Saturday, January 28, 2012

Listening list

I've been meaning to do this for a while, here is a round up of some of what I have been listening to and enjoying over the last month or two:

A.P reworks Muslimgauze: The sheer size of Muslimgauze's discography makes even the thought of trying to tackle his ouvre too challenging. This EP, however, is an excellent point of entry, with A.P putting his signature on 4 tracks from the Muslimgauze library. The combination works perfectly, A.P adds a lovely ambience and tempo to it all.

Andy Stott - "Passed Me By / We Stay Together": The name of the first of these perfectly describes what happened with me, these albums really did pass me by last year. I am not sure what it is was, but all the praise for these actually turned me off checking them. It was only after a very trusted friend implored me to listen, combined with the appearance on this on a wide range of different EoY lists, that I ordered the double CD version. I am glad I got over my prejudices because these are really special. The praise is deserved. Stott is carving out his own universe, and it is one that is thoroughly captivating. 

Pulse Emitter - "Cosmic Images" and "Spiritual Vistas": Pulse Emitter has a sound that really appeals to my tastes. The deep, meditative droning atmospheres are perfect for the sore, tired brain. This stuff is fantastic late at night, or the day after going to a club. This is music to soak up. Gorgeous stuff. Very excited about his forthcoming LP on Aguirre.

1958-2009 and Earn - "A Following Shadow": Beautiful shimmering ambiance from Matthew Sullivan. The A1 on the 1958-2009 LP is particularly sublime. My wife also picked up a big batch of tapes from his label, Ekhein, and I have been enjoying making our way through them. Some excellent stuff. So far the stand out has probably been Greg Davis' "Schumann Resonances".

Prurient - "Bermuda Drain": Perhaps my most listened to release over the last 2 months. As I said before, the screaming in it definitely is a bit of a barrier, but if you can work through it, you will be rewarded. This album really reminds me from a scene in "Punch Drunk Love" where Adam Sandler says, "your face is so beautiful I just wanna smash it, just smash it with a sledgehammer and squeeze're so pretty." Also"Time's Arrow" is a very good companion piece to the album, so I would suggest checking that too.

HTRK - "Work (Work, Work)": This has been getting a lot of love recently, seems like a lot of people (myself included) discovered it from some EoY lists. What I really like about this album is how complete it is. It fits together so well, there are no weak tracks, it is just the right length. It feels like something where the artists achieved their vision.

Craig Leon - "Nommos": Discovered this through Raime's EoY list. Looks like it is a sneaky repress and there are not many copies floating about. If you can, grab one, it is totally awesome. It is from 1981 and it very much feels of that time, but in the best possible way. There is a beautiful simplicity to the machines, the tracks have quite an open, expansive feel to them.

Sapphire Slows - "Melt" and "True Breath": Sapphire was a guest at our last chill out party, and I talked about her then, so not much to add here. I really love both of these EPs. Very impressive stuff considering she has only been making music for about a year. Her tracks are well balanced, they definitely have a pop element, but it is not overdone. Sweet, warm music.

Donnacha Costello – "12 Days": This is the special digital release project that Donnacha did over the Christmas / New Year period. 1 ambient track per day for 12 days. Of these I'd say there are 3 gems, which show Donnacha at his absolute best. These 3 tracks - "From Nowhere", "Losing Battle" and "Just Because" - I have been playing on a very regular basis. A great little project and excellent value (it was only 10 euro or something ridiculous).

Tim Hecker - "Dropped Pianos": I held off buying this for a while simply because I am not a big fan of piano based music. I am glad I got over that, though, as this is excellent. It has that powerful, arresting feel common to Hecker's work but is not as intense as "Ravedeath".

Pete Swanson - "Man With Potential": Bit abrasive at times, but still very listenable. It gets better as it develops too, the first track is the weakest, and the last one is my favourite. This strikes me as an excellent example of the kind of music Dave was talking about in his "post-techno' piece.

Pete Swanson & Rene Hell – "Waiting For The Ladies": The Swanson track is in a similar vein to the "Man With Potential" release, while the synths of Rene Hell are much warmer and more inviting. I had a really beautiful moment the other night walking through the snow listening to the tracks from Hell. Strong release.

"Orgelvärk: en stadig samling svensk synthmusik": The subtitle for this recent compilation on Minimal Wave translate as "a solid collection of Swedish synth music" but this is a big understatement. A really fantastic release. I want to buy a lot more from Minimal Wave than I end up doing because it feels like most of the releases have some killer tracks, but then quite a few that have not aged so well. There certainly isn't that problem here, lots of great '80s synth music from the Swedes to enjoy.

