flute English can be a gamble for the unadventurous ambient fan, the way she incorporates it into “Nature of Light” will leave even the hardiest woodwind-skeptic in a trance. English plays notes around Vangelis-style synths and panpipes to create a gentle, five-minute breathing technique; arranged into loops, and cycling like Solar Beat’s real orbital frequencies. Nothing special happens except the unbroken feeling of calm, completely natural but otherworldly—something no other artist has pulled off this year, unless John Cage re-records “4’33” with a chorus of dolphins.

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Track Reviews / Para One: "Every Little Thing (f/ Teki Latek & Irfane)" (Stream/Video) Fri, 27 Jul 2012 01:07:12 -0700

Hip-hop producer Jean-Baptiste de Laubier was a king in the ’90s, his Paris studio flat busting with people anxious for his alchemy on their demo tapes. French rap group TTC were one of the first in line, and after mentoring their debut LP de Laubier went crazy, releasing a nine-hour album under the name Fuck-A-Loop. That kind of sabotage would have buried most musicians but de Laubier bounced back, first with a string of funky EPs, and then presumably with a visual entry system to veto all future callers to his apartment.

One of them, Teki Latex, stuck around to turn last year’s “5th Dimension” single into a catchy, pop-length electro hit. He’s been brought back on Passion for “Every Little Thing,” which aims to pile together the high points of de Laubier’s career: soul hooks, Daft Punk remixes, movie scores and dreaming up record titles like Dundun-Dun. The mellow pads and twisted beats overlap nicely, mating French house with Hyperdub while the singer tries unsuccessfully to mate with his dinner date: “And I really didn’t want to come across as a lonely man / When I told you that I loved you on our first date / But I really don’t want to go home,” he groans, crisp synths chorusing around him. The production is predictably fantastic, layering optimism onto the world’s clumsiest pick-up lines, and confirms that the king of Paris is most definitely not dead.

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Track Reviews / Starred: "No Good" (Stream/Video) Wed, 25 Jul 2012 11:07:10 -0700

There’s not an abundance of buzz out there yet about LA duo Starred, and that’s a good thing. Their music has a hint of loneliness and obscurity about it; it feels grainy and far away, though the sound is crystal clear. “No Good” is a hypnotic new track by this so far record-less band, full of languid guitar and hushed, woozy vocals, courtesy of Matthew Koshak and Liza Thorn respectively. On first listen (because I always have R.E.M. in the back of my brain) “No Good” reminded me of those lush, heat-stoned tracks from Automatic for the People (1992), “Star Me Kitten” and “New Orleans Instrumental No. 2.” This isn’t to say that Starred sounds like R.E.M., not really—their sound is surprisingly otherworldly.

Unfortunately, no band can dwell completely in obscurity, and I already know some things about Starred that I wish I didn’t: that Thorn enjoys performing in a fur coat and underwear, and models Volcom jeans; that the two have already been photographed for Hedi Slimane’s “Rock Diary,” looking like they got lost in Johnny Depp’s scarves closet. Another tidbit to color your impression is that Thorn used to be in Christopher Owens’ band Curls, though Starred doesn’t really sound like that band, or Girls. “No Good” shares the slow-burn feel of tracks like “Hellhole Ratrace” and “Summertime,” but never actually explodes the way those songs do. It simply wallows, airy yet stifling, half scary-bad trip and half peaceful high. And here’s where I come back to the song, which is beautiful, and doesn’t have a whiff of LA scene to it, not yet. It’s an open invitation to get swept away in sound and mood, and if you accept, all preconceived notions get washed away.

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Track Reviews / LV: "Sebenza (f/ Okmalumkoolkat)" (Stream/Video) Wed, 18 Jul 2012 12:07:15 -0700

When LV announced a “South London meets South Africa” album, bass music fans held their breath. At best, they might get a dubstep record with accents lifted from Blood Diamond; at worst, a solo Paul Simon outing with klaxons. Luckily the UK trio have delivered neither, taking their cues from the country’s kwaito music and fitting jagged beats and keyboards around it. Anyone ready to sneer at the premise should know the title means “work,” which this track certainly does.

With local MC Okmalumkoolkat on vocals, “Sebenza” is a tale of whose catchiness has been turned up to chart-bothering levels. 8-bit chords and keyboard patches overlap with broken beats, Okmalumkoolkat’s KwaZulu-Natal accent replacing the traditional garage Croydon. “Sebenza / Only rest in December,” he drawls, gently making the point we’re all too busy and all model our lifestyles after gnats. He spits from the centre of some mind-blowing production: slinky, sharp, and juggling bright synths like a deranged disco lighting technician. “The grabbing hands / Grab all they can,” sings the man in the small purple specs, LV prodding and poking him to create a pearl of UK funky by way of Orange Farm Township.

