Reviews

Ghostface Killah + DOME: 24 June 2009 - Sydney

It was clear that the Wu-Tang connection was what had lured most of the audience to this show.

Ghostface Killah

Ghostface Killah + DOME

City: Sydney, Australia
Venue: The Forum
Date: 2009-06-24

In the fantasy version of this gig that played out in my overactive imagination in the days leading up to it, the audience was going to be packed with blinged-out gangsters and hip-hop honeys, several people would be clasping jewel-encrusted goblets, and there would most likely be gunshots fired, or at the very least a knife fight would take place. The police would be called and the night would end in a riot, with half of the crowd being loaded into the back of police vans. However, I realised that it’s not every day that you get to see a member of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan take to the stage, so I leapt at the chance to see Ghostface Killah on this latest tour despite the impending disaster.

So I was vastly disappointed, and also more than a little relieved, when I arrived to find a couple of hundred suburban kids in their finest Wu-Tang merchandise getting down to the DJs who were spinning hip-hop classics from the likes of Biggie Smalls, Tupac, and Jay-Z. Getting into the Forum took a little longer than usual, as the powers-that-be obviously shared my paranoid vision of the crowd and insisted on frisking everyone who entered the building. After this I felt a little more gangster than usual, and sauntered in with my very best swagger down to the front of the show to patiently wait for Ghostface to arrive on stage. As it turns out, I was going to need all the patience I could muster.

From the moment we settled in an excitable MC was hyping the crowd by yelling, “Ghostface is in the house!!” Obviously he was in another part of the house, because this was followed by “… but first, I wanna introduce DOME to the stage! Some people call them ‘Do Me’, so welcome them for the first time in Sydney!!! DOME!” I am still unsure whether this was meant to be a hype-up, or a withering insult. You can decide that for yourself, as it didn’t seem to bother DOME, about whom I can find absolutely no information. They arrived on stage fresh faced and looking like they had just stepped out of a time machine set to 1986 and delivered a brief set of competent but ultimately dull rap, then disappeared to make way for a guy who takes out the award for laziest DJ in the universe. He simply slapped down the wax, plonked down the needle and promptly left the stage, not returning for another fifteen minutes or so. When he did return it was only to slap down another pre-mixed record, which didn’t make for much of a show.

The excitable MC kept reappearing periodically to assure all present that Ghostface was on his way, but the clock crept way past his advertised set time with no sign of the man himself. The delay dragged on and on. It wasn’t until just after 11:30 pm that Ghostface managed to drag himself on stage, and the collective relief was expressed through hollering and throwing Wu-Tang hand signs all over the place.

It was clear that the Wu-Tang connection was what had lured most of the audience to this show and Ghostface seemed to know this all too well, peppering his set liberally with material culled not only from the group’s back catalogue, but also from the solo works of other members of the clan. Stone classics like “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”, “Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit”, and “Can It All Be So Simple” were scattered amongst tracks from Ghostface’s considerable body of solo material.

His requisite posse of rappers did their best to keep up the hard-earned image of hard drinking and hard smoking outlaws by drinking Hennessy from the bottle, then lighting up a massive blunt and passing it round the stage. One member of the posse looked like they may have taken one hit too many, and spent most of the show looking a bit lost and skulking about the back of the stage with his hoodie pulled up over his head. Soon enough they started pulling the ladies up on stage to do a bit of booty dancing, but someone obviously miscalculated as one of the girls looked much more like she was having a fit. Every time a member of the posse started sidling up to her they’d take a second look and immediately run as fast as they could in the opposite direction. All of which was not only incredibly awkward, but also wildly hilarious.

Ultimately Ghostface put on a competent show, but came across as being virtually interchangeable with any other member of the Wu-Tang Clan. There wasn’t enough of himself in the show, but this didn’t seem to bother the crowd in the slightest, and they seemed more interested in the Wu-Tang material anyway, the strength of which makes it very hard to complain. Anyway, it gave the crowd a chance to show off how cleverly they could put their hands together to form a “W”, and none of us left the Forum feeling short-changed.

Except, of course, by the lack of gunfire and knife fights.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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