Joachim Nordwall – "Ignition": Dark, droning, pulsating ambient music. The digital version is just one track that goes for about 50 minutes, which works well, allowing Nordwall builds a captivating and immersive atmosphere. You can get the whole release in wav format for just £1.66 from Junodownload. This is ridiculously good value. Trust me, buy it.

Last of all are two collaborative debut albums from friends of ours: Voices from the Lake (Donato Dozzy and Neel) and Sendai (Peter Van Hoesen and Yves De Mey). Neither album are that surprising, each do roughly what you'd expect them to do: VFTL is diving ambient techno, while Sendai fuses their shared interest in sound design with some latent techno sensibilities. I am completely biased but I really like both of these releases and I think each have managed to successfully execute their respective visions. Looking forward to getting physical copies of both of these. From memory I think both albums are out in the next month or so.

Ok, that's it. All of these releases are recommended. Let us know if you have any tips on things to check.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ssg special - Vril

This week we are very happy to welcome a new face to mnml ssgs, Vril. While he only has a few releases to his name, Vril has definitely be turning some heads, including ours. We came across Vril with his first EP on the Staub imprint on Giegling, one of our favourite labels. We weren't the only ones to notice this record: Marcel Dettmann licenced "V3" for his recent mix CD, while Marcel Fengler asked Vril to contribute an exclusive track for his Berghain mix CD, which was also featured on the sampler EP along with Peter Van Hoesen and Reagenz. And based on the livepa he has put together for mnml ssgs, we think he'll be getting lots more attention in the future...

In this live session Vril has constructed sixty minutes of carefully building techno. Even if he is a relatively new artist, it is clear he already has a lot of strong material and has a tight liveset. There is real life and vitality to his music, it kicks! It kind of reminds us of the early Kompakt Speicher releases. It is, quite simply, some rather rocking techno.

Ssg special - Vril

Vril's first release "V1-V4" is not even on discogs anymore, but the good news is that there will be a repress at some point this year, so keep an eye out for that. You can also expect Vril's third EP, "V8-V10", which is on its way. For any booking requests, please write to: Big thanks to Vril for making this recording for us, and to Marcel and the Giegling boys for helping to organise it. Enjoy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Is that a Tardis in your pocket (or do you prefer complacent house music)?

I’d intended this post as some final words on 2011. But then two things happened. First of all, I listened to LWE’s Smallville ‘talking shopcast’ mix. Then, in lieu of an abortive graveyard shift on RRR (another story), I trawled through my early catalogue Dial records. Doing these two things stirred up some very powerful mixed feelings. So the final 2011 post – dealing with positive tropes and things that are really worth chasing if you haven't/didn't – will have to wait until next week. For now, here's me clearing the decks with some things I'd kept on not saying, but that kept on repeating on me...

Time is precious, time hurts. Time gives you erosion, loss, destruction and death. But for precisely that reason, you also get hanami, kittens, sunrise, and spring. On balance, I'd say it's worth it (well, consider the alternative). In 2011, Lawrence released a CD mix for Cocoon called Timeless. Conceptually, timeless ‘rhymes’ with priceless; something taken out of circulation as above and beyond, over and outside the normal ebb and flow of things (especially things touched and alienated by the grubby processes of production, distribution, exchange, consumption, wasting, neglect, disposal &c). That which is timeless, like that which is priceless, is not for sale, cannot be exchanged, will not perish. Even Mastercard concedes that such things are outside its grubbying purview. Timelessness is no mean feat; timeless makes a play for eternity. (To complete this thought, please master the moment by clicking through to the following encrypted page in order to purchase your own copy of Timeless...)

Lawrence’s mix was as you’d expect, if, like me, you're a long-time listener: it was well-programmed and well mixed. It's very 'nice'. It's also truly, 'deeply' repetitive in that, in listening to it, I not only had the feeling that I’d ‘heard it all before’, I even feel like I’d heard Lawrence play it all before. Would this play for forever have been okay if it were ‘just another podcast mix’? I’m not sure. But as a published work there was an affronting pretence to Timeless, both content and title. It was as if all the changes I know and feel about house music and the world over the past decade had never happened. It’s said that ‘still waters run deep’. But they also tend toward stagnation. I’m not sure if audacity has a true antonym, but Lawrence’s mix suggests it is: Timeless. Either that, or ‘timeless’ is just a very conceited way of saying: complacent. I gave it three careful listens to check if I wasn’t missing anything, then, out of respect for house music, my memories, and Lawrence’s back catalogue, I deleted and ‘forgot’ about Timeless. Forgot about it in a way that was not even poignant, merely... nothing... In fact, I ‘forgot’ about it until this morning (which also tells you something very important that Papa Freud tried to remind us, repeatedly, about ‘forgetting’).