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Track Reviews / Cyrus of the Sun: "With Our Heads Held High (Thin Films remix)" (Stream/Video) Tue, 10 Jul 2012 03:07:24 -0700

Chariots of Fire (1981) is being rereleased for the Olympics, and the producers have missed a trick. Instead of wheeling out that Vangelis score and its associated spoofs they could have pasted in something fresh; something that says “We’re going to lose to the Puerto Ricans” in true 21st century style. And they don’t come more styled than cinematic electronica king Dan McRae, whose remix of Cyrus of the Sun is so rousing it could inspire a new lion-fighting event.

If replacing an iconic soundtrack sounds like blasphemy, McRae’s got the license to do so—he’s been working in post-production since Cold Mountain (2003), the same time he dropped arctic opus Eskimo. His work here might not appease a mob of Ian Charleson fans but it could certainly get the spectators pumping: it sends out peace vibes with waterfall samples, then crackles with distorted bass, bringing in light, luscious strings. Just when the Radio 4 crowd think it’s safe McRae powers up a helicopter engine, detonating drill drums and a chorus of violins like a drone attack on Last Night of the Proms. This is how viewers—movie viewers—want 2012 to end: not with chaps in straw hats clapping but a triumphant Michael Bay moment, the appropriate accompanying ten mile tracking shot and credits longer than Gladiator.

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Track Reviews / Whirr: "Blue" (Stream/Video) Fri, 06 Jul 2012 09:07:29 -0700

In honor of the recent anniversary of my great ancestors’ absolutely undeniable, personal winning of The War of British Aggression, San Francisco’s Whirr get me in the mood to take on what I’d consider to be a timeless (American time, that is) comparison. It’s interesting to think that all of the shoegaze greats—My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, hell, even the Jesus and Mary Chain—were all Brits or Scots. But I’m here to rally the troops around some old-fashioned American battle cries like “Long live the Swirlies!” and “Yeah…yeah! I, uh, kinda remember the Lilys, too!” And thankfully, I get the feeling that Whirr are going to be quick to heed that call.

Whirr’s recently re-issued debut EP, the deceptively titled Distressor, originally landed under the close-call moniker Whirl, with a very limited pressing. But the transformed and no doubt battle-weary Whirr, which features Deafheaven’s Nick Bassett on guitar to some satisfyingly predictable aesthetic result, have continued to forge not only international camaraderie, but some rather intriguing independence of their own out of the frayed edges and jagged textures that originally set the American shoegaze sounds apart from their European precedents. It’s a sound that seems to cut a little more harshly than the comparably polite, foggy wash from over the water, feels a little more unkempt and uncertain, a little more teenage-melodramatic maybe. There’s a kind of lonely, unromantic energy that’s just endlessly endearing.

So nothing against the greats, but Whirr remind me in their own amiable way that it’s nice to have a little something to show off in return, something that deserves its own credit in the lineage. Add to that the fact that this reissue has rolled out on Savannah, Georgia’s collector vinyl freakout factory Graveface Records, on “hot pink/highlighter yellow/orange crush tri-colored vinyl,” and I’ve officially got myself a belated Independence Day present I won’t be able to resist.

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Track Reviews / Two Inch Punch: "Paint It Red" (Stream/Video) Tue, 03 Jul 2012 11:07:45 -0700

After the praise heaped on Two Inch Punch’s Love You Up EP, fans will be pleased to know the West London producer isn’t about to change his R&B/electronica recipe. Coming six months after his label debut, this first taster from the upcoming Saturn: The Slow Jams has caused ripples of adoration across the blogosphere. If only all bands could pull off a sequel this efficiently—perhaps the Stone Roses’ recent reunion concerts might’ve been longer, and included more than one track from The Second Coming (1994).

“Paint It Red” features Nashville’s Mikky Ekko at the mic, and offers more layers of soul studded with digitized vocals. First it plays games, emitting garbled noises which imply Two Inch Punch has taken a roundhouse to the head, and damaged the lobe which controls silky electronics. Luckily crooning pop soon comes to the rescue, with Ekko breathing sweet pillow talk as computers pulse and wink behind him. “I will never know / You’re beautiful baby / But you don’t have to paint it red,” he sighs, urging his girl to put down the brush. In another minute the dreamy chorus takes full flight, with both producer and singer achieve a head state like Timbaland lying back with a fat one.

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