Music

DJ Food: One Man's Weird Is Another Man's World

After a nine-year hiatus, DJ Food returns with a teaser EP of an upcoming concept album revolving around his undying fascination with retro-futuristic absurdism.


DJ Food

One Man's Weird Is Another Man's World

Label: Ninja Tune
US Release Date: 2009-07-07
UK Release Date: 2009-07-05
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

DJ Food’s nine-year absence from the conveyor belt of releases has landed it a question mark in its Wikipedia entry: “Years active: 1992 to Present?”. But then you check out its webpage -- link provided by Wikipedia no less -- and it tells you that what used to be a collective side project of Ninja Tune/Coldcut founders Matt Black and Jonathan Moore, but misunderstood by many to be one person, is now more or less one person: Strictly Kev, Ninja’s art director. You are also told that far from hiding out in a bat cave somewhere in Australia, DJ Food has been hitting the decks from Reading to the Rivera, taking his kids to see giant Tokyo-style robot displays, and getting his art fix at a decrepit shipyard in Poland. The Afrika Bambaataa in him has also dug out the recesses of lost records, producing gems like the Sesame Street classic “Pinball Number Count”.

You are also told that DJ Food’s dearth of releases this decade comes down to Kev becoming the go-to person for wacky album covers. His client list includes the Cinematic Orchestra, DJ Vadim, Amon Tobin, 9 Lazy 9, Kid Koala, and pretty much everyone else on Ninja’s roster. But for some unexplained reason, Kev wasn’t up to designing the gnarly face of One Man’s Weird Is Another Man’s World, instead enlisting comic artist Henry Flint.

Thanks to multiple personnel changes, DJ Food has evolved somewhat since its days as the DJ’s DJ, issuing raw breaks for the turntablist to tear, stab, transform, and remix. It was not until A Recipe for Disaster (1995) that DJ Food became a bona fide producer as well. Created by Kev and PC (Patrick Carpenter, not Personal Computer, as was the confusion at one point), it was a slick sample-laden mashup with jazz as its backbone and wit as its lifeblood. Then came the duo’s last full-length collaboration, Kaleidescope (2000), before PC decided to dedicate himself fully to the Cinematic Orchestra. That release bent freeform jazz into a series of schizophrenic skits, with the double allure of a Quincy Jones sample and veteran jazz poet/voiceover artist Ken Nordine. It sounded like the Herbaliser hobnobbing with Herbie Hancock during his Miles Davis group days on a hit of mushrooms in an echoing chamber.

One Man’s Weird Is Another Man’s World, on the other hand, has something akin to Hancock leaving Blue Note to produce the Mwandishi albums. It’s less jazz, and a tad more rocking, a result spun by Kev’s crate-digging of Eno, Adam & the Ants, the Bomb Squad, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Kraftwerk, anything on ZTT… But rather than appropriating found sounds and samples in wicked ways, as producers are wont to do, DJ Food appropriates his influences in wicked ways. Opener “The Illectrik Hoax”, for instance, sounds as if Magazine were in cahoots with both Rage Against the Machine and the Smashing Pumpkins. Yet every bit of the track was written by Kev.

As a six track EP, we are told that One Man’s Weird... will form an upcoming album tentatively, not to mention aptly, titled Stolen Moments. We are also told that it will evolve into some sort of “concept” album. Given what we know about DJ Food, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that he will playfully gibe against the usual epic grandeur of concept albums. In fact, we are told one track, “Extract from Stolen Moments”, will provide the theme, and that track, along with “Colours Beyond Colours”, suggests DJ Food’s fascination with retro-futuristic absurdism still has much life left in it.

A shelved outtake for Kaleidescope that was co-written with PC, “Extract from Stolen Moments” has Ken Nordine embodying the 1960s Space Age, prophesising that the end of the '60s will usher in a world ruled by robots instead of humans. The menace of his announcement is drolly amplified by thunderclaps and a tinkling piano hook that would do well in detective series Columbo. “Colours Beyond Colours” opens with a Jamaican-sounding speaker ostensibly describing the supersensory effects of LSD, and then segueing into a cod-'60s-didactic announcement about the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s all very idiosyncratic and not entirely original, but One Man’s Weird Is Another Man's World wouldn’t be recognisable DJ Food produce without it.

But before all this, the listener is plunged into Food’s experiment with harder, grungier elements. “The Illectrik Hoax” is mired in an inferno similar to the Pumpkins’ “The End Is the Beginning Is the End” with Nathaniel Pearn (aka Natural Self, or one-half of funk-rock duo the Broken Keys) droning about some impending cataclysm. His voice at times assumes a Trent Reznor-like tenor (as when he warns “The season will become one / Numbers and other things will get crushed right down to dust / Count your money and count it again”), and at other times a Howard Devoto snarl (as when he snidely tells us “Don’t pray, don’t bother”). A guitar whines and slides around him, terminating with a full drum assault that mimics Rage’s “Sleep Now in the Fire”. If “The Illectrik Hoax” says anything, it is that Strictly Kev is one mean songwriter if he wants to be, and that he’s managed to unleash the unsung vocal talents of Pearn. Aside from its lyrical matter, though, the '90s alt-rock of this track appears to be an anomaly within a set of tracks that draws most of its sap from the '60s and '70s. Perhaps the songs that will go to make up the final album will rectify this.

“All Covered in Darkness (Parts 1 & 2)”, with its blatant Pink Floyd-esque title, is, for instance, a condensed rock opera spanning those proggy times. With the foreboding of The Wall hanging over it, it begins with a sample of Nordine describing from the back of his throat a strange unknown experience that “curves like the speed of light”. At the same time, a plucked Kraftwerkian synth and sliding strings provide a comically fitting cosmic effect over a sample of Dr. Rubberfink’s forbidding drum track. This then cuts away to the Dragons’ Rubber Soul-era harmonies chiming “Just believe in love”, with Rubberfink building up the tension with Ringo Starr-like drumming (think “Strawberry Fields”). After several reprisals of these dual themes and a trippy vocal montage, “Part 2” ensues with a scampering metallic lead followed by a continuous onslaught of drums. We then have a fuzz-drenched, droning, Beatles-like instrumental buildup that includes some tape looping, polyrhythmic drumming, and cosmonautic sounds. Despite how it looks, “All Covered in Darkness” is a rather unified and seamless accomplishment. This comes down to Kev’s sterling intuition for arrangement, which includes the smart decision to rehash the various motifs of the track rather than go off in profligate directions at the risk of sounding piecemeal and overblown.

Given the busyness of most tracks, though, and the fact that it’s music for the head rather than feet, the EP needs to be taken in doses if it is to be absorbed with intent. Otherwise it risks becoming aural wallpaper for getting stoned to, which it surely doesn’t deserve. In fact, because of its cerebral nature, it would actually be unwise to expand One Man’s Weird Is Another Man's World into a full-length LP when songs last an average seven minutes. This listener, for one, became a little fatigued by the fourth track “A Trick of the Ear”. A 13-minute remix by ex-Tortoise member Bundy K Brown, it’s a new age-y percussive meditation that indulges DJ Food’s original love of the break. But nothing really happens.

It’s difficult to speculate whether the effect of including more songs of the nature of “The Illectrik Hoax” to break up prog elements like “All Covered in Darkness” will add much to the listening experience of One Man’s Weird.... I hazard a guess that it will at best be overwrought, and at worse a sprawling shambles.

7

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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