The Talking Shopcast mix with Smallville goes even further down this road. It's so lovely, so tasteful. But it could have been mixed 12 years ago and not sounded any different. In fact, if it *were* mixed 12 years ago, it would be very likely to sound exactly like it does. I've been thinking about this for some time, and I've decided that it really matters. Making a mix from 2000 in 2012... it matters. Well, it may not matter to you. But it matters to me.

Like Timeless, for me there is something unbearably complacent at work in the decision to make this mix in 2012, and I find it affronting in a way that actually makes me feel very angry. It’s an attempted violation of my time somehow...(but time we share, however abstractly, by living through these times together) It's a kind of complacency makes me want to set fire to my records (in a pathetic version of Mizoguchi setting fire to ginkakuji). As if to prove some pyrrhic point about evanescence, memory, or forgetting. This weird over-reverence that makes you want to desecrate things you love and care about... (gobbing and safety pins notwithstanding, is this how punks felt?)

In my initial notes for this post, I wrote the following as prospective subheadings:

  • a) confusing 'house' for 'home' (this house is *not* home, shut up): in most OECD countries the state will ‘house’ you, but if they want to enter, be in, or make a ‘home’ with you, this is the stuff of terror and nightmares
  • b) from 'comfort food' to 'comfort house': what do we want when we want to be comforted by food? And what happens to house music when it just becomes a matter of comfort?
  • c) all the comforts of home: the interview with Smallville stresses ‘cosy’, ‘deep’, ‘nice’. Okay, they're adults, these are clear artistic decisions, but: goodbye, fellas. I can't follow you that way. There is far too much reverence here, but it is sort of self-reverential, like a person hugging themselves. If I want to respect your past (in perpetuity), I think I need to do us both a favour and ignore your immediate future projects...
  • d) cosy, timeless, complacent: the etymology of complacence is pleasing: mum tries to please with her cooking, and we return love by eating it. But you must 'clean your plate'. (if she's a traditional ‘homely’ mother, mine never made me finish my potatoes). Anything less is an affront to her ‘unconditional love’. This could make you feel angsty and aimlessly suffocated (like a teenager) but also wearied and resigned (like an old spouse), co-dependent but comfortable with their 'chosen' discomfort. ‘Don’t worry, mother, I’ll never leave you. Things will always be the same... feed me...’ Only: time is out of joint. There is a little of the placenta in this place and its complacency... And there is something awfully unheimlich about this home: actually, house and homes like this are uncannily like the home invasion nightmare scene from an American Werewolf in London (PS you need to leave home in order to have a chance with Jenny Agutter... NB: this also means risking becoming a werewolf).
Then I wrote this down in my notes:
If everything is broken, how come nothing appears to be falling apart?
For me, the worst thing about the previous decade has been our inability to bury it: the GWOT has just turned in to ‘overseas contingency operations’, while the GFC has just rolled into what is not longer a crisis, but just chronic. The 10 year fucker is undead, monstrous, and keeps on rising, repetitively, to attack us - with a crate full of deep house records. For me, in spite/precisely because of their careful, crafted, reverent sounds, this was what I couldn't stand about Lawrence and the Smallville peepz decided to do with their 2011. At times it tempted me to go hide in my bongo closet, wait for sunrise, and hum the Talking Heads' Heaven to myself over and over. But no, that wouldn't be the right response to the times. The times is real. And the times is weird. Thank God John Maus gave me the strength to sing along to it in a way that meant something.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Finn Johannsen tracklist

Glad everyone has been enjoying Finn's mix. The lesson I have taken from this is that we need some more electro mixes on ssgs. This is something we will have to work on... In the meantime, here is the tracklist:

Ssg special - Finn Johannsen electro mix

Erotek - Computer-Aided Poetic Funk (Afrosyntrix)
Urban Tribe – RNA World (Rephlex)
Spesimen – Angels In My Room (Pomelo)
Erotek – Safe Mode (Afrosyntrix)
DJ Godfather & Starski – Jits (D.E.T. Only)
B. Calloway – No Techno Like Mine (Electrofunk)
Fix – Shaftism (Electrofunk)
Urban Tribe – Her (Trust)
Hardfloor – The Life We Choose (E.R.P. Remix) (Hardfloor)
Bounce – Drop The Ball (Electrofunk)
Mr. De’ - By The Pound (Electrofunk)
DJ Godfather – First Contact (Breakdown Mix) (Twilight 76)
E8 – Micropacer 1 (Marguerita)
Nuel – Untitled (Aquaplano)
Stingray313 – Who’s Watching The Watchers
Clatterbox – Genetic Code (Frustrated Funk)
Aaron-Carl – Backslash (Afrosyntrix)
DJ Assault – U Can’t See Me (Mo Wax)
Erotek – (Afrosyntrix)
DJ Godfather & Starski – Another Freaks (D.E.T. Only)
Mr. De’ – Bass (Electrofunk)
DJ Godfather – Backwerdz (Twilight 76)
Erotek – DOS Foot (Afrosyntrix)
Jodey Kendrick – Untitled (Rephlex)
DJ Godfather & Starski – Moments (D.E.T. Only)
Art Of Noise – Moments In Love (ZTT)

