Monday, 5 August 2013

The rise of House music, from Detroit to Manchester

[Interior of the Hacienda nightclub, Manchester]

As the 90s progressed and drum machines gave increasing power to DJs while allowing producers to explore different sounds and increasingly complicated rhythms, new genres sprung up faster than most people could keep up with. By the late 90s things had reached a climactic peak of idiocy, with music fans and artists hell bent on sub-classifying house music into increasingly obscure and pointless genres that often made little to no sense at all. However, broadly speaking, in many of the clubs in Europe (especially Berlin) house music was becoming more sparse, with DJs favouring minimal melodies and ambient experiments paired with driving beats that could come and go like a aural tide.

Drawing inspiration from the sparser sounds of Detroit techno, Deep House softens the harsh edges of industrial beats and relies of bass-heavy warmth to drive bodies on the dance-floor. Often classified as progressive house, trance, minimalist or tech house, its resurgence in popularity thanks to newer artists such as Deadmau5 will ensure that the delights of enraged genre debates can continue in future generations.

Deep House/Techno DJ mix:

Artist // Track

1. Begin - Elate
2. Deadmau5 - Faxing Berlin
3. Daft Punk - Contact
4. System 7 - Spacebird (Dubfire remix)
5. Underworld - Mmm... Skyscraper I Love You
6. Shlomi Aber & Itamar Sagi - Blonda (Original)
7. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
8. Orbital - Belfast

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Saturday, 3 August 2013

Track Highlight: Mother of Pearl

The original Dorian Gray, Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music has made a career of looking for love in all the wrong places. Before sliding into a wearied but knowing collapse of easy listening, Roxy Music spent the 70s as one of the pioneers of British art-rock, mixing experimental studio techniques with high-brow lyrics and unsettling performances.

This song from their third album is a story told in two parts, with the narrator finding himself in the middle of a frenzied party, frantically trying to be noticed. Later, reflecting on the night, he stumbles upon life's inner meaning and ponders on the futility of his search for love. Those familiar with Ferry must wonder at the obvious parallels with his own life, and the tragedy of predicting his own personal troubles while being unable to avoid them. Still, it's unlikely he'd change it for the whole world.

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Monday, 8 July 2013

Track Highlight: La Mer - Sleazy disco

One of the most famous French chansons, "La Mer" has been covered endlessly by artists in every style of music imaginable. What makes Julio Iglesias' version special is the funky sleaze which his band uses to turn a melancholy and introspective song into a dirtier disco track that slinks through the speakers like a nauseous fog.

Used (with good reason) recently in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", playing in the background of a miserable alcohol-fueled office party in a dingy room choked with cigarette smoke and secrets, Iglesias croons gently as the movie reaches it's finale of betrayal and regrets. A world away from the lighthearted pop tunes of ABBA and the Bee Gees, this is disco that explores the darker side of love, something which is far more resonant, timeless and real than Travolta strutting around in a shiny suit.

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Friday, 5 July 2013

The New Wave of Disco: how technology changed music (for the better)

[Bruce Davidson: Subway (New York City, 1980)]

As the grime of the late 1970s progressed into the glossy sheen of the Reagan and Thatcherite years, New Wave began hitting the clubs across Europe and North America. Something that seems to be lost in clubs today is the sheer eclecticism that DJs displayed when sharing music with the crowd. Disco hits from a few years ago would be mashed together with the latest tracks that used shimmering synthesizers and cold drum machines instead of the warm studio sounds favoured by session musicians, creating a chaotic but frenetic atmosphere that in many ways mirrored the social and economic upheavals of the time.

No Wave Disco - Disco/New Wave DJ mix:

Artist // Track

1. Tambi - You Don't Know (Horse Meat Disco Remix)
2. Young Marco - Darwin in Bahia
3. Rose Laurens - American Love
4. Visage - Fade to Gray
5. Wild Geese - Macho Disco Master
6. Metro Area - Atmosphrique
7. The Human League - Don't You Want Me?

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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Not your Dad's disco: the origins of dance music

In the beginning... there was the Paradise Garage. Arguably the birth place of what would later become modern dance/DJ culture, the Paradise Garage had the most impressive sound system ever heard.