Music

Drive-By Truckers: Live from Austin TX

Live from Austin TX is still an excellent document of a great rock 'n roll band doing what it does best.


Drive-By Truckers

Live from Austin TX

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2009-07-07
UK Release Date: n/a
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood has already gone on record saying that Live from Austin TX is "absolutely the best filmed performance our band has ever had". True enough, the stellar mix and pristine visual and audio quality found on the DVD will come as a revelation for fans who are accustomed to soundboard recordings and raw mixes of the band's live shows. But one also gets the impression that Hood might be choosing his words carefully to emphasize the superiority of this release over 2005's Dirty South -- Live at the 40 Watt -- there's a world of difference between "best performance" and "best filmed performance", a world that someone with Hood's linguistic talents is undoubtedly aware.

Sure, it's a totally minor distinction -- but an important one nonetheless. Because while there is no argument against the surface quality of the videography and the performance, anyone who has seen the band live under normal circumstances will agree that Live from Austin TX is not the most definitive record of what goes down at a Drive-By Truckers show. This isn't intended as a criticism of the band, but rather an imperative to keep the context in mind; knowing that this was recorded in a situation far more formal than the rock clubs to which they're accustomed could help ease the disappointment some might feel over the considerably safer version of the Drive-By Truckers documented here.

The CD/DVD package presents the band's full set from a September 2008 concert taped for the venerable PBS series, Austin City Limits, a show whose aesthetic principles tend to elicit subdued performances by definition. The band takes advantage of the setting to begin the show with a couple of acoustic numbers, "Perfect Timing" and "Heathens" -- songs played not so frequently on regular tour stops. It's a slightly deceptive introduction, however -- by the third song (guitarist Mike Cooley's excellent "A Ghost to Most"), Hood trades the acoustic for his gold-top Les Paul and -- with the exception of "Space City" later in the set -- lets it rip from there on out.

One of the advantages of the DVD's mix is to hear what each band member brings to the arrangements a little more clearly than usual. Cooley, although his guitar gets a bit buried in the mix, spins off his customary share of mind-bogglingly tasteful solos; similarly, John Neff gets in his share of hot solo time as well, not to mention making the pedal steel guitar look as easy to play as the triangle. Shonna Tucker's bass literally thumps out of her Ampeg SVT rig, always locking in perfectly with drummer Brad Morgan's understated solidity. And keyboardist Jay Gonzalez may actually benefit the most from the recording quality -- where his contributions are often lost in the mix of a DBT club show, it's a pleasant surprise when the DVD reveals how much his organ adds to songs like the live staple, "Puttin' People on the Moon".

But while the Drive-By Truckers are a democratic ensemble at heart, Patterson Hood is still undeniably the band's focal point -- a status also reinforced by this performance. He brings his characteristic passion to the fore, whether confessing his thrill at achieving his dream of performing on Austin City Limits or introducing songs like "The Living Bubba" (an introduction sadly edited out of the CD version, presumably for space considerations) with detailed stories about the people who inspired them. Nowhere is this clearer than in "18 Wheels of Love", a song Hood wrote as a wedding gift for his mother when she remarried. In what is reportedly the last-ever live performance of the song, Hood's extended introduction displays humble eloquence and the timing of a genius storyteller -- making the sentiment of the actual song ring that much truer in what is a definite highlight of both the CD and DVD.

And by the time the band closes out with two of its best and most-loved songs, "Let There Be Rock" and "Marry Me", there's a sense that maybe this whole business about the subdued context and ACL formality isn't so important after all. Maybe it's more interesting to see a great band adapt to its surroundings and still make it a rousing success -- even if they do have to resort to using a set list just this once. So while it might lack the spontaneous energy and marathon length -- and consumption of Jack Daniels straight from the bottle -- of a "normal" DBT live show, Live from Austin TX is still an excellent document of a great rock 'n' roll band doing what it does best.

8

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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