And if you are in the mood for more electro, I would thoroughly recommend you pick up the excellent first part of the Drexciya reissue series on Clone. Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller is electro music at its very finest.

Thanks again to Finn for putting this together. Our next ssg mix will be up in a few days.

Friday, January 20, 2012

KR live session

Without doubt one of our highlights in 2011 was Kangding Ray. Quality album, fantastic ssg mix, and a killer livepa. The good news is that he recently put together an excellent live studio session, which has now been archived on ustream. Unsurprisingly it is pretty awesome. There is a kind of controlled power in his sound that demands your attention. And the drums! I love this more beat-orientated direction Kangding has been taking recently and I hope he continues with it. Normally I don't bother with streaming online, but this is definitely worth it. Kangding Ray live is a special treat and the audio quality on this video is surprisingly good.

And for anyone in/near Berlin at the end of the month, Kangding Ray is playing at Berghain on 31 January, as part of the Club Transmediale festival. The same night will also feature Sendai (Peter Van Hoesen and Yves De Mey) debuting their new live show. I would strongly recommend checking it out if you can. Indeed, I'd make every effort to go to as much of CTM as possible. The lineup this year is insane.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ssg special - Finn Johannsen

For our first mix of 2012 we are very happy to welcome back a good friend of the ssgs, Finn Johannsen. Some of you might know Finn for the pair of excellent mixes he did for us back in 2010. Some of you might know Finn because of the always interesting Macro label that he runs with Stefan Goldmann. Some of you might know Finn because of his quality journalism for a range of outlets (RA, de:bug and more). Some of you might know Finn because of trips to Hardwax, where he also works. And some of you might simply not know Finn. If that is the case, hopefully the mix he has put together for us will make you want to find out more about one of Berlin's true renaissance men.

The idea for this mix came from a visit to Hardwax last year. Finn was forcing records into my arms kindly making a few suggestions and we got talking about our mutual love of electro music. And then we worked out that Finn had never done an out and out electro mix, and mnml ssgs had never hosted one either. So it was time to change all of that. Finn has selected 90 minutes of red hot electro to share with you all, creating a mix that beautifully displays the timeless charm and energy of this genre. Not much more to say about it really, this is electro pure and simple baby. Enjoy!

Ssg special - Finn Johannsen electro mix

For all things Finn, check his homepage and follow his twitter. For upcoming DJ gigs there is his RA page. As always, we'll post the tracklist next week. Big thanks to Finn for this treat.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

MNML SSGS PARTY with natural/electronic.system.

In March 2011 we planned our first club night at Module, but it had to be cancelled due to the tragic events of 3/11. Since then we have been waiting for the right moment to try again with the party. It has taken almost a year, but it is finally happening! For this event we have invited a pair of DJs that are very dear to our heart, and should be well known to many of our readers: natural/electronic.system.

natural/electronic.system. are Antonio Giova and Valerio Gomez de Ayala, a DJ/producer duo from Napoli, Italy. We have been following them closely for a couple of years now and we are huge fans of their distinctive take on the deeper, hypnotic side of techno. Antonio and Valerio have a real ability for building their sets, allowing the music to breathe and slowly develop. Moving from ambient to deep house and techno, their track selection is impeccable, as is the pacing of their sets. This will be their first time back in Japan since playing at Labyrinth in 2009.  Because of their talents at creating a story with their music, we have asked Antonio and Valerio to take control of the decks for the whole night. Upstairs we will be doing a 'Sound Garden' chill out room, with myself and Dave the silent ssg, plus fellow Sound Garden residents David Dicembre and Jelomu.

Saturday 3 March 2012
23:00 - late
3,000 yen (door) 

B2F: Main Floor
natural/electronic.system. (Italy - all night set) 

B1F: 'Sound Garden' chill out
Dave the silent ssg (MNML SSGS)
David Dicembre (Combine)
Jelomu (Drone)

natural/electronic.system. mixes on MNML SSGS:

mnml ssgs mx23 (March 2009)
mnml ssgs mx49 (February 2010)
ssg special - Antonio Giova (September 2011)
ssg special - Valerio Gomez de Ayala (October 2011)

We are very excited natural/electronic.system. are coming back to Japan and we hope you can join us on 3 March at Module!

Chill out on Sunday!

Sorry it has been a bit quiet around here, this year has gotten off to a very busy start. We will have more on ssgs soon, including our first mix for 2012. In the meantime,  just a reminder that our first chill out party for the year is this Sunday evening. Our special guest is Sapphire Slows, who will be joining us to share some of her favourite music (you can check her best releases for 2011 here).  Details and timetable are:

Sound Garden - January party

Sunday 15 January 2012, 16:00 - 23:00
Bar Orbit, Sangenjaya

16:00 - 18:00 Chris
18:00 - 20:00 David Dicembre
20:00 - 21:00 Sapphire Slows
21:00 - 23:00 Jelomu

Hope to see you there! And if you can't make it, I would recommend checking Sapphire Slow's lovely "True Breath" EP on Not Not Fun.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

More of the same...

Tonight in Tokyo Jeff Mills will be debuting his latest project, 'The Messenger', at club Air. Will I be going? No. It's not because I am not interested, quite the opposite: I would really love to be there. But... tomorrow is a normal working day for me (and for basically everyone else). The party tonight doesn't open until 11pm and there is a support DJ, so I am guessing Mills would start at midnight at the very earliest, but probably a bit later. In addition, they haven't listed set times, which makes it difficult to decide whether to try going for a short time. I am presuming it is on a Thursday night because of scheduling issues for Air and/or Mills, and that is fine, I am totally ok with mid-week gigs. But... I don't understand why they have to schedule it at such a prohibitive time. Given it is a weeknight, why do they have to run it like a normal club night? Why can't they have it starting at a more reasonable time - say opening at 9pm, with Jeff starting at 10pm or something similar? And especially given this is a more of a conceptual event, an earlier time slot shouldn't matter. This is just yet another example of how difficult it is for us to think differently about presenting techno / electronic music. Why must it only take place in the middle of the night? We listen to the music during the day and evening on our ipods and at our homes etc., surely we can go dance to it at these times too? This is one of the things I like most about a place like Berghain, the fact that you can sleep through the night, wake up and go there in the morning or at lunchtime and have a dance. You needn't stay up all night long (even though many do). Admittedly, this is hardly a new frustration, but the reason I raise it here is because I have read in interviews with Jeff Mills where he calls for different forms of electronic music events and different ways of collectively engaging with the music. Yet here we have a new project of his, but presented in the exact format (in the middle of the night) on a workday. I am disappointed Mills and the club could not have been a bit more flexible or creative. And while the club might have had a preference for it being an all night event, the pulling power of Jeff Mills in Japan is such that I am sure it could have been at a different/earlier time, should he have desired. With tonight, so be it, I am sure Jeff will be great, and I will miss it because I have an early start at work tomorrow. But on a larger scale, I feel until we collectively start becoming more creative about trying to push electronic music out of the singular context of all night clubbing, it will continue to unnecessarily limit the way we engage with the music.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Next chill out party - Sunday 15 January

Happy new year ssgs! On Sunday 15 January we will be having our first 'Sound Garden' chill out party for 2012. This month our special guest is Sapphire Slows. She is a relatively new Japanese artists, who has recently put out her first two records: a 7" on Big Love, and a 12" on Not Not Fun. These two releases have a dreamy, ethereal feeling to them, with the most obvious reference point for her sound being someone like Maria Minerva. And as with some the best material on NNF and 100% Silk, there is a kind of DIY charm to her music. To give you an idea, here is a video of one of the tracks from her NNF single:

Sapphire Slows - Animal Dreams from Not Not Fun on Vimeo.

If you want to check more about Sapphire Slows, she has a facebook page and soundcloud. And to see her on person, come down to Orbit on 15 January when she'll be joining us to spin some records. I am glad to see more artists like this appearing in Japan and we very happy to welcome her as our guest for the next edition of 'Sound Garden'. Details are:

Sound Garden - January party

Guest: Sapphire Slows (Not Not Fun)
Residents: David Dicembre (Combine) / Jelomu (Drone) / Chris (MNML SSGS)
Sunday 15 January 2012
16:00 - 23:00
Bar Orbit, Sangenjaya

So if you are free on the 15th, please come down and welcome 2012 with us in a relaxed and friendly style. We are looking forward to continuing these chill out parties throughout the year.