Reviews

Clutch: Live at the 9:30 -- You Won't Hear a More 'Fluid' Live Show Than This

Featuring a performance of their first album, Clutch's latest live DVD is a guaranteed fan pleaser.


Clutch

Live at the 9:30

Label: Weathermaker Music
UK Release Date: 2010-05-31
US Release Date: 2010-05-11
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As fun as it's been witnessing Clutch's slow evolution from obscure hardcore act, to top-flight stoner rock band, to one of the most distinct rock 'n' roll bands in America, no matter how strong their recent albums are, the one record that many fans are most attached to is the classic self-titled 1995 debut. With an incredibly deep back catalog, there's no shortage of material to draw from, and Clutch loves to be unpredictable, their live sets mixing newer tracks with older obscurities. Whenever they drag out a song from that '95 album, though, the crowd always erupts.

"Big News" I and II, "The House That Peterbilt", "Escape From the Prison Planet", "Texan Book of the Dead", whatever the song, those already rowdy "gearheads" in the crowd go insane when those lumbering, ultra-heavy tunes make an appearance. So when it came time for Clutch to put together a definitive live DVD set, what better way to thank their devoted fanbase for their loyalty than to play the Clutch album in its entirety?

Granted, the notion of playing an old album from start to finish has become a tired gimmick in rock and metal these days, and with Clutch it does take away that element of surprise that comes with their live shows, but considering just how much the foursome of singer Neil Fallon, guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines, and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster has grown 15 years since the album's release, there's no question it would be interesting to see just how the album would sound performed in full today. So that's what the band did on 28 December 2009 at Washington, DC's 9:30 Club, playing a sweaty, 90-minute set in front of a jam-packed crowd, with film and audio to capture it all for posterity.

The end result is the aptly titled two-disc set Live at the 9:30, and needless to say, this is an absolute must-own for any Clutch fan, well-shot with intimate camera angles in the cozy venue and boasting a very strong audio mix. Never the most visually riveting band you'll ever see, merely three nondescript guys with a bearded nut howling away, Clutch has always been more about musical chemistry, and in a live setting they can lock into a groove better than anybody. The records always deliver, but live they take things to another level, and the fans know it, following the band as obsessively as Deadheads.

You won't hear a more fluid live show, something evidenced in the 9:30 performance. After a scorching run-through of four blues-drenched songs from 2009's Strange Cousins From the West, the real work begins, as Maines launches into the unmistakable bassline of "Big News I", and that swinging groove doesn't let up for a good 50-minutes.

It takes no time to hear the difference between the band now and on the original record. Sult's riffs are as gargantuan as ever, but there's more expression in his playing. Although he still shouts Clutch's nonsensical refrains with gusto ("Hee haw, hee haw"…"Ooeeooahah, E-I-E-I-0"), Fallon is no longer the all-out bellower, his phrasing now allowing for more nuance, bringing a much richer feel to his singing.

The plucked basslines by the hugely underrated Maines sound even smoother, while his masterful rhythm section partner Gaster all but steals the show, his perfectly timed fills and accents proof that he's ten times the drummer now than he was in the mid-'90s. In fact, though it might be blasphemous in the minds of many, this performance of the Clutch album is superior to the original.

The focal point of the second disc is the 110-minute tour documentary "Fortune Tellers Make a Killing Nowadays", an excellent behind-the-scenes feature in which we hear from not only the band – who are very accommodating and forthright - but their longtime crew and many of their dedicated fans. What really sticks out in the piece is just how devoted to their craft the band really is, as they spend a great deal of their time before shows practicing on their own, honing their chops knowing there's always room for improvement.

That's what draws so many people to this fine Maryland band: they work hard, continue to refine their music live and on record, play as many cities as they can, and now that they're in complete control over their art after years of label strife, they've wasted no time in showing their appreciation for their steadily growing audience by putting out a superb live recording.

